These notes from yesterday‘s mayoral debate at Obama Academy were originally taken with fat fingers on a touch-screen phone with Autocorrect, so I only entered what seemed like the unique or interesting bits. Since there wasn’t much back-and-forth, I here rearrange them by candidate in alphabetical order, since this is a legitimate establishment.
DARLENE HARRIS would work with the unions to help Pittsburgh graduates get jobs in the skilled trades, and work with the corporate community to find them internships. She would look to emulate Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, who is up in Harrsiburg a lot lobbying for aid. In terms of public safety she has worked to install security cameras in her neighborhoods and get police more and better technology, and has also instituted block watches. The North Side Leadership Conference has helped make the North Side become and feel safer, and she’d like more help from a better staffed Department of City Planning. In response to the corruption question, Harris says as a public official “everyone’s trying to give you money and buy you,” but claims people who rely on such “are afraid” if she gets elected Mayor. To encourage higher wages she has worked to pass “living wage” legislation at the Council level.
MICHAEL LAMB Helping to start A+ Schools shows his commitment to “leadership that listens” and that is open and transparent. He is “not going to pat himself or anyone else on the back because some qualify for the Promise,” but rather continue to “cheer lead and advocate” for better schools and pursue the Summer Dreamers Program. Lamb came out hard to expand the payroll preparation tax to all employers including the nonprofits, justifiable because low wages lead to low wage tax receipts. He would put more police on the streets instead of behind desks, and would diversify the police force using federal funds. In response to the corruption question, Lamb says under his stewardship the Controllers’ office became “the most open, honest, transparent office in government,” and hinted there are overlaps noticeable on Open Book Pittsburgh between contributors and contract recipients. He would use “incentives” and “access to capital” such as TIFs to lure jobs, but not just for big developers but small businesses — particularly women-owned. He says he’s been out there agitating with UPMC workers for higher wages and suggested Rivers Casino needs it too.
BILL PEDUTO wants to “turn the paradigm upside down” with community leadership, instead of making decisions based on “who wrote the biggest check.” Says that fostering a Promise-ready student “starts at five years old,” so would seek to use Promise funding to provide “wrap-around services” like mentoring, tutoring, and meals at seniors centers. Supports Rep. Roebuck’s charter and cyber school reform bill. Nonprofits need to be made accountable to the community, their clients and their own workers. Looking to models of urban policing in other cities, and would decentralize policing powers out to Commanders, appropriate to each area and level of community involvement. In response to the corruption question, Peduto pointed back to bills “ending no bid contracts, strengthening the Ethics Code, campaign finance reform,” mentioned Public Safety Director nominee Dennis Regan, a billboard based on “graft,” and the need for a Redd Up Crew in City Hall. Touted $2 billion in grassroots development experience in his district, pointing out South Highland and East Liberty weren’t particularly affluent beforehand. Touted prevailing wage bill, and says “it’s not about brick and mortar or retail,” but investing in things like new “green” housing and mass transit.
JACK WAGNER says we need more partnerships with and within City government, that “we don’t need Council fighting with Council.” He also would seek more aid from Harrisburg to address dropout rate, and would “keep Schenley open.” Back in City Council he passed an assault weapons ban, and “would enforce lost & stolen.” In response to the corruption question, Wagner cited his audit exposing the PHEAA and cyber & charter schools and alleged “no one is addressing problems in City Hall.” Says the US Steel lease is up soon Downtown and we need to address that to keep jobs here, but also “Pittsburgh needs to be an incubator kind of city.” Joins calls to increase the minimum wage on the federal level. Would like to expand Pittsburgh Promise to include a “Pittsburgh Partnership”, focused on keeping graduates here.
JAKE WHEATLEY says that “guns and violence isn’t just a law enforcement issue, it’s a communal issue.” In response to the corruption question, Wheatley called for “more transparency, monitoring and accountability measures.” He stressed that real economic growth occurs “when all are welcomed” and would focus not just on the supply-side, but “retraining human capital.” He notes an uptick in our population and quality of life.
SCORECARD / EDITORIAL: With his willingness once again to identify for us corrupt patterns at the City so that we might recognize such practices early next time, his ability to cite multiple concrete steps he has taken to inhibit that corruption in the past, the specifics with which he proposed expanding Pittsburgh Promise efforts, the depth of substance when it comes to talking community economic development, and his as-yet unique recognition that public mass transit is like education a mammoth part of the equation in achieving desirability as a city and region, it is hard for this blog not to conclude that present front-runner Bill Peduto gave the strongest performance in this first debate.
NEWS: While the papers had it correct that all candidates agreed UPMC et al needs to start paying a fair share to the City, the County and school district, special adviser to the governor Dennis Roddy decided to throw some icy cold water on that proposition, even though last were all led to believe this was also the Governor’s policy and a grim, hard-won bipartisan consensus.