Archive for April, 2012

Pittsburgh Fights for Equal Pay

Friday, April 27th, 2012

posted by Marisa Pereira Tully

April 17, 2012 marked the day to which a woman had to work in order to equal a man’s earnings for 2011. Equal Pay Day, as it’s called, brings attention to the enduring disparity between men’s and women’s wages in our country. Following decades of advancements in opportunities and increasing prominence of women in the media, it can be forgotten that large inequalities still very much exist. On average a woman is paid 77.4% of what a man earns. Over a lifetime, lost wages can total in the hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars. If the gap continues to close at its current rate, women’s earnings will not reach men’s until the year 2075.

Here in Pittsburgh two groups, the Council of the City of Pittsburgh and a team from Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College, recently took up the challenge to combat this inequality.

On Equal Pay Day, Councilmembers Bill Peduto and Natalia Rudiak sponsored a resolution authorizing an audit of compensation, hiring, and advancement practices for City employees with the express purpose of identifying any discrimination. Such an act not only serves to expose any unfair treatment, it also signals the commitment of our City government for wage equality. The resolution comes in response to a 2009 audit commissioned by former Councilmember Doug Shields which found clear examples of wage discrimination, political decision-making, and barriers to advancement in the City workforce. Councilmembers Peduto and Rudiak hope to learn whether the City has made progress in correcting these disparities and what work still needs to be done.

Over at CMU, a group of graduate students and professors teamed up to compete in the U.S. Department of Labor’s Equal Pay App Challenge. The Challenge asked competitors to increase awareness of the issue, make data more accessible, and provide tools for users to combat the wage gap in their own lives. Under the leadership of Professor Linda Babcock, noted gender and negotiation expert, the team (of which this author was a part) created a website that combined a personalized salary calculator with tips and training in negotiation. The website won the Grand Prize as well as the Excellence in Non-Profit Award. To check out the Heinz submission and get your own personalized salary comparison, go to closethewagegap.com.

Posted in Hiring Based on Merit, Implementing Professional Management Systems, Opening Government's Books, Strengthening the Ethics Code, Uncategorized | No Comments »

Pittsburgh Becomes Third U.S. City to Pass a Responsible Banking Ordinance

Wednesday, April 18th, 2012

posted by Matt Barron

responsible bankingPittsburgh City Council, yesterday, gave final approval to legislation asking banks that hold City deposits to create community reinvestment plans to outline how they will invest City money back into our neighborhoods. Pittsburgh becomes just the third city in the United States, after Cleveland and Philadelphia, to pass such an ordinance.

Councilman Peduto crafted this legislation after a year of working with community representatives, the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group, and 16 of the region’s small, medium, and large financial institutions. The original bill was introduced last year and passed by Council but vetoed by Mayor Ravenstahl. It was then reintroduced by Councilman Lavelle two weeks later. Councilman Lavelle’s bill was very similar to the original legislation but included some provisions that ran afoul of federal reporting guidelines. The proposal was amended to meet all federal requirements and still provide the needed goals of neighborhood investment. After a year and a half of hard work, we finally have a Responsible Banking ordinance in the City of Pittsburgh.

The legislation, while not perfect, will create competition among financial institutions that do business with the City to see which ones can offer the best interests rates while also providing the most home loans, small business loans, and neighborhood grants to areas of the City most in need. It will also provide the public with a detailed record of which financial institutions are excelling in their community investment practices and which still have some work to do.

The process that this important piece of legislation went through is a great example of what is possible when community organizations, the business community, and elected officials sit down together to discuss common goals and strategies for positive change.

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Posted in Opening Government's Books, Reforming the Investment of Public Dollars | No Comments »

Towards a More Sustainable Pittsburgh

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

posted by Matt Barron

With Earth Day approaching on Sunday, April 22nd, it’s a good time to think about both the strides Pittsburgh has already taken towards becoming a sustainable 21st century city and the work that remains to be done. We want to bring you a few updates about what has been accomplished over the past year as well as some big initiatives on the horizon.

The Pittsburgh Climate Initiative (PCI), a coalition of government, higher education, nonprofit, and the private sector introduced the Pittsburgh Climate Action Plan in 2008. This comprehensive roadmap to sustainability set forth clear and achievable goals for reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, increasing our energy efficiency, and improving our air and water quality. The conveners and stakeholders of the PCI used 2011 as a time to look back on the original plan, chart out what has been accomplished, and put in place new milestones for a more sustainable city. Councilman Peduto introduced this new plan, dubbed Pittsburgh Climate Action Plan, Version 2, in Council last month and it passed with a unanimous vote.

We’ve already seen some of the tangible results of the recommendations of the Climate Action Plan. Next time you’re in your neighborhood’s business district in the evening, take a look at the new LED lights that have been installed. These bright, energy efficient new fixtures are a direct result of Councilman Peduto’s advocacy for cost-saving sustainable technology and the hard work of the participants of the Pittsburgh Climate Initiative. To learn more about the new lighting code passed by City Council and the research that went into choosing the best available, most cost effective lighting technology, visit The Pittsburgh LED Project.

While the Climate Action Plan provides the policy roadmap for the future, Pittsburgh is also faced with some immediate environmental issues that we must tackle now. Chronic flooding in many of our neighborhoods has led to loss of life, economic hardship, and environmental degradation and we need both short term and long term strategies to alleviate it. After a citywide public meeting in September, Councilman Peduto began working one on one with neighborhoods in his district to identify specific flood-prone streets and intersections, map them out, and look for potential breakdowns in our water and sewer system. The results of this six-month long study were released to the leadership of the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, the Mayor’s office, and the media on March 1st and action is already being taken to address the most serious problems. These short term fixes are only the first step, however. The long term strategy lies with the fantastic work of the Green Infrastructure Nework (GIN). Coordinated by The Pennsylvania Environmental Council and 3 Rivers Wet Weather, GIN is a voluntary partnership of over 35 organizations from all sectors working collaboratively to solve the region’s stormwater problems. The group is a shining example of what is possible if we pull together broad coalitions of stakeholders to work towards common goals.

A new project is also underway that will tie these efforts together and produce a set of specific policy recommendations to help us put in place a strong foundation for sustainable development. In November, Councilman Peduto’s office submitted a grant proposal to Smart Growth America for technical assistance with a sustainable zoning code review. Pittsburgh was chosen as one of only 15 municipalities across the country to receive the assistance, courtesy of the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Building Blocks for Sustainable Communities program. Smart Growth America will send a team of experts to Pittsburgh for two days in May to pour through the city code and work with a diverse group of city employees, elected officials, and community stakeholders to identify barriers to innovation and help lay the groundwork for smarter, more sustainable development.

So take Earth Day as an opportunity to reflect on how far we’ve come but also know that there are dedicated, passionate people working every day on these issues to move us towards a more sustainable Pittsburgh.

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Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »

Introducing the New (and Improved) Reform Pittsburgh Now

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

pgh-sunriseWhen Councilman Bill Peduto launched Reform Pittsburgh Now in 2007 it was one of the first blogs devoted solely to public policy at the municipal level in Pittsburgh. As local news sources are being subsumed by national and international media conglomerates and the budgets of municipal reporting at our local newspapers are being whittled away, it is more important than ever that residents of the City and the surrounding region have a place to turn to find out about what is happening on City Council, in the Mayor’s office, and in your City departments.

In order to better serve City residents we are “relaunching” Reform Pittsburgh Now with more content and a broader scope. We will continue to bring you the latest news from City Council and the rest of City government but we will also be introducing a group of talented and accomplished guest contributors who will write about what they are doing to reform Pittsburgh, how other cities are tackling some of the very same issues that we face, and how we can learn from the successes and failures of the rest of the world to create a broad-based platform for change and reform for a new Pittsburgh.

We will be introducing our new contributors this month and are very excited to bring you their views on a range of policy issues facing our city. Stay tuned for much more!

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Posted in Uncategorized | No Comments »