Board election time! Cast your ballot for PPT’s leadership team

image description: photo collage of all 7 nominees who are running in PPT’s Board Elections

After all of the nominees introduced themselves at our July Meeting, the ballot is open! The deadline for all PPT Members to cast their ballot in the PPT Board Election is 27th at midnight.

Please read this blog with bios on all the candidates before casting your vote.

Overview of PPT’s Board Election Process

Pittsburghers for Public Transit is a grassroots, democratic, member-led organization that fights for racial justice and public transit as a human right. The election of a Board of Directors from and by our general membership is a cornerstone of what keeps us accountable to our members. The Board is responsible for strategizing and executing the organization’s campaigns, outreach, governance, and fundraising.

The Board’s Executive Committee chooses how many seats will be up for PPT’s board election each year. Our bylaws say that our Board can be anywhere from 5 to 15 people and that 2 seats are reserved for transit workers connected to a local transit union. Earlier this year our Board’s Executive Committee decided to open 5 seats to be elected from our general membership, and 1 seat to be elected to a transit worker.

Each spring, the PPT membership nominates fellow members to run for the Board of Directors. If those members accept the nomination, then they are invited to submit a photo and bio to be placed on the ballot, and they are invited to speak about their qualifications for 3-minutes at the July General Member Meeting.

PPT Members in good standing can cast their ballots for two weeks in July. The nominees with the highest vote totals are invited to join the Board of Directors for a 2-year term.

PPT Members in good standing can cast their votes in the Board Election from July 13th to July 27th at midnight.

All PPT Members in good standing can cast a vote to determine our incoming board. Good standing means that in the last year, a PPT member has 

  1. Contributed membership dues of at least $2.75 (Pay your membership dues here)
  2. Helped to organize and advocate for better public transit
  3. Supports the Transit Bill of Rights

If you are unsure of your membership status, email or call 412-626-7353 to check.

List of nominees to fill 5 PPT General Membership Seats, 2022-2024

Below is a list of the nominees to fill PPT’s General Membership seats. They are listed in alphabetical order by first name, with a short bio and list of their campaign involvement to give background on their past work for transit justice and other issues. Each nominee has approved and contributed to their biography and list of campaign involvement.

PPT Members can vote for up to 5 candidates to serve in General Membership Seats for the next 2-year term, 2022-2024. PPT Members, please read through all of this info before casting your vote.

Andrew Hussein

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image description: photo of Andrew Hussein

My name is Andrew Hussein, and I live in Penn Hills. My primary routes are 77, 79, P17, 86, and P16…. but to be truthful, you can find me on just about any route (no exaggeration) because I eat/sleep/breath/live all things public transit. Anyone who knows me knows that that is true. Transit is my sole means for transportation so I am acutely aware of the very real need for public transit to have a positive community impact. 

I am a long-time member of PPT who has been working with the org since a brief few-month stint in the early days, back in an earlier iteration of the org called “Save Our Transit”. Years later I reconnected with PPT on their community campaign in Baldwin. We won that campaign and restored service to that neighborhood and I never looked back. 

The skills that I bring to PPT are a significant all-around and general knowledge of the Port Authority system. I have a sincere passion for transit and its improvement. When I think of better transit I think of transit that is Fair, Equitable, reliable, useable, sustainable, readily and widely available – for as many folks as possible. Transit needs to fit as diverse a clientele and public needs as much as possible and I think that that is what we need to fight for together.

List of 3-5 projects or campaigns that the nominee has been involved with related to PPT, transit justice, activism, and/or movement building:

  • Current Vice President of the Allegheny County Transit Council (ACTC), current Executive Committee Member, and have been involved here for 5 years
  • I am also the founder and COO of the Bus Info Hotline, a Twitter and phone info line that is open for people to find out info and ask questions about Port Authority that I’ve been running for nearly 20 years. Check out our Twitter at @PGH_BUS_INFO
  • Involved in many of the successful neighborhood service campaigns started in 2014 that restored service to transit deserts through our county.
  • I am a PPT Communications Committee Member. I lead the creation of our Blog Series on the Quarterly Service Updates.
  • I have a significant all-around and general knowledge of the Port Authority system, PPT staff calls me all the time with questions about our system.

Fawn Walker Montgomery

image description: photo of Fawn Walker Montgomery

Fawn Walker-Montgomery is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Take Action Mon Valley (TAMV). She is a former candidate for Mayor in McKeesport and a past candidate for State Representative in the 35th District. Fawn was the first black person & woman to run for a State seat in the Mon Valley. She has a B.A. in Political Science from Johnson C. Smith University (HBCU) and a Master of Science in Criminal Justice Administration from Point Park University. Fawn has worked with PPT on various projects such as the BRT, fair fees, and removing cops from transit stops. She is also a past second-term Councilwoman in McKeesport and has 18 years of experience in the human services field. Fawn’s vision for PPT is that they increase membership in the smaller communities outside the City of Pittsburgh such as the Mon Valley. In addition, create specific campaigns to address the lack of transportation in these areas. Thus, having more of a county-wide focus.

List of 3-5 projects or campaigns that the nominee has been involved with related to PPT, transit justice, activism, and/or movement building:

  • A long-time activist for Police Accountability. 
  • Leading efforts to decarcerate our schools and say “No” to School Police 
  • Has supported various PPT projects over the years, including community organizing to defeat the Bus Rapid Transit service plan that would have cut service to her city, co-developed & launched the “Fair Fares” platform, and many more. 

Karen Smith 

image description: photo of Karen Smith

Karen Smith is a resident of Carnegie and an advocate for disability justice.

Karen has been involved in community advocacy and activism for several years, beginning with the group “Save Our Transit”.

In 2008, Karen was a speaker at a rally for the Personal Need Allowance, which would give personal care home residents more funds for necessities like toiletries or phone bills that personal care homes do not provide. 

From there, Karen advocated to save UPMC Braddock Hospital from closure in 2010 (a significant source of local jobs and direct access to health care), and Karen has been supporting community efforts for patient rights.

She has worked on two photo voice projects. During one of the projects, Karen demonstrated the challenges disabled residents face using public transportation in Allegheny County.  

As a member of the PPT Board, Karen aims to make the needs of disabled transit riders a priority and plans to work with fellow board members to achieve safer transit and infrastructure connections. Her goal is to increase PPT membership and see the organization grow more statewide, nationally, and worldwide.  

List of 3-5 projects or campaigns that the nominee has been involved with related to PPT, transit justice, activism, and/or movement building:

  • Rally in Harrisburg PA for Save Our Transit to secure state funding for public transit
  • Attended several rallies for transit in Pittsburgh 
  • Serves as a member of the City County Task Force on Disabilities 
  • Had started advocacy back in the 90’s
  • Will continue to advocate for change in all areas needed. 

Lisa Gonzalez

image description: photo of Lisa Gonzalez

My name is Lisa Gonzalez and I ride the bus every day. I have been doing so for my entire life. I raised a family while being a bus rider. 3 of my kids, and now 1 of my grandkids, all had to learn how to ride the bus because it is important to make our family work. 

I have been fighting for better public transit as an elected leader of Pittsburghers for Public Transit for the last 7 years. I want to continue this leadership on the PPT Board to ensure that we make changes in a positive way. My vision for the organization is to recruit school students and new members because public schools and youth activism is important to me.

As far as my background and experience, I have been an advocate in one form or another in struggles for education, housing, and in the community where I live in carrick. I have served on several boards throughout the years. In the past, I have served as one of the parents representing Pittsburgh Public School Region 3 families on the  Title One Parent Advisory Council at both the local and state levels. Currently, I’m on the Carrick Community Council Board of Directors and I’m an advocate for the Western Pennsylvania Bleeding Disorders Foundation.

List of 3-5 projects or campaigns that the nominee has been involved with related to PPT, transit justice, activism, and/or movement building:

  • I have been a committed advocate for fair fares. I met with Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of Transportation, in the summer of 2021 and encouraged him to start free and affordable fare programs in cities across the country.
  • I was also involved in calling for an expansion of affordable housing with the Pennley Park Apartments/Penn Plaza campaign.
  • I helped to develop the 100 Days Transit Platform that informed Mayor Gainey’s Transition plan.
  • I serve on the Carrick Community Council and help uplift public transit as an important neighborhood priority. We stopped the Port Authority from removing a bus stop in front of a senior center in my neighborhood.
  • I am very active in Pittsburgh Public Schools. I work as a volunteer support staff at Pittsburgh Liberty in Shadyside and have helped students better understand how to use transit as a Transit Ambassador with A+ schools, and have presented to classes with PPT.

Ricardo Villarreal 

image description: photo of Ricardo Villareal

My name is Ricardo Villarreal. I have been in love with the culture of the US for as long as I can remember. That is why I decided to immigrate here. Since getting here, I have joined Casa San Jose. I have been inspired by the work they do to help the community and I want to contribute to this mission of building strength in the community.

When the Red Line was down and transit riders were faced with terrible wait times, I felt compelled to join Pittsburghers for Public Transit. I spoke out about the importance of transit to the immigrant community at the “Transit Justice is Environmental Justice” rally. It would be a delite to lead Pittsburghers for Public Transit with my skills because I consider transport core to the advancement and success of modern cities. 

I describe myself as being a teamwork-oriented person. I can quickly analyze data and propose process improvements to strengthen organizing. I’m an empathic person with a multicultural approach. My professional training has occurred in many different countries, including the US, Latin-American countries, and The Caribbean andI can quickly put myself in the shoes of others, understand, and help. 

I am a proud Latino, native Spanish speaker, and the father of two grown children. I enjoy playing music and reading and do not like shortcuts. When problems arise, I thrive and I do not shy away from complexities with a hands-on attitude.   

List of 3-5 projects or campaigns that the nominee has been involved with related to PPT, transit justice, activism, and/or movement building:

  • Immigrating to Pittsburgh was an awakening to community awareness. I met amazing people at Casa San Jose in the middle of the pandemic. It was a scary time, but Casa inspired me to get active in helping people.
  • I am a restaurant worker. Culture and food are important to me. And so is helping my co-workers with my skills in English.
  • I do professional work in data and surveying
  • Student organizing
  • I have volunteered to play guitar and sing on serenades at hospitals for Mother’s Day.

Shawn Pastor

image description: photo of Shawn Pastor

I want to join the PPT Board because I have been a member for three years and want to step up my involvement. Three things that are important to me and that I think I could help accomplish are; 1. Win more affordable fares, 2. Get service frequency increased, 3. Build a stronger culture of respect for our transit operators. I think that all of the operators who were fired because of the vaccine mandate should be brought back because we need service. This doesn’t respect the workers who were called “heroes” through the most dangerous part of the pandemic, and it has destroyed service, leaving people stranded waiting for transit. This is bad and inconvenient.

I’d be a good board member because I have ridden a lot of transit. I’ve been a regular rider of the Port Authority for over 20 years and I know the ins and outs of the company and what actually happens on the day-to-day. When I ride, I think it’s important to watch how people pay their fares and treat operators. You can learn a lot from this.

As far as my vision for PPT, I would like to work with the organization to bring back in-person meetings. The internet makes things more accessible for some, but it makes it more inaccessible for others. I also want to see PPT doing more recruitment of new members. We can do this with more advertising in newspapers and on social media. 

List of 3-5 projects or campaigns that the nominee has been involved with related to PPT, transit justice, activism, and/or movement building:

  • I’ve been involved with PPT going to rallies for better transit in Harrisburg and Washington DC
  • I used to volunteer at the VA as an elevator operator. This was important to me so that I could help get veterans where they need to go, and also so that I could listen to them to hear their stories and what they’ve gone through.
  • I also attend meetings of the Allegheny County Transit Council
  • I have also volunteered at Picklesburgh to help them out

Verna Johnson

image description: photo of Ms Verna Johnson

My name is Verna Johnson and I am a resident of Lincoln-Lemington. I am a disability justice activist and serve as the current chair of PPT’s Board of Directors. 

I first became involved with PPT in 2015 during the campaign to save service on the 89 Garfield Service campaign. The fight for better public transit in communities receiving less and less public transit resonated with me, and I continued to join PPT meetings and joined as a member. One benefit of being a PPT member that surprised me was the democratic decision-making process, and I felt that my lived experience was valued. I began to see how people from different walks of life could work together and make decisions that directed campaigns and the course of PPT. I have helped grow PPT by organizing riders during my time on the board. Being a board member has given me a greater understanding of how change can happen on a systemic level. 

In addition to working on issues surrounding transit justice, I have been co-chair of the Allegheny County Coalition for Recovery’s Commission on Health and Human Services as co-chair and helped people receive financial assistance. I’ve also rallied outside of elected officials’ offices to support federal workers during the previous government shutdown with fellow members. I also phonebank with Just Harvest and register community members to vote at Veterans Affairs. I am deeply committed to bringing more people into the fight for transit justice and holding our transit agency accountable to the riders and workers.

List of 3-5 projects or campaigns that the nominee has been involved with related to PPT, transit justice, activism, and/or movement building:

  • 89 Service Restoration Campaign 
  • #FairFare for a full recovery in 2020
  • Don’t Criminalize Transit Fares campaign
  • Canvassing at transit stops, talking with riders, and public speaking on behalf of PPT

Nominees to fill the Transit Worker Seat, 2021-2023

Below is a list of the nominees to fill the Transit Worker seat that is reserved for union members of local transit worker unions. They are listed in alphabetical order by first name, with a short bio and list of their campaign involvement to give background on their in past work for transit justice and other issues.

PPT Members can vote for up to 1 candidate to serve in a Transit Worker Seat for the next 2-year term, 2022-2024. PPT Members, please read through all of this info before casting your vote.

Sue Scanlon

image description: photo of Sue Scanlon

I absolutely love PPT. I am so proud of all the work we’ve done to defend jobs, expand routes, and help passengers. The work we have done over the last 10+ years has saved the whole community because we connect people to the things they need in our city and region. We have built such a community with our organizing. It feels like being part of a superhero squad.

I have been a bus operator at Port Authority (ahem, I mean, Pittsburgh Regional Transit) for 22 years. I have seen the agency during its highs and its very lows. Unfortunately, we are now at one of those lows. I want to continue being part of the movement to fix it. I consider myself a pretty good activist. I have the conviction to be out in the street, although I am always learning as an organizer.

How can we bring people together with love and consciousness to fight for our common good? When I look to the future of PPT, I want to see us keep building our base of organizers and activists. We are going to keep spreading our message across the city, state, and the entire country. We will remain on the cutting edge of activism for transit justice. 

Our movement isn’t about me or any individual person. It is about what we can all do when we work together. It is about building a better world out of the situation we are in today. Everything is about community.

List of 3-5 projects or campaigns that the nominee has been involved with related to PPT, transit justice, activism, and/or movement building:

  • The very first campaign I was involved with was restoring transit service in Baldwin, circa 2014. It was such a great campaign because it showed how communities can come together to fight for each other’s needs.
  • I was also involved in the fights for Act 89, rallies Downtown, and Squirrel Hill, circa 2011. We shut down Forbes Avenue and Murray Avenue. It was an example of how labor and organize together with communities to improve service and jobs.
  • In 2020 and 2021 I helped my ATU brothers and sisters start and eventually win the right to wear Black Lives Matter masks on the job. We staged protests and brought the case to court. You can read more about the win here.
  • I’ve also been involved with helping other unions in solidarity – I started the campaign for workers at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to get a contract. Helped organize PPT members to picket in front of John Block’s house and at the Post Gazette. Met a ton of great people in this work.
  • I also represent PPT on the PA Poor Peoples Campaign steering committee. I have traveled to DC, I don’t even remember how many times, to fight for the working class. I have been working to help people realize we’re all in this together and that we all have to work together to get what we need.

All PPT members should read each bio and attend Wednesday’s Monthly Meeting to hear each nominee speak before submitting their vote. 

PPT Members can cast their ballots between July 13th and July 27th.