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.
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.
One of the most incredible technological advances of the past decade is the ability to simultaneously communicate with thousands of people via text message or a smart phone app. Agencies of the federal government, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service, utilize free smart phone apps to keep citizens informed about issues ranging natural disasters to the daily weather forecast. Smart phone apps provide easy, immediate access to information and can play an important role in alerting citizens to everything from traffic conditions to school closings. The City of Pittsburgh should offer a free smart phone app that will keep residents, commuters, and visitors informed. And we should go even further by enabling this app to provide two-way communication so residents can report neighborhood issues such as potholes, illegal parking, or graffiti.
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.
Fresh, locally-grown fruits, vegetables, and dairy are the building blocks of a healthy diet that help prevent chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease. Pittsburgh has some fantastic groups working on fresh food and food security around the city and helping to promote community gardening and urban farming. Yet many of our neighborhoods are still classified as food deserts –- areas not served by retailers offering fresh foods. While strides have been made to rectify the problem, such as the grocery store being built in the Hill District, we have a great deal of work to do to ensure that all residents have access to fresh, healthy food in their neighborhoods. Cities around the country are working on innovative ways to do a better job of providing healthy food options and Pittsburgh has a lot of opportunities to learn from these initiatives and create some of our own.
“Chronic and deliberate indifference,” is what Pittsburgh Mayoral Candidate Bill Peduto calls Public Safety director Michael Huss’ rejection of an innovative plan to put off-duty police officers on the streets to improve public safety on the South Side.
In response to yesterday’s bombings during the Boston Marathon, Pittsburgh City Councilman and mayoral candidate Bill Peduto has this to say: “My heart is heavy with the news of the awful tragedy at the iconic Boston Marathon. Not enough can be said about the heroic work of the police, firefighters, paramedics, and ordinary citizens who came to the aide of those who were injured. May we all remain vigilant in this day and age, particularly here in Pittsburgh as we approach our own annual marathon.”
Ensuring the safety of our children when they go to school is one of the most important roles we have as parents, teachers, law enforcement officials, and elected leaders. The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut last year puts this responsibility in sharper focus. That tragedy should make us even more vigilant in our efforts to create the safest learning environments we possibly can. But this requires that we look closely at how our public safety officials at the city, the county, the Pittsburgh Public Schools, the universities, and the charter, private, and parochial schools interact and communicate with one another. We must have clear, open, and frequent communication between all of these officials. We must have concrete plans in place for how to deal with any emergency situations that could arise, whether it be a natural disaster or a dangerous individual.
Traffic calming is a critical part of a complete streets approach to designing our streets, sidewalks, and bike lanes. Traffic calming can take a variety of forms and can be implemented on residential neighborhoods streets as well as in our busiest corridors around the city. The key is to take an approach that keeps everyone safe – from drivers, to pedestrians, to bicyclists – while keeping traffic flowing. Pittsburgh is an old city and many of our major thoroughfares were designed before modern traffic calming measures became commonplace, so we have some catch-up work to do to make sure that our streets are safe for everyone. The recent upticks in traffic incidents involving cyclists and pedestrians clearly mark the need for a more aggressive approach and we have the know-how and the partnerships to make it happen.