As District Justice I promise to:

  • Increase access to affordable housing and legal services.

  • Push back against mass incarceration.

  • Support restorative practices.

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About Mik

  • Born in Bloomfield, raised in East Liberty, resides in Highland Park;
  • Accomplished innocence defense and civil rights attorney;
  • Established progressive and seasoned community organizer;
  • Served as Policy Director to Senator Jim Ferlo;
  • Devoted husband and father.

More about Mik

About the District

Name – The 31st Magisterial District.

Neighborhoods – Bloomfield, East Liberty, Friendship, Garfield, Highland Park, Morningside, Stanton Heights, Upper Lawrenceville.

Destinations – Penn Avenue Arts District, Highland Park Zoo, Downtown East Liberty, Pittsburgh’s Little Italy.

Mik’s Roots in the District – Mik was born in West Penn Hospital in Bloomfield, his great grandfather owned a Greek diner in Upper Lawrenceville, and he grew up in East Liberty.

Progressive Base – In 2016, the 31st District elected Senator Bernie Sanders as their nominee for President, and Mayor John Fetterman as their nominee for U.S. Senator.

What is a District Justice?

The Peacemaker - District Justices have the power to resolve neighborhood conflicts before they escalate.

The Guardian - District Justices have the power to prevent evictions and overdose deaths, disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline, and protect the vulnerable from abusers.

The Gatekeeper - District Justices have the power to decide whether or not to issue search warrants, issue arrest warrants, or impose money-bail.

Mik's Platform

Access to Affordable Housing

The 31st District is ground zero for redevelopment and gentrification in Pittsburgh, which despite its many benefits has led to a shortage in affordable housing. This problem is underscored by the recent public controversy that involved the demolition of affordable housing in East Liberty to make way for a Whole Foods store. A recent study by the Affordable Housing Task Force identified an affordability gap of over 17,000 housing units, and recommended the protection of existing tenants as part of an overall strategy to address this gap.

As the point-of-entry to the court system for landlord-tenant cases, District Justices can play a critical role in protecting affordable housing tenants. In 2016, nearly 650 landlord-tenant cases were filed in the 31st Magisterial District. Mik will address the affordable housing crisis by working with stakeholders to: ensure that a portion of the Pittsburgh Housing Trust Fund is dedicated to assisting qualified tenants who are facing eviction for nonpayment of rent; provide mediation as an option for enabling efficient and effective resolutions to housing disputes; and deter evictions of single mothers, addicts who are in recovery and seniors.

End Mass Incarceration

Mass incarceration is a complex problem that a District Justice is in a unique position to efficiently and effectively address. As defined by Michelle Alexander in her New York Times Bestseller The New Jim Crow:

[T]he term mass incarceration refers not only to the criminal justice system but also to the larger web of laws, rules, policies, and customs that control those labeled as criminals both in and out of prison. Once released, former prisoners enter a hidden world of legalized discrimination and permanent social exclusion. They are members of America’s new undercaste.

Alexander continues by identifying the War on Drugs (WOD) as a primary cause of mass incarceration, noting that: the size of the prison population in America has quadrupled to over 2 million inmates since the WOD was declared 35 years ago; the WOD has led to a transformation from “community policing” to “military policing,” and our communities are not any safer as a result; Congress defunded treatment programs to fund WOD enforcement, and now after decades of disinvestment there seems to be no end in sight for the opioid addiction crisis; the WOD has claimed more American lives than World War II and the War in Vietnam combined.

Mik views mass incarceration and the WOD as high-priority generational challenges of the new political era, and will address them by working with stakeholders to: decarcerate Allegheny County Jail by ending the cash bail system and releasing nonviolent pretrial detainees, technical probation violators and petty warrant holders; refer addicts to treatment; deter investigatory stops, “broken windows” theory policing and high-volume drug arrests; guard against the practice of “overcharging” or filing more serious charges to gain leverage over the accused; and establish truly effective diversion programs for juveniles, addicts and petty offenders.

Access to Justice

The vast majority of voters feel that “there are two systems of justice in the U.S. – one for the rich and powerful and one for everyone else.” This crisis of confidence in our court system is not a perception problem. It reflects the troubling reality that most people cannot afford the legal services they require. Recent studies have found that about 80% of the legal needs of the poor and 40-60% of the legal needs of middle-income individuals go unmet.

At the same time, Legal Service Provider (LSP) programs such as the Courthouse Facilitator program in Washington State have been proven to restore the public’s trust and confidence in the court system. Mik will address the access to justice gap by working with stakeholders to: enhance existing pro bono programs; establish new LSPs; ensure that pro se parties are provided with helpful information; establish legal internship programs for students; and implement restorative practices.

End the School-to-Prison Pipeline

The “school-to-prison” has been defined as, “the streamlining of at-risk students from schools to incarceration or related correctional-type facilities that results from punitive discipline practices and criminalizing misconduct in schools.” While precise definitions vary, there is broad consensus that the school-to-prison pipeline arises from several factors, including but not limited to zero tolerance policies, exclusionary discipline such as suspension or expulsion, and the criminalization of juvenile misbehavior. It should not go without saying, that the pipeline is well known to have a disproportionately negative impact on LGBT students and students of color.

Students in our region are not exempt from the impact of the pipeline. For example, recent allegations of physical abuse by a School Resource Officer (SRO) at Woodland Hills High School have become the subject of a federal lawsuit. In addition, a recent report regarding inequities affecting African-American girls in our region found that, “Black girls in Allegheny County are referred to the juvenile court at a rate 11 times that of White girls.” Finally, a recent report by the Council of Great City Schools found that Pittsburgh Public Schools:

“[Has] high out of school suspension rates compared with other major school districts.. 13 percent [of] its students were suspended between one and five days in 2014–15, which was the highest of all major cities on which we have data on this length of suspensions… [Furthermore, suspension] rates and patterns in the district indicate that students of color are suspended at disproportionately high rates. This is also true of students with disabilities and ELLs. No one in the district is held accountable for these rates.”

When our response to student misbehavior is punitive, exclusionary, or even abusive, we are contributing to the impact of the pipeline. However, when we embrace alternative discipline strategies such as restorative practices, we disrupt the pipeline and provide for a more vibrant democracy grounded in robust and inclusive public education.

As District Justice, I will work with stakeholders to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline by encouraging restorative practices in communities and schools, resolving conflicts between students at the neighborhood level, and empowering parents, guardians, teachers, coaches, faith leaders and other interested adults to be effective advocates for students.

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