Pittsburgh City Council

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.


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.


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.

Discussing Municipal Bans on Fracking

Sep 24, 2013
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.

If you’ve visited Austin, Salt Lake City, or Seattle lately, you may have noticed bins of brightly colored flags near busy intersections. They’re meant to help pedestrians cross the street more safely, especially at night or in bad weather, when visibility is low.

Now, City Councilman Corey O’Connor wants to bring the idea to Pittsburgh.

“A pedestrian could grab a flag, put it out in front of them as they’re walking, and it’s just another way to alert drivers that you’re attempting to cross the street,” he said.

Mayor's Right-Hand Man Testifies Before Grand Jury

Sep 12, 2013
Noah Brode/90.5 WESA

Last week Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s Chief of Staff, Yarone Zober spent more than an hour and half behind closed doors testifying before a grand jury. 

The news follows reports that former Pittsburgh Chief of Police, Nate Harper will plead guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion for diverting funds from unauthorized accounts.  Many believe the federal investigation aims to look into all elements of Mayor Ravenstahl’s personal life.

Pittsburgh City Council gave final approval for a $230 million redevelopment project in Larimer, which focuses primarily on East Liberty Boulevard and Larimer Avenue. District 4 Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak cast the lone "no" vote.

Rudiak, who represents Carrick, Bon Air, Brookline, Beechview and Overbrook, said she had reservations about the process, partly because she’s only known about the project for 3 weeks. 

District 2 Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith said she might propose forming a task force to tackle city parking issues from a safety perspective. 

In some neighborhoods, like Mount Washington, Smith said parked cars can impede public safety vehicles such as ambulances or fire trucks.

“We had some issues in my district and other districts where public safety vehicles could not access roads in the time frame in which they would like to have access, and so we want to address parking as it relates to public safety,” Smith said. 

Pittsburgh City Council unanimously passed legislation Tuesday that requires contractors who enter into a contract of $250,000 or more with the city to offer same-sex domestic partnership benefits to its employees.

A dozen speakers came out today to express their opinions about whether city police should be required to live inside the City of Pittsburgh - with a unanimous “yes.”

The public hearing was held on Councilman Ricky Burgess’s proposal to put the police residency issue on the November 5 ballot.

Those who testified all argued the same point - how could the police properly protect them when they don’t even know them.

Flickr user compujeramey

State Rep. Paul Costa grew up where the Pittsburgh neighborhoods of Point Breeze and Squirrel Hill come together, and he knows to be careful when passing through the intersection of Forbes and Dallas avenues on the way to visit his mother.

“They run red lights there often,” Costa said.  “You wait for that light to turn green for a couple of seconds before you decided to proceed.”

That intersection and several others are on the list of intersections in Pittsburgh that could soon host red light cameras if legislation under consideration in City Council passes.

Expanding Domestic Partner Benefits in Pittsburgh

Jul 16, 2013
City Council District 3 Office

For Pittsburgh city councilman Bruce Kraus, the reason he introduced the Equal Benefits Ordinance to council can be summed up in one word: equality.

“It’s the right thing to do,” says Kraus of the ordinance, which will require private companies contracted with the city for jobs of more than $250,000 to extend benefits to domestic partners, including those of the same sex. “It sends a message of inclusiveness,” he adds.

Pittsburgh City Councilman Bruce Kraus believes Pittsburgh has a track record of being progressive when it comes gay rights, and he is about to put his theory to the test. 

Council is set to debate legislation Wednesday that would force all companies doing $250,000 or more worth of business with the city to offer same-sex benefits to its employees.

Michael Lynch / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Councilman Patrick Dowd announced Monday that he will be stepping down from his elected office to become the first executive director of “Allies for Children.”

Having served 5 ½ years on council, Dowd will resign next month. A special election for his replacement is expected in November.

Dowd, a former educator and member of the Pittsburgh Board of Education (2003-07), said “Allies for Children” is an opportunity to return to his love of educating children.

Pittsburgh's Citizen Police Review Board

Jun 4, 2013

This year the city will get a new mayor who will appoint a new police chief. However, will the Pittsburgh Citizen Police Review Board have a say in the selection of the new chief? City council recently passed a bill giving the board a chance to review proposed amendments to policies. 

Guest: Beth Pittinger, Executive Director of the Citizen Police Review Board

Should vacant buildings in Homewood be renovated or demolished? How about other Pittsburgh neighborhoods with blight? Tim Stevens, CEO and chairman of the Black Political Empowerment Project, has called for many of the buildings to be refurbished by workers enrolled in training programs rather than continuing with demolition.  They're now gathering community input on what to do with vacant buildings. C. Matthew Hawkins, adjunct faculty member in the School of Social Work at the University of Pittsburgh, recently wrote about the idea of a moratorium in Homewood and the Hill District.

What do you think of the potential moratorium on demolition in poor communities requested of Pittsburgh city council?

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

The polls opened at 7am Tuesday for the Pittsburgh Democratic Primary election.  Turnout at most voting places was light, despite a hotly contested mayoral race and contested city council positions.

At the end of the night, City Councilman Bill Peduto accepted the democratic nomination for Mayor, incumbent City Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak kept her place in Pittsburgh's southern neighborhoods, Daniel Lavelle kept his city council seat in district 6, and Bill Peduto's former council seat went to his former Chief of Staff, Dan Gilman.

City Council News With Noah

May 20, 2013
90.5 WESA / 90.5 WESA

Legislation to change the powers of the Citizen Police Review Board is up for a final vote on Thursday.  Currently, the CPRB reviews new police policies after they are implemented, but the new legislation would alter this system resulting in the board reviewing  policies before they take effect. Sponsoring Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess, who originally wanted to publish an abridged version of the police rule book until it was found to be against state law, says he's hoping to use the CPRB as the "eyes and ears" of the public regarding police policies.

Noah Brode / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh City Council will consider new legislation from Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess that would lay the groundwork for a 2015 property tax relief program for city residents who've both owned their homes for more than ten years and paid higher tax bills following the 2012 property reassessment.