Pittsburgh councilman suggests advertising names of blighted properties' owners
City Councilman Bill Peduto wants to post the names and phone numbers of people who own dilapidated properties on signs around Pittsburgh.
Calling his legislation Operation Red, Peduto said on Tuesday he's using the “scarlet letter approach” in pressuring owners to fix the most blighted properties because state law limits the city's ability to seize property, and the courts take too long to rule on those cases.
“Operation Red isn't going to solve the problem,” Peduto said. “This just addresses one part of it.”
Under the bill, the Bureau of Building Inspection would develop a list of the worst 10 owners based on citations and convictions for building code violations. The Department of Public Works would erect signs featuring owners' names, addresses and telephone numbers in public rights of way near their properties. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said he would consider supporting the legislation.
“We're talking about properties where landlords are making money, and they're bringing the neighborhood down in the process,” Peduto said.
In 1998, the city conducted a similar program and targeted five properties. All five cases were resolved by owners fixing the problem or selling the property, or by the city demolishing the structure, Peduto said.
Mary C. Fleming, the inspections bureau's assistant chief of code enforcement, doesn't recall the signs making much difference. She doesn't believe Peduto's bill will, either.
“The idea was to shame people,” she said. “You know how shame works now. It just doesn't.”
Peduto said state law allows the city to take a property only if taxes go unpaid or a dangerous condition exists. In the latter, the city can condemn and demolish the structure, Fleming said.
About 12 percent of the 180,000 residential parcels in Pittsburgh are considered blighted, which includes vacant land, according to Bethany Davidson, deputy director of the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group, which works with neighborhood groups to eliminate blight. She said the city condemnation list typically contains 1,300 to 1,500 properties. The city has budgeted $3 million for property demolitions in 2013.
Peduto said district judges are behind on hearing cases involving code violations and other blight issues. Common Pleas Judge Donna Jo McDaniel, who as president judge for Allegheny County oversees the district judges, did not return a call.
Rick Swartz, executive director of the Bloomfield-Garfield Corp., said the community organization has been identifying good and bad landlords in its monthly newsletter for years.
About 50 percent of 100 negligent property owners listed to date corrected the problems, Swartz said. He said about one-third of the remaining 50 properties were demolished. Swartz said Peduto's bill is worth exploring.
“In the cases of the more egregious owners who are kind of pretty much exploiting the situation, maybe we should give it a try,” he said.
Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Rossi: Rutherford shines as old boss pouts
- Ford City targeting development of former industrial land
- Liriano, Pirates complete sweep of Tigers
- SummerFest kicks off in Ford City
- Sheriff starts fundraising to buy drug-sniffing K-9 officer for Armstrong
- Shaken by economic, political turmoil, MLB forsaking Venezuela
- Gov. Wolf vetoes bill to privatize Pennsylvania’s liquor system
- Animal rights grup protests in Pleasant Hills
- Lower Burrell couple charged with 6 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty
- Gameday: Pirates vs. Indians, July 3, 2015
- Attorney General’s twin sister sued by FBI agent ex-boyfriend