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Mayoral candidate Peduto wants Pittsburgh to rejoin League of Cities

| Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013, 11:51 p.m.

Pittsburgh City Councilman Bill Peduto wants the city to rejoin the National League of Cities and will introduce the idea in November at budget time.

The $16,192 in dues it would cost a city of Pittsburgh's size is worth it, Peduto believes, because the organization can assist with lobbying and consulting on legislative, legal and regulatory matters.

Peduto, the Democratic nominee for mayor, met with the organization's executive director in Washington last week and said he will attend its annual Congress of Cities and Exposition in Seattle from Nov. 13-16, after the election.

“There's a lot” of benefit to joining, he said. “When we worked on creating the responsible banking laws with the city — incentivizing banks which hold city money to invest in areas that used to be ‘redlined out' — there was a second component that we want to do called Bank On. You have to be an NLC member” to take part.

Bank On programs are voluntary, public-private partnerships between banks, government entities and community-based organizations. They negotiate with banks or credit unions to reduce barriers for low-income people to get financing.

Gregg Behr, executive director of The Grable Foundation, will accompany Peduto to Seattle to make a presentation about Pittsburgh as part of the League of Cities' Institute for Youth, Education and Families program. Officials from the Sprout Fund and the Carnegie Library will join his presentation.

“We want to engage the city in this conversation too,” Behr said. “Whomever is the mayor holds a position to be a spokesperson.”

Pittsburgh was a member of the league from 1958 until 1996.

“Because the city is not a member, our city hasn't been able to take part in some opportunities,” Behr said. “We've missed out.”

Marissa Doyle, a spokeswoman for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, said the decision to drop out of the league was based on money. She noted Pittsburgh belongs to the Pennsylvania Municipal League and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Richmond, Va., Mayor Dwight C. Jones said membership in the league with 2,000 cities and towns pays dividends.

“First, NLC represents cities effectively at the national level. This unified voice for cities in Washington multiplies what we could accomplish as a single city,” Jones said.

“Second, NLC provides great training and educational programs to help us learn new and better techniques and programs. And finally, the ability to meet with other mayors who are facing similar issues, and discuss our accomplishments and challenges — that alone is worth the price of admission.”

Peduto said he is a Pennsylvania League of Cities and Municipalities representative to the NLC, and “so I've been going to the conferences.”

Registration fees for the Seattle conference range from $405 for first-time attendees to $755 for nonmembers, and hotels cost from $149 a night to $262 at the Sheraton Seattle, the conference's headquarters hotel, according to the league's website.

Peduto said he will pay for his trip.

“We're going to rejoin,” he said. “There's different groups that the City of Pittsburgh should be a part of. The National League of Cities is just one.”

The annual conference draws city officials and staffers to find “successful solutions to the most pressing challenges in local government,” the website states.

David Conti is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5802 or Staff writer Mike Wereschagin contributed to this report.

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