Pittsburgh City Council

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.”

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

“It’s not going to be easy.”

That was Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto’s primary message to City Council and the public Tuesday morning, as he shared details of the Steel City’s dire financial situation and challenged his colleagues in city government to help find solutions.

The address coincides with Tuesday night’s public hearing on the city’s financially distressed status, an event organized by Act 47 coordinators.

Some Pittsburgh City Council members are shelling out funds on advertisements and “self-promotion” instead of community needs, according to an audit released today by Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb.

The audit, which covers 2011 through 2013, recommends that council members develop policies regulating the use of discretionary funds, or “walking around money.” As part of the city’s 2014 budget ($480.9 million), each council member gets $8,000 in annual unrestricted funds.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Council has proclaimed Tuesday, April 29, 2014 to be “WYEP 40th Anniversary Day” in the city of Pittsburgh.

Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak and Council President Bruce Kraus jointly sponsored the resolution.

“Growing up here and growing up in a working class neighborhood … before the days of the Internet … part of the way I would find out about innovative music and bands and different cultural experiences was through WYEP,” Rudiak said.

Flickr user artnoose

With $1.8 million, you could buy half a million Big Macs, 3,500 iPad Airs or four Lamborghinis.

Or you could use it to repave an additional 11 miles of city streets in Pittsburgh.

Mayor Bill Peduto’s Chief Operations Officer, Guy Costa, said the city scrutinized the 2014 capital budget to find an additional $1,781,298.58 that can be used for street resurfacing.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgher Dan Burda’s partner of eight years, Rohn, passed away from a heart attack this year. Like many families of the recently deceased, Burda and his loved ones wanted to donate Rohn’s skin, tissue and organs to someone who needed them.

But they were not allowed to do that because of a long-standing FDA ban on such donations from any man who has had sex with a man.

Pittsburgh City Councilman Ricky Burgess has introduced four pieces of legislation that he said will help spur development in some of the city’s most troubled neighborhoods.

One piece of legislation would create the Pittsburgh Priority Communities Commission, a body that would be tasked with creating comprehensive redevelopment plans for six to eight neighborhoods that show the most potential for an economic resurgence.

flickr user BeyondDC

Homewood, once the home of Andrew Carnegie and George Westinghouse, has had more than its share of economic troubles in recent decades.

According to data available from PGHSNAP, Homewood had a population of nearly 31,000 people in 1940. By 2010, that number had decreased 79 percent to 6,442. In 2009, the median income was just under $20,000, and in 2010, 46 percent of residents were living under the poverty level.

Allegheny County Councilman Bill Robinson (D-Hill District) is asking for $10 million to $15 million in capital funds from the city and county to bail out the financially strapped August Wilson Center for African American Culture.

About $7 million would be used to pay off the center’s unpaid bills, including its mortgage, and keep the facility, which is facing liquidation. The legislation was introduced in County Council by Robinson who did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Councilman Dan Gilman on Being a Millennial in Pittsburgh

Feb 21, 2014
Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Councilman Dan Gilman is no stranger to Pittsburgh City Council.

From his college days as an intern, to his 10-year stint as chief of staff for now-Mayor Bill Peduto, Gilman is familiar with the city’s political atmosphere.

Now serving the residents of District 8, he is one of the council's youngest members.

Dan Gilman on Pittsburgh's Millennial Generation:

Flickr user michaelgoodin

According to City Council President Bruce Kraus, between 15,000 and 20,000 people stream out of South Side bars, venues and pubs around 2 a.m. every Friday and Saturday night.

That creates public safety problems and significant transportation issues, Kraus said, which is why for the last two years he’s been working with the Responsible Hospitality Institute, or RHI, to find ways to manage the nightlife economy in the city.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Marcus L. White, Jr. would have turned two years old on Wednesday.

But when he was just 15 months old, he was killed when someone fired shots into a family picnic on East Hills Drive.

In his honor, City Council declared Tuesday, February 18, 2014 to be “Marcus Lamont White, Jr. Day” in the city of Pittsburgh.

Around three dozen of Marcus’s family, friends, and supporters crowded into Pittsburgh City Council chambers for the proclamation on Tuesday.

Among the speakers was Andre Scott, the cousin of Marcus’s mother, Jameela Tyler.

Finding new uses for vacant school buildings can be difficult.

According to a study released by the Pew Charitable Trusts last year, empty school buildings can cost millions of dollars to maintain and are often sold below market value. The study also found that buildings are easier to repurpose if they have not been vacant for long.

Councilman Ricky Burgess has spent the last few months hammering away at his fellow legislators with regard to the Pittsburgh Summer Youth Employment Program.

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.

Pittsburgh City Council had their first opportunity to discuss Deb Gross’s proposed land bank legislation as a group on Wednesday. The bill was first introduced on Jan. 14.

Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Deb Gross’s controversial bill to designate the Strip District’s Fruit Auction & Sales Building as a historic structure was voted down in a committee meeting today.

Ahead of the vote, Gross made her case for the building one final time.

“It really makes the Strip District, the Strip District. It’s a defining location,” said Gross. “If you’re talking about where to meet, where to park, where to go. When you picture the Strip District in your mind, you see this building in your mind’s eye.”

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. 

With the support of Mayor Bill Peduto, City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak has introduced legislation to establish a comprehensive open data ordinance for the city of Pittsburgh.

If the bill passes, Pittsburgh would join New York City, San Francisco and more than a dozen other cities that have embraced public data sharing.

Rudiak said in a news conference Tuesday that the ordinance would go above and beyond the current Right to Know law, which requires that government agencies provide information to the public upon request.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Bruce Kraus was sworn in as the new President of the Pittsburgh City Council on Monday. Although Kraus has often been allied with former council member and now Mayor Bill Peduto, he vows to be an independent voice in city government.

Moving forward, he says he's especially interested in bringing more collegiality to a somewhat factioned city council.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

Bruce Kraus said he couldn’t get the old song “It May Be Winter Outside (But In My Heart It’s Spring)” out of his head this morning, as he prepared for the vote that would confirm him as president of the 138th Pittsburgh City Council on Monday.

“It may be the coldest day that the city has seen in the last 10 to 20 years, but in our hearts it is spring, because we are experiencing a true and genuine rebirth,” Kraus said.

It is illegal in the state of Pennsylvania to ride dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles, or ATVs, on city streets.

But Carrick resident Donna Williams said that hasn’t stopped a group of teenagers from tearing down Kirk Avenue on their dirt bikes and ATVs.

Williams said the young men also have made a habit of riding their vehicles in Birmingham Cemetery.

As Bill Peduto is sworn in as mayor of Pittsburgh, his former chief of staff will move into his old City Council seat.

Dan Gilman won the District 8 seat in a landslide victory in November, clinching 89 percent of the vote.

District 8 includes Shadyside, Squirrel Hill North and North Oakland. Gilman, who worked with Peduto for eight years, says the relative safety and economic stability in his district will free him up to focus on other parts of the city.

The first order of business after City Council swears in its newly elected members Jan. 6 is to choose a new president who will run the council for the next two years. The semi-annual election is always fraught with back room deals and unlikely alliances.

“That vote won’t be decided until five minutes before that meeting,” said Jim Motznik, former Pittsburgh City Councilman (2001-2010) and current District Municipal Court Justice.

Pittsburgh’s newest City Council representative, Deb Gross, won out against four other candidates in a special election, after District 7 representative Patrick Dowd vacated his seat in July.

Gross took her seat at the beginning of December, one of the busiest times of the year for the council.

A vote on whether the Strip District’s Fruit Auction and Sales Building should be designated as a historic structure will be delayed another week.

Council’s newest member, Deb Gross, represents the Strip District, and is in favor of preserving the building to the fullest extent possible.

“Having said the word 'preserve,' everyone  understands that some modifications are going to be needed to that property in order for it to achieve a positive function in the Strip District and a positive function in the business mix,” Gross said.

Pittsburghers who have a habit of cutting it close when driving through yellow lights may want to make some adjustments.

City Council passed a bill Tuesday to install automated red light enforcement systems, also known as “red light cameras,” at the city’s most dangerous intersections.

Councilman and Mayor-elect Bill Peduto said he was supportive of the legislation, and that he had introduced a similar bill several years ago.

Eight state and local organizations are coming together to put the issue of human rights on the minds of Pittsburghers.

Demonstrators are expected to gather outside downtown’s City-County Building Tuesday on International Human Rights Day to call on City Council and Mayor-elect Bill Peduto to ensure Pittsburgh’s future as the 5th “Human Rights City” in the U.S.

In April 2011, City Council issued a proclamation declaring Pittsburgh to be a” Human Rights City”—meaning its citizens strive toward bettering the city’s living conditions.