Pittsburgh City Council

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.

Mayor-elect Bill Peduto and his team have repeatedly said they want to implement a data-driven approach to governance, but in Tuesday’s budget hearing, questions arose as to whether City Information Systems, or CIS, has the resources to provide the kind of data the future mayor will need.

CIS is responsible for a wide variety of tasks, including, but not limited to, network administration, website development and maintenance, software development, voice and data communications and operating the 311 response center.

Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority is facing massive cuts under Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s proposed 2014 budget.

At a City Council budget hearing on Tuesday, Robert Rubenstein, acting executive director of the URA, said he was disappointed with the proposed budget’s $2.2 million cut to the authority’s budget.

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.

pittsburghpa.gov

As Bill Peduto gets set to take over the mayor's office, in Pittsburgh City Council the jockeying to overtake Darlene Harris as president has begun.

Pittsburgh City Paper editor Chris Potter says in his opinion, the three likely candidates would be Harris, Ricky Burgess and Bruce Kraus.

While both Burgess and Kraus bring more diversity to a position that has been predominantly heterosexual and white, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review writer Nafari Vanaski says the focus should be on their credentials, not just the fact that they represent minority groups.

City Council Monday held a hearing with Budget Director Bill Urbanic. The takeway: The city is doing OK, but it could do better. Urbanic said the city’s margin between revenues and expenditures is “razor thin.”

“We’ve addressed many of the underlying problems in the last few years, with the help of Act 47 oversight,” Urbanic said. “The 2014 budget shows we’re staying balanced, as usual, but revenue is still going to be an issue, now and into the near future. We need at least $20 million annually.”

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.

Pittsburgh City Council will get two new faces as a result of Tuesday’s election. One is a political outsider, the other is no stranger to Grant Street.

The voters of District 8 overwhelmingly chose Democrat Dan Gilman (89 percent) to represent the district over Republican Mordecai D. Treblow (10 percent). Gilman is the chief of staff for current District 8 Councilman Bill Peduto, who opted not to run so he could focus on his mayoral campaign.  

Gillman said he knows this will not be an easy job. 

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

District 7 has been without a City Council representative since Patrick Dowd vacated the seat in July to serve as executive director of the new nonprofit Allies for Children.

Though it seemed like it could have been a close race between Democrat Deb Gross and Independent Tony Ceoffe, her party's nomination and the endorsement of now mayor-elect Bill Peduto served as enough to push Gross over the top.

In the end, Gross was able to carry the district with more than 60 percent of the vote.

pittsburghpa.gov

The race for the District 7 Pittsburgh City Council seat looks to be wide open heading into the election Tuesday.  Five candidates are vying for the spot vacated by Patrick Dowd in July.  Politically, the candidates are as diverse as the district.

A Democrat, a Libertarian, and a handful of independents all want to represent District 7, which runs from the Strip District to Highland Park and includes Lawrenceville, Bloomfield, Polish Hill, Friendship, Morningside, and Stanton Heights.  

Strip District Redevelopment

Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith is calling for a moratorium on school closures in the Pittsburgh Public Schools district until the end of the 2014-15 school year.

She has introduced a resolution in council that would recommend the PPS Board of Directors halt any school closings.

At a rally in front of council chambers Monday morning, Kail-Smith invited parents, students, teachers, and community organizers to express their concern over a possible fourth round of school closures since the early 2000s.

The Special Events Office at the Pittsburgh Police Department will officially no longer schedule secondary employment of officers, nor will it handle payment for such employment.

Pittsburgh City Council passed a bill Tuesday that will outsource both duties to the North Carolina-based company Cover Your Assets.

The change comes after allegations that some officers received preferential treatment from the other officers who scheduled the moonlighting gigs.

This winter, you may finally be able to pay for your ice skating at Schenley Skating Rink or your indoor swim at Oliver Bath House with a credit card.

Pittsburgh City Council passed a resolution Tuesday recommending that all city departments begin accepting credit and debit cards.

“Most governments have already come around to using debit cards and credit cards, but the city (of Pittsburgh) hasn’t,” said City Council President Darlene Harris. “This will bring the city into the 21st century.”

Nothlit / Flickr

After living in his Squirrel Hill home for 18 years, Dr. Jeff Freedman was surprised to receive a letter from the Bureau of Building Inspection asking him to acquire a Certificate of Occupancy.

When he visited the specified location said to provide the certificate, he was told the document was unattainable. Thanks to a 1958 ordinance in Squirrel Hill, many residents are finding parking tickets on vehicles parked in their own driveways.

Natasha Khan / PublicSource

In 2010, Pittsburgh was the first municipality in the nation to institute a ban on hydraulic fracturing. Many others have followed suit, including the boroughs of Baldwin, West Homestead and Wilkinsburg, as well as State College, PA.

Now citizens in Youngstown, Ohio are looking at the structure of Pittsburgh’s fracking ban in shaping a their own ordinances. PublicSource reporter Natasha Khan recently wrote about the ongoing debates in Youngstown as it pertains to jobs and environmental concerns.

Opponents of the Youngstown ban say it’s unconstitutional for a municipality to regulate beyond state and federal law. Similar objections have also been raised in Pennsylvania.

A bill to create a registry of abandoned properties in the city of Pittsburgh received preliminary approval in City Council Wednesday and is expected to receive final approval next week.

Councilman Daniel Lavelle introduced the legislation in July and said there are more than 400 foreclosed, bank-owned properties in the city.

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