Pittsburgh City Council chambers overflowed with elected officials, city employees, community leaders, friends and family as the newly elected and re-elected members of the 138th City Council were sworn in.
Natalia Rudiak, Theresa Kail-Smith and Daniel Lavelle all won re-election in their districts in November, while Bill Peduto’s former chief of staff, Dan Gilman, took over the new Mayor’s seat on Council.
Re-elected members of City Council took time to reflect on changes in their districts and in the city during the last four years.
Kail-Smith lauded the new development in her district, including Highmark Stadium at Station Square, a new street hockey rink in Banksville and a new food market in Sheraden.
“There’s a lot of things happening in District 2, and we don’t always do a good job of doing our own PR and letting people know all the work we’re doing in our community,” Kail-Smith said. “But I think you’re starting to see there is more and more interest in the West End and more things coming to our district.”
Rudiak referenced the speech she gave when she first took her City Council seat in 2009.
“Four years ago I issued a challenge that said, ‘Pittsburgh needs a reawakening, and all of us here today must lead it,” Rudiak said. “And I have to say Pittsburgh, you have delivered.”
Rudiak thanked citizens of all stripes who she said help to make the city great.
“It is because of you and because of my colleagues, both returning and new, as well as our mayor-elect, that the American Dream is being reborn in the next great American city,” Rudiak said. “And that next great American city is Pittsburgh.”
Daniel Lavelle said he has always been a proponent of new development, but that it’s important not to lose sight of the purpose of development.
“Even as we look at the future redevelopment of the lower Hill, I’ve said from day one, for me, this is not about bricks and mortar,” Lavelle said. “The bricks and mortar are a means to an end. The end is a new economic reality for the community that I serve, and a new economic reality for those that sit here in this room.”
He also issued a challenge to his colleagues on council and in city government to remember that they must ensure that all citizens benefit from Pittsburgh’s resurgence.
“We have to invest in the least among us in order for the city to ever truly be great, and ever truly be the most livable for all,” Lavelle said.
While Lavelle said he had just starting planning his remarks for the ceremony the night before, Gilman joked that he’d been working on his speech for seven months. Indeed, he presented a clear and optimistic vision for the city.
“I believe in a city where people get paid enough that when they put in an honest, hardworking, eight-hour day, they should go home to their families with healthcare, money to pay the rent, and money to put food on the table,” Gilman said.
In previous interviews, the councilman has made similar remarks in reference to UPMC’s alleged labor violations, though he did not mention the healthcare giant by name in his speech.
Gilman also said he looks forward to bringing the city into the 21st century in terms of technology and data, echoing remarks made by Peduto, his former boss.
“I believe in a city that uses data and not politics to make decision,” Gilman said. “I believe in a city that uses modern technology to improve the way we provide our services to the city’s taxpayers.”
A new bill to offer early retirement to city employees was introduced during the first official meeting of the new Council, but the bulk of the meeting was ceremonial, rather than procedural.