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In Senate campaign stop, Arkoosh visits Pittsburgh to talk infrastructure

  • Lucy Perkins/WESA
Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Dr. Val Arkoosh visited Hazelwood Green on Monday, June 7, 2021.

 Lucy Perkins / WESA

Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Dr. Val Arkoosh visited Hazelwood Green on Monday, June 7, 2021.

(Pittsburgh) — Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Dr. Val Arkoosh visited Hazelwood Green Monday to learn about Allegheny County’s infrastructure plans and voice her support for President Joe Biden’s infrastructure package.

Arkoosh, who is in her second term as chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, namechecked Pennsylvania’s retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey as one of the roadblocks in the way of the infrastructure plan’s passage.

“Senator Toomey is one of the people that’s holding this bill up,” she said. “And that’s part of why I’m running. We need senators in Washington who are going to get this stuff done.”

Arkoosh hopes the plan, which President Biden first announced in Pittsburgh, would strengthen the Commonwealth’s manufacturing industry.

“We saw during this [COVID-19] pandemic, the dangers in our country of not being able to make the things that we need in an emergency,” she said. “We should be building that infrastructure right here at home and making sure that the good paying jobs that come with that are located here, not in another state and not overseas.”

The massive spending proposal has broad approval from Democrats, including Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, who met with Arkoosh Monday. He outlined several local infrastructure projects.

“Hazelwood has been a neighborhood that has dealt with a lot of blight since the steel mill closed a couple decades ago,” Fitzgerald said. “So this is an opportunity to give some folks who haven’t seen a lot of economic opportunities those economic opportunities.”

Fitzgerald said he’s worked with Arkoosh a lot over the years on issues from COVID-19 to election logistics.

“We spent a lot of time last year on election stuff — a lot of phone calls about that,” he said. “And then Covid. She runs a health department, obviously [Allegheny County] runs a health department. Plus she’s a doctor. We were able to compare notes.”

Arkoosh was first elected as county commissioner in 2016. The southeastern county is the third-largest in the state, and the board of commissioners oversees a budget of more than $400 million. In her role as chair, she’s worked to raise the minimum wage for county employees to $15 an hour, and said Monday that she wants to raise the minimum wage for all Pennsylvanians.

Before running for office, Arkoosh worked in medicine, and was a professor of anesthesiology and obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Pennsylvania. She believes her experience as a doctor would be useful in statewide office.

“I’m a problem solver, and you have to work with your patients to solve their problems,” she said. “I realized over time that there were so many things impacting the health of my patients that I couldn’t fix as a doctor. I took care of moms that had to take two buses to get to a grocery store or a doctor’s appointment. I took care of families whose kids had asthma and they couldn’t play outside because the air wasn’t clean.”

That experience prompted Arkoosh to get a Master’s Degree in Public Health, and subsequently work with the group National Physicians Alliance to advocate for the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

Arkoosh said she was also excited that the Biden administration’s plan would have a positive public health impact with efforts to replace lead pipes. But when asked about her support for fracking, which can have negative health impacts, Arkoosh said “President Biden has it right.”

“We’ve acknowledged that climate change is real and is happening and that but there needs to be a transition,” she said. “We can’t just flip a switch on this.”

Arkoosh announced she was running for office in April. The field of Democratic candidates includes Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta, state Sen. Sharif Street and others.

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