In 1907 some of the world’s preeminent social scientists embarked on what would become the most comprehensive and impactful study of urban life in the history of our country. The Russell Sage Foundation of New York City funded the Pittsburgh Survey of 1907. The Foundation was a philanthropic fund designed to identify the challenges of urban life and reform city government in a progressive direction to address these challenges head on. The voluminous results of the Pittsburgh Survey were compiled in four books and became a blueprint for the ills of early 20th century urban life and how to solve them. The Survey exposed rampant government corruption, deplorable working conditions in the early factories and mills, poor living conditions for most working-class families, inadequate water and sanitation, and deep divisions among ethnic communities that led to mistrust and exclusion. The conditions exposed by the Survey played a major role in the political activism that led to the hard-won reforms of the Progressive Era and the enactment of labor laws, government reforms, and our social safety nets.
The pension crisis that rocked our city in 2010 was a defining moment. It forced City Council to band together to take quick action to prevent a sell-off of our parking assets that would have badly hurt our city. The plan we put together to prevent that sale was not perfect but it has provided us some real breathing room and a real pathway towards pension solvency. But the 2010 crisis had been brewing for a long time. In fact, Pittsburgh’s pensions have never been fully funded. During the 1970s there were even periods of time when our pension fund was at $0. The pledge of parking tax revenue to shore up the pension fund was only the first step, though. We will have to take further action both at the local and state levels to truly solve the problem. And we have to do it in a way that protects our workers and honors the promise we made to them of a safe and secure retirement.
The Housing Authority of Pittsburgh controls nearly 6,000 public housing units and administers more than 6,000 Section 8 vouchers throughout the City of Pittsburgh. Our Housing Authority was the first created in Pennsylvania and one of the first in the nation. Many of the units and communities were constructed many years ago and are badly in need of modernization and better service provision. A recent independent audit revealed some serious concerns about how contracts are awarded by the authority and how services are provided. Public housing residents should not have to live in substandard conditions. They should not have to wait for an audit to see improvement in their communities.
Pittsburgh has always been a patchwork of neighborhoods since the early days of industry and immigration. Neighborhoods like Polish Hill, Bloomfield, Brighton Heights, and the Hill became ethnic enclaves where new immigrants came to settle near relatives and strong cultural identities took hold. As industry and immigration have evolved and changed, neighborhoods across the city have changed with them. As neighborhoods like Lawrenceville, East Liberty, and the Central Northside are seeing development booms and many new residents moving in. We need to start thinking about how to preserve a diverse, mixed-income population in these neighborhoods and make sure that longtime residents are not priced out. As development spreads to other neighborhoods that haven’t seen it in many years, it will be critical to develop strategies to ensure that new housing is accessible to people of all income levels and that we are neither concentrating poverty nor concentrating wealth.
Our permit parking system for residential neighborhoods was developed in the 1980s and is long overdue for an overhaul. As more large institutions and job centers move into areas bordering residential neighborhoods residential parking pressures have increased and longtime residents are fighting for neighborhood parking with commuters. We want to make the city viable for increased economic development and job growth. We also need to find better ways to preserve parking for long-time neighborhood residents. If we're going to fix this issue, we need 21st century solutions. The one-size fits all residential permit parking system currently being employed is not working for everyone. Neighborhoods throughout the city have different needs, and a cookie-cutter RPP program does everyone a disservice.
One of the core responsibilities of government at all levels is to ensure opportunity for all of our constituents. However, government as in our society as a whole often falls short of this goal and doesn’t adequately reflect the true diversity of our citizenry. The City of Pittsburgh has made strides through initiatives like the Personal Department’s DiverseCity 365 that seeks to attract more minority job applicants. But we still fall short when it comes to equal representation on boards, authorities, and commissions, as department heads, and as minority contractors on city-sponsored projects. The city’s Equal Opportunity Review Commission is charged with working towards greater representation and has recently been further empowered via legislation that I gladly voted for on City Council, but we need to double down on our efforts to make Pittsburgh city government reflect the diversity of our city and provide opportunities for everyone. To further these goals I will create an Initiative on Equity and Diversity led by a cabinet-level appointee who will serve as the city’s “diversity auditor.”
The men and women of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police are, by and large, good hardworking people who truly care about this city and its safe. However, the financial scandals and incidents of police brutality that have shocked our communities, damaged the bureau, and severed ties of trust with many Pittsburghers, particularly African Americans. It is critical that we develop a comprehensive strategy for restoring this trust and proving to our citizens that our police will serve and protect them regardless of where they live or the color of their skin. I will make this a top priority of my administration and begin working on it on day one. Yet, I can’t do it alone. We must address this issue as a community, keeping in mind these problems won’t be solved overnight. I know together we can make the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police the best in the country. We owe it to our communities and the hardworking men and women who we serve.
Back when Pittsburgh’s zoning code was first rewritten, it was ahead of its time. The zoning code contained some forward-thinking development standards that advocated for environmental sustainability and the protection of our natural topography. It recognized the changing economic landscape of the city and moved us away from industrial development and instead towards education, medicine and neighborhood business districts. However, it has been nearly 20 years since our code was rewritten and much has changed in the field of city planning, the economy of our city, and development patterns and techniques nationwide. Therefore, we need to reassess our zoning code and find ways it can be streamlined, made easier to understand and comply with, and ensure it is compatible with our 21st century city. Rewriting a zoning code is no small task. It will require a great deal of community input, technical expertise, feedback from developers, and cooperation from all political stakeholders. But it is a task well worth taking on and one that I think can have a highly positive impact on the future development of our neighborhoods.
Pittsburgh has a rich and diverse faith community and throughout my time on City Council I have been privileged to be included in many enriching activities and initiatives across many different faiths. I have worked with my Jewish friends to provide food to the hungry and critical social services to new immigrants. I have worked with my Christian friends to push for an end to gun violence and to secure shelter for the homeless. I have worked with my Muslim friends to confront racism and advocate for peace. I have worked with my Hindu friends to advance public health and educational opportunities. While I strongly believe in a fundamental separation between church and state, I also know that our faith communities have much to give to the people of Pittsburgh. I would like to find ways to strengthen partnerships between the city and our faith communities for the betterment of all of our citizens.
The City of Pittsburgh is the population and economic center of Allegheny County and tens of thousands of Allegheny County residents come to the city every day to work, visit restaurants, and attend events. The city and county are inherently linked in many ways, including in many of the challenges we face. Issues like the water quality of our rivers and streams, the flooding that plagues many of our neighborhoods, the funding of our public transportation system, the assessment of property taxes, and economic development planning require close cooperation and good working partnerships between officials at the city and county levels. As Mayor, I will build on existing relationships and create new ones to strengthen our partnership with the county to the benefit of all residents of Pittsburgh and the region.