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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — It’s not your grandpa’s city government, the one that simply picked up the garbage and patrolled the streets.
Mayor Bill Peduto’s administration takes some explaining — with position’s that defy easy definition – for example chief resiliency officer, sustainability coordinator and critical community initiative manger.
He’s also created departments you’ve probably never heard of.
The Department of Innovation and Performance is charged with running and modernizing the city’s computer systems, but it’s also chock full of analysts whose job it is to pour over data.
You might well ask, ‘What’s that got to do with patching potholes?’
“I and P’s job is to find out how long does it take to patch a pothole? Why does it take so long to patch a pothole? What are the best practices to patching potholes?” said Peduto.
Critics like City Controller Michael Lamb says the administration is mostly talk.
“Sustainability, transparency, resiliency, innovations. It’s a lot of words, and I think it should be an administration more of work,” said Lamb.
Peduto counters that he has delivered — shoring up the city pension liabilities while improving the delivery of basic services, hiring more police, more firefighters and dramatically increasing street paving over past administrations.
Also, through digitizing departments, he says he’s made services more transparent and efficient.
Still, Lamb says the administration is top heavy with deep thinkers rather than folks who get their hands dirty.
“It requires more laborers and plumbers and engineers than it does analysts. So, I think we just need to focus the actual function of city government,” Lamb said.
But the mayor believes the role of city government has expanded.
He now has a department of transportation called Mobility and Infrastructure, which oversees things like bike lanes. Another department called Neighborhood Empowerment is designed to tackle social service problems at the neighborhood level.
“So we have Early Childhood, we have Workforce Development, we have critical issues such as opioid addiction. These are things that impact people every day,” said Chief Urban Affairs Officer Valerie McDonald-Roberts.
Times have been good in the city and real estate tax revenue is up.
While Peduto has held the line on general taxes, his operating budgets have increased from $487 million when he took office to a proposed $571 million next year. That’s an increase of about $84 million.
Much of that revenue isn’t from taxpayers but from grants and aid from foundations, giving the administration room to address what the mayor sees as neglected societal problems.
KDKA’s Andy Sheehan: “But is this the function of city government?”
Peduto: “It is the function of city government as we’re seeing less and less investment from Harrisburg, and we’re seeing less and less investment coming out of Washington.