Pittsburgh Mayor Peduto defends his trips to capital, D.C.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto spent eight of his first 67 days in office rubbing elbows with Washington and Harrisburg policymakers, but some observers at home wonder whether the time would have been better spent putting City Hall in order.
Although Peduto is making connections that could benefit the city down the road, he has problems in Pittsburgh, including vacancies in top administrative posts and on boards and authorities.
“I think he's got a lot of energy, and that's a good quality, but the first function of the city is to get its operational house in order,” said Moe Coleman, director emeritus of the University of Pittsburgh's Institute of Politics.
Peduto defended the trips. His office noted results such as winning health insurance and bike grants, and receiving help from federal education experts.
“I would only say that my travels have been to build the connections to D.C. and Harrisburg that have been (lost) the past seven years,” he said. “We are already seeing the benefits of this work by receiving grants and are well positioned now to earn much larger grants in the future.”
Since Jan. 22, Peduto traveled to the capitals a combined five times. He attended national gatherings for the Conference of Mayors and National League of Cities, got face time with President Obama, met congressional leaders and attended the president's State of the Union Address and Gov. Tom Corbett's annual budget address.
Three of the trips cost the city a total of $2,563.88 for airfare, meals and hotel stays, according to requests for reimbursement filed with Controller Michael Lamb's office. Chief of Staff Kevin Acklin accompanied him on one of the Harrisburg trips.
Peduto has not requested reimbursement for driving to Corbett's budget address and returning the same day, or his most recent excursion to Washington for a National League of Cities conference from March 9-11.
In December, the city received a $30,000 grant to help enroll needy children in health insurance programs. Peduto lobbied for the grant as a city councilman and mayor-elect through the League of Cities, said his spokesman, Tim McNulty.
He said the city expects to receive a $20,000 grant to improve bike lanes citywide through another Peduto lobbying effort before he took office.
Experts supplied by the Department of Education will travel to Pittsburgh to develop strategies for improving the public school district.
Peduto promised while campaigning that he would emulate Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, who frequently visits Washington and Harrisburg.
Nutter spokesman Mark McDonald said Philadelphia and surrounding counties — Bucks, Montgomery, Delaware and Chester — formed a caucus to lobby for state and federal aid.
“The mayor is at the head of a team of individuals who tell Philadelphia's story. That is the point,” McDonald said.
He said the effort resulted in increased funding for transportation projects and retrofitting businesses and homes to be more energy-efficient.
David Urban, president of the Washington lobbying firm American Continental Group and a former chief of staff to late U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, said it pays to build relationships with state and federal officials. He said city officials can gain great insight into federal programs and policy changes.
“By being in Washington and voicing your opinion, you can have impact,” Urban said. “The federal government is so large, and there are so many programs that are going on that unless you are paying close attention, you could miss opportunities for the city.”
But being away has its downside.
Councilwoman Darlene Harris questioned Peduto's timing, noting his administration is in transition and he has yet to fill vacant positions such as police chief and public safety director. It faces an exodus of employees taking his early retirement offer.
More than 60 longtime employees, including top administrators in the Bureau of Building Inspection and Finance Department, are leaving.
“I can't knock him for going; it's just right now, you have a new administration going in, and there are things that really need to be settled here,” Harris said.
McNulty said the trips will continue.
“He's the chief salesman for the city, and you can't do that job by staying at home,” he said. “He going to travel nationally and internationally to tell the city's story and put the city back on the global map.”
Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
- McKees Rocks council president arrested after SWAT standoff
- Forbes Avenue jeweler’s embedded sidewalk sign safely slides out to make way for Pittsburgh Playhouse project
- Protest planned Monday at Plum Borough High School
- Poor infrastructure may hinder aid efforts in Nepal after earthquake
- Senior at Pittsburgh’s CAPA school focuses spotlight on homeless students
- Newsmakers: Danielle and Patrik McKain
- Allegheny County Council will have new look
- District 7 candidates for Pittsburgh council vow to protect poorer communities
- Police arrest 2 after shots fired in North Side
- Plum school officials ignoring help, advocacy group’s chief says
- It’s business, but not as usual in Pittsburgh