The pension crisis that rocked our city in 2010 was a defining moment. It forced City Council to band together to take quick action to prevent a sell-off of our parking assets that would have badly hurt our city. The plan we put together to prevent that sale was not perfect but it has provided us some real breathing room and a real pathway towards pension solvency. But the 2010 crisis had been brewing for a long time. In fact, Pittsburgh’s pensions have never been fully funded. During the 1970s there were even periods of time when our pension fund was at $0. The pledge of parking tax revenue to shore up the pension fund was only the first step, though. We will have to take further action both at the local and state levels to truly solve the problem. And we have to do it in a way that protects our workers and honors the promise we made to them of a safe and secure retirement.
One of the core responsibilities of government at all levels is to ensure opportunity for all of our constituents. However, government as in our society as a whole often falls short of this goal and doesn’t adequately reflect the true diversity of our citizenry. The City of Pittsburgh has made strides through initiatives like the Personal Department’s DiverseCity 365 that seeks to attract more minority job applicants. But we still fall short when it comes to equal representation on boards, authorities, and commissions, as department heads, and as minority contractors on city-sponsored projects. The city’s Equal Opportunity Review Commission is charged with working towards greater representation and has recently been further empowered via legislation that I gladly voted for on City Council, but we need to double down on our efforts to make Pittsburgh city government reflect the diversity of our city and provide opportunities for everyone. To further these goals I will create an Initiative on Equity and Diversity led by a cabinet-level appointee who will serve as the city’s “diversity auditor.”
This is your last chance. There are only 6 days left and the future of the city is on the line. Moving forward means electing Bill Peduto, but we will only do that with your help. We have five Get Out The Vote shifts to change Pittsburgh before polls close on Tuesday — all of them are crucial to bringing home a victory for Bill Peduto and the people of Pittsburgh.
The men and women of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police are, by and large, good hardworking people who truly care about this city and its safe. However, the financial scandals and incidents of police brutality that have shocked our communities, damaged the bureau, and severed ties of trust with many Pittsburghers, particularly African Americans. It is critical that we develop a comprehensive strategy for restoring this trust and proving to our citizens that our police will serve and protect them regardless of where they live or the color of their skin. I will make this a top priority of my administration and begin working on it on day one. Yet, I can’t do it alone. We must address this issue as a community, keeping in mind these problems won’t be solved overnight. I know together we can make the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police the best in the country. We owe it to our communities and the hardworking men and women who we serve.
The City of Pittsburgh is the population and economic center of Allegheny County and tens of thousands of Allegheny County residents come to the city every day to work, visit restaurants, and attend events. The city and county are inherently linked in many ways, including in many of the challenges we face. Issues like the water quality of our rivers and streams, the flooding that plagues many of our neighborhoods, the funding of our public transportation system, the assessment of property taxes, and economic development planning require close cooperation and good working partnerships between officials at the city and county levels. As Mayor, I will build on existing relationships and create new ones to strengthen our partnership with the county to the benefit of all residents of Pittsburgh and the region.
Allegheny County’s recent reassessment process has been a clear example of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s broken property tax reassessment system. Pennsylvania is one of only a handful of states that doesn’t require regular, professional, standardized property tax reassessments and the disastrous results of that failure are apparent all around us. Going decades without reassessments and then being forced into them via lawsuits is a recipe for failure and that is just what we have witnessed – failure to follow national standards in conducting a reassessment; failure to protect low- and moderate-income homeowners and senior citizens; and failure to produce equitable results that reflect real changes in property value without burdening taxpayers. Leaders of the State, the County, and the City fought against the harmful, judicially-mandated reassessment but we lost the fight. We have to work with leaders in Harrisburg to make sure that this never happens again and to put in place a system that is fair, equitable, and protects property owners from being taxed out of their homes.
The decision to enter Act 47 state oversight was one of the most difficult I have ever had to make as an elected official. In the dark days of 2003 and 2004, we were faced with an impossible choice: allow the City of Pittsburgh to descend into bankruptcy and financial ruin or enter Act 47 status to reduce our spending and right-size our city government. I rallied five Council members to take the latter path. We knew it would be difficult and that it would require sacrifices from many hard-working people across city government. But we also knew it was our only real choice. Bankruptcy would have meant crushing new taxes on every resident of Pittsburgh, a devastating reduction of services, and an exodus of businesses and investors from our city.
Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” If we’re going to make Pittsburgh’s government work for residents first, we’re going to have to make sure that we are using your money most effectively, even if it means breaking free of our old habits. We need to budget taking the real needs of the people into account, not excuses like “because that’s the way it’s always been done.” Around budget time every year, we see the Mayor and City Council make small tweaks here and there and move funds between departments, but we have never taken the opportunity to completely reexamine our budget and start from zero. I will use new tools to reexamine our budgeting process and make sure that we are spending money prudently and where its impact is most felt.
This campaign has always been about empowering people – something that I have fought for throughout my time on city council. Pittsburgh is at a crossroads and each of you will determine our collective future with your vote on May 21. You can help me clean up city hall…
The idea of “working with others” seems to be a reoccurring theme in this mayoral race. Let’s stop and think about what that means. Does “working with others” mean propping up the status quo? Or does it mean building broad and diverse coalitions to change Pittsburgh for the better? The former has kept the same few in power and the latter has opened the city to new voices, new approaches to development, new protections for workers and our environment, and new faces in city, county, and state government.