Kamala Harris hosts exclusive in-person interview with the Courier

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS SPEAKS WITH COURIER EDITOR AND PUBLISHER ROD DOSS, FEB. 20, 2024. (PHOTO BY ROB TAYLOR JR.)

 She’s proud to invest in clean water for minority communities; says ‘Allegheny County voters’ reason why ‘I am the Vice President’

 

Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, spent about 10 minutes on Tuesday, Feb. 20, speaking to a crowd of supporters at the King­sley Association in East Liberty, adamant about replacing lead pipes in Pittsburgh, the state of Pennsylvania, and all around the country, in the fight for clean water, free of toxins.

To a hail of applause, Harris announced that $5.8 billion in funding, including more than $200 million specifically for Pennsylvania, was being allotted for clean water infrastructure from Presi­dent Joe Biden’s Investing in America agenda. The announcement brought the total amount of clean water funding announced by the Environmental Protection Agency from President Biden’s Infra­structure Law to $22 bil­lion. Overall, the Infra­structure Law will invest over $50 billion in total to upgrade America’s water infrastructure, the largest investment in clean water in American history.

But then, the U.S.’ first woman vice president, and first Black woman vice president, made her way to the second floor of the Kingsley Association building to speak exclu­sively with the New Pitts­burgh Courier.

“Hello Mr. Doss, how are you?” Harris said. “It’s good to be with you.”

Rod Doss, the longtime editor and publisher of the Courier, greeted Harris and told her, “I’m staring at history. This is truly a moment for me.”

Harris told Doss that she was glad to have some time to talk, “be­cause your paper, and what you do in terms of the voice that it rep­resents, and a trusted voice, is so important.”

For more than 100 years, Pittsburgh’s Af­rican American commu­nity has counted on the Courier to cover the most important stories that affect the Black commu­nity, and it was obvious that fact wasn’t lost on the vice president.

No questions were out-of-bounds. No questions were shared with Har­ris beforehand. Couri­er managing editor Rob Taylor Jr., who was also part of the exclusive in­terview, told Harris she seemed passionate and driven to tackle the lead pipes and clean water is­sue head-on, particularly in Black communities.

“As I said earlier, lead pipes were standard for construction across the country, but then it be­came increasingly obvi­ous that the water com­ing out of those lead pipes was toxic which results in health impacts, in terms of health well-being, but also learning impacts for children,” Harris told the Courier. “In communities where the resources were there, in homes where there was a homeowner­ship or people (had) the resources, they can re­move the lead pipes. But not in communities that didn’t have the extra, or didn’t have savings, or didn’t own their home and rented. What you ended up seeing is that while the lead pipes af­fected everyone, not so equally.”

Speaking specifically to the Infrastructure Law, officially signed into law by President Biden in November 2021, Harris said that the funding to fix sidewalks or replace lead pipes not only cre­ates jobs, or in her words, “an economy around the upgrades,” but the “oth­er piece of the lead pipes issue is absolutely about public health. It’s about the physical well-being, about the well-being of families and we have to take that seriously. And as I said earlier, govern­ment has a few specific responsibilities and one of them is to address the public health needs of the community. That’s how I think about the lead pipe issue; what do we need to do to get the resourc­es into the community to take those lead pipes out, knowing it will benefit our children, it will ben­efit families and it will uplift communities.”

Doss then addressed the issue that has been permeating throughout the nation, brought more to light by a popular Black radio personality, Charlamagne Tha God. The radio personality said on Feb. 18 on ABC News’ “This Week” that he felt there was a gen­eral apathy from younger voters about either of the presidential candidates, Donald Trump or Pres­ident Biden. Moreover, Charlamagne Tha God called President Biden “an uninspiring candi­date.”

Doss pressed Harris on that perceived growing lack of enthusiasm from young voters as it relates to supporting the Dem­ocratic Party and the Biden/Harris ticket.

Harris prefaced her response by saying she hadn’t seen the Charla­magne Tha God interview on ABC News. But in general terms, “we are up for re-election, and any candidate up for election or re-election has to earn the votes, and I’m very, very clear about that. Which is why I’m here in Pittsburgh, which is why I’m traveling around the country to make sure that people know what we have accomplished in response to what they asked us to do in 2020, because people turned out in record numbers, young voters turned out in record numbers…and they said, ‘fix the lead pipes.’ They said in the Black community, ‘we are 60 percent more likely to be diagnosed with di­abetes, bring down the cost of insulin for our seniors,’ and we’ve now capped the cost of insulin at $35 dollars a month. Folks said deal with the fact that HBCUs (Histor­ically Black Colleges and Universities) are centers of academic excellence, but don’t necessarily have the kind of endow­ments that other univer­sities do…we have now dedicated over $7 billion to HBCUs.”

Harris continued: “Peo­ple said deal with Black unemployment; we now have the lowest Black un­employment in the histo­ry because of the work that we have done. That’s about building jobs and creating opportunities for not only employment, but for wealth-building. People said deal with the fact that Black busi­nesses don’t get federal contracts in the same way that other business­es do. We have made a pledge which we are on track now to achieving, increasing federal con­tracts by 50 percent to minority-owned busi­nesses. So this is some of the work that we have done and it is incumbent on us in an election sea­son to let people know that we heard them, we have delivered and there­fore believe that we have earned a re-election.”

Harris is the first HBCU graduate to work in The White House as President or Vice Presi­dent. Harris graduated from Howard University, in Washington, D.C., in 1986. And she and Pres­ident Biden obviously want to continue work­ing in The White House for another term, though the former President, Trump, is lurking. While he hasn’t officially been named the Republican nominee for president, it’s pretty much a fore­gone conclusion barring a miracle from opponent Nikki Haley.

VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES KAMALA HARRIS, WITH NEW PITTSBURGH COURIER EDITOR AND PUBLISHER ROD DOSS, LEFT, AND COURIER MANAGING EDITOR ROB TAYLOR JR. HARRIS HELD AN IN-PERSON EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH THE COURIER ON FEB. 20, 2024, AT THE KINGSLEY ASSOCIATION IN EAST LIBERTY.

Harris told Doss and Taylor that she and Pres­ident Biden have to do “the hard work” in re­minding people about what they’ve done as President and Vice Pres­ident. “On the one side, you got the former pres­ident who admires dic­tators, who openly has talked about his pride in taking away freedoms. On the other hand you have our re-election in Joe Biden who has been a champion for what we need to do around equi­ty, what we need to do around resources to com­munity, around working people, around bringing down the cost of prescrip­tion drugs and taking on big pharmaceutical com­panies. So, the closer we get to the election, I think the more people are going to start tuning in to the fact that you’ve got one of two choices, and I think the biggest decision that people are going to make this election is, deciding what kind of country we want to live in.”

Taylor then reminded Harris that Pennsylva­nia is a “critical” state in this election season, as it seems to be in each pres­idential election.

“Allegheny County made all the difference,” Harris responded to Tay­lor and Doss. “The voters here turned out in record numbers and it is why I am Vice President of the United States as the first woman and the first Black woman. Why do I keep coming back to Al­legheny County and com­ing back to Pittsburgh? First and foremost, it’s to thank everybody, because it is the people here who, in large part, did the work of helping to cre­ate history around this position, and so I’m here to thank folks and to re­mind them of their power and ask them to please, let’s do it again.”

The 10-minute inter­view concluded between Harris and the Courier representatives. Photos were then taken, and Harris was about to be whisked away to an on-site meeting with work­ers from the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Au­thority and other con­tractors as they removed a lead pipe from under the ground in the Elliott neighborhood of Pitts­burgh.

But before she left the Kingsley Association, Taylor jokingly asked her one final question.

“The real H-U?”

Harris responded: “You know.”

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS MAKES A STOP IN PITTSBURGH’S ELLIOTT NEIGHBORHOOD TO WITNESS LEAD PIPE REPLACEMENT AT WORK, FEB. 20, 2024. (PHOTO BY ROB TAYLOR JR.)

 

VICE PRESIDENT KAMALA HARRIS TAKES A GROUP PHOTO WITH LEAD PIPE REPLACEMENT WORKERS IN PITTSBURGH’S ELLIOTT NEIGHBORHOOD, FEB. 20, 2024. ALSO PICTURED AT FAR LEFT IS EPA ADMINISTRATOR MICHAEL REGAN. (PHOTO BY ROB TAYLOR JR.)

LISTEN TO EXCLUSIVE AUDIO HERE

 

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