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Mayoral nominee Peduto plans city hall house-cleaning if he's elected

| Wednesday, May 22, 2013, 2:57 p.m.
Justin Merriman | Tribune-Review
Bill Peduto stops by his campaign headquarters in East Liberty to speak with reporters on Wednesday, May 22, 2013, a day after winning the Democratic race for Pittsburgh's mayor.

Fixing city government's image requires “top-to-bottom” changes resulting from Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's scandal-plagued administration, Pittsburgh Councilman Bill Peduto said Wednesday.

Peduto, who won the Democratic nomination for mayor in the primary on Tuesday, said he's made no decisions on who would stay or go if he wins the fall election as expected, but promised to choose an administration based on ability and professionalism, “not political connections.”

Don't send a resumé, he warned, because he won't look at it.

“Show me what you're doing to make Pittsburgh better,” he said.

A political analyst said such changes are more easily said than done.

“What's the culture of City Hall? It is a place for elected officials, and what it's all about is politics, and he's one of them,” said Jerry Shuster, professor of political communications at the University of Pittsburgh. “Cleaning up wholesale City Hall doesn't work. They're the ones who know how to do the job.”

Peduto, 48, of Point Breeze faces Republican Josh Wander, 42, of Squirrel Hill in the November election, but a 5-to-1 Democratic city voter registration edge virtually assures him a victory. Pittsburgh has not had a Republican mayor since the 1930s.

Peduto has important choices to make on a police chief, top financial adviser, point-person on development and someone to help with union issues, said Moe Coleman of the University of Pittsburgh's Institute of Politics. Ravenstahl forced police Chief Nate Harper to resign in February weeks before a federal grand jury indicted Harper on corruption charges.

“He needs strength in finance, absolute strength in the police department,” said Coleman, a mayoral adviser in the 1960s. “He has a high regard for neighborhood development, so he needs someone to work closely with all those community groups.”

Peduto said he would go outside the police bureau for a chief. Coleman said Peduto might look to the private sector for a development guru.

“He needs someone he can trust and someone (developers) can trust,” Coleman said.

Appearing before reporters in his East Liberty campaign headquarters, Peduto said he hasn't heard from Ravenstahl since the election. The mayor's office issued a statement congratulating primary election winners.

“We all share a common love for our hometown, and I look forward to working with the victor of the mayoral general election to ensure a smooth transition between administrations,” Ravenstahl said.

Peduto's campaign chairman, Guy Costa, who served for years as Pittsburgh public works director and resigned in 2009 after clashing with Ravenstahl, smiled when asked whether he would join a Peduto administration in January. He said he would return to his job on Thursday as Allegheny County's assistant director of economic development, but didn't immediately rule out a job with the city.

Peduto said he made no commitments to potential job seekers, who began approaching him during his victory party, and won't until after the election.

He said he plans to spend the summer talking with supporters, businesspeople and residents and “building a new coalition.” He plans a performance review of department officials, but said he's unsure what form that might take.

“We'll invite those who might have been on the other side to join us in creating a new Pittsburgh,” he said. “Anyone who has an interest to be a part of this has an opportunity.”

Staff writers David Conti and Jeremy Boren contributed to this report. Bob Bauder is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com.

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