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Summer Repaving Project List Raising Political Concerns

By: Jon Delano
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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — City streets full of potholes and in desperate need of paving, but before even one ounce of asphalt goes down this summer, there’s already a paving predicament.

The Ravenstahl Administration submitted its list of summer road repaving projects to City Council over the weekend, and it’s raising concerns about whether politics is dictating what gets paved.

Three years ago, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl hopped on an asphalt paver to demonstrate his commitment to repaving city streets and vowed an end to political paving.

“The mayor has never asked me to pave a street,” says Public Works Director Rob Kaczorowski.

He claims Ravenstahl has never interfered with his ranking of which streets need repairs.

“Asked the Mayor if he was interested in looking at the list, review it, and he looked me right in the eye and said, ‘No sir, that’s your job. You’re in charge of paving streets,’” said Kaczorowski.

Guy Costa worked for a lot of mayors and is a former public works director. He agrees with Kaczorowski, but says he does recall being told not to pave streets.

“Not from the mayor, but from senior staff where we needed to stay out of a particular council district or stay out of a particular neighborhood for whatever reason,” Costa said.

Concerns about politics led City Council to require street paving to be split evenly among the nine council districts.

“Everybody wants to make certain the resources are equitably distributed, especially when it comes to maintaining our infrastructure. I think that is a fair argument to make,” says Councilman Bruce Kraus, chair of the Public Works Committee. “I think that is a fair argument to make, but the list that came over this weekend didn’t necessarily follow that criteria.”

Kaczorowski’s list for 2011, says Councilman Kraus, has 24 percent of paving miles in Councilman Daniel Lavelle’s district while Councilman Doug Shields gets less than four percent.

But Kaczorowski says not all districts have the same needs.

“Some council districts actually have over twice as many roads as another council district.”

He denies politics, and the first repairs will be on Beechwood Boulevard in Councilman Bill Peduto’s district, a frequent critic of the Mayor.

But Kraus says Council will review the full list before waiving its rule.

“I would like to make certain that we as responsible, respectable elected officials are only acting in what’s in the best interest of the people,” said Kraus.

RELATED LINKS:
Pittsburgh City Council
Pittsburgh Public Works
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