Thanks to @NUNYAMAN
Action starts at 12:35. Introductions start at 8:50.
Unfortunately, Stevie Wonder suffered some collateral damage during introductions.
1. On potholes, litter and graffiti: Ceoffe would reassign his predecessor’s Council staff position for an “executive assistant” and re-program it as a “community services liaison” dedicated to partnering with community groups, which help organize requests for action. Gross promises to seek more funding to “get back” the Graffiti Busters program, and is demanding new management “at the top of 311” and more predictable, accessible information in planning street paving into the future. “It’s a political process that’s trying to curry favor. It’s not okay.”
2. On the police force: Gross echoes Peduto’s calls for more resource differentiation among police zones with deference to the knowledge held by each Zone Commander; however she “differs with Mayor-Elect Peduto” in that she believes Pittsburgh’s officers should remain City residents. Wudarczyk believes a national search for a new Chief would waste resources and destroy morale, yet/and he is also highly concerned about Pittsburgh’s “three federal investigations” and notes “issues with corruption”. Powell agrees with the move toward unburdening uniformed officers from scheduling police overtime and secondary details, but accuses proposed outside vendor Cover Your Assets of “incompetence or malfeasance” in its own right, and would rather “hire a civilian”. Ceoffe stands up for most officers on the force and its current Acting Chief (though he agrees with the need for a national search for permanent Chief) and he seems to indicate that in order to “incentivize” officers to remain on Pittsburgh’s force and give it their all, he would waive the City residency requirement.
3. The Bureau of Building Inspection, and absentee landlords: Gross kicks things off by pointing out BBI’s lack of a boss, lack of basic technology for staff such as cell phones or email accounts, and lack of willingness to pick up a desk phone. Wudarczyk points out that Pittsburgh is also one of those neglectful absentee landlords. Powell segues into his proposal for a land-value tax as a way to discourage slumlord speculation. Ceoffe desires expanding community landlord training programs by working with the justice system. Powell thinks BBI is doing “the best job they possibly can”, that its Acting Director “is doing a phenomenal job,” that the computers in the closet were “antiquated” and that a main problem is that magistrates let deadbeat landlords off the hook.
4. Public schools and what, uh, we might do about them: Powell is for market-based solutions to education. Ceoffe promises to attend school board meetings, bring all sorts of attention continually and will seek “qualified” board members. Gross mentions in regards to candidate qualifications, she is the only candidate who has been “hired in a leadership position,” and seems offended by the magnet school lottery and wants to focus more on the feeder schools, like “successful districts are doing.”
5. Seniors, housing and affordability:
David Powell emphasized his lack of all relevant expertise, yet hazarded that the occasional “tax break or subsidy” based on “good” ideas that are out there would probably be fine. Warns about the cost such investment however versus the cost of City pensions. From pensions Powell segued further into a closing statement about corruption and “lining the pockets of the well-connected”, finally cultimating on a short, quiet promise never to expand the drug war.
Afterwords, forum moderator Andy Sheehan reminded everyone that closing statements are right out.
Tony Ceoffe noted that affordable housing dovetails nicely with his recent work as a specialist at the Housing Authority, witnessing first-hand the effects on seniors of gentrification including transition to high-rises due to long waiting periods. else the care with which we must use Section 8 allocations, rather than doing it just to make the numbers work like at Doughboy Square, and the tragedy of pushing anybody out of their neighborhoods.
Tom Fallon affirms that we want to be able to “age in place,” and that we need senior housing in every community. He impressed on us the collateral roles of community block watches in keeping neighborhoods seniors-friendly. Says goodnight.
Deb Gross says that you need “a plan people can understand” with regards to seniors housing (as well as with anything). Thinks transportation through a seniors-lens is also very important, because seniors tend to have as many responsibilities and as active social lives as anyone. Thinks we need to get together and tell developers what we need. Says that one day retiring to Bloomfield, as had a friend, might be personally ideal.
Jim Wudarczyk thinks before we spend on new programs we should appoint an all-volunteer Budget Commission, trimming the fat, paying our down bills, so we might have money to spend later. Understands that the biggest problem is property “assessments”. Safety is also a concern, as well as public transportation. Criticizes the idea of having Downtown “free of buses”. More closing statements, and “no new taxes”.
EDITORIAL: Yes, it’s true. Ceoffe more often emphasizes the roles that community groups can play as partners, next points of contact, go-betweens with government; whereas Gross more often emphasizes that we can and should expect government to do much better, to plan and to act more strategically.
The Grossie in me wonders what happens if a neighborhood has no community groups, or a dud group, or feuding dramatic groups or a very political community group — as well as how we can hold community groups accountable for the responsibilities and resources we entrust to them.
The Ceoffee in me wonders whether Deb is likely to do a better or worse job than BBI, of picking up the phone when I call.
PERSPECTIVE?: A look at neighborhood concerns in 2007.