Democracy Has Prevailed.

September 22, 2006

My Second Interview with Bill Peduto

A little more than a year ago, I interviewed Councilman Bill Peduto for this blog. Given all that's happened in city government in the last last few months, I wanted to do a follow-up. Graciously, the councilman freed up some time and we talked by phone.

Mayoral Election Date

While still waiting on an opinion by the County Solicitor, Peduto is pretty sure the next mayoral election will be in 2007. The question, he said, will be answered by the County Election Commission after reading the opinion from the County Solicitor. This should happen in the next couple of months. He said that, with two state supreme court cases as precident, the Pittsburgh Home Rule Charter and the Pennsylvania Election Code, 2007 will likely be the date of the next mayoral election.


I wanted to get his reaction to this. For those not following the story, the Other Political Junkie found, on his bio page, that the Mayor's claiming to have "led the charge to move forward" on the city's Wi-Fi plans. This came as a surprise to the OPJ (me, too).

Peduto calmly pointed out a number of things. He pointed out that he formed the Information and Communications Technologies Working Group way back in 2004. Indeed the presentation made to the City Council in April of last year begins with this:
At the request of City Councilman, William Peduto, a working group was formed in July 2004 to evaluate the current information and communications technologies (“ICT”) environment in Pittsburgh and make recommendations on ways the City can improve the ICT environment.
Peduto also calmly pointed out the public hearings he held on the subject, the legislation he wrote to create the WiFi network and so on. I asked him point-blank and he answered that at no time was Mayor Ravenstahl involved in the process.

Though Peduto added, "He voted for it."

Agenda for the Coming Year

The most important issue facing the near-term future of Pittsburgh, Peduto said, is the budget. Not necessarily the 2007 budget, but the financial problems facing the city in the next 5 years or so. How the city deals with its budgetary issues now will detemine its overall health for many more years to come.

He said that he'll be paying close attention to upcoming revenue projects - to spot any "phantom revenue" plans that might pop up. Started a couple of years before Act47 was implemented, "phantom revenue" streams (like revenue projections from the Casinos not yet built) have, according to Peduto, left the city on the 'brink of bankruptcy." The practice of relying on "phantom revenue" needs to be broken, he said. City government needs to be restructured with some services merged with the County, he said.

Other Points on his Agenda

Along with new fair tax incentives to encourage growth downtown, he's working to make the WiFi network citywide. The trick is to create a competitive system diverse enough so that smaller local ISPs can fairly compete with the larger nationwide networks and to create a system that will cover all the city, not just he wealthy parts.

He's also working on a proactive safety system for the city streets. There's a large store of data on traffic accidents, he said, but no one's putting it to any use. In a partnership with CMU, he's looking to set-up a system to point out (using the traffic data) which intersections are more dangerous and fix them before there's any more accidents.

There are plans for a "greener" government and the continuation of his Guyasuta Fellowship program (that's the one that provides City Council with idea from younger voices from outside City Hall).

Bill's been busy, huh?


Anonymous said...

The traffic data stuff sounds like a good idea.

I would love for someone to correctly time lights together in traffic prone areas of the city.

Mark Rauterkus said...

So, it took 2+ years to get wi-fi only in our downtown on the sidewalks and two stories high.

That progress is not something to wear as a feather in one's hat.

The trick isn't to get the little guy to buy into it around the city. No, the answer was to get the biggest guy to pay for it all in one small (for them) step.

Can't do that now as the PDP picked our pockets.

Bill needs to do campaign finance reform.

Bill needs to open an indoor ice rink in the city -- in that he's a hockey player.

Bill wants to not fall for phantom budget mistakes -- now. Great. Too bad he and the others didn't buck up with the truth in the past decade. We've had phantom budget tricks for as long as Peduto has been working on Grant Street.

Bill should lead the charge to elminiate all TIFs. Did you hear about the recent under-performing TIF built in Allegheny County on a green field. The mega mall in the N.E. is floundering.

There is so much to do -- and downtown housing is not a project to hang one's hat upon, IMNSHO.