Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Raising Revenue Without Raising Taxes

Monday, August 6th, 2012

On Tuesday, July 24th, after six years of study, the legislation to set up a Market Based Revenue Opportunities (MBRO) program was introduced in Council. Back in 2006, a Task Force was formed to study MBRO based on recommendations from the Act 47 Recovery Plan. The Task Force brought together leaders in design, architecture, environment, business, and government to craft a policy to allow for tasteful, targeted advertising and sponsorships on some City property in order to bring in additional revenues to pave streets, hire public safety officials, and maintain City parks. I’m pleased to say that after all of these years the policy has finally reached the Council table and will be debated over the coming weeks. To read the policy, please click here.

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Serving Up Better Policies for Food Trucks

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

posted by Matt Barron

Food trucks aren’t new in Pittsburgh. Trucks have been serving lunches in Oakland for years and a few pioneers like Franktuary and The Goodie Truck have been cruising the streets.

But with a new interest in food trucks surfacing around the country we’re seeing more and more entrepreneurs like the Pgh Taco Truck seeking to enter the Pittsburgh market and bumping up against some strict regulations and confusing permitting processes. Some cities, seeing this trend, have revamped their food truck regulations to make it a little bit easier to operate a mobile business and meet a demand that is clearly there. Chicago’s City Council approved their new food truck ordinance today and several other cities are in the process of revisiting their policies.

Councilman Bill Peduto’s office has been studying Pittsburgh’s current regulations and the regulations of other cities around the country to think about how to create a more welcoming environment for food trucks in Pittsburgh without infringing on the business of brick and mortar restaurants. If you have any suggestions feel free to leave a comment!

For more on Pittsburgh food trucks, check out this nice round-up of the current players on the website of the Pgh Taco Truck.

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Sustainable Stormwater Management in Pittsburgh

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

posted by Pieter Mueller

The City of Pittsburgh is nicknamed the City of Bridges for good reason. To me, the thought of these bridges instantly brings to mind the unique and beautiful landscape in Pittsburgh: the hills, the ravines, and most especially, the three rivers. This unique landscape has been sculpted by water and our city’s water has long been one of its most important assets. However, the way in which we manage this asset has long-term implications for the entire region’s economic and environmental health.

22 BILLION gallons. That’s the average yearly amount of untreated sewage and stormwater that overflows from the sewer system into our waterways, typically occurring during wet weather. This degrades the waters and makes them unsafe, even for recreational use. Not only do these overflows cause damage to the waterways, they also cause damage to property. When these events occur, the lines can back up, causing costly basement flooding and damage to residences. Already, we know this problem must be addressed due to the 2007 Consent Decree between the EPA and ALCOSAN. However, like many problems, there are multiple options for how the problem can be addressed and each option has future implications.

Right now, the current plan to deal with this issue involves building a massive storage system to hold excess sewage during wet weather until it can be treated. This traditional engineering solution will cost at least $10 billion dollars and potentially upwards of $50 billion. While effective, there is another solution which has been shown by other cities to save taxpayers billions of dollars and provide environmental and health benefits. This solution is to incorporate “green” stormwater management techniques. Examples of green infrastructure include: permeable pavement, green roofs, and rain gardens.

The use of green methods is gaining traction in stormwater management. Since 2007, the EPA has issued four memos stating support for the use of green infrastructure. Just across the state in Philadelphia, the incorporation of these methods is estimated to provide benefits of $2.2 billion. These benefits are economic, environmental, and social. The use of green infrastructure would not only reduce the costs to the city of dealing with overflowing sewage it would also provide additional benefits such as cleaner air, more beautiful landscapes, and cleaner ground water.

Already many members of the community have independently started using green infrastructure. From green roofs at Carnegie Mellon University to the Center for Sustainable Landscapes at Phipps Conservatory – one of the greenest buildings in the world, there are many resources in the community for learning how to take action. While we should push for the inclusion of green infrastructure in the plan to deal with sewage overflow, we don’t have to wait for others to start incorporating green methods. One step that can be taken in Pittsburgh is to install rain gardens where possible. To see if there are rain gardens near you and to get ideas on what you could build, visit: http://raingardenalliance.org/.

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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 »

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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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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Responsible Banking Act Passes in City Council

Friday, December 23rd, 2011

responsible-banksCouncilman Bill Peduto’s Responsible Banking Act passed in City Council by a 5-4 final vote this week. This legislation builds on the federal Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) which addressed discriminatory practices in mortgage and consumer lending that had led to large portions of, primarily, African American neighborhoods being redlined. The Responsible Banking Act goes a step further by encouraging investment in low-moderate income (LMI) communities and providing a quantitative process to evaluate their progress. It requires banks holding City of Pittsburgh deposits to provide documentation and reports to the City Controller outlining the ways in which they have reinvested public monies into our neighborhoods. The City Controller will then compile a “report card” for those banks so that the public and Council can evaluate which banks are putting our money back to work for our neighborhoods. 

The Mayor has ten days from the bill’s passage (December 19th) to either veto (with a potential Council override), sign, or let the bill become law without signing. If the bill becomes law, Pittsburgh will become only the third city in the country to include Responsible Banking legislation as part of our city code. (Cleveland and Philadelphia have already enacted similar ordinances.)

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Debt Management Ordinance

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Posted by Bill Peduto

rpn-debt-management-ordinancePittsburgh’s checkered past when it comes to debt is well-known to many of you who remember the Act 47 takeover by the state and the fight over the Ravenstahl Administration’s attempt to privatize our parking assets. We have finally been able to wrangle control of our debt and the outlook is, while still not perfect, better than it has been in many years. Debt is not necessarily a bad thing for a City that wants to invest for its future and lay the groundwork for long-term growth, but it is a tool that must be used carefully and sparingly. Since the Act 47 takeover, the state oversight body has asked the City to implement a debt management policy to ensure that decisions made regarding the issuance of debt are not made lightly and that there are clear policies that must be followed. This month, I introduced a strong, clear debt management policy today that will achieve these goals.
 
My Debt Management Policy pulls together recommendations from the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA), an international body of experts in municipal finance, as well as best practices from other cities to put in place clear boundaries for how and under what circumstances the City can take on more debt. We must be sure that debt is only being used to fund long-term projects that will benefit the entire City and that these investments will pay off in the future. The legislation will also allow the Council to bring in an independent financial advisor to provide an assessment of any potential debt deal and make the findings public.
 
With this legislation in place not only will one of the unmet conditions of our Act 47 plan finally be met, but the citizens of Pittsburgh will know that important financial decisions are being made with a clear policy in place and that they are being made free from the influence of politics.

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Pittsburgh Stimulus Program

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Posted by Bill Peduto

rpn-pittsburgh-stimulus-programThough the worst of the Great Recession is over and the United States economy is beginning to grow again, people who were put out of work or saw their hours cut when the economy collapsed have not fully recovered. Unemployment and underemployment are still too high, corporations and banks are holding cash instead of making loans, and development projects have stalled throughout the country. The prospect of help from Congress looks dim as the 2012 Presidential race kicks into gear so Pittsburgh City Council must step up and do what we can to spur economic growth and get our residents back to work.
 
The Pittsburgh Stimulus Plan, introduced last month, will do just that. The plan provides anyone interested in starting or continuing a residential, industrial, or commercial development 10 years of property tax relief on a graduated scale. In the first two years the tax bill is cut 100%, the next two years it is cut 90%, and so forth until in the final two years, taxes are cut 60% before the plan is phased out. The temporary relief and flexibility provided by this plan will get the shovel in the ground for projects that have not been able to secure full financing. Construction and trade workers who have seen their hours cut and their jobs grow fewer and farther between will get back to work and long-awaited projects will finally break ground.
 
This measure is based off an identical plan that currently applies to residential projects in certain neighborhoods. Under the Pittsburgh Stimulus Plan, all neighborhoods and all projects will benefit. The project also mirrors a program that the County has for suburban communities. This legislation will get people back to work in the City of Pittsburgh, while also fighting the suburban sprawl that has impacted this region for so long.
 
We can’t wait for the Congress to get its act together and provide economic relief to struggling families in Pittsburgh, the time to act is now.

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Responsible Banking Act

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

Posted by Bill Peduto

rpn-responsible-banking-chartIn 1977, the United States Congress passed the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) as part of a larger push to end discriminatory practices in mortgage and consumer lending that had led to large portions of, primarily, African American neighborhoods to be redlined. Redlining was the practice of banks and other lending institutions literally drawing a red line around certain neighborhoods and dictating that no loans could be made for residents and business owners there.
 
The CRA effectively ended redlining and led to a renaissance in bank-community relations that lasted several decades. While CRA has been incredibly important, it is federal legislation that doesn’t always capture the unique conditions on the ground in cities and states around the country. It is for this reason that I introduced the Responsible Banking and Neighborhood Reinvestment Act last month.
 
This legislation builds upon the success of the CRA, requiring that any banks holding City of Pittsburgh deposits provide documentation and reports to the City Controller outlining the ways in which they have reinvested public monies into our neighborhoods. The City Controller will then compile a “report card” showing the City Council and the public which banks we’re doing business with are excelling, which are maintaining steady progress, and which are falling behind in their commitments. The City invests tens of millions of dollars in banks each year and that money must be put back to work for our City and its neighborhoods.

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