PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — His name is now on the door, but Mayor Bill Peduto’s office is still full of boxes, as he met with KDKA political editor Jon Delano for his first TV sit-down interview as mayor to discuss key issues facing the city.
One of the mayor’s top concerns: the city’s fiscal situation.
“One of the first acts, and the first official letter that I’ve signed, is on the stability of the city, not just for this year’s budget but looking 10, 20 years in the future,” said Peduto.
A letter to Gov. Tom Corbett cancels an earlier request by former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl to get out of the Act 47 process.
“The request has now been formally withdrawn,” said the mayor.
Peduto says the city still needs outside oversight until a long-term exit plan is put in place.
“This city needs to remain under financial oversight so it can take care of its long-term problems — our pension, our debt, our ability to do capital improvements and our ability to work with our major non-profits in order to be able to get a sustainable source of revenue,” said Mayor Peduto.
In the meantime, the new mayor has set an ambitious goal of reversing the city’s population decline — and enticing 20,000 new residents to the city.
By using technology to make city services — road repair, garbage collection, snow removal — the best in the region.
“I want to institute GPS on our snow plows so you can go to http://www.wheres-my-plow-at.com and find out when your street was plowed, when it’s to be plowed, and where in live time that plow is,” added Peduto.
Peduto is the first mayor in over a hundred years to grow up in the suburbs, and he’s determined to end the city’s old reputation of being behind its suburban neighbors in services.
Delano: “You want to make it better to live in the city of Pittsburgh than Mt. Lebanon, Sewickley, Fox Chapel?”
Peduto: “I want to make it better to live in the city of Pittsburgh than in any of the areas around the city.”
And then the mayor adds, “I want to make it the best experience in America.”
Peduto still has what he calls his most important appointment still to make — a public safety director who can restore trust in city police after former Chief Nate Harper pled guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion.
“I need Elliot Ness,” said Peduto, referring the famous FBI agent who brought down Al Capone.
“I’ll be very clear about this. And I need not only in cleaning up what is perception but what is reality, and not only within the police bureau but across the lines of public safety and then through the ranks of every department in the city,” he said.
Peduto said he had four finalists for the position, including current director Michael Huss.
“I need somebody who can restore the bond between this city and its people, so it’s a very tall order,” Peduto said. “It’s the most important decision that I will have to make and the most important hire that I will have to make, and I intend to make it early next week.”
As for a new police chief, Peduto says that won’t come until late this year — and it’s likely to be someone outside the current police force.
“With everything that has happened within this bureau in the past several years, I think right now what is needed is a fresh start and not anyone who is promoted who is believed to be part of any one clique.”
On other issues, the mayor says he’ll keep the city’s lawsuit challenging UPMC’s non-profit tax status unless a deal is made.
“We’re not in a position as a city to remove that lawsuit without also removing the leverage that we have in our negotiations for payments in lieu of taxes for our major non-profits,” said the mayor.
And signaling a new era of good feeling on the fifth floor of City Hall, Peduto’s first official lunch was with City Council’s new president, Bruce Kraus.
“I want to make sure that council members always have the opportunity to speak their mind,” Peduto said.