PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Pittsburgh voters approved raising property taxes to fund parks in the city last November.
But a city council dispute over how to spend the money has halted implementation.
One plan benefitting Pittsburgh’s poor neighborhoods brought immediate opposition.
On Tuesday, city council wrestled contentiously with how to allocate some $10 million to improve city parks.
“To many of us, it was a farce,” exclaimed city council president Theresa Kail Smith.
Council members took aim at the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy for a plan that ranks the top 18 parks for capital improvements on the basis of low income and race.
“City-wide, the non-white population is about 34 percent. Within the communities that these parks serve, that non-white population is about 70 percent,” noted Chris DiStasi with Interface Studio, a consultant for the Conservancy.
Under the conservancy plan, 78 percent of the dollars would be allocated evenly across all city parks for maintenance, rehab, and programming.
But capital projects would be specifically targeted to poorer areas.
Councilman Ricky Burgess told KDKA political editor Jon Delano that parks in black neighborhoods should get priority.
“For many years, those communities did not see the city invest in those parks — for many, many years — while parks in more affluent communities received resources year after year after year,” said Burgess.
But some council members disagree.
“This money should be equally distributed between the nine city council districts, and then I believe it’s up to that council member to equitably distribute it to their own parks,” said Councilman Anthony Coghill. “That way this money touches all parts of the city immediately.”
The public will have a chance to voice their opinion on how these park tax dollars should be spent coming up at a public hearing at city council on Thursday at 6 pm.