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Council hasn't discussed replacement

Wednesday, January 12, 2000

By Jeffrey Cohan, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Allegheny County Council members said they have yet to discuss who they will appoint to succeed Thomas J. Foerster, who died yesterday.

Under the county's new home rule charter, the council has 30 days to select an interim replacement. Foerster's successor must live in the same council district as Foerster, District 13, and come from the same political party, Democratic.

District 13 encompasses Millvale, Pittsburgh's North Side neighborhoods, Downtown, Uptown, the Strip District, Polish Hill, Lawrenceville, Stanton Heights, Morningside, Garfield, Beltzhoover and Allentown.

Although Foerster had been gravely ill for more than a week, council members did not discuss possible successors out of respect for the councilman and his family and because of their fixation on the stalemate over the council presidency.

Two contenders for the presidency, Democrats John DeFazio of Shaler and Eileen Wagner of Scott, have been knotted in a 7-7 tie for the post. Foerster had been too ill to cast the tie-breaking vote. A special meeting scheduled for tonight to break the deadlock was canceled last night after council members learned of Foerster's death.

"Foerster's presence with us has just been so invaluable," said acting council President James Simms, who made the decision to cancel the meeting. "We would not want to proceed to take care of business without giving him due respect."

Council members will be starting from scratch in choosing a replacement for Foerster.

Out of respect for Foerster, state Sen. Leonard Bodack, Allegheny County Democratic Party chairman, refused to comment last night on who might be appointed to the District 13 seat.

The person council appoints to replace Foerster will hold the seat until the next municipal election, scheduled for next year. To complete the remainder of Foerster's four-year term, the appointee would have to compete in the 2001 elections. Then a new four-year term would be up for grabs in the 2003 elections.

Names mentioned as possible contenders for the appointment include:

Joe Natoli, a retired local government employee who was disqualified from the ballot in last year's council race for filing his petitions late.

Ben Woods, a former member of Pittsburgh City Council who was convicted in 1989 of 17 counts of extortion, racketeering, conspiracy and tax evasion.

Morton Coleman, retired director of the University of Pittsburgh's Institute for Politics.

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