Providing leadership and guidance for children during the hours of 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. can have a hugely positive impact in their lives. The first few hours after the school day ends can put children at risk if they lack activities and are left on their own while their parents are still at work. Studies have shown that high quality after school programs improve grades, make kids less likely to get involved in drugs and crime, and increase graduation and college attendance rates. It is our responsibility to ensure that our kids have wholesome educational and social activities after school and we have a wealth of resources to draw on from partners in our neighborhoods and in both the private and nonprofit sectors. We can create world-class after school programs for all kids in Pittsburgh.
Food trucks have become an extremely popular option for diners across the world over the past 20 years. In Pittsburgh, we have seen dozens of entrepreneurs start food trucks either as an expansion of an existing brick-and-mortar restaurant or as a stand-alone business. However, our laws around mobile vending are outdated and make doing business very difficult for this group of enthusiastic chefs. I have already introduced legislation in City Council to loosen some of the restrictions and open up the doors for a new generation of entrepreneurs, but we also need an administration that is friendly to these ideals.
More than 10% of Pittsburgh residents have no bank account and another 19% rely heavily on risky alternative financial tools such as payday loans, check-cashing shops, and rent-to-own arrangements. his represents more than 130,000 households living without financial security. This can make it very difficult to purchase a home, send your children to college, pay utility bills or buy groceries. We must work with social services organizations, financial institutions, and community leaders to open the doors to financial literacy and security.
The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh is charged with improving the city’s economic state by growing the tax base, increasing job opportunities, and generally improving the quality of life for Pittsburghers. However, the focus of the URA is too often on large downtown development projects and retail complexes and not on smaller-scale neighborhood revitalization and creating affordable residential opportunities. We need to refocus the URA to transform it into a neighborhood-focused organization that works hand-in-hand with developers and community organizations to rebuild Pittsburgh from the ground up.
Public safety is one of the most important issues people consider when thinking about moving to a new city or neighborhood but Pittsburgh doesn’t do a very good job of making our public safety data transparent and accessible. The last Annual Report from the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police available on the City’s website is from 2010. That is not transparency and accountability from the Director of Public Safety and the Mayor’s office. We should be able to do much better than that.
Pittsburgh is an old city with infrastructure that was built when some of today’s favored transportation methods didn’t yet exist. As we begin to see more people walking, bicycling, and taking public transportation we must adjust our policies to better reflect today’s transportation choices and build a safer environment for all of our residents and visitors. A complete streets policy is the most effective way to do this. Complete streets is a philosophy of planning and design that leads to streets that are safe for all users, not just cars or bikes or pedestrians – everyone. Planning and construction through a complete streets lens will beautify our neighborhoods, create safer streets and sidewalks, and lead to a more livable city.
Pittsburgh was first settled by a diverse and eclectic group of immigrants who came here in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to find work, start families, and put down roots. The diversity that comes from immigration brings economic and cultural benefits to a community, and our legacy of immigration is still front and center in neighborhoods like Polish Hill and Deutschtown. In 2011, 7.1% of Pittsburgh residents were foreign born, a 5% increase from 2000. Pittsburgh should seize this opportunity to further encourage the growth and development that new immigrants bring and welcome a new generation of entrepreneurs to our neighborhoods.
Trees provide a myriad of benefits to our city and its residents. They clean our air, provide oxygen, and cool our streets and homes which lessens energy consumption. They help to control storm water runoff and increase our water quality. They lessen our stress and improve our mood. Tree Pittsburgh is dedicated to protecting and growing our urban forest and they have a class for you if you’d like to help keep Pittsburgh green one tree at a time.
According to the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, the arts and culture industry in Allegheny County is directly responsible for more than $341 million annually. Investment in the arts by foundations, corporations, and philanthropists has spurred thousands of jobs, led a revitalization of Downtown, and put our city on the map nationally and internationally. The only factor missing is a direct and strategic involvement by the City of Pittsburgh.
In many ways, our local government is stuck in the 20th century. You still have to come Downtown in person to get even the simplest permit. You still have to pay via check or money order. You still have to go to as many as three different government offices to obtain approvals, fill out applications, and pay fees. If we want people to want to live in Pittsburgh or to open a business or to renovate a house, we have to make these basic facts of government administration much more user friendly.