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.
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 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.
Code for America is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization founded in 2009 to help cities modernize their operations and take advantage of new technology to increase transparency and accountability and provide new models of citizen engagement. Through the Code for America Fellows program, young programmers and developers are placed within city governments around the country to work directly with the Mayor’s office and the staff of city departments. In addition to the Fellows program, Code for America also provides seed funding to startup tech companies and runs the Code for America Brigade program, which places staff within community organizations to help build their capacity and increase their use of technology. Dozens of cities across the country have taken advantage of this unique program and it’s time for Pittsburgh to become the next Code for America city.
In 2010 Boston Mayor Thomas Menino created an experiment in Boston city government. He pulled together a few civic-minded entrepreneurs and Boston residents and paired them with innovators within his office to create a new program of the mayor’s office called the Office of New Urban Mechanics. The purpose of this new program was to advance the speed of innovation within city government by working directly with constituents to find new ways to address the issues that matter to them through the use of new technologies. In 2012, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter reached out to Mayor Menino and asked to bring the Office of New Urban Mechanics to Philly via a franchise model where the two cities worked closely together to share ideas and data and pioneer new problem-solving technologies. I have been in touch with Mayor Menino’s office about the possibility of bringing the Office to Pittsburgh. As Mayor, I will create a Pittsburgh Office of New Urban Mechanics to engage our tech sector innovators to work directly with city government and residents to address the issues our neighborhoods care about.
Pittsburgh City Councilman Patrick Dowd will endorse his colleague Bill Peduto for Mayor today during a 9:30 a.m. press conference on the portico of the City County Building, stating need for next mayor to be able to work with all levels of government.
“Never before has it been more crucial for city and county government to work shoulder to shoulder on issues such as water and sewer system reinvestment, transportation and economic development,” Dowd states as the foundation for his endorsement.
Stewardship of taxpayer dollars, provision of basic services, and investment in neighborhoods are some of the most important financial responsibilities of city government. Yet the processes by which your tax dollars are spent are often top-down and offer little or no chance for public participation aside from electing a Mayor and City Council representatives. To truly open local government up to the people, we need to give people real decision-making power over real money.
When you call the city asking to report an issue, whether it is that pothole on your street that keeps getting bigger or that abandoned car that has been on your block for a year you expect action in a reasonable amount of time. That’s what your tax dollars should be paying for, after all. The city, through our 311 system, receives tens of thousands of requests every year and I want to make sure that every one of those requests is addressed quickly and efficiently. Our system has the potential to be something great and we have the ingenuity in Pittsburgh to make our complaint response line the best in the country. However, it will take dedicated energy from the Mayor’s office to accomplish this.
Pittsburgh was built on the business of building things. Our industrial economy propelled us to become an economic and political powerhouse and laid the groundwork for a middle class that sustained the city for generations. Though we all know the terrible story of how that industrial glory turned to decades of tough, painful times for families across the region, we can write a new chapter today and bring back good quality jobs making quality goods. Pittsburgh is well positioned to become a center for manufacturing of high-tech goods that will be in demand across the country and the world. As Mayor, I will make it a priority to bring new companies to our city and create hundreds of good jobs for everyone – from people with PhDs to people with GEDs.