Pittsburgh mayoral candidate Peduto vows clean sweep of City Hall

Bob Bauder
| Friday, April 12, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Pittsburgh Councilman Bill Peduto portrays the mayor's race as a battle between old-guard Democrats and a “new coalition” uniquely capable of changing a culture of exclusivity within City Hall.

Peduto said his closest competitor in the race, former state Auditor General Jack Wagner, represents an entrenched political machine — including Mayor Luke Ravenstahl — that has controlled the mayor's office for generations.

“(Wagner's) got the whole Luke team,” Peduto said Thursday during a meeting with Tribune-Review editors and reporters. “He has all of Luke's elected officials, all of Luke's labor officials, all of his money people.

“The only difference is instead of Luke it's Jack.”

Wagner, who also vows to change City Hall, said Peduto is part of the problem.

“The entire city government is dysfunctional, including members of council,” said Wagner, who was endorsed on Thursday by Boilermakers Local 154, Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith and Democratic state Reps. Dan Deasy of Westwood and Harry Readshaw of Carrick.

Peduto, 48, of Point Breeze and Wagner, 65, of Beechview, are the front-runners, according to a Tribune-Review poll. The other candidates are state Rep. Jake Wheatley, 41, of the Hill District and community activist AJ Richardson, 36, of Sheraden.

Peduto said he would replace some top officials — firing them if necessary — to create transparency and openness in city government. He said city authorities and commissions have become political instruments and promised to replace board members with professionals representative of the city's minority and female populations.

“Everyone who lives in the city of Pittsburgh will have an opportunity to apply,” he said.

Peduto said the Pittsburgh Parking Authority should be paying the city an additional $7 million to $8 million annually under an employee pension bailout plan that council approved in 2010. He said the authority is not paying up because it's controlled by Ravenstahl, who opposed the plan. Peduto said he would replace the board to get the money. Ravenstahl's office did not respond for comment.

Peduto also outlined plans for improving city neighborhoods plagued by crime and urban decay, such as Homewood. He would encourage community groups to plan and oversee projects. They would train and employ residents to restore older homes and buildings and clean up neighborhoods with help from the city.

“You have to start small and build it block by block,” he said, adding that he has considered moving to Homewood temporarily, if only as a symbolic gesture.

Peduto said he believes the city can reach financial solvency in five years if it holds back on borrowing. Annual debt payments of about $87 million are scheduled to drop by about 20 percent in 2018 and by 46 percent the following year.

Peduto said the city is in better financial shape than it was when he was elected to council 12 years ago.

Pittsburgh's Act 47 team — one of the city's financial oversight agencies — recommended in October that the state dissolve it. The Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority still would oversee budgeting. The state declared Pittsburgh financially distressed in 2004.

“I believe by 2018 we can be out of financially distressed status for real,” Peduto said.

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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