Land Bank: The Past. It’s Prologue.

Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice

Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice

Here are minutes from the first seven Pittsburgh Interim Land Bank Board meetings, spanning June and July.

In case you missed it, here is my own story from mid-July.

Below is a tale of the Interim Land Bank Board meeting of August 14.  It began with a fiery little civics lesson, and ended productively.

Another more recent board meeting just ended and a post about it is here.

ON the 14th, Board Chair Jerome Jackson announced that as part of ongoing discussions with foundations, he had formally submitted a $15,000 request to the Pittsburgh Foundation and asked them for guidance. He moved that discussion turn to securing a bank account in which to properly hold it.

Board Vice-Chair Kim Salinetro accused Jackson of “going rogue”.

Salinetro stated that at the board meeting prior, at which Jackson was absent, consideration of funding for the Interim Board itself had been tabled indefinitely. She said they “hadn’t defined what this board needs,” although she added that she “could take one from the Pittsburgh Foundation.”

Jackson disagreed, stating that the board had earlier authorized its members, including “me and Ronell, voted on, passed by this body” to talk with potential funders, such as the RK Mellon foundation and others.

“There are people on this body that don’t want us to be successful,” Jackson argued.

He later asserted, “This body is becoming a real shame and a disgrace.”

Salinetro answered in turn, “Well, I’ve been saying this a dog and pony show since day one.”

Shortly Jackson asked, “Who around this table has written policies and procedures for a land bank?” There was silence. “We do need help.”

Board member Barbara Valaw chimed in sometime thereafter.

“[The Pittsburgh Foundation] very rightly asked for a budget,” she began, before moving that the board assemble a budget of anticipated expenditures for three line-items: independent legal expertise, promotion of its meetings, and a future facilitated board retreat.

The motion passed unanimously.

DC Comics

DC Comics

It was soon Valaw’s turn to present the first of official Land Bank proposals related to polices and procedures. Her offering dealt with Ethics.

What Valaw would instruct the permanent Land Bank regarding ethics is patterned after the duties of a Fiduciary. Broadly described:

  1. A duty to acknowledge you’re a fiduciary. Board and staff should accept “fiduciary responsibility”.
  2. A duty to responsibly comply with laws including the Ethics Code, the Code of Conduct and the Adverse Interest Act (this last one being Salinetro’s expressed addition).
  3. A duty of loyalty: to operate for the “exclusive interest of City residents.”
  4. A duty to be prudent: to make decisions based on what “a reasonable person” would conclude based on all the facts that are known — and, she added, as a reasonable person, to seek out facts and expertise when not enough information is known or understood.

These draft Ethics polices met with general acclaim. Jackson expressed a concern about each and every employee of the Land Bank bearing a “fiduciary responsibility”; Valaw accepted that language could change to reflect “a fiduciary responsibility commensurate with their role.”

Board member Lloyd Hedlund then began a report on draft Community Engagement polices and procedures.

Hedlund’s recommendations included ensuring that Land Bank board meetings be “open and available,” including “minutes and a video feed.” He specified that “community organizations should be kept informed.”

He talked a need to “giving structure to [permanent Land Bank board] meetings that allows for engagement.”

Several puzzles in the Land Bank’s charge to notify nearby “interested parties” were reviewed, including classifications of  relevant stakeholders and the challenges of our topography in determining “nearby”.

Hedlund recommended that the Board consider staggering terms for its own board members, perhaps allowing for longer periods than one year.

The meeting adjourned with a prospective agenda next time to drill down further into Community Engagement policies, to devise a “uniform message,” to consider passage of a limited Interim Board Budget and to catch up with its Treasurer, board member Matt Baron.

Salinetro offered the Comet a document listing all the “Policies and procedures explicitly required by Land Bank Ordinance”, with citations to the legislation. These categories included Ethics, Community Engagement, Transfers, Priorities, Disposition, Purchaser Responsibility, Service as Depository, and others. The document included a timeline suggesting that at some point, its authors had envisioned this would all have been discussed roughly by now.

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