PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Bill Peduto is the most traveled mayor Pittsburgh has ever seen.
In less than two years in office, he’s taken no less than 40 trips out of town. Six of them were out of country — Paris this week and previous treks to destinations like Germany, Denmark and Cuba.
“I would say that I travel definitely more than what Pittsburgh is used to from their mayor,” says Peduto.
All of that traveling though is raising questions.
What does this have to do with picking up the garbage and patrolling the streets? What are we getting? What does the public get from all of this travel?
“Well, the travel is part of the job. I mean, obviously, it’s not the majority of the job, but it’s also an essential part of it. I don’t apologize for that because in a way I am the salesman for the city,” Peduto says.
In recent years, Pittsburgh’s rebirth has become a national and international story, and as the city’s chief salesman, Peduto says he want to wants to capitalize on that interest, picking and choosing from invitations to visit from around the country and the world.
“Most of the cases, in the vast majority, I say no,” says Peduto. “But when there is that opportunity to help to promote the city, and at the same time, to bring something back to Pittsburgh, and it doesn’t come at a cost to the taxpayers, I definitely will say yes.”
According to an accounting provided by his office, Peduto’s travels have cost city taxpayers $16,365 over the past two years.
Sponsoring organizations have picked up the lion’s share and all of the international travel at a cost of $37,070. Peduto says the trips aren’t for pleasure, but for the benefit of the city.
As a case in point, the Rockefeller Foundation paid for the mayor’s recent five-day trip to Bellagio, Italy, at a cost of just under $9,000.
But the mayor came back with a $5 million commitment from the foundation to help fund Pittsburgh’s disaster preparedness. In fact, the mayor says his travels have generated some $12 million in grants from about a dozen organizations.
“In receiving those grants, part of it does come with that travel. Not that the travel makes the grant, but the grantee expects me to be there to accept it,” Peduto says.
Still, the mayor’s absences from city hall rankles some constituents.
KDKA’s Andy Sheehan: “I’ve heard people say on the street, the mayor’s never in town. Is that a misconception?
Peduto: “Yes, I think the number of hours I put in during a week exceeds that of previous mayors.”
So you be the judge, since taking office, the mayor has spent 112 days out of town. But Peduto says he works most weekends and holidays in Pittsburgh and that more than makes up for any time away.
But he says it’s possible to do both — run the city day-to-day while pursuing the broader goal of spotlighting Pittsburgh on the national and international stage.
“It doesn’t mean you don’t pick up the garbage and patrol the streets,” Peduto said. “You do it better then it’s done in the past, but it also means that you have the opportunity to promote the city and be an ambassador for the city that comes with the job as well.”