Peduto jumps into first full day as Pittsburgh's newest mayor
New Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said he had a “whirlwind” first full day in office as he delved into the city's financial woes in a phone call with Gov. Tom Corbett, fired three employees, met with top administrators and spoke with young scholars.
He arrived at work unaccompanied at 10:11 a.m., strolling from a fifth-floor elevator and chatting with a Department of Public Works employee about their shared Italian ancestry. He spoke with newspaper reporters, invited photographers to his office suite and made his own coffee in a Keurig machine still stocked with Dark Magic flavored K-cups left over from Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.
It was a marked difference from Ravenstahl, who rarely appeared in public during his final year in office and whose inner-office workings often were shrouded in secrecy.
“It's been kind of a whirlwind,” said Peduto, 49, who was sworn in Monday as the city's 60th mayor and has promised greater government transparency.
Changes started immediately. Peduto's assistant, Corey Buckner, drove him Downtown from his home in Point Breeze in the morning. Ravenstahl typically used a city police officer as his driver.
“I don't want to use the police for that kind of stuff,” Peduto said as he walked to the mayor's suite to meet with his top administrators.
He informed them he is introducing a dress code and a nepotism policy to prohibit hiring immediate relatives of top administrators. Mayor's office personnel will be expected to wear business attire, he said.
They're also expected to attend daily meetings on time or be denied admittance.
He said the “chiefs” have begun stopping by city departments they oversee to meet with personnel and learn about operations. He said it was “the first time anybody from the mayor's office has been to these offices in years.”
“I'm going to have them answering the phones this month so they get to know the people of Pittsburgh,” he said of his top staffers, adding that resident input will be a critical component of his administration. “It's putting into effect the basic culture from the very top.”
Peduto talked with Corbett via cellphone, discussing the city's response to the cold weather and Pittsburgh's status as a financially troubled city under state Act 47. He told Corbett that he and his staff would draft an official request asking to remain under state financial oversight for the immediate future.
Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald stopped by at 11 a.m., saying he and Peduto have been meeting weekly. They've discussed “development, Almono (the former LTV Steel site in Hazelwood), the Civic Arena site, wet weather stuff, coordination of emergency services,” Fitzgerald said.
Peduto made his first public appearance as mayor in the afternoon during a workshop attended by about 150 Pittsburgh Promise scholars and officials at One Oxford Center on Grant Street. Peduto serves on the Pittsburgh Promise board of directors.
He told the college students that Pittsburgh is on the upswing and there will be opportunity for all of them in the city's new educational, medical and technology-based economy.
“I'm just happy we have someone who is interested in our education and interested in creating opportunities for students,” said Alexis Eldridge, 21, of Beltzhoover, a student at Carlow University.
Later, Chief of Staff Kevin Acklin informed three public works assistant directors they were being dismissed because their jobs have been eliminated from the budget. Officials said it was part of the typical reorganization that's part of beginning a new administration.
Peduto met with Public Works Director Rob Kaczorowski, who will remain on the job at least until a new director is hired.
“We talked about what our needs are, what we need to move forward, some of the problems in public works, just a briefing of what's going on in the department,” Kaczorowski said.
Peduto wrapped up the day meeting with city finance officials and representatives of the Buncher Co. regarding plans for a $400 million Strip District development and reuse of the landmark Produce Terminal building.
Buncher has agreed to delay its plan for a $25 million rehabilitation of the Produce Terminal building that includes demolishing about one third of it. Historic preservationists have nominated the building as a historic landmark, which would require city approval for alterations.
Peduto wants to vet alternatives that would allow Buncher access to its property along the Allegheny River and save the building. They agreed to meet weekly and continue talks.
“It was a friendly and cordial meeting,” Buncher President and CEO Thomas J. Balestrieri said. “We want to entertain their thoughts, evaluate their proposals and share with them how we got to where we are.”
Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or firstname.lastname@example.org.