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Peduto looks to Obama for scaffolding from 550-foot Washington Monument

| Monday, Dec. 16, 2013, 11:20 p.m.
Colin Riley of Universal Builders Supply finishes installing scaffolding on the pyramidion of the Washington National Monument in Washington, on Monday, May 13, 2013. The monument was damaged in an earthquake in 2011.
The Washington Monument is lit while undergoing repairs, with the U.S. Capitol behind, Monday, July 8, 2013 in Washington. The National Park Service will light the monument each night at dusk while it undergoes repairs from the 2011 earthquake. It is expected to reopen in spring of 2014. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
Jasmine Goldband | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Mayor-elect Bill Peduto talks about his recent visit to the White House and some of his plans for the city at the City-County building Monday, Downtown.

Pittsburgh Mayor-elect Bill Peduto thinks scaffolding encasing the 550-foot Washington Monument would look great along the Ohio River near Heinz Field.

Peduto told President Obama so during a meeting last week of current and future mayors at the White House. Then he asked the president to donate the scaffolding to mark the Great Allegheny Passage bike trail, which begins at Point State Park and ends in Washington.

“I promised him I'd find a nice riverfront space for it,” Peduto said. “I'd like to see it somewhere past Heinz Field where it's sort of off of the Golden Triangle, but it can be seen from Downtown.

“He looked over at his senior adviser and said, ‘I like that. It's a creative thought. Let's find a way to do it.' ”

Peduto, who asked Obama to help Pittsburgh with early childhood education, neighborhood redevelopment, environmentally friendly streetlighting and sewage overflows, said he thought the scaffolding request was a light-hearted way to end his conversation with the president on Friday.

Peduto and more than a dozen other mayors met with Obama to discuss ways that cities can become key job-creation centers.

He didn't get any commitments, but said it was good to make connections. And he's serious about the scaffolding, which went up this year to repair damage the monument sustained during a 2011 earthquake. Crews last month began removing the scaffolding.

“It is absolutely beautiful, and at night when it's lit up it looks something like the Eiffel Tower,” he said.

Renee Piechocki, director of the Pittsburgh Office of Public Art, thinks it's a pretty good idea.

“I love the idea of the Great Allegheny Passage being marked with a gateway,” she said. “I don't know if it should be a scaffolding, but why not? I bet no other mayor asked for it.”

Peduto said he asked the president for backing to establish an early childhood education program in Pittsburgh. The city has about 10,000 children between 1 and 5 years old, but only half have access to preschool, Peduto said.

“I didn't ask for a blank check,” he said. “We have a foundation community, a corporate community that can help to partner with federal programs.”

Pittsburgh Public Schools spokeswoman Ebony Pugh said the district would have to learn more about Peduto's plans before it could comment. The district's Early Childhood Education Program served 2,275 children in schools and affiliated child care centers in 2012-13.

Peduto asked Obama for a federal loan to make Pittsburgh a leader in LED streetlighting. The mayor-elect has been courting a Slovenian LED light manufacturer to locate a plant in the city and provide energy-efficient lighting for streets.

He also asked for more time to incorporate green infrastructure in the city's federally mandated plans to reduce sewage overflows into waterways during heavy rain.

Barney Oursler, executive director of Pittsburgh United, a coalition of environmentalists who support green stormwater remedies, said he was elated to hear that Peduto took his request to the president.

“As we work from the bottom up with ratepayers and stakeholder groups, Bill is working from the top down,” he said. “We are a great team.”

Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com.

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