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.
Pittsburgh has always been a patchwork of neighborhoods since the early days of industry and immigration. Neighborhoods like Polish Hill, Bloomfield, Brighton Heights, and the Hill became ethnic enclaves where new immigrants came to settle near relatives and strong cultural identities took hold. As industry and immigration have evolved and changed, neighborhoods across the city have changed with them. As neighborhoods like Lawrenceville, East Liberty, and the Central Northside are seeing development booms and many new residents moving in. We need to start thinking about how to preserve a diverse, mixed-income population in these neighborhoods and make sure that longtime residents are not priced out. As development spreads to other neighborhoods that haven’t seen it in many years, it will be critical to develop strategies to ensure that new housing is accessible to people of all income levels and that we are neither concentrating poverty nor concentrating wealth.
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.
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.”
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.
Pittsburgh has a rich and diverse faith community and throughout my time on City Council I have been privileged to be included in many enriching activities and initiatives across many different faiths. I have worked with my Jewish friends to provide food to the hungry and critical social services to new immigrants. I have worked with my Christian friends to push for an end to gun violence and to secure shelter for the homeless. I have worked with my Muslim friends to confront racism and advocate for peace. I have worked with my Hindu friends to advance public health and educational opportunities. While I strongly believe in a fundamental separation between church and state, I also know that our faith communities have much to give to the people of Pittsburgh. I would like to find ways to strengthen partnerships between the city and our faith communities for the betterment of all of our citizens.
When Jack Wagner sided with Republicans in 2011 to cut health care for more than 100,000 Pennsylvanians including children, it wasn’t his first time. In 1996, then Senator Wagner was the only Democrat from Western Pennsylvania –- and one of just three Democrats statewide –- to vote to eliminate health care for 259,000 Pennsylvanians, most of whom were the working poor.
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.
Four days after a Republican media firm began airing a false, negative ad attacking City Councilman Bill Peduto; Jack Wagner still refuses to explain his ties to prominent Republicans in this race for Mayor of Pittsburgh. Though Wagner feigns ignorance of the ad connected to the outfit that placed the infamous “Swift Boat” ads that attacked Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry, he has failed to release campaign finance records to disprove that the same Republicans who are funding his attacks are also funding his campaign.
The Lower Hill District is set to undergo a radical transformation over the next decade. The proposed development of the 28-acre former Civic Arena site is just one part of that transformation. If done in the best interest of the community, this could spur new development throughout the Hill District. Regardless of the changes, over the next decade we know a lot of people are going to be parking their cars in the Hill District. The temporary parking lots at the former arena site and those provided to patrons of the Consol Energy Center represent thousands of cars and thousands of dollars in revenue. The vast majority of this revenue goes to the Pittsburgh Penguins who operate the parking lots. The Hill Consensus Group, recognizing that this parking is not going away and that it is a significant source of revenue for the Penguins, believes the residents and business owners in the Hill should share in that prosperity. They have proposed a plan called A Dollar A Car that would direct some of that revenue to address the real needs of the community. I endorse this plan and, as Mayor, I will work with the Hill Consensus Group and other stakeholders to ensure it’s effectively implemented.