City in Transition

The City of Pittsburgh has landed a highly regarded candidate to head the Department of City Planning.

Ron Gastil formerly served as planning director for Seattle and director of the Manhattan office for the New York City Department of City Planning. He said he is excited about the new administration.

“One that has a combination of real commitment to neighborhoods, and a big picture vision,” Gastil said. “It is also a city that is excited and believes that you can plan your built environment and plan your communities, and address questions of sustainability and equity.”

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Mayor Bill Peduto’s nominees to head the city’s legal and tech teams came before City Council Wednesday.

The mayor has tapped Lourdes Sanchez Ridge to be the next city solicitor, while Debra Lam is his choice for the newly created chief innovation and performance officer position. As part of that position, Lam would also be in charge of City Information Services, but she said it’s not primarily a technology position.

Mayor Bill Peduto’s early retirement plan for city employees was once again brought before City Council on Wednesday, but with one major change.

“This program has nothing to do with pensions,” Peduto’s Chief of Staff, Kevin Acklin, told the legislative body. “It’s a separate benefit that we would propose to make available to these employees if they so elect, or if their service is terminated.”

The change comes after rumblings that tying early retirement to pensions might not be allowed under Act 47 oversight or by the Pennsylvania Municipal Retirement System. 

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

It’s official – Pittsburgh has a new mayor.

Bill Peduto took the oath of office during a ceremony at Heinz Hall Monday. The city’s 60th mayor vowed to help build the next Pittsburgh.

“Pittsburgh has grown and changed and grown again from the day a small campfire burned at the confluence of our three rivers and heralded the new boundaries of the American nation,” Peduto said in his inaugural speech. “But we did not only inherit this city from our forbearers, we are also borrowing it from our children.”

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.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Bill Peduto takes the oath of office Monday afternoon in Heinz Hall as Pittsburgh's 60th mayor. The ceremony had been planned for outside City Hall but was moved because of concern over frigid temperatures. 

The inauguration is a ticketed event and only a very limited number of seats will be available to the general public. 

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

When Mayor Luke Ravenstahl was quietly sworn into office following the 2006 death of Mayor Bob O’Connor, the 26-year-old City Council president became the youngest mayor of a major U.S. city. 

Headlines around the time included the following: “Hope surrounds new Pittsburgh mayor, 26” and he made several national television appearances, including a spot on "The Late Show with David Letterman." But as he heads out of office, the last months of his tenure included headlines such as “Luke Ravenstahl Maintains Low Profile Amid Federal Probe.”

Peduto Gets 'Roadmap to Build the Next Pittsburgh'

Dec 31, 2013

Bill Peduto will be inaugurated Monday as Pittsburgh’s 60th mayor, and he takes office with a 5-inch thick binder with 1,100 pages of recommendations from citizens on how to improve the city.

Some 1,200 residents comprising 47 subcommittees delivered their reports and recommendations Monday evening to the mayor-elect and his management team.

“The response was overwhelming,” said Kevin Acklin, chairman of the transition committee and the incoming chief of staff for Peduto. According to Acklin the subcommittees began work Nov. 30 and made about 50 separate recommendations.

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.

A week after Mayor-elect Bill Peduto’s plan to offer some city worker’s an early retirement faced a veto threat from Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Peduto’s staff announced a second plan that would operate separate from the pension.

On Thursday, more details of the plan were released: Those changes could expand the number of eligible workers.

At the request of the Peduto transition team, the Pittsburgh City Council opted Tuesday to wait at least another week before voting on an early retirement offer. Debate last week indicated that the vote would have been close and that there were still several unresolved issues.

Every year, the city of Pittsburgh collects about $10 million in taxes that many members of the Pittsburgh Public School Board feel is rightfully the district’s. 

Now, Pittsburgh Mayor-elect Bill Peduto says he might be willing to send the cash back to the district, but only if the city’s nonprofit sector steps up with a few dollars of its own.

“It has never come up for discussion,” Peduto said, “but that has to happen in conjunction with a long-term commitment from the major nonprofits, because we don’t have enough money to just open up our budget and give anybody money.”

Mayor-elect Bill Peduto saw his plan to offer early retirement to some city employees move forward in City Council Monday.

The plan would allow 136 city employees, whose age plus years of employment equals 70 years, to begin collection their pensions early. Currently that number has to equal 80. The employees must also be at least 50 years old and have no less than 8 years of service to the city.

Peduto says this is all part of his vision for a major shakeup at City Hall.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

With the posting of more than two dozen job openings on, the first phase of the process of hiring new top-level Pittsburgh city workers was launched Tuesday.  

Mayor-elect Bill Peduto is calling it a unique effort.

“This is something that is going to be transformative for Pittsburgh and where we are going for the next few years,” said Peduto. “This city is at a great transition, and we don’t even know yet where it is going to take us.”

Pittsburgh Mayor-elect Bill Peduto says he wants to give nonprofits a seat at the main table in his administration. 

He made the comments Monday before about 500 Pittsburgh area nonprofit organizations gathered for the annual Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership meeting. 

Mayor-Elect Bill Peduto has introduced legislation in City Council that would temporarily amend they city’s pension laws. The measure would allow employees whose combined age and years of service equals or exceeds 70 to retire with a full pension. Currently, age and experience must add up to 80 to qualify.

Pittsburgh Mayor-Elect Bill Peduto is going to lean a little more heavily on the Pittsburgh Foundation and the University of Pittsburgh Institutes of Politics when it comes to filling out non-union city staff positions and appointments to boards, commissions and authorities. 

It was announced Oct. 22 that the Pittsburgh Foundation was funding an effort to run a website to take applications for the top position in each city department and their direct reports. Those applications would then be put through an assessment process with the help of the Institutes of Politics.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Mayor-elect Bill Peduto has rolled out the names of those who will fill key positions in his administration and the list is a mix of well-known political names, high-profile business leaders, and a few new faces.

“It reflects the most diverse mayor’s office in Pittsburgh’s history,” said Peduto of his “executive team,” which is majority minority.  “But more importantly, it’s the highest level of talent that a mayor’s office has been able to recruit.”