How much does your city council cost? If you’re in Pittsburgh, not that much. Relatively speaking, Pittsburghers are getting a bargain. At least that’s one of the findings of a study by The Pew Charitable Trusts which compared a number of quantifiable measures for 15 councils in the cities of Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Antonio, San Diego, San Jose and Washington. Pittsburgh came in with the lowest budget per council seat, the lowest number of council employees (including members), and was the fifth least expensive for budget per resident. It came in the middle of the pack as far as what percentage of a city’s budget was spent on their city council (0.46%). Council members’ salaries in Pittsburgh were the fourth cheapest as compared to the other 14 cities.
There was a mixed bag when it came to other metrics. Pittsburgh city council members have a high turnover rate. The average tenure for council members in all 15 cities was 7.9 years. While Philadelphia had the highest average years in office at 15.5, Pittsburgh’s was 3.5 — the lowest number of years for a city without term limits and the fourth lowest of all the cities. It also had the second highest share of members serving their first term.
When it comes to representation of their population, Pittsburgh’s city council is made up of 22% African American members as compared to a 28% African American city population. Most of the city councils met or exceeded their proportion of African Americans of citywide population. Only Baltimore and Boston did worse than Pittsburgh percentage-wise. Female representation as a percentage of population was worse. 52% of Pittsburghers are women, but women only make up 33% of the city council — that put Pittsburgh around the middle of the pack. Dallas came the closest with a 48% share of female population and a 47% share of representation on their council. Los Angeles came in with a shockingly low 13% of women council members (as compared to 50% of their total population). Pittsburgh only has a 3% Hispanic population and no Hispanic council members.