Justin Laing at Hillombo, a blog of the Hill District and of the African-American experience in Pittsburgh, says he is voting for Bill Peduto — not as any sort of fanatic, but rather as his best option available.
You can read the whole post, but in my opinion the real gift of his most recent offering is contained in this paragraph:
But the $64,000 question is does the Wheatley Campaign or Mr. Udin, as the convener of the PBPC, have their own Hill dog in the Peduto v. Wagner fight we are seeing play out everyday? I would think so. As anyone participating in or watching Hill District civic life knows, Wheatley and City Councilman Daniel Lavelle are allies. Both worked for former Councilman Udin, both serve on the Greater Hill District Development Growth Fund, and both are active supporters of the Hill District Community Development Corp of which Mr. Udin is a longstanding board member. Add to this that Peduto and Daniel Lavelle are known not to be supportive of one another or even on speaking terms and a Peduto win could well diminish Lavelle’s current authority and capacity to impact the Hill District through support of the Hill District CDC since, as Mayor, Peduto would be unlikely to keep Lavelle as Vice-Chair of the Urban Redevelopment Authority. This is turn would affect the plans for the Lower Hill’s 28 acres; a process being led by Lavelle and the Hill CDC. This potential creates its own separate set of political incentives. (Hillombo)
He said a mouthful!
Although it’s debatable how icy and intractable any feud between Councilmen Lavelle and Peduto really is — I suspect Mr. Lavelle does not, as a matter of his own political strategy, wish to get along with Mr. Peduto, but that might easily change if Mr. Peduto became Mayor — what strikes me here is Mr. Laing’s implicit conclusion that what’s bad for the Hil CDC’s current process of planning in the Lower Hill is not necessarily bad for the Lower Hill.
A quick recent history lesson: after Mayor Ravenstahl fought against employing concrete terms in any community benefits agreement connected with Consol Center and Civic Arena footprint development, and fought funding for initiatives originating in the neighborhood, popular opinion finally won out. However, in the agreement that was eventually signed, the Hill House / Hill CDC was put on the spot due to its “stature in the community” to guide many of the processes, including the master planning process and the development interests.
This really set up a lot of bad things, in my opinion. First of all, it empowers and puts pressure on that one group’s officers and interested parties in a way no community group has the capacity to sustain. No one community group ought to have responsibility, or the right, to represent “the whole community.” All over the City, when groups claim to do this, other groups spring up in response, which are derided as “illegitimate.” In the Hill District there have certainly been factions, and singling out any exclusive group to work with the Mayor’s office as “the community” is not helpful.
Secondly, putting a group in charge in this way defers accountability – to that group. If things delay or sour, if the direction becomes unpopular, members of the community turn on the empowered group.
When Candidate Peduto talks and writes about community consensus development and development roundtables, or “turning the paradigm upside down,” it can easily sound like so much rhetoric. But to me what it really means is accepting responsibility for leadership, for bringing community concerns to the table on an equal footing, and for progressing via consensus. Not for setting up processes which obscure leadership and pressure chosen community interests to sell the City’s or a developer’s point of view, that reward those interests for their loyalty and seek to exploit those partnerships for political gain.
|Ben Rouse’s Brewers Mission|
Mayor Peduto would be putting himself on the spot, and the only way he would gain is if the community is happy with the plans they have consensed upon and if successful developments emerge on what seems like a reasonable schedule. That’s not only accountability, that’s a fair and open process that doesn’t turn frustrated and opportunity-starved communities against themselves.
UPDATE / POSTSCRIPT: No more deferring blame; no more playing games. No more picking favorites and pitching political deals involving political commitments. No more wrapping what are essentially “Downtown,” executive-suite plans all in community gift-wrapping, tied together with promises that our long history shows are too often deferred and abandoned. Jobs, development and opportunity will be sought furiously — but will be built on a solid foundation of neighborhood consensus and pride. The CDCs and the nonprofit and private interests that are involved will be better off as respected, organized advocates and accomplished experts eager to participate within their neighborhoods, but not as “owning” the process. Let’s do public business in the public sphere, where the weighty decisions are ultimately made, where transparency is possible, where accountability is clear and where any Mayor can be made to listen. Only one candidate emphasizes listening to the community.