Pittsburgh Mayor Peduto, Allegheny Executive Fitzgerald schmooze officials

| Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, 10:09 p.m.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto spent most of Tuesday's daylight hours in a minivan.

He rode to Harrisburg and back with Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald to hear Gov. Tom Corbett deliver his proposal for next year's state budget and jointly lobby legislators and the governor on behalf of the roughly 1.2 million people Fitzgerald and Peduto represent.

It was Peduto's second road trip to the Capitol since his inauguration last month, and he was there in part on advice from Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter.

“It's not just coming to Harrisburg to ask,” Peduto said. “He said, ‘Be present. Be seen. Don't just show up when you need something.'”

Peduto, a first-term Democrat from Point Breeze with about 20 years of experience in city government, campaigned on a promise to lobby for Pittsburgh. His wish list is short but weighty: Peduto hopes to keep the city under Act 47 state financial oversight, push for municipal pension reform with other Democratic mayors and obtain more funding for Pittsburgh Public Schools.

Pittsburgh has Harrisburg's ear, but Peduto brings a new voice: Both leaders in the House hail from Allegheny County, as does Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, who said Peduto has the appropriate approach to partner with the state.

“For the last six or seven years, there was really no relationship with Harrisburg and the mayor's office,” said Costa, whose brother, Guy, was the city's public works director for a decade until clashing with Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and resigning in 2009.

Ravenstahl couldn't be reached for comment. He said last week he will use connections he made during seven years as mayor to start a business consulting firm.

Sen. Matt Smith, D-Mt. Lebanon, said Peduto's approach is a “clean break” from the past and provides input to help guide lawmakers on what's good for their cities.

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Marshall, described Peduto as a “reformer.”

“I'm open to hearing anything the mayor brings, and he is welcome to meet with members of our caucus,” Turzai said. “It's an open-door policy.”

Peduto plans to use that door, saying he hopes to visit Harrisburg several times a month and Washington every 60 days or so.

“You have to have somebody who is the visible, physical presence in order to make that pitch, and that's the job of the mayor,” he said.

So on Tuesday, Peduto and Fitzgerald left Pittsburgh about 6:30 a.m. They drove with some of Fitzgerald's staff about 200 miles east on the Pennsylvania Turnpike to the Capitol, then headed to the third floor near the governor's offices by 11 a.m.

Local and state officials gathered at the Governor's Reception Room, an area reserved for guests and occasional news conferences, before the speech began. Peduto talked with Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, a longtime political ally. He shook hands and chatted with state Treasurer Rob McCord, one of the Democrats lining up to run against Corbett in November.

About 15 minutes before the speech, guests headed to the House chamber. Peduto took in its grandeur, with its gold trim, marble walls and painted ceilings. Then he took a photo of the chamber's elaborate chandeliers and gilded ceiling on his iPhone, which he tweeted. He shook hands and chatted with lawmakers from across the state, including Rep. Erin Molchany, D-Mt. Washington, and Rep. Dan Frankel, D-Squirrel Hill.

After the speech, Peduto and Fitzgerald met with Corbett, which Fitzgerald described as a “very productive” discussion. Fitzgerald has attended the budget address multiple times and pushed for transportation infrastructure funding.

“You've got to have good credibility and good relationships with the House, the Senate and the governor's office,” Fitzgerald said. He noted some “good government” measures are bipartisan issues, such as pension changes Allegheny County recently enacted that required the state Legislature's approval.

So far, it appears Peduto's plan to be seen is working. During the early part of his speech, Corbett, a Shaler Republican, paused and went off script. He welcomed Peduto and Harrisburg's newly elected Mayor Eric Papenfuse.

He said: “Gentlemen, good luck.”

Melissa Daniels is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-8511 or mdaniels@tribweb.com.

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