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'Power of 32' initiative targeting McKeesport

| Friday, July 9, 2010

It seeks a shared vision of the future in a region reaching from Youngstown to Altoona, and from Clarksburg to Purchase Line.

It's centered on Pittsburgh and such cities as Altoona, Wheeling and Youngstown, but it will focus on McKeesport, with a public meeting sometime before Labor Day.

City administrator Dennis Pittman said Wednesday the old Tube City has been chosen as a target area for "Power of 32," a regional visioning initiative headed by former state Sen. Allen Kukovich, D-Manor.

"We were contacted to be targeted, to be one of the centers for the community conversation, the collaboration of input," Pittman said.

P32, as it also calls itself, is a focus on 32 counties where 4.2 million people live, in western Maryland, eastern Ohio, Southwestern Pennsylvania and northern West Virginia.

The two-year P32 process began a year ago. The idea is to develop a blueprint to cover the following 15 years.

By the federal government's current measure, it includes all or part of eight metropolitan and seven micropolitan areas.

Those are the hinterlands for major cities Altoona, Cumberland, Johnstown, Morgantown, Pittsburgh, Weirton-Steubenville, Wheeling and Youngstown-Warren Boardman and lesser cities Fairmont, Clarksburg, East Liverpool-Salem, Indiana, New Castle and Somerset.

McKeesport once was regarded as semi-metropolitan but today is listed as part of the seven-county Pittsburgh metropolitan statistical area.

"They thought we were a very diverse community," Pittman said. "They want us to be at the grassroots to input data."

P32's convening partners are the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, the Greater Pittsburgh Nonprofit Partnership and the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission.

It also has support from such entities such as U.S. Steel, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's hospital network and the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh, which is completing a merger of the YMCA of McKeesport into its ranks.

Pittman said he hopes to get voluntary support locally from such institutions as UPMC McKeesport, Penn State Greater Allegheny, McKeesport Area School District and The Daily News.

Details are available at regionalvision.org and powerof32.org.

Ironically, Pittman's announcement coincided with a city council meeting that again dealt with a proposed state law that would amend the state constitution to make the county the basic level of local government in Pennsylvania.

A council resolution noted that under House Bill 2431 "municipalities would only exist at the pleasure of the county."

Last month, at the urging of Councilman Darryl Segina, a motion was approved opposing the bill. On Wednesday, the resolution was passed, 4-1.

Segina, Councilwomen Loretta Diggs and V. Fawn Walker and council vice president Michael Cherepko voted yes, council president Regis McLaughlin no, with Councilmen Richard Dellapenna and Alfred J. Tedesco Jr. absent.

Mayor James Brewster said he opposes metropolitanism, stressing his city's ability to sell services to surrounding municipalities.

"The failure of municipalities is what caused metropolitanism," Brewster said.

He did tout the Allegheny Regional Asset District, which distributes part of a 1 percent sales tax to "regional assets" such as Renziehausen Park.

"You could not cut a blade of grass in Renzie Park without RAD," Brewster said.

Oddly enough, HB 2431 is no farther along in the General Assembly, having been referred to the House Local Government Committee on April 20 with no action to date.

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