Conservative Think Tank Offers Tips for New Pittsburgh Mayor

Dec 30, 2013

In 2005 and again in 2009, the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, a conservative think tank, put together a list of recommendations for Pittsburgh’s new Mayor. With Mayor-Elect Bill Peduto set to take the reins in 2014, those recommendations have been updated and re-released.

“One of the things we recommended off the bat was just to have a one-year hiring freeze where the mayor would approve of any hire anywhere in the operating departments that he would oversee,” said Eric Montarti, senior policy analyst with the Allegheny Institute.

According to the group, the city of Pittsburgh’s number of employs is 30 percent higher than comparable cities and represents 70 percent of the city’s operating budget.

“Personnel costs and then the employee count are quite high,” Montarti said. “To have a one-year hiring freeze, you let retirements, attrition and separation from the city happen normally, then you use that as a point of moving forward.”

Mayor-elect Peduto’s proposed early retirement incentive program could help in reducing the city’s workforce, according to the Allegheny Institute. That plan has been put on hold until after Peduto takes office.

Another recommendation is to listen to city employees who are in the trenches.

“Going to the employees that actually deliver the services, they might have some really good ideas about how to improve the services, how to get efficiencies,” Montarti said, “and if there is something there that’s recommended that could be implemented, then those employees should get a bonus.”

Other recommendations include examining all departments for increased efficiencies, outsourcing functions such as garbage collection and building maintenance, contracting with county government to perform functions the county can do more efficiently and leveraging the power of the Mayor’s Office to effect change in the public schools.

“That is a huge thing,” Montarti said. “It’s not something the city itself directly provides, because the school board and its directors are the ones that are in charge of that, but that’s something that has a huge impact on whether people want to live or remain in the city of Pittsburgh.”

The Allegheny Institute said in terms of debt, the city has made strides. Montarti pointed out, the incoming mayor will inherit issues such as the UPMC lawsuit and last week’s changes to the city’s pension rate of return.