What Does Mayor Peduto Have Planned for Pittsburgh? Part 2
Oct 31, 2014 12:49PM ● Published by Jack Etzel
North Hills Monthly Magazine (NHMM): Becoming mayor this year, you inherited decades of financial problems and a shrinking population. You’ve been called a ‘student of cities.’ How is that going to help?
Mayor Bill Peduto: Cities are living organisms. They can be harmed. You can bomb a city, flood it, burn it or you can tear out the economic heart of a city. Cities are resilient and able to come back, although often different than they were. In the history of the world, today’s cities adapt quickly. I’m especially interested in how all of the different parts fit and how to get those parts all rowing together to create more efficiency. When you think about how cities operate, including Pittsburgh, it’s a complicated puzzle. My passion for studying cities comes from an early love of history, which led to the study of urban planning and how things in a city can be thought out to make the quality of life better for all of us.
NHMM: Then what, specifically, does Pittsburgh need now?
Mayor Peduto: Jobs. The greatest engine for bringing people to a region is jobs. That’s why my grandfather left a little village in Italy, got on a boat and came to Carnegie to settle — because there was work at Columbia Steel. The mills never left. They just moved up the hill and today they are called UPMC, Carnegie Mellon and Pitt. I need to see that the jobs they are spinning off are bringing people to the city of Pittsburgh. In this respect, we are in some competition with the suburbs in determining where those people will live.
NHMM: How do you plan to keep them in the city?
Mayor Peduto: I cannot always offer the same amenities that some suburban communities can—a yard, a driveway, a quiet neighborhood. What I can offer is a creative living space, including sustainable small housing that produces as much energy as it uses; the opportunity to be able to walk to just about anything you might need without having to have a car; warehouse space, and so much more. I need to compete on a level with many other cities around the country and now around the world. I believe that Pittsburgh has the opportunity to do that. My goal, over the next 10 years, is to have our population grow by 20,000 and to turn this tide of managing decline into one of managing growth.
NHMM: Speaking of changes, you hired a new chief of police from out of town. Might that not rub a few historically provincial Pittsburghers the wrong way?
Mayor Peduto: I just found out last month that our new police chief may be the first in history who didn’t rise up through the ranks of the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police. Cameron McLay is a cop’s cop and is an expert with a long list of qualifications. You’re right about Pittsburgh people once being seen as provincial, but that’s changing fast; it’s remarkable how quickly it’s happening. Our new Public Safety Director, Stephen Bucar, was also hired because of his integrity and experience. He comes from a background where his training led him to the Pennsylvania State Police and the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division. And yet, these hirings were never a question of drawing people from the outside in. It was a question of getting the very best talent that Pittsburgh needs to begin changing and reforming law enforcement in the city.
NHMM: Returning a moment to the city and the entire county, you and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald appear to have very similar mindsets. Did you get lucky or was this a political plan?
Mayor Peduto: Rich and I have known each other for more than 20 years. We’ve had disagreements along the way, but we’ve been able to work together and develop an understanding of each other. We did support each other for our present offices, but there was absolutely no quid pro quo or any deal to work off of a single agenda. Pittsburgh history has been one of working at odds, but the biggest things, for example, the arena and convention center, were successful only when a mayor and a county commissioner or county executive worked as a team.
NHMM: What big things are you two currently considering?
Mayor Peduto: Transportation—an entire light-rail system that would go north, south, east and west using light rail as the future method of transportation in this area. We also both have an understanding of the importance of the airport as our ‘port to the world.’ Even though these are basically county functions, the city must be supportive of such planned initiatives to make them happen.
NHMM: On a lighter note, you have a large presence on social media. Is that important?
Mayor Peduto: I have a big presence because it’s fun. I enjoy being on Twitter, on Facebook and utilizing every method to get a message out to people while being able to relax and be myself. There’s a scripted way that some think a politician should act, but most people have a strong BS detector. Social media allows me to be normal. Some people say my jokes aren’t funny, but that’s okay. (Big smile) They’re funny to me.