PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Last year, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and eight out of nine council members said it was time for Pittsburgh to end its financially distressed status under Act 47.
Mayor-elect Bill Peduto was the lone dissenter.
Now some city employee unions think they know why.
Pittsburgh Firefighters Union President Joe King thinks he knows why Peduto opposes taking the city out of its Act 47 financially distressed status.
“All he wants to do is put the handcuffs or sabotage the constitutional availability for firefighters and police officers — these risky professions that we serve in — to put handcuffs and restrict our ability to enrich any of our benefits,” King told KDKA political editor Jon Delano.
Public employee unions like the firefighters say the reason Peduto favors Act 47 financial distress is to keep them from bargaining for better benefits.
City Fraternal Order of Police president Sgt. Mike LaPorte says Act 47 was good 10 years ago.
“It forced our city managers to take a look at their spending habits,” said LaPorte.
But LaPorte says it has outlived its usefulness and now holds back the Police Bureau from attracting new police officers because of the unreasonably low starting pay at $30,000 a year.
“Our pay, our wages are not comparable with the norm,” he said. “Our police officers especially in this day and age are a commodity, and it takes a special person to do that.”
But for Peduto, Act 47 protects taxpayers by setting parameters to contract negotiations with city unions, something Peduto values when he’s not sure what he’s inheriting.
Still, firefighters and police say Act 47 has forced sacrifices for years.
“When you make the job less attractive by not giving them sufficient wages to raise a family or even live on, it can be tough — tough for the city,” added LaPorte.
Watch Ralph Iannotti’s report:
Peduto told KDKA TV’s Ralph Iannotti that he had breakfast with Gov. Tom Corbett Monday morning, and “Act 47 was one of the issues we talked about, and [we discussed] the city’s need to stay under the program.”
Peduto said there were numerous expenses coming up, including contracts covering both of Police Department, and the Bureau of Fire.
In addition, Peduto said Pittsburgh’s pension and debt issues are not solved yet. Peduto spoke to KDKA-TV at the University of Pittsburgh, where he met with hundreds of Pittsburghers who are sitting on sub-committees outlining goals for the new Peduto administration.
Hours before the meeting, the heads of both the city police and firefighters unions called for the Act 47 program to be lifted.
The Mayor-elect says without Act 47, the financial condition of the city cannot be controlled, and right now, there’s a cap on what we can spend for the departments.