Meet the Candidate: Liz Allen
Erie City Council
Erie City Councilwoman
Retired Journalist, Erie Times-News
Part-Time Clerk, Erie County Library
Part-Time Usher, UPMC Park
My name is Liz Allen. In 1984, 15 years after I left home to study journalism at Marquette University in Milwaukee, I moved back to Erie, with my Brooklyn-born husband and our two young sons. As the oldest of six, I wanted to be closer to my family, although I didn’t expect that we would buy a house on the same street where I grew up.
In addition to Milwaukee, my husband, kids and I had also lived in Battle Creek, Mich.; Fort Wayne, Ind.; and St. Louis, Mo. I learned a lot by moving around, including how important it is to broaden my horizons and to embrace new adventures. But Erie is the place where I’ve always felt most at home, and being close to family and lifelong friends was vital when I faced painful losses – the death of my first husband to a heart attack; the death of my oldest son to an aortic aneurysm; and the death of my second husband to prostate cancer. The resilience of the people I've been surrounded within Erie has helped me to cope with my grief, which never really goes away.
Erie is also a place where you can build a satisfying career without sacrificing your home life. I have worked most of my life as a newspaper reporter and editor at daily and weekly newspapers, including the Grand Rapids Press, Suburban Newspapers of St. Louis, and the Erie Times-News. I have been a writer/researcher at the Center for Consumer Affairs at the University of Wisconsin. At the Erie Times-News, I covered the education beat, worked as a copy editor and served as managing editor of the features department. As the administrative editor, I was responsible for the newsroom budget; for recruitment, training and development; and for running the teen journalism program, Fresh Ink. As the public editor from 2008 until retiring in 2015, I oversaw the Editorial Board and supervised the opinion and op-ed pages. But the best part of my job was writing my weekly column about “ordinary people,” which I launched in 2001 and continued to produce even after I retired in December 2015, until I announced my candidacy for Erie City Council in March 2017.
My other retirement pursuits include working as an usher for the Erie SeaWolves (where I’ll be back for the 2021 season); working as a per-diem clerk at the Erie County Library (I love to be surrounded by books); and doing freelance writing for the Erie Reader and for other occasional clients.
I am currently finishing my first four-year term on Erie City Council, where I am the liaison to the Blighted Property Review Committee; the Erie Land Bank; the Erie Redevelopment Authority; the Zoning Hearing Board; and the New Americans Council. I am also the delegate to the Erie Area Council of Governments.
I am happily remarried to a native New Yorker who also works for the Erie SeaWolves. Now that we are both vaccinated, we look forward to visiting our grandchildren this summer.
Why are you running for Erie City Council?
My writing experience and research skills can help Erie City Council to make good, informed decisions about important and issues.
What are your top three priorities you wish to work on if elected?
Following through on the financial management plan presented to the city of Erie; creation of an equity/inclusion committee or commission; continued neighborhood revitalization.
How would you be an advocate for key education initiatives such as the Erie County Community College, K-12 education, and early education as they relate to workforce development?
I traveled to Harrisburg to speak to the state Board of Education about why Erie needs a community college. On Council, we also passed a resolution supporting the college. The city of Erie is poised to become part of Groundwork USA, which promoted sustainable neighborhoods, and other cities participating in Groundwork USA have used that opportunity to train participants for jobs in the green economy. I have suggested that there could be a role for the community college in such training. I also think that the community college will be the pipeline we've so desperately needed for training to fill the jobs where we've advocated for a diverse workforce, including construction. We also need to keep our eyes on the opportunities for jobs at Erie Insurance; at Wabtec; and at the start-up tech companies in Erie, and City Council members can continue to stress those needs, in our legislation, advocacy and our liaisons to various boards and authorities.
How will you work to advocate for the modernization of public health infrastructure and encourage public/private partnerships to address deficiencies in our public health system?
Erie City Council should build relationships with Erie County Council, which has passed a resolution declaring that racism is a public health issue. We should examine what that language means as it impacts public health. We should be familiar with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation measures of public health and how Erie County measures up in terms of obesity; substance abuse; smoking; teen parenting; and violence (including gun violence). We finally succeeded in making our parks smoke-free; that should not have been such a big battle. We also need to constantly be alert on how best to help those who are experiencing homelessness. Public health can also be improved by attention to parks, recreation, green space, and transportation.
According to TrackTheRecovery.org, Erie County is estimated to have lost over 28% of small businesses. How would you work to encourage financial stability within local and state governments without overburdening the small business community?
I would like to have a more clear definition of small business and what you mean by "overburdening." We have to have a balanced budget for the city of Erie and that means we have to keep an eye on growing revenue while also containing expenses. I would hope the ECRGP would advocate for fair funding for public education, which would reduce the property tax burden and, in turn, encourage financial stability within local government.
Our community is expecting a total of $225 million or more in American Recovery Plan funds. As a community leader, how would you prioritize this funding?
We have to work collaboratively on how to allocate this funding. I have already attended a webinar with the Pennsylvania Municipal League and the National League of Cities to learn more about the American Recovery Act and the rulemaking that will be coming from the U.S. Department of the Treasury on how the funding can be spent and the timeline to create a spending plan. Certainly, we need to help the businesses hurt by the pandemic, but we also have to make sure we understand and follow through on how the pandemic hurt those most in need in our community.
Pittsburgh has seen success with tools such as Tax Increment Finance and Transit Revitalization Investment District to spur their City’s revitalization. Are you willing to make long-term investments in economic development?
One of my jobs as a member of Erie City Council is to study such initiatives as proposed and implemented. I cannot single-handedly champion "tools or proposals" to drive growth. City Council is a part-time job and I rely on the economic development experts in the administration to evaluate such tools. I have been waiting to see whether the Opportunity Zone legislation will actually deliver on the promised jobs that are supposed to be coming our way. I have hope that the proposed IRG plant might fulfill those hopes. BTW, I would suggest for future surveys that you tailor them to the specific elected offices being sought. This survey took me about 90 minutes to fill out -- much longer than the seven minutes touted at the beginning! I would have done much more research into TIFs, etc.,, if I had known that would be a major focus of this survey. If you truly wanted to explore the qualifications of a candidate for Erie City Council, I would have suggested that ask one question to which a candidate could give one detailed answer.