Pittsburgh Panorama, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from Mr.TinDC’s photostream

2015 Operating & Capital Budgets Delivered to City Council

Mayor William Peduto’s 2015 State of the City Address

(As prepared for delivery. See end of address for links to 2015 Operating and Capital Budgets.)

Good morning. Thank you to Council President Bruce Kraus, all Council members, and City Clerk Bea Doheny for hosting me today. Thanks to the city’s chiefs, directors, workers and others for coming. And congratulations to new Deputy Clerk Kim Clark.

It has been a momentous year fighting for the city we love. With your help we approved an Act 47 plan that will finally lead us out of a decades of fiscal distress, and we earned a credit rating upgrade as a result. We hired a visionary police chief who will restore morale among the ranks and trust in the community. This year alone there has been over a quarter-billion-dollars worth of economic investment in Pittsburgh, and we’ve come to expect national and international accolades for our city’s remarkable transformation.

In the same year, we lost one of our best friends — Sophie — after a lifetime of public service to the city, and lost another public servant — Public Works worker Omar Hodges — to heartbreaking gun violence. Such violence has touched too many residents throughout our city, and has threatened to disrupt our efforts to resurrect some of our most under-served neighborhoods.

I’m here to tell you we will not allow that to happen, and my 2015 budget is the blueprint for building upon our city’s accomplishments and delivering them to all of our neighborhoods. It commits the full force of Pittsburgh government to revitalizing our neighborhoods through a strategic alliance of city authorities and departments — led by the reorganization of our Bureau of Building Inspection — and strong efforts to modernize and diversify our police bureau, using the latest in technology and proven concepts of community-policing methods.

I’m excited to share these and other plans with you today.

Financial stewardship

When I last spoke to Council in May about the city’s finances I said if we want to solve the real problems in this city, it is up to us — and us alone. With your help my administration has already started implementing those solutions. The new Operating and Capital budget plans I am presenting today will help us further transform Pittsburgh into a model of change — one that stands as a beacon for other cities seeking to emerge from decades of decline. And one that will make Pittsburgh a model of a 21st Century City.

This budget brings honesty, transparency, and best practices to the city’s finances. It reduces the city’s debt burden, increases payments to pension funds, maintains the city’s fund balance, and makes critical investments in our long-ignored infrastructure.

I also said in May that we needed to protect the assets that make Pittsburgh unique. Under Director Sam Ashbaugh our new Office of Management and Budget has completely redesigned the city’s Capital Budget to follow national best practices. Now any Pittsburgher, for the first time ever, can see exactly how their money is being spent. Reading our budget is no longer like reading Sanskrit: each spending project includes justifications and operating budget impacts, and it has an unprecedented level of detail for projects, down to the exact streets, sidewalks, curbs, and steps.

This administration continues to do more with less. Early this year free government parking passes were slashed by 90%, and take-home vehicles were slashed 30%. Our workforce has been cut by 68 positions since this time last year, and our tremendous city workers are doing their part to further shoulder the city’s financial burden by taking on a pay freeze next year. In addition, non-personnel spending is being cut in all departments.

And we are doing this while negotiating contracts with seven of our workforce’s nine unions, representing police, firefighters, paramedics, white collar workers, foremen, school crossing guards and recreation center workers. We will continue to invest in our most important asset — our workers — but we will balance it with fiscal discipline.

Overall, the budget combines a balanced approach to solving our financial problems: it modernizes government, preserves essential services and cuts spending, while making tough revenue choices, including a revised millage rate and changes to parking meter enforcement. It allocates $12 million to paving our streets, the most we have budgeted in a decade, and it puts more police on our streets than we have seen in 12 years.

But most importantly, this budget guides us toward major improvements in government, innovation, and performance that will be felt in neighborhoods citywide.

Efficiency = Service

Just as our budgeting is smarter and more efficient, our residents are getting more out of the government services they pay for with their hard-earned tax dollars.

At Public Works, a new system has been built for the online tracking of our snow plows and salt-spreaders that is being tested now. Next year we will have online permitting for our park shelters. Working with Councilwoman Rudiak we approved Open Data legislation that was nationally recognized as a model for open government. After winning one of only seven grants nationwide, the city’s antiquated ways of buying its materials — from paper clips to fire trucks — will be revamped next year through the know-how of tech professionals from Code for America.

We are reviewing changes to our pavement management system to bring objectivity and fairness to the process, with a goal of using cameras mounted on Public Works vehicles to give objective ratings to street conditions by 2016, and created a 3-year street resurfacing program that same year.

We created an online auction for city property. We established one of the few 311 services in the country that takes requests over Twitter, while expanding the 311 phone hours for more traditional users. And we have even developed a strategic partnership with all utility companies that utilizes a centralized system to monitor work in our streets.

Soon, the 311 Response Center will be getting new software that will take service requests straight from your phone or computer and transmit it to city workers in the field, drastically cutting response times. A mobile application will be introduced that will transform two-way communication with the city and provide the transparency residents deserve.

For the first time, our building inspectors have laptops, email and cell phones to do real-time data entry on properties. Inspectors are being cross-trained on all the bureau’s responsibilities — if you are building a new house you can have one inspector who checks for all of your building’s energy, structural, and fire permitting issues all at once, rather than having to deal with several different inspectors. No longer do residents only have a two hour window to talk with inspectors.

Full housing demolition information is now available on the bureau’s website. There, anyone can see all the structures currently in the demolition process, the winners of the demolition contracts, the cost of the contracts, and when the work should be completed. We’re also working collaboratively with our authorities and community advocates to reform and improve the way we do demolitions to become more strategic and to leave sites cleaner and ready for new development.

By utilizing technology, and hiring people who are creating these systems, residents of Pittsburgh can now see how we are doing our jobs, and assure we are doing them effectively, efficiently and equitably.

Opportunity for all

We are also doing more for our youngest residents, and those most in need.

This year we doubled participation in the Summer Youth Employment Program, and provided over 200,000 meals to children through the summer lunch program. But but we need to do more: plans will be issued soon detailing efforts to create our summer of “earning and learning” for all eligible young people who apply.

Working with Councilwoman Kail-Smith this year we established the city’s first citywide task force on public education in decades, and we followed President Obama’s challenge by creating a blue-ribbon panel on Early Childhood Education to assist our efforts to become a national leader in providing pre-natal to pre-K education to all of our children.

We secured $230,000 in grants to enroll every single child in Pittsburgh in affordable health care, and $50,000 from the National League of Cities to expand after-school opportunities and increase nutritional summer lunches. Through new partnerships with Google, and the help of Councilman Gilman, we helped furnish city schoolteachers with much-needed supplies and assisted small businesses with the critical tool of getting online.

In all, Pittsburgh has received over $35 million in grants this year so far, the bulk of it in a $30 million Choice Neighborhoods grant that will help transform Larimer into the most sustainable and forward-thinking neighborhood, not just in the City of Pittsburgh but in the entire country. Other grants included $200,000 to fund veteran homeownership; $5 million in state and federal funding for the East Liberty Transit Center; $250,000 in support of bike infrastructure; and $470,000 to make our parking garages more energy efficient. And we established a centralized grants office equipped with modern tracking software to help us attract and retain even more dollars to put into neighborhoods.

But much of our work has focused on ending disputes, protecting city assets, and getting long-stalled projects moving.

Through the efforts of my chief of staff Kevin Acklin and others we reached historic agreements to save the Strip District Produce Terminal and the August Wilson Center. Working with Councilman Lavelle, we fulfilled our promise to use the 28 acres in the Lower Hill to redevelop the entire Hill District, where we will create the largest TIF district in the city’s history, providing the highest levels of affordable housing and the highest levels of contracting for minority and women-owned businesses.

And in Hazelwood, working with Councilman O’Connor, we are turning the Almono site into a model for 21st Century development, which will not only revitalize a former industrial site but tie it back into the greater community and make it a model development for the world to follow.

People: Pittsburgh’s greatest neighborhood resource

Our proudest moments this year may have been in promoting government transparency, and proving our ability to listen. Along with my top staff, I have participated in eight “Mayor’s Night In and Mayor’s Night Out” events where several hundred residents were able to directly address leaders with their issues and concerns for the first time in Pittsburgh history. We also held a “Mayor’s Night Online” with all my administrators taking questions at once on the Web, which was the first of its kind in the world.

To further connect the administration to city neighborhoods, we created the community affairs team where four staffers go to multiple community meetings almost every night of the week to hear neighborhood concerns. We instituted a new foundation-backed Bureau of Neighborhood Empowerment that has been tackling housing, education, small business and non-profit issues prevalent in low-and-moderate-income neighborhoods.

The Bureau has launched Welcoming Pittsburgh to boost quality of life and economic prosperity for immigrants and native born residents; Live Well Pittsburgh/Healthy Together to promote healthy lifestyles for all; collaborated closely with community leaders on large-scale redevelopment activities in the Hill District, Larimer and elsewhere; secured grant funding through the U.S. Conference of Mayors to pursue the Green and Healthy Homes site designation for the city; led city efforts to combat veteran homelessness; organized small business fairs with partners in targeted neighborhoods; and worked to reduce the negative impacts of street reconstruction on Garfield and the West End.

Next year they will expand their efforts to coordinate activities to help promote programs for veterans and people with disabilities.

To further preserve quality of life in neighborhoods citywide we — along with the strong leadership of Council President Kraus — have also introduced a Pittsburgh Sociable City plan to work with neighborhood, business, public safety and transportation leaders to manage the growing nightlife of our city, and protect the balance between commercial and residential interests in our neighborhoods.

New alliances

We are also forming new, public-private alliances that are making Pittsburgh, and our government, better.

This city has long benefitted from the our private foundation community. Foundations have a stake in this city’s future, and have partnered with us to bring reform to city hall and resources to restructure government.

We invited the foundation community, led by The Pittsburgh Foundation, into the halls of city government — on a scale never before seen in the nation — to help us hire top city administrators. We have been using grant funding to underwrite shared public-private priorities, such as the Bureau of Neighborhood Empowerment. And we applaud and support other work that helps our city, such as the great plans by the Buhl Foundation to make long-term improvements to the North Side, working alongside Councilwoman Harris.

The new Department of Innovation & Performance meets regularly with partners at CMU and Pitt to work collaboratively on projects. The department also held six roundtables with a cross-section of city tech leaders to help establish an “Innovation Roadmap” to work together on supporting these businesses that are our city’s future.

We are also using new ways to help neighborhoods: this year I&P helped launch the community platform Nextdoor — which is a social media site for neighborhoods — and the site Engage Pittsburgh to collect feedback from residents on important issues, such as the job qualifications for the city’s police chief.

Inside the government I&P is working with other city departments to bring smart, environmentally sustainable changes to government services. They are updating our facilities and fleet, installing energy efficient LED lights, promoting green infrastructure, and incorporating sustainable practices into not only city planning for open spaces, Eco-Districts and bus rapid transit plans, but everything we do. The benefits of these moves will be felt for decades, and in turn will save taxpayers millions.

Just as we work with foundations and the private sector, we are lucky to enjoy the cooperation and leadership of others around Western Pennsylvania. The city’s success depends on a strong working relationship with Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey, Congressman Mike Doyle, State Senators Jay Costa, Wayne Fontana, and Randy Vulakovich, our state House delegation, and the historic partnership we have with Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.

For the first time in a decade we have begun work with the County to merge services in five different areas: 911; printing services; City-County Building maintenance and security; park rangers; and Open Data.

We have weekly communication with the White House, and have established new relationships with Washington D.C. and Harrisburg, which will be only strengthened further under the administration of Governor-elect Tom Wolf.

For too long, we have been forgotten or worse by Washington and Harrisburg. I’m proud to say we are back on the map.

Modernizing Government to Revitalize Neighborhoods

A modernized government — rooted in collaboration — is better government.

Today I am announcing a major new initiative that will provide clear pathways for economic development across the city, from small residential projects to skyscraper construction. It will create inter-agency cooperation among the Department of City Planning, Zoning, the URA, the Housing Authority, and what used to be called the Bureau of Building Inspection. BBI will be turned into a new Department of Permits, Licenses and Inspections and be tasked with streamlining the city’s building permitting processes, proactively enforcing property maintenance codes, and ensuring the highest levels of building safety and performance.

They will work together to form the Neighborhood Reinvestment Alliance, and provide the needed capacity for a city that no longer is managing decline, but one that is growing.

The city’s planning, zoning, historic review, art commission and demolition applications will be revamped to become more customer-friendly. Permits and applications will be able to be filed, paid for, and tracked online. Eventually the department will start absorbing other city permitting functions — from block party permits to applications for sidewalk cafes — making these processes easier for residents, businesses and community leaders.

At the same time we are introducing related changes to our rental registration law that will help us — and community groups — improve privately-owned rental properties, and allow PLI to hold accountable problem properties that don’t follow city regulations, and for too long have harmed our neighborhoods and held our residents captive.

Key to this neighborhood revitalization work will also be our new Land Bank board, created with the help of Councilwoman Gross to address blighted properties citywide, and provide a new tool to make revitalization, reinvestment and renewal a reality.

Through all this inter-related work, and by simplifying our rules and creating a clear approval process for projects, we will be better able to spur redevelopment of our housing stock; invest in our neighborhood business districts; implement a robust community planning process, and repurpose blighted and abandoned properties. It will allow for development of high end housing that stabilizes our tax base, and the tax base of our schools, while creating new opportunities in affordable housing. It will preserve the housing stock we already have and keep those properties up to code in neighborhoods that have not always had that support from an antiquated city government.

Community Policing

Neighborhoods are also the focus of our revamped policing methods.

Through the leadership of Public Safety Director Steve Bucar and acting Chief Cam McLay we are reinvesting in the people and processes of our police bureau. This revamped bureau will be data-driven and follow cutting-edge methods of deploying both resources and officers. In Homewood, with the help of Councilman Burgess, the ShotSpotter camera system is being implemented and tested, and officers citywide will begin using body-mounted cameras to provide more safety to both police and residents alike. Through community policing we will create bonds between residents and police that will reduce fear.

We have brought back beat cops to Zone 5 neighborhoods in the East End and will continue to implement them in other police zones throughout the city. With the help of our latest federal COPS grant we are poised to have — as I have long promised — more than 900 officers on the force, for the first time since 2002.

Simultaneously, joint efforts between the police bureau and top administrators throughout my administration, including Personnel Director Todd Siegel and Solicitor Lourdes Sanchez-Ridge, are resulting in major changes to the ways we recruit, train and retain a diverse force that mirrors the communities we serve. We have plans to use current officers to act as mentors for job candidates, involve community leaders in recruitment, expand preparation assistance for job tests, and to increase college recruitment at historically African American universities with Criminal Justice programs, and our Armed Forces.

The changes will be implemented starting early next year with the next class of police recruits.

Working together to build a Model City

As proud as I am of this budget and our priorities to build a model city government, I know it does not solve everything. We still need long-term financing agreements with our major nonprofits that will give them a unique role in supporting the city we share. We are in earnest discussions with the city’s big four nonprofits that have gone further than any such talks since Act 55 was passed in 1995, which limited PILOT payments to cities. It is the first time in nearly 20 years that we are in real discussions to address this essential issue.

Together UPMC, Highmark, Pitt and Carnegie Mellon make up over 80% of the nonprofit payroll in the city. We are working on a long-range plan that will ensure financial stability, economic opportunity and neighborhood sustainability we can all share.

Still, we have much work to do in Harrisburg to address long-term pension and personnel issues. Working with Senator Costa and Representative Dermody we are reaching across the aisle to Republican leadership, and with the new administration of Governor-elect Tom Wolf will look to create a legislative agenda benefitting Pittsburgh and all older communities throughout Pennsylvania. We will work, too, with the Pennsylvania Municipal League on further engaging mayors from across the state.

I realize that there may be disagreements with some of council, or our financial overseers, or even with the people we all serve, on budget matters before this pending plan is approved.

But know this:

We — and increasingly, the rest of this country and even the world — know Pittsburgh is a special place; a city that was faced with devastating challenges and overcame them.

Just as this budget is a blueprint to build upon our successes, invest in our infrastructure, and provide opportunities to residents and neighborhoods citywide, what we are building here will also put the rest of the country and even the world on notice.

The improvements we are putting in place, together, will be a model for cities everywhere to solve the challenges facing all of us, and will prove to all who left us for dead only 20 years ago that Pittsburgh is back — and ready for our next opportunity.

Thank you.


Link: 2015 Operating Budget

Link: 2015 Capital Budget