Council District 7 Forum in Bloomfield: Deb Gross, Tony Ceoffe, David Powell, Jim Wudarczyk & Tom Fallon

Hashtag Special 2013.

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.

21 thoughts on “Council District 7 Forum in Bloomfield: Deb Gross, Tony Ceoffe, David Powell, Jim Wudarczyk & Tom Fallon

  1. Anonymous

    You know, if you look at the District 7 website, not only is there no staff member listed as an “Executive Assistant,” there is a staffer whose job is constituent relations, in addition to two other staffers who spend a large portion of their time working on and following constituent cases through the system, not to mention being engaged with community groups and meetings. The executive assistant title is just what the second staff title is as a generic line item in the city budget. By and large, all offices determine titles and salaries of staffers autonomously.

    I'd like to see Tony get ahold of a building inspector assigned to a case who rotates through wards and specific positions every 14 months without an email address or any apparent inspector command chain to hold them accountable other than an “Acting-Acting Chief.”

    For someone who has been campaigning for council for essentially the past 4 years, one would expect a better grasp on how exactly city services run beneath the surface.

    Woeful displays of ignorance, anyone?

  2. Bram Reichbaum

    Shawn, his campaign slogan was conceptual math… it just cries out for satiric parody imho. Beyond that I don't possess that rare skill of being able to improve a joke by explaining it… especially not with the bad ones.

  3. Anonymous

    “By and large, all offices determine titles and salaries of staffers autonomously” – it sounds to me that Ceoffe was describing exactly what he would do with one of those positions. The fact that he acknowledges the issues and is already creating a resource to resolve the lackluster response so many of us residents receive sounds like he has in fact developed a firm grasp of whats missing in city government.The BCC crafted their questions off of the biggest issues they see facing Bloomfield and feel that city services are lacking. If anything I think Tony understands whats missing, a leader who really understands what our residents expect for local government. Its not about name dropping and repeating things we've been told by friends in elected office, its about being in our neighborhoods and helping us. I am also pretty sure that during his answer Tony said he has complete confidence that after we get a new administration, a qualified director for BBI would be placed. I've seen Tony's actions in Lawrenceville when things aren't right, I'm pretty sure he wouldn't have much trouble getting to a building inspector if he needed to. He gets things done.

  4. Anonymous

    The Peduto in me keeps wondering why Gross talks about top down management and engagement and why Coeffe keeps talking about bottom up?

  5. Anonymous

    I find it a problem that Ceoffe is comfortable with the Acting Chief who has acknowledged dating a known felon. REALLY.

    Doesn't the City and its officers deserve better? Personal judgment says a lot about professional judgment.

  6. Anonymous

    I find it a problem that I missed the debate you are referencing! To be sure I just watched the Public Safety answers again……..and again

    I still haven't heard any mention of Tony being comfortable or planning to hire the Acting Chief. He did mention there is a current Acting Chief working on morale of the officers and keeping them from “going rogue” despite them having no leadership. (another candidate suggested)

    The City and its officers SURELY deserve better than to have NEPOTISM choose their Councilor! While we are talking about “what people deserve”…… Most people (except for 2 candidates) feel “SENIORS” are important enough to at least answer the question asked about them and give them the appropriate time. Well, maybe getting your closing statements in or adding another name drop is more important than our seniors???

  7. M.L. Volker

    Peduto is not a strong force to lead this city. He is here by default because no one wants to be the Mayor of a city in the middle of a messy political clean up. He will last 1 term. In those years he will help & hire friends and family with jobs and other perks of being mayor. That is the nature of the political beast. If he feels he can stay clean of political perks that come with being a politician then he is only fooling himself. Deb Gross is his yes sir gal, she will be the only 1 saying that in this city of champions. We are a strong opinionated city and need a thick skinned leader. He will get tossed by the press, political cartoonist, social media and in the streets. That's just the way it goes. If he keeps enough yes people by his side, they can step in front of him and take the blows. There is a strong political minded person that will emerge in the years to come and will tie up all the loose ends Bill leaves behind. Just not yet.

  8. Bram Reichbaum

    There seemed to be an awful lot of candidates in that race, and an awful lot of money spent, for a race in which no one wanted to be Mayor.

    And the certainty with which a few people are predicting that Peduto is bound to be just the same kind of Mayor we've become accustomed to, I do not understand (or I understand why some would say that loudly, but not why anyone would believe it). If you think all mayors are destined to be a certain depressing way, I don't understand why be interested in electoral politics at all… just follow the stock market or something. There is a basic fairness issue, give someone the benefit of the doubt until they ACTUALLY do something wrong. Endorsing a long-time ally who shares their own politics, is not something wrong. If your politics are good then it's something right.

  9. Helen Gerhardt

    Hear, hear! Every human being is capable of doing a more competent and ethical job at whatever they're pursuing. There will always be a learning curve – the problem is when politicians (or any of us) surround themselves with “yes people” and refuse to learn. Unfortunately the politicians who do learn and practice integrity in office don't make enough press. I think it's very important for us voters to take responsibility by more fully informing ourselves about our complex community business and to pay attention to elected leaders' performance and respond accordingly, to thoughtfully exert positive reinforcement, critiques on perceived mistakes, and forthright advocacy for truly inclusive decision-making.

    I find myself very impatient with predictions not based on evidence – I myself know that Peduto will face severe temptation and the less savory pressures empowered by inequitable campaign funding systems. But his record thus far seems to show evidence of a true learning curve, respect for divergent opinions and disempowered communities, and resistance to influence by the Network of moneyed interests that have too often dominated public decisions in the past. I hope that we'll watch what Peduto actually does and then respond to that new evidence accordingly.

  10. Ceoffe campaign

    BUT WAIT I just saw an election where a candidate clearly explained why the ruling establishment was backwards, incompetent and corrupt, and then demonstrated how he had been patiently working to change things for years. And then he WON! Why can't we get away with that?

    That's all we have to do right? Just tell people that Peduto must be bad guy because he won, and that everyone who supports him must also bad? Because people are prone not to like politicians anyway? And pretend as though Tony is not himself a career hack given public jobs because of who his daddy is and supports? And pretend like over the past six years they and their cronies haven't been cheerleading for and personally benefiting from the world's most embarrassingly childish, inept and corrupt mayor?


  11. Anonymous

    the peduto team is like any other, they took 50,000 cash kept it off the books for the campaign and a few people know about it and have kept some proof for down the road

  12. Anonymous

    Oh, boy. Deb Gross and her political machine must have run out of people to threaten. A bunch of her campaign signs just illegally went up all over city property. No one else wants them, I guess! I think it's so funny when people say things like the guy above about Ceoffe getting jobs because of his family, etc. That stuff is so untrue, it's ridiculous. Tony Ceoffe works so hard every day, not for months, but for YEARS. You know what you people are who say those things? Classists. You would never say that about a guy who takes over the family business, and that requires even LESS demonstrated skill than actually applying for a job, interviewing, and proving one's qualifications. Same thing when a lawyer works for a parent's law practice. Could be the worst lawyer ever, but daddy hired him/her. And that's ok because at least the kid (or parents) had the money to pay for the law degree, right? Some people who call themselves progressives are just hiding behind a classist, elitist shield of self righteous crap. Get over yourself, my man, and why don't you try working HALF as hard and as independently as Tony Ceoffe. You have no idea what you're talking about, you ignorant sheep.

  13. Anonymous

    Haha. What? Anyone you disagree with is now a Tea Party person? Interesting. Or maybe you think the other readers here are too unintelligent to see that you're trying to villify anyone who supports another candidate. I suspect you're wrong, Matt.

  14. MH

    Matt got beat-up. It was in the news. Probably still healing. Shouldn't mock the injured.

    It isn't anybody I disagree with that reminds me of the Tea Party. Just the ones with huge chips on their shoulders and who feel every disagreement is a personal attack on them.

  15. Anonymous

    You're entitled to your opinion, young chap. But I'm just stating the truth, and couldn't possibly feel personally attacked because I'm neither a relative (immediate or distant) of the Ceoffe family, nor a part of their social or political circle, nor of a working-class background. I'm just someone who has seen all sides of this kind of battle every time it's happened over the years. Different faces, different names, but often the same story. Only this time, a particular group with new-found power is so thoroughly abusing this power by villifying and displacing an entire class of people just for being related to a couple of dedicated public servants with the same last name, or for supporting a candidate with that name, that it might as well be likened to ethic cleansing. I look on with utter disgust at what power-hungry people are inspired to do in the name of what? Of petty, childlike vengeance. So, no…I do not feel personally attacked, but quite the opposite. I am ashamed of what my so-called well-educated peers have become. How soon we forget how to treat people once the poison of power creeps into our souls.


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