Mayor Peduto Puts New Focus On Pittsburgh Public School System

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

More than a decade ago, the Mayor’s Commission on Public Education called for the Pittsburgh Public Schools board to be appointed by the mayor rather than elected by residents.

That hasn’t happened nor have some of the other recommendations in the 144-page report critical of the district and written during the administration of Tom Murphy in 2003.

In the intervening years, no other mayor or mayor’s commission has tried to take control away from an elected school board or made such sweeping recommendations.

While he hasn’t suggested appointing the school board, Mayor Bill Peduto, sworn in last month, is taking a keen interest in the fate of the school district.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/news/education/2014/02/17/Peduto-puts-new-focus-on-city-s-school-system/stories/201402170044#ixzz2tbUvxXqU

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New Pittsburgh Government Set To Launch As Peduto Has Laid Out Some Lofty Goals

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Saturday, incoming Mayor Bill Peduto began his move into the mayoral wing on the fifth floor of the City-County Building in advance of today’s inauguration, when he will officially take the reins of city government.

The Rev. Terry O’Connor, son of the late Mayor Bob O’Connor and brother to Councilman Corey O’Connor, blessed the space with a sprinkling of holy water. The floors were mopped.

For a man who has pledged to “clean up city hall” and who gave his victory speech while clutching a broom, it was an apropos entrance.

Mr. Peduto has expounded on that theme for more than a year, calling the administration of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl corrupt and saying that the city needs to move away from the old-style politics if it wants to progress. And if he holds to his campaign pledges, he will represent a monumental shift in both style and substance in the mayor’s office.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/local/city/2014/01/06/New-Pittsburgh-government-set-to-launch-as-Peduto-has-laid-out-some-lofty-goals/stories/2014010601030000000#ixzz2pdpIux3L

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Democrat Peduto Sweeps Pittsburgh In Race To Become Next Mayor

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bill Peduto can stop pretending.

The Point Breeze Democrat cruised to victory in the Pittsburgh mayoral race, officially earning the “mayor-elect” title he sought twice before and then avoided during the five months since his convincing Democratic primary win.

Peduto won 84 percent of the vote on Tuesday with 96.8 percent of precincts reporting, walloping two challengers who barely put up a fight. His 35,000 votes topped the 28,600 Mayor Luke Ravenstahl won in the last mayor’s race, in 2009.

Read more: http://triblive.com/politics/politicalheadlines/4961621-74/peduto-mayor-race#ixzz2jvWF3Ioj 
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Supermarket Opens In Pittsburgh’s Hill District, The First In Three Decades

Locator map with the Upper Hill neighborhood i...

Locator map with the Upper Hill neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania highlighted. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Hill District‘s long-awaited Shop ‘n Save supermarket opened this morning in the Centre Heldman Plaza.

Neighborhood and elected officials, including Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, celebrated the opening of the 29,500-square-foot grocery at 10 a.m. The full-service facility, described as the first in the neighborhood in more than three decades, ends what has been known as a “food desert” there.

After many starts and stops, the $12.5 million store was completed by Ross Markets. In a press release, owner Jeff Ross said the store will have more than 100 employees, 95 percent of them minorities and 65 percent from the neighborhood.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-city/supermarket-set-to-open-this-morning-in-pittsburghs-hill-district-707982/#ixzz2i0k29Zed

Ravenstahl Releases Proposed $479 Million Budget For Pittsburgh For 2014

English: Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) meets with P...

English: Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) meets with Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl posted a proposed 2014 operating budget and five-year plan to the city website this morning in advance of a budget presentation his staff will give to an oversight board.

Councilman Bill Peduto, the Democratic nominee for mayor and the favorite to take the city’s top job in January, submitted his own budget to the administration a few weeks ago. He suggested the creation of several new positions that were included in Mr. Ravenstahl’s budget proposal, but categorized “as needed.” The positions are a part of an overhaul of the mayor’s office and other city departments.

“We need a strong structure to see reform happen,” Mr. Peduto said.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-city/ravenstahl-releases-proposed-479-budget-for-pittsburgh-for-2013-704679/#ixzz2fqbtEUBf

Portland, Peduto And Progressive Politics: Pittsburgh Is Poised For Creative New Ideas

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Early Thursday, I tweeted a story from Salon that asked:  “Is Pittsburgh the Next Portland?”

The piece by longtime Pittsburgh fan Jim Russell originally appeared on the website Pacific Standard and opened with this provocative lead paragraph:

“What does a dying city look like? Brains are draining.  The population is shrinking or aging, or both.  Vibrant, creative class cool Portland is the antithesis of dying.  Yesterday, journalist Annalyn Kurtz tweets:  ‘See!  The Portland labor force lost 25,000 workers in the last year.’ “

The next sentence was the real killer:  “What in the name of Richard Florida is going on here?”  Pittsburghers of a certain age will remember when Richard Florida was just a local phenomenon.  The Carnegie Mellon professor from 1987 to 2004 literally wrote the book on what constitutes a livable city.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/opinion/tony-norman/heres-a-city-poised-for-creative-new-ideas-688899/#ixzz2UH8bzcYV

City Controller Michael Lamb Conducting Broad Audit Of Pittsburgh Police Bureau

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb quietly launched a broad audit of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police last week, according to communications obtained by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette under the state right-to-know law.

The controller’s office launched the performance audit — which, as opposed to a fiscal audit, can go beyond dollars — through an email of March 21 to acting police Chief Regina McDonald.  The email said preliminary objectives include “secondary employment and staffing.”  The first meeting with Chief McDonald occurred Wednesday.

Other communications between top controller’s office officials and top police brass show that auditors launched a review of the police Premium Pay Account on Feb. 8 by emailing bureau personnel and finance manager Sandra J. Ganster.  On Feb. 9, Ms. Ganster brought her concerns about the alleged diversion of funds meant for that account to public safety director Michael Huss, her attorney has said.  The alleged misapplication of funds meant for the account last week became the centerpiece of the criminal case against former police Chief Nate Harper.

“It does appear that our [inquiry] is what prompted a whistle-blower to step forward,” Controller Michael Lamb said.  “I think that the work that we’ve done has helped to unveil this scandal.”

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-city/city-controller-michael-lamb-conducting-broad-audit-of-pittsburgh-police-bureau-681299/#ixzz2OwWQ6pb9

Attorney: Ex-Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper To Plead Guilty

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Former Pittsburgh police chief Nate Harper intends to plead guilty after a grand jury returned an indictment against him Friday charging him with conspiracy and tax evasion, his attorney said.

Robert Del Greco Jr. said the evidence against Mr. Harper was “unambiguous.”  He said Mr. Harper would plead guilty to all five counts contained in the indictment without modification.

“It’s a felony,” Mr. Del Greco said this afternoon.  “It’s cost him his career, possibly his pension.  I don’t know that I could put it any better.”

He said his client’s actions were indefensible, that the “lure of the account” proved an “irresistible temptation.”

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/region/federal-grand-jury-meeting-suspended-police-finance-manager-on-hand-680415/#ixzz2ONLqh8zO

Pittsburgh Officer’s January Memo Alerted Police Command Of Fund Diversion

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pittsburgh police Deputy Chief Paul Donaldson ordered a secret credit union account to be shut down after learning of its existence in January from then-Assistant Chief Regina McDonald, he said Friday night.

The deputy chief confirmed that he has been cooperating with federal investigators probing the flow of funds into the Pittsburgh police bureau‘s personnel and finance office and has been interviewed by the FBI.

In January, Deputy Chief Donaldson said, Assistant Chief McDonald, who is now acting police chief, approached him after being made aware that an officer at police headquarters had written a formal memo documenting concerns about potentially questionable financial practices involving colleagues.

The memo, obtained by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, was dated Jan. 18 from Officer Christie A. Gasiorowski to her supervisor, Sgt. Carol Ehlinger.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-city/pittsburgh-officers-january-memo-alerted-police-command-of-fund-diversion-678558/#ixzz2N3QmJVuw

Pittsburgh Police Bureau’s Finance Chief Claims Harper Told Her To Divert Funds

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Editor’s note:  Now it’s going to start “hitting the fan”.  This is gonna get way worse before it gets better.

The attorney for the Pittsburgh Police Bureau‘s finance manager said Thursday his client was instructed by former chief Nate Harper to open a credit union account now under federal scrutiny and followed his orders in diverting tens of thousands of dollars to it from funds meant for the City of Pittsburgh.

William H. Difenderfer represents police personnel and finance manager Sandra J. Ganster, who, he said, reported her concerns about the account to city Public Safety Director Michael Huss on Feb. 9.  He said his client has since spoken twice to federal authorities.

“The chief would tell her, basically, keep roughly a $3,000 balance in this account,” Mr. Difenderfer said.  “Like she said, I guess the best way to describe it was, ‘It had an odor, but the chief directed me to do it, and I did what he told me to do.’  She didn’t feel comfortable with it … but obviously complied.”

He estimated that between $28,000 and $37,000 was diverted to the credit union account since about 2008 or 2009 when the account was opened.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-city/police-bureaus-finance-chief-claims-harper-told-her-to-divert-police-funds-678454/#ixzz2My5KUCyn

Pittsburgh Officials Keeping Search For Police Chief Under Wraps

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just as quietly as police brass have begun making changes at headquarters, city officials have begun their search for a new chief to head the bureau at the center of a federal investigation.

Few details have been released about the search for someone to succeed former Pittsburgh police Chief Nate Harper, who resigned under pressure last week after the mayor met with federal authorities.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and public safety director Mike Huss have said only that they prefer an outside candidate, they have “no plans” to hire an outside search firm and they plan to consult the police union.

Groups that conduct searches for police chiefs say the process, when done thoroughly, can take months and can be especially tricky for a bureau under intense scrutiny.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-city/pittsburgh-officials-keeping-search-for-police-chief-under-wraps-677360/#ixzz2MJE8FYGH

Pittsburgh Mayor Ravenstahl Won’t Seek Re-Election

English: Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) meets with P...

English: Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) meets with Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, whose chance political ascendancy made him one of the youngest heads of a major American city, announced this morning in a news conference that he would not seek reelection, just 11 days after formally announcing his run.

The mayor opened the press conference saying he was proud of what he and his staff have accomplished during his tenure.

He said that all had come at a cost.  “Those who have paid the greatest cost are those who are closest to me.

He said he’d decided the pressure of the job was too much and had made the decision not to seek re-election.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/region/mayor-expected-to-make-announcement-about-his-future-677437/#ixzz2MJBUrE95

‘Personal Issues’ Keeping Pittsburgh Mayor Ravenstahl Away From Recent Public Events

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has raised questions in missing several public and political events in recent days.

Wednesday night, he was a no-show at a candidates’ night at Perry Traditional Academy in his North Side political base, and a public explanation from his close friend, Kevin Quigley, only added to the uncertainty created by his absences.

Just after city Controller Michael Lamb, one of Mr. Ravenstahl’s rivals for the Democratic nomination for mayor, spoke to Democratic committee members, Mr. Quigley, a city Public Works Department official who is also a ward leader, rose to speak in Mr. Ravenstahl’s place.

He offered an intriguing but finally opaque apology and explanation for the candidate’s absence:

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-city/personal-issues-keeping-ravenstahl-away-from-recent-public-events-677204/#ixzz2MEa8vLHa

Pittsburgh’s Acting Police Chief Takes More Action; Ravenstahl Defends His Reputation

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A tumultuous week in the Pittsburgh police bureau ended Friday with the acting chief promising to create an additional layer of oversight for the office at the center of a federal investigation.

Effective Monday, the personnel and finance office will report directly to the assistant chief of administration. It had done so until 2010, when former Chief Nate Harper ordered it to report directly to him for reasons that remain unclear.

“It was something that a number of chiefs felt,” Chief Regina McDonald said, referring to the desire to move the office out from under the chief’s direct command. “No unit should report directly to the chief or deputy chief. It protects the chain of command.”

Chief McDonald, on her second day in the bureau’s top spot, said additional changes could come next week but declined to specify what they might be. She said her focus moving forward will be to repair the bureau’s reputation.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-city/pittsburghs-acting-police-chief-takes-more-action-ravenstahl-defends-his-reputation-676540/#ixzz2LkTfJr8J

Acting Pittsburgh Police Chief McDonald Says Changes Coming To Bureau

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Acting Pittsburgh police Chief Regina McDonald said FBI agents interviewed her today and that people can expect to see changes in the bureau within the next week.

Chief McDonald, a 32-year veteran of the force, would not specify what those changes will be or comment on the futures of those working in the office being investigated by the FBI or involved in a side business with former Chief Nate Harper, who resigned Wednesday at the request of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

She said her primary goal will be to reestablish the ethics and integrity of the bureau.

“I guess you depend on the integrity of the people you put in various positions,” Chief McDonald said.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/news/politics-local/acting-pittsburgh-police-chief-mcdonald-says-changes-coming-to-bureau-676347/#ixzz2LZo4U4jY

Pittsburgh City Council Unanimously Approves Ravenstahl’s Property Tax Plan

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pittsburgh City Council this morning unanimously approved Mayor Luke Ravenstahl‘s property tax proposal, which increases the homestead exemption and the low-income senior discount in addition to dropping the millage rate to comply with Pennsylvania law.

Although the rate will drop 30 percent — from 10.8 to 7.56 mills — the vast majority of homeowners will not see a corresponding drop in their taxes because of a reassessment that dramatically increased official home values.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-city/pittsburgh-city-council-unanimously-approves-ravenstahls-property-tax-plan-672491/#ixzz2JPup3Jxn

Pittsburgh School Board OKs 30 Percent Drop In Tax Rate

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its nei...

A map of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with its neighborhoods labeled. For use primarily in the list of Pittsburgh neighborhoods. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As required by state law because of an overall increase in property values, both Pittsburgh Public Schools and the city of Pittsburgh are on course to reduce property tax rates by about 30 percent for calendar 2013.

The school board Wednesday night unanimously approved reducing the rate from 13.92 mills to 9.65 mills.

Pittsburgh City Council Wednesday gave preliminary approval on a unanimous voice vote to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl‘s tax proposal that will drop the millage rate from 10.8 mills to 7.56 mills.  A final vote is set for Tuesday.

Whether the taxes of an individual property owner will go up depends on how the property fared in the countywide reassessment.  Overall, property values in the city went up 48 percent.  If the value of a particular property went up more than that, taxes will increase.  Taxes will decrease if the value went up less than that.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/news/education/pittsburgh-school-board-oks-30-drop-in-tax-rate-671734/#ixzz2Ix0Ud4So

Pittsburgh Expects To Build Revenue Through Advertising

Editor’s note:  Great “outside the box” thinking to create additional revenue!

Companies would be allowed to buy naming rights to city buildings and advertise on city vehicles and employee uniforms, at swimming pools and recreation centers, in city mailings and on benches and parking meters under legislation to be introduced today in Pittsburgh City Council.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said in a statement that the policy is intended to generate additional revenue in a “responsible and community-minded” way. This year’s city budget projects $500,000 in revenue from advertising.

“We have worked closely with council members and the community to craft the best possible policy,” he said. Councilman Bill Peduto, who will introduce the bill, said officials have been studying the issue for years.

Read more: http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-city/pittsburgh-expects-to-build-revenue-through-advertising-645943/#ixzz21aP3g8ZF

“Pop Up” Store Trend Coming To Pittsburgh

Downtown Pittsburgh

Image via Wikipedia

This is a great idea that could be applied in Pottstown to help fill our empty downtown!

A new trend has developed that is being successfully used in several cities across the county.  “Pop up” stores are being used to fill empty retail spaces.  These temporary stores and exhibits are helping to increase foot traffic and decrease crime in downtown areas.  Seattle has been very successful with this approach and has filled 25 store fronts in 11 months.  Pittsburgh hopes to fill 15 store fronts using this idea.

I am sure you have all seen seasonal pop up stores in the mall for Halloween and Christmas, for example.  They may only need space for a few months however, at least the store front is occupied part of the time.  Pittsburgh is also looking at artists who need studio and exhibition space along with retailers.  The Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership has hired consultants to oversee their new grant program that gives operators and artists start-up grants from $1,500 to $10,000.

Here is a link to Pittsburgh’s website that goes into more detail about the program:

http://projectpopuppittsburgh.wordpress.com/

Pittsburgh And Its Suburbs Having Success With Surveillance Cameras

Security camera at London (Heathrow) Airport. ...

Image via Wikipedia

The City of Pittsburgh and some adjacent suburbs are successfully using surveillance cameras to deter and solve crime. 

Pittsburgh has surveillance cameras in place downtown and in various neighborhoods throughout the city.  According to their 2009 Department of Public Safety, Bureau of Police, Annual Report, there are 120 cameras throughout the city they hope to tie-in to a wireless platform at the Emergency Operations Center and other key locations for constant monitoring of video and data transmissions. 

Another goal is to have at least 32 cameras on 16 bridges.  The mayor also wants to install gunshot locator and detection cameras in high-risk neighborhoods. (I believe Harrisburg uses these.)

Pittsburgh is adding 28 more cameras, using a $3 million grant along with 25 percent matching funds from the city, as part of the Pittsburgh Initiative to Reduce Crime program.  Pittsburgh’s ultimate goal is a city-wide camera system, which includes the Port of Pittsburgh (the second largest inland port in the U.S.)

Surveillance cameras will be added in suburban Swissvale, prompted by a rash of crime in Regent Square.  Three cameras will be installed along Braddock Avenue within two months.  Ten to twelve more cameras will be added at other locations in the borough.  Each camera costs $9,000, which includes installation, but there are grants available for municipalities to buy surveillance cameras.

Other communities with surveillance cameras include Homestead, West Homestead and Munhall.

Under Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Pittsburgh has experienced three consecutive years of historic-crime-lows, according to the city’s website.  According to our friends at City-data.com, Pittsburgh’s crime index has dropped from 558.3 in 2007 to 474.8 in 2009 (Pottstown’s 2009 crime index was 454.7 if you live locally). Murders dropped from 72 in 2008 to 39 in 2009.  Most crime categories showed drops between 2008 and 2009.  2010 crime data is not available at this time.

HINT: If the inexpensive crime tracking software Scranton purchased was used to determine surveillance camera placement that would seem to be an ideal crime fighting tool for Pottstown’s core neighborhood!  Just sayin’….