The Housing Authority of Pittsburgh controls nearly 6,000 public housing units and administers more than 6,000 Section 8 vouchers throughout the City of Pittsburgh. Our Housing Authority was the first created in Pennsylvania and one of the first in the nation. Many of the units and communities were constructed many years ago and are badly in need of modernization and better service provision. A recent independent audit revealed some serious concerns about how contracts are awarded by the authority and how services are provided. Public housing residents should not have to live in substandard conditions. They should not have to wait for an audit to see improvement in their communities.
A diverse alliance of labor, community and environmental groups rallied in support of Bill Peduto this morning. Peduto supporters from groups including 32BJ SEIU, The Sierra Club, United Steelworkers, UFCW, Ironworkers, IATSE, Clean Water Action, and the League of Conservation Voters gathered at the Gardens at Market Square—the first development which will be fully covered under the 2009 Service Worker Prevailing Wage Bill strongly supported by Bill Peduto.
Back when Pittsburgh’s zoning code was first rewritten, it was ahead of its time. The zoning code contained some forward-thinking development standards that advocated for environmental sustainability and the protection of our natural topography. It recognized the changing economic landscape of the city and moved us away from industrial development and instead towards education, medicine and neighborhood business districts. However, it has been nearly 20 years since our code was rewritten and much has changed in the field of city planning, the economy of our city, and development patterns and techniques nationwide. Therefore, we need to reassess our zoning code and find ways it can be streamlined, made easier to understand and comply with, and ensure it is compatible with our 21st century city. Rewriting a zoning code is no small task. It will require a great deal of community input, technical expertise, feedback from developers, and cooperation from all political stakeholders. But it is a task well worth taking on and one that I think can have a highly positive impact on the future development of our neighborhoods.
In 2004, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed the Transit Revitalization Investment District (TRID) law. This law allows municipalities and redevelopment authorities to create TRID Districts so new revenue can be utilized to expand and create new public transit opportunities. Stakeholders in East Liberty are working on implementing the city’s first TRID District in conjunction with new developments in the area. The TRID will allow a portion of the new property taxes created through redevelopment efforts to be dedicated to improvements in public transit, pedestrian, and bicycle infrastructure in the surrounding area. Our hope is that this TRID District becomes a model that can be used in other neighborhoods. But creating TRID may not be enough. To supplement the district and ensure that the development within it is in line with the goals of expanding and creating transit opportunities, I will work with our City Planning Department to create the city’s first Transit Oriented Development zoning overlay.
Pittsburgh’s Green Building Alliance was the beginning of a revolution for our city. The first affiliate of the U.S. Green Building Council to be created in the country, the Pittsburgh Green Building Alliance opened its doors in 1993 and has transformed the way we think about the built environment. It’s no accident that Pittsburgh has the most green buildings per capita in the United States, it is due to the tireless work of the Green Building Alliance and their partners across the private, nonprofit, and public sectors. I have had the privilege to work closely with the Green Building Alliance over my years on City Council, including partnering with them and with our business community, universities, and other nonprofits to create the city’s first sustainability plan. The private sector is doing a great job of adopting green building techniques and forging ahead as leaders in creating a more sustainable Pittsburgh but there are some key ways that city government can help support the transformation and bring new resources to the city.
Pittsburgh has a success story to tell. We have turned around a total collapse of our economy and reemerged as a leading city in medicine, education, technology, and the arts. And the media has taken notice. Pittsburgh has been named the “Most Livable City” numerous times, been featured in national newspapers including the New York Times and Washington Post. Recently, I was even interviewed by the Canadian Broadcasting Company about the community efforts to restore East Liberty. The one thing missing from this success story is a Mayor and a city government that engages with other cities around the world on economic development, policy issues, and arts and culture. It’s great to have positive media promoting our city, but we need to think bigger and begin engaging with cities across the United States and beyond.
At an afternoon rally in Schenley Park, three of the state’s leading environmental advocacy organizations endorsed Councilman Bill Peduto for Mayor of Pittsburgh. Citing his long-term commitment to public health and his leadership in the passage of Pittsburgh’s Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, representatives of Clean Water Action, Conservation Voters of Pennsylvania and the Sierra Club Pennsylvania Chapter pledged support for Peduto in the May 21 primary election.
The Allegheny County Sanitary Authority’s EPA-mandated wet weather plan calls for spending nearly $3 billion dollars over the next 10 to 20 years in order to reduce the pollutants that flow into our rivers after every rainstorm. This project represents the largest and most disruptive infrastructure undertaking in the City of Pittsburgh in our lifetimes. And ratepayers are going to bear the brunt of the costs, with rates going up as much as 200 to 300% for City of Pittsburgh residents. The current ALCOSAN proposal calls for the construction of massive concrete holding tanks under our rivers and an expansion of the ALCOSAN sewage treatment plant. Our polluted rivers are a serious problem that must be addressed but we have other problems, like flooding in our neighborhoods and erosion of our hillsides, that this plan does not address. If we are going to spend this much money and ask ratepayers to contribute more every month, this plan has to be reconsidered and we have to work to ensure that the community benefits flow from this massive investment of public resources. We can use this as an opportunity to green our neighborhoods, create good jobs, and alleviate flooding in our neighborhoods.
Earth Day is coming up on Monday, April 22nd, and I’d love for you to join me and a hundred of our closest friends to celebrate in style at the Mansions on Fifth from 6-8pm.
Our neighborhood schools are the anchors of our communities. They are the places where our children spend a great deal of their time, they are community centers where our neighborhood organizations gather, they are event spaces where we come together to celebrate the arts, and they are economic attractors that can bring in small businesses and development opportunities. Unfortunately population decline over the past several decades and funding cuts at the state level have shuttered many of our neighborhood schools and turned these former assets into empty shells in the heart of our neighborhoods. Recognizing that these population shifts are real and that resources are scarce we have to find innovative new ways to keep our neighborhood schools open without bankrupting our entire school system.