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Part-time City Council resolution offered

| Tuesday, May 18, 2004, 12:00 p.m.

Pittsburgh City Council members are putting in too many hours, Allegheny County Council Republicans say.

Six of the seven county Republicans have co-sponsored a resolution asking the state-appointed oversight board to recommend to the state Legislature that the office of City Council be part time and come with a much smaller paycheck.

Republicans plan to introduce the resolution -- which doesn't recommend changing City Council's duties and responsibilities -- at tonight's County Council meeting.

The plan would make the city's legislative branch mirror the county's system. County Council members make $9,000 a year, meet once every two weeks and share a staff. In City Council, members meet twice a week, make $53,687 a year and each has more than $99,000 for personal staff. Both bodies usually have several committee meetings each week.

The resolution also recommends adding two at-large council seats -- one for each party, like the county has -- to be elected citywide.

County Councilman Vince Gastgeb, the Republican leader from Bethel Park, said City Council members represent fewer people than their county counterparts, and so should be able to do their jobs with the same resources the county has. Each City Council district has about 35,000 people, compared to 100,000 living in each County Council district.

They don't do the same job, though, said City Councilman William Peduto. There's a fundamental difference between city and county governments in Pennsylvania; county government is basically a local extension of state government, responsible for things like human services and courts, he said.

"Everything else is left to local government," Peduto said. "Whether it's a dog barking or an economic development plan, it comes down to local government."

A part-time City Council also wouldn't be able to serve as an effective check on the mayor's power, said City Councilman Alan Hertzberg.

"You get what you pay for," Hertzberg said. "If someone is being paid at (County Council's) level, and they have 100,000 people in each district, it's hard to do the job right."

And it's none of the county's business anyway, said County Councilman Wayne Fontana, D-Brookline. Calling the proposal purely political, Fontana said, "Let the oversight board and Act 47 do their thing."

Right now, restructuring city government is "on our agenda, but its not the first priority," said oversight board chairman Bill Lieberman, an insurance broker.

Another board member, Duquesne University chancellor John Murray, was on a committee six years ago that recommended the county have a part-time "citizen legislator" system when it switched to a home rule form of government.

It works well for the county, but that doesn't mean part-time legislators could run the city, Murray said.

"There is nothing on the immediate agenda," Murray said. But, at least in the hypothetical, "it should be considered."

Additional Information:

County Council

Members: 15

2004 budget: $950,600

Pay: $9,000

City Council

Members: 9

2004 budget: $2,212,375, including $1,504,173 for council and $708,202 for the clerk's office

Pay: $53,687

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