Pittsburgh City Council

This is the first in a three-part series looking ahead to the 2015 priorities with members of Pittsburgh City Council.

A potential revenue stream for the city of Pittsburgh could become tied up in litigation if City Council does not act quickly.

Council on Monday discussed a bill to approve the installation of distributed antenna systems, or DAS, in 19 light poles across the city.

According to Mike Salem, an engineering technician in the Department of Public Works, the antennae are meant to improve cell service in “dead spots,” areas where reception is bad or calls are dropped regularly.

Technology upgrades in the new Department of Permits, Licenses, and Inspections – formerly the Bureau of Building Inspection – are set to continue, as Pittsburgh City Council on Monday gave preliminary approval to a bill that would set the stage for putting permitting online.

With three weeks left before Pittsburgh City Council must approve the 2015 operating and capital budgets, the nine-member body considered four additional budget amendments Wednesday.

One amendment would create the position of government and community affairs coordinator in the new Department of Permits, Licenses, & Inspections.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Council on Wednesday gave preliminary approval to a bill that would raise property taxes by one-half mill, which works out to about $40 a year for a home worth $100,000.

City Finance Director Paul Leger says the city is currently operating at “bare bones” and that failure to pass the millage increase would put the city in violation of Act 47.

The city of Pittsburgh wants all police officers to be wearing body cameras within two years instead of six.

In the wake of civil unrest after grand jury decisions not to indict police officers in the killings of Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York, the Peduto administration will shorten the timeline for implementation of such technology.

Amendments to Mayor Bill Peduto’s 2015 budget proposal that would free up money for the purchases came before City Council on Monday.

AP Photo/Keith Srakocic

Update: 12/09/14 11:40am

Pittsburgh City Council confirmed McLay's appointment at its regular meeting Tuesday morning.  McLay will be sworn at by Mayor Bill Peduto at 4:00 this afternoon.

Original Post:

Nearly three months after Cameron McLay became acting chief of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, City Council on Monday held his confirmation hearing.

The two-hour meeting focused less on McLay’s qualifications for the job and more on his ideas about how to improve the bureau and address the concerns of individual members of City Council.

Not even a year old yet, Pittsburgh’s Department of Innovation and Performance addressed 2015 budget requests at one in a series of City Council budget hearings Tuesday.

The department’s budget has a proposed increase of about $255,000, a 1.84 percent change. Salaries in the budget decrease by about 2 percent. Department Chief Debra Lam said in less than one year, Innovation and Performance has already done a lot – including updating the 311 system.

One of the items Mayor Bill Peduto ran on was making the Bureau of Building Inspection its own department, which would report directly to the mayor, rather than to the head of public safety. Such a move is intended to modernize the department, among other things.

Councilwomen Call for Study of Childcare Centers

Nov 18, 2014

The first initiative of the newly-formed Women’s Caucus of Pittsburgh City Council is a broad examination of childcare centers in the city.

Councilwomen Deb Gross, Darlene Harris, Theresa Kail-Smith and Natalia Rudiak will introduce legislation that they say will improve childcare facilities and the quality of care in Pittsburgh.

The legislation calls for a comprehensive study of childcare providers, which will be used by city government to enhance the care and make necessary changes.

Flickr user joseph a

Pittsburgh’s City Task Force for Public Education has achieved its primary goal of preventing any school closures for the 2014-15 school year, but City Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith said there’s still more work for the group to do.

That’s why she is sponsoring legislation to turn the temporary task force into a permanent commission.

As Mayor Bill Peduto continues his quest to modernize the way the city gathers, uses and shares data, the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police is becoming the next department to have its practices put under the microscope.

City Council on Monday discussed a bill that would allow the Bureau to spend $32,000 on a consultant to perform an organizational assessment and strategic evaluation of the Bureau’s data usage policies.

“In the 10 years I‘ve been (working with) Council, I can remember always seeing stories on the Internet … about other cities getting grants … from D.C., getting grants from Harrisburg, getting grants from Home Depot, the Coca Cola Foundation,” said City Councilman Dan Gilman during Wednesday’s committee meeting. “Occasionally Pittsburgh would pop up, but it was pretty rare.

All that is changing though, as Mayor Bill Peduto’s administration begins to make good on its promise to bring more grant money into the city.

Flickr user Joseph Novak

City Councilman Daniel Lavelle, who represents much of the Hill District, wants to make that the history of the area does not repeat itself.

In the mid-1950s, redevelopment of the Hill District and construction of the Civic Arena displaced 8,000 residents, most of whom were black and more than a third of whom ended up in public housing.

Now, that same area is slated for redevelopment by the Pittsburgh Penguins. Plans include housing, mixed-use retail, a hotel and an outdoor plaza.

A relatively small city expenditure of $167 led to a fervent critique of Mayor Bill Peduto by City Councilwoman Darlene Harris Wednesday morning.

In its committee meeting, City Council received a list of invoices to be paid this week, as it does in every weekly committee meeting. For the most part, these invoices are paid without incident.

But a charge for unpaid parking tickets attributed to the Ravenstahl administration caught the eye of City Councilman Dan Gilman.

Keith Srakocic / The Associated Press

Pittsburgh Deputy Police Chief Paul Donaldson said he doesn’t know if a protective vest would have saved the life of the late K-9 Officer Rocco, but the bureau is planning to purchase newer, more practical protective gear for the 24 K-9 officers currently on the force.

The $26,273 price tag of the vests will be covered by donations from the general public in the wake of Rocco’s death, funneled through the Pittsburgh Foundation, the Black n Gold Girls and the Fraternal Order of Police.

In the state of Pennsylvania, it’s technically legal for employers to refuse pregnant workers accommodations like a place to sit, access to water and more frequent breaks.

State lawmakers in March attempted to change that by introducing a bill to require such accommodations, but that bill has languished in the Senate Labor and Industry committee ever since.

Now, city of Pittsburgh lawmakers are moving to codify such protections for pregnant city workers.

Pittsburgh City Councilman Dan Gilman said it’s been nearly a decade since he first drafted legislation for then-Councilman Bill Peduto that would allow the city to auction off unneeded assets online.

That idea is finally seeing the light of day as a similar bill received preliminary approval in council’s committee meeting Wednesday. A final vote is scheduled for next week.

Grants Officer Brandon Forbes was on hand to answer questions from City Council about the plan, which would end the practice of selling old vehicles and other large assets once a year at an auction.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto is one step closer to filling out his administration, as City Council Wednesday held hearings on the mayor’s recent Public Safety and Management & Budget appointments.

For more than two hours, Acting Public Safety Director Stephen Bucar took notes as he was peppered with questions, concerns and suggestions from council members.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Council took preliminary steps Wednesday to add gender identity and expression as an explicitly protected class with regard to housing, employment and public accommodation.

Council President Bruce Kraus sponsored the legislation and said the issue was brought to his attention by Jason Goodman, executive director of the Pennsylvania Student Equality Coalition, or PSEC.

Pittsburgh City Council has approved a measure for a professional service agreement between Goodwill of Southwestern Pennsylvania and the city for the continuation of the Pittsburgh Initiative to Reduce Crime (PIRC).

This comes with a $150,000 price tag, which Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith questioned.

“I don’t mind funding anything if we see results, but I don’t want to fund something if we don’t see results, and I have not seen results from this program,” she said.

Flickr user Todd Shirley

Heth’s Run Valley hasn’t been much of a valley for a while. The area underneath Heth’s Run bridge—a portion of Butler Street between Morningside and Highland Park—had long been a dumping site for industrial waste. City Councilwoman Deb Gross, whose district includes the area, said many of her constituents didn’t even know a bridge was there.

But that area is slated to get a major facelift, which Gross said has been a long time coming.

Flicr user joseph a

Pittsburgh’s professional sports teams are huge drivers of the local economy, but City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak said in Wednesday’s committee meeting that she’s currently unable to quantify that contribution.

“As we were talking about Act 47, I was talking with constituents and they would constantly ask me ‘How much money do we get out of the stadiums?’” Rudiak said. “To be honest with you, I couldn’t answer that question.”

Photo courtesy Citiparks, City of Pittsburgh

Swimming pools are the quintessential summer hangout for kids, but when Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith found out children were being turned away because they didn’t have the right kind of pool passes, she decided to take action.

City Council Tuesday unanimously passed a bill that will repeal a city policy preventing kids with pool passes received through youth groups and other organizations from using city pools during evenings and weekends.

Kail-Smith said she wasn’t even aware of the policy until some of her constituents complained.

Whether in Lawrenceville, Downtown, the South Side or the Strip District, many Pittsburghers and visitors to the city complain about parking; either the lack of it or the cost of it.

City Councilman Dan Gilman held a post agenda on the issue Tuesday. Pittsburgh Acting Police Chief Regina McDonald said one of the problems is crowded neighborhood streets.

The city of Pittsburgh is one step closer to approving its third Act 47 Recovery Plan, after City Council on Wednesday presented and gave preliminary approval to 17 amendments.

“They don’t impact anything financial,” said council president Bruce Kraus. “They really are more philosophical in nature, more or less, about how we want to plan the next five years.”

Flickr user joseph a

Pittsburgh’s City Task Force on Public Education is set to hold their first meeting Tuesday evening, a little more than three months before they are expected to present their recommendations to Mayor Bill Peduto.

What Pittsburghers Need To Know About Act 47

Jun 17, 2014
Illustration courtesy of Pittsburgh City Paper

What is Act 47?

Act 47 is a state oversight program for “financially distressed” cities in Pennsylvania. The state tries to help cities turn around their finances and operations. The name comes from the Municipalities Financial Recovery Act (Act 47 of 1987).

What’s the history of Act 47?

Pittsburgh has been “financially distressed” for 10 years. The plan that the mayor and city council are currently considering will guide the city from 2014 through 2018.
Who prepares the five-year plan on the state's behalf?

Pittsburgh City Council members heard from the public Monday about the third amended recovery plan for the city.

Pittsburgh has been under financial oversight for a decade. The amended plan, aimed at getting the city out of Act 47 status and closer to financial solvency, sets novel goals: to reduce the city’s deficit and debt burden, maintain the fund balance at an appropriate level, increase pension contributions and spend more on capital construction.

A relatively small spending bill came before City Council Wednesday, but instead of focusing solely on the measure at hand, the legislators used the opportunity to bend the Peduto administration’s ear on the state of public education in Pittsburgh.

The bill would authorize the city to spend $20,000 to hire Preston C. Green as a mediator for the Mayor’s Public Schools Task Force. The legislation creating the body, which was passed in October and amended in April, requires a “trained mediator who shall serve as an ex officio member.”

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