Compromise Public Land Bank bill Advances

Today Council members Deb Gross and Corey O’Connor received a wide array of community appreciation for hard work and inclusive processes — as well as preliminary approval for amended public land bank legislation by a vote of 7-1-1.

Some of its features:

9 board members: 3 appointed by Mayor, 3 appointed by City Council, and 3 from “community groups” with strictures to ensure representation of highly affected Council Districts. Each the five geographical regions of the City must be represented by at least one board member.

It will prioritize the creation of low-income housing as determined by a percentage in its Policies and Procedures, all of which will be determined during five televised meetings across the City.

The Land Bank will work with the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program and other locally-sourced labor for property maintenance.

A hold will be placed on the transfer of any property if the board receives 15 signatures from nearby residents, whereupon it will hold a special local hearing in the community.

And finally… for the first 2-4 years of the Land Bank’s lifespan… City Council will retain veto power over every property transaction.

No word on whether that final major concession will result in any increase in political factional goodwill or cooperation.

MORE: P-G, PBT, Trib.

29 thoughts on “Compromise Public Land Bank bill Advances

  1. infinitebuffalo

    “Each the five geographical regions of the City must be represented by at least one board member.”

    How are the five divided? Three is easy: North of rivers, south of rivers, in between rivers. Nine is easy: One for each Council district. How are they getting to five?

  2. SpringGardener

    What a great service Darlene Harris does for her Northside neighborhoods by hastening her increasingly complete irrelevance with this senseless vote, pattern of baseless contrarianism, and proven inability to compromise. This side of the Allegheny will only begin to see its full potential when she is out of office.

    1. Bram Reichbaumbramr101 Post author

      She appears to be suffering post-presidency trauma.

      You have a point in that your Burgesses, Lavelles and Kail-Smiths of the world — stalwart opposition though they can be — do at least ultimately engage in compromise, collegiality, strategy. Lately every time I’ve watched Harris she’s delivering a political diatribe about how she’s never seen politics this bad “in six administrations”, or about how she’s been doing this for 31 years yet she’s not a career politician, or about how we can’t change any departments or change any personnel or change any thing.

      I don’t want to get melodramatic, but it’s starting to feel like the North Side is destined to be left behind.

  3. D Brashear

    Watched the hearing last night and had some discussion in the bar we were at about it, and I’m now feeling even less well about the bill than I did before.

  4. Steve French

    I will note that a certain member of Peduto’s staff posted a Facebook thanks to Peduto, Gross and dozens of community groups for their work on the land bank bill, but did not mention O’Connor. And in the CP’s recent round table discussion of the bill O’Connor had two brief, fairly superficial comments. What work did O’Connor do, exactly, on the bill, beyond appending his name to the amendments and representing a key land bank target, Hazelwood?

    1. Bram Reichbaumbramr101 Post author

      I’m not privy to any of those details, but it had been my impression that he helped to craft that early & middle set of amendments — board composition, 15 signatures, etc. Perhaps he also suggested the final compromise on Council-signoff, and the Mayor accepted these about as grudgingly as I did? Or perhaps that Peduto staffer just ran out of characters in the tweet.

      1. Steve French

        It was Facebook, not Twitter, speaking of which, I live for the day that tweets are no longer proffered and accepted as primary news sources.

  5. Anonymous

    Youth employment, percentage set asides for low income housing, local labor for maintenance are concessions for Ricky. These sound like major points that could impede the growth and financial health of the bank. Why concede these for his vote? They could have passed it without him.
    Classic shake down by the Rev! His politics make me sick!

  6. Anonymous

    @D Brashear: are you saying that you watched the land bank hearing at a local bar? If so which one, I’d like to stop by some time.

  7. Rich E

    is this accurate? it’s a comment that was posted on the p-g story

    Charlene H. – 1 day ago
    Put land in the hands of those with the highest, legal bid? Oh heavens no. The essence of this Land Bank is just the opposite. Land will go to whoever the Land Bank wants it to go, at whatever price the Land Bank wants the person to pay, to be used as the Land Bank prescribes. The Land Bank can even decide to just keep the land for itself, charging rents and pocketing the profits in perpetuity.

    The heated infighting that has gone on was simply a fight over who controls the Land Bank. The waring parties vying for control were City Council, the appointed Land Bank Board and the neighborhood CDCs. The Free Market was never part of the equation and so will play no part in the brokered power-sharing of the “compromise legislation”.

    1. Bram Reichbaumbramr101 Post author

      That is Char. I would trust that information, even if we disagree with the opinion.

      She’s mostly correct. The Free Market impacts things tremendously however because the City owes a bazillion dollars in obligations, and needs to upgrade a bazillion services — so in general a city Land Bank will seek to pursue pretty high bids, and a pretty high proportion of land uses which will generate significant economic activity. However, the City and its neighborhoods do have other priorities. So yes, the infighting was about who controls the Land Bank, the purpose of which is to maximize sustainable livability.

      She is correct that the land bank’s ability to lease its land is an interesting and potentially powerful tool.

  8. Anonymous

    Bram. Can you offer some insight into this final legislation? What are the personal agendas built in to the bill? One thing that Darlene said that I agree with is when she referred to the Land Bank as an AUTHORITY. She is correct that they can spin off into their own orbit. One thing that I fear is that this will result in so much subsidized housing that we will not see a mix of growth but for some politicians definition of growth.
    Do you intend on blogging your thoughts? With this city government, I believe in “follow the money” yet money was hardly mentioned. Darlene brought up some good points and I wish that she would have been show more respect. The rest of council was too quiet at the table which leads me to think this was a backroom deal. When Ricky is silent you know the fix is in.
    Care to comment more than a few pithy retorts Bram?

    1. Bram Reichbaumbramr101 Post author

      I’m not really seeing the nefariousness here. The moral of Darlene’s story was, the Real Estate Dept. just ought to do this with much more funding, to which I suppose we can respond, what funding? And for maintenance, how? Land Bank provides those revenue streams, not to mention arguably (and boy did we argue it!) more independent, and the opportunity for professional, decision making. Staggered 3-year appointment terms ought to mitigate against the “new authority” spinning off too far afield. And the City’s need for revenue and deep-down thirst for growth ought to mitigate against going overboard with affordability. So I don’t know. If we’re going to follow the money, show me the money so we can start following it.

  9. MG Guy

    At some point in the not too distant past Bram I believe you did a back-of-the-envelope calculation of city council allegiances and determined that Peduto is working with a solid 5-4 majority in his favor, putting O’Connor in his camp. But a weekend Trib story identifies O’Connor as a swing vote on council, quoting him complaining about delayed board and authority appointments and no public safety director yet. That’s a more realistic assessment and may explain why O’Connor was thrown a bone by being included in the land bank brain trust.

    A review and, going forward, tally of city council votes will likely show O’Connor not playing ball with the mayor, or at least having to be cajoled to join the team (see his comments and vote on the produce terminal at Buncher’s Landing, for instance, and his support of Lamb then Wagner in the mayoral primary).

    1. MH

      Does that mean O’Connor has enough clout to get a street sweeper down the parts of Beechwood in his district? The dirt is deep enough to grow corn in places.

    2. Bram Reichbaumbramr101 Post author

      Yes MG Guy, I noticed that. I almost wonder whether that bit in my Landbank piece helped push O’Connor and his office to further rebel against being “typecast” and to play up his independence.

      Here’s the deal: I can see O’Connor searching out legit and pertinent reasons to criticize Peduto. But for every legit critique that exists, we have to suffer through 3 or 4 trumped-up and torturously stretched rigmaroles of nonsense. I just can’t see O’Connor playing along with weak politicized arguments to stop Bill Peduto from pursuing something progressive and beneficial for the City. To me, that means he’ll fundamentally be drawn toward the Mayor’s side, or the culturally-politically “independent” or “progressive” side more often. To the extent they compete, it will be a matter of running harder rather than taking out each others’ knees.

      Just my instinct; maybe I’m wrong.

  10. MG Guy

    That “independence” is both O’Connor’s strength and weakness–he can’t be nailed down, but consequently, it’s difficult to know where he stands. Vague positions sprinkled with occasional missteps build up over time, like topsoil on Beechwood Blvd., perhaps (as an aside: a recent PG investigation ranked O’Connor last by a long shot in getting potholes filled in his district–many excuses ensued, but the bottom line was, after two full years in office, it wasn’t getting done).

    Extending the Beechwood topsoil analogy: there may be enough on the surface to plant seeds, but is it deep enough to support roots and growth?

    BTW, that dirt on Beechwood might be part of a Parks Conservancy demonstration project linked to PPC’s proposed $15 million Frick Environmental Center. O’Connor, chair of council’s parks and rec. comm., has pledged more than $5 million towards its construction. Whether it’s a worthy use of so much public money is a question that The Jewish Chronicle recently explored. O’Connor’s defense of the outlay, while firm and superficially unassailable–two “is great”s and a “think of the children!”–was based on conjecture and emotion, rather than facts.

    “I think that it’s great that you’re putting an asset back into our parks, especially one that’s going to draw national attention,” [O’Connor] said. “And by putting so much funding into it, it’s going to be able to bring more and more kids to the park, which is great.”

    For further discussion: After 12 years without the facility, is the community really clamoring for it? And would, say, $4 million spent in each of the city’s four major parks–a smaller educational building in each, for example, or major grounds and trails upgrades–be a better service to the entire city?


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