LEND Trainee's Overview of Mayor's Plans for Pittsburgh

“State of the City” Presented by Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto
January 26, 2016
Daphane Voltz

Mayor Bill Peduto delivered a speech about current initiatives for Pittsburgh and his vision for the city's future. Pittsburgh was once a city of great wealth, but also great disparity between those who owned industries, and those who worked for them. In 1969, the city's economy died when the steel mills and related industries closed.The unemployment rate rose to double digits, twice that of Detroit today. Pittsburgh recovered in many areas, and is also much cleaner than ever before. The city shifted from an industrial city of prosperity to a corporate city of prosperity. But Mayor Peduto believes the divide between the wealthy and the poor is widening again. He wants to manage Pittsburgh's growth to reduce negative impacts on people and the environment, while preserving the cultural identities of our unique neighborhoods.

One neighborhood where this dynamic is quite apparent is East Liberty. East Liberty is experiencing a rebirth of commerce, but at the expense of some of the lower income families there. Businesses are purchasing buildings and forcing residents out to build shops, lifestyle centers, and higher-cost living spaces. Residents who are forced out cannot find affordable housing. And yet, the city owns a multitude of empty buildings in the area and no easy way to turn them into livable, affordable spaces for lower income East Liberty families. Mayor Peduto is deeply concerned about this on-going issue, and is working with the community to find suitable solutions. For example, his office is working to establish “Bridges Beyond Blight”, a program that would help those who qualify for Section 8 housing to purchase living spaces.

Mayor Peduto also expressed frustration with extreme opinions on either side of the political divide. He feels this hinders open collaboration between residents and local government to resolve issues. He stressed the importance of open discussion, however, and insisted that he does not wish to govern Pittsburgh by going around and telling neighborhoods what is best for them. Instead, he wants the neighborhoods to help the city decide what is best for them. He feels this approach would help reduce racial and wealth disparities by allowing neighborhoods to shape their own revitalization. It would also help these areas retain their own cultural identities - the very things that make these neighborhoods special and distinct.

Long term, Mayor Peduto is also passionate about helping Pittsburgh become a leading city in renewable energy, technology, and accessible public transportation. For example, his office has partnered with Duquesne Light to work on a district energy plan, which would create energy in some of the valley areas, and then power their neighboring areas with completely renewable energy. He envisions the entire region providing all of its own energy, without the use of fossil fuels. Mayor Peduto also outlined his wish to develop a “smart loop” regional transportation system that would also be environmentally friendly, though this would be far into Pittsburgh's future.

Mayor Peduto also talked about a number of other programs and initiatives progressing currently around Pittsburgh. These include the Talent City Initiative and Welcoming Pittsburgh Initiative, Free Swim for all Pittsburgh children, increasing teenage summer job opportunities, and free after-school kids meals.

Mayor Bill Peduto is truly dedicated to making Pittsburgh a greater city, improving the lives of those in need, and establishing Pittsburgh as a model city of technology and opportunity.