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Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto wants to focus on development, not politics in 2nd term

Bob Bauder
| Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018, 4:54 p.m.
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto
Nate Smallwood | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto

During his inauguration Wednesday, Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto plans to outline goals for his next term, including a partnership with major nonprofits and corporations for funding several major initiatives.

Peduto, 53, would not identify the projects, saying he was saving details for his inaugural address, but he has pointed to nonprofits and corporations as potential funders of affordable housing and universal preschool education.

Voters elected Peduto of Point Breeze in November to a second four-year term. His inauguration ceremony is scheduled to start at noon Wednesday at Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum in Oakland. It is open to the public. Gov. Tom Wolf is scheduled to attend.

“The idea is not writing a check to city government, but a shared vision of what we can work on together and then to recruit others into the initiative as well,” Peduto said. “The inauguration will provide an opportunity to look at the issues that have been discussed as the major initiatives that need a coordinated effort. During the first quarter of 2018, there will be a series of meetings ... that will provide the opportunity for public input in helping to shape those issues further.”

He said options for funding the initiatives over a dozen years would also come out in 2018.

Since taking office as mayor in 2014, Peduto has sought funding from tax-exempt nonprofits, including the “Big Four” — UPMC, the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University and Highmark — which own a sizable chunk of city real estate. He has yet to reach an agreement, but said he has been meeting regularly with university and corporate leaders over several months.

Major changes are on the horizon for Pittsburgh over Peduto's next four years.

The city is likely to leave state financial oversight under state Act 47 in 2018 after more than 14 years, and changes are afoot in City Council.

Council is set to elect a president Wednesday and later schedule a special election to fill a seat being vacated by Dan Gilman of Squirrel Hill, who is leaving to become Peduto's chief of staff. A new member — Anthony Coghill of Beechview — will be sworn in to replace Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak of Carrick, who did not run for re-election.

Peduto said he is backing Gilman's Chief of Staff Erika Strassburger for Gilman's District 8 seat. One other candidate — Sonja Finn of Point Breeze, head chef and owner of Dinette in East Liberty — also said she will run.

“My goal is that we get past who the (council) president is for the next two years and we all work together on trying to coalesce around big initiatives,” he said. “I think it's a critical time in this city's history, and the politics of who gets to preside over meetings is minor compared to the opportunities that we have.”

One of them is providing housing for Pittsburgh's homeless. The mayor said he would like to model a program after one for homeless veterans in which the city, Allegheny County and nonprofits have provided housing within 90 days.

Other changes Peduto sees coming:

• Development of 700 acres of woodland in Hays into a “passive park” with about 10 percent of the land dedicated to housing. Peduto said city real estate taxes from any housing on the site would go toward providing universal preschool.

• Development of a 13-acre former industrial property next to the North Shore's Rivers Casino. Washington County-based Millcraft Investments is planning a “nearly half-billion dollar” project that includes offices, housing, shops and a large Ferris wheel. Peduto is a fan of the Ferris wheel, which was invented in Pittsburgh.

“Because of the way that the river is and the way that it juts out right by the West End Bridge, I think it would give a really unique view that few Pittsburghers have seen on the Golden Triangle,” he said.

• Development of an urban farm on the site of the former St. Clair Village.

• Long awaited construction on the former Civic Arena property in the Lower Hill District.

• Paving and infrastructure improvements on Carson Street through the South Side.

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312, or via Twitter @bobbauder.

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