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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Stop me if you've heard this before

Posted By on Tue, Feb 16, 2010 at 4:47 PM

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's office is seeking to extend a state of emergency to assist snow-removal efforts ... his spokesperson isn't sure where he is ... online speculation takes hold ... and city councilors like Bill Peduto are left pleading for clarity.

I'm sure this will all work itself out in terms of the declaration; it's a procedural matter that ought to be easier to clear up than, say, a couple feet of snow. But it seems like Ravenstahl can't have it both ways: If we're in a state of emergency, then the mayor should be on hand. If the mayor isn't in some crisis center, or riding around in a Humvee, then are we really in a state of emergency?

Also, the mayor has said all along that it doesn't matter if he was out of town celebrating his birthday in the Laurel Highlands when the storm first hit. He was, you see, in constant communication with the folks here at the city. But how are we supposed to believe that, when no one seems to be able to communicate with him now -- even though his spokesperson insists he's still in Pittsburgh?

Peduto's e-mail exchanges with Public Safety Director Michael Huss and the mayor follow. 

Dear Mayor Ravenstahl:

City Council is scheduled to vote on an extension of the Declaration of Emergency tomorrow. As Finance Chair, I am aware that these actions will have a direct impact on our budget, but there are additional circumstances and specific laws that must be followed. As is described below, this extension requires a notification of City Council by you and also will require City Council being provided with all necessary information (described below). As you are aware, potential PEMA and FEMA grants are contingent on the City's Declaration of Emergency and as such a declaration is a highly unusual circumstance, it must be done to the letter of the law.

 

1)

Storm History:

a.

Feb 5th – Storm begins

b.

Feb 6th - Notification of Mayors Declaration of Emergency

c.

Feb 8th – Ratification by City Council of emergency status

d.

Feb 15th – Request for extension of declared emergency status by Public Safety Director

e.

Feb 17th – Pending ratification of continuance of emergency status by City Council

 

2)

Powers and Duties of the Mayor – The powers and duties of the Mayor are clearly outlined in the City Code under sections 113.03. § 113.03 (c)(3) states, "Any such declaration of a local disaster emergency by the Mayor shall not be continued or renewed for a period in excess of seven (7) days except by or with the consent of City Council." Furthermore, § 531.01 Declaration of Emergency states, "In order to facilitate movement of traffic and to combat the hazards of excessive snow or ice on streets or portions thereof designated in accordance with § 531.04, the Mayor may declare a snow emergency due to such hazards. The Mayor shall cause each declaration made by him pursuant to this Chapter to be publicly announced in newspapers of general circulation when feasible, and by broadcasts or telecasts." .The extension of a Declaration of Emergency falls under same powers and duties of the Mayor and is not transferred to a Director unless a Deputy Mayor has been assigned in accordance with § 111.02 of the City Code. The request for Council to extend a Declaration of Emergency for the City of Pittsburgh for one additional week requires a request from the Mayor. .

 

3)

Powers and Duties of the Public Safety Director – The powers and duties of the Public Safety Director are codified under state statute 53 P.S. § 22531, which states, "The department of public safety shall be under the charge of one director, who shall be the head thereof. The care, management, administration and supervision of the police affairs, and all matters relating to the public health, to the fire and police force, fire alarm telegraph, erection of fire-escapes, and the inspection of buildings and boilers, markets and food sold therein, and the construction, protection and repair of buildings erected for police and fire purposes, shall be in charge of this department." Furthermore, the powers given to the Public Safety Director are further outlined in the City Code under § 116.02, which states, "The Director of Public Safety shall have the following powers and duties; a) Directing liaison activity with other City departments and public safety agencies; (b) Holding internal disciplinary hearings and/or making employee disciplinary decisions as set forth in the various bureau union contracts and/or applicable law; (c) Coordinating the public safety bureaus during emergencies, which shall include but not be limited to the authority to make decisions regarding evacuations and/or quarantines subject to applicable law; (d) Enforcing the City's nuisance property laws; (e) Signing contracts on behalf of the Department; and (f) Performing such other related tasks and duties that are assigned by the Mayor as required. .The power and duties of the Public Safety Director do not include Declaration of Emergencies or the power to extend such declarations. Those powers rest solely with the Mayor as directed by City Code with ratification of City Council. .

 

4)

Notification of Council of Emergency Contracts - § 161.28 of the City Code states, "Prior to a request for bids on all emergency and maintenance contracts exceeding thirty thousand dollars ($30,000.00), or prior to authorizing work to be performed using an existing services contract exceeding thirty thousand dollars ($30,000.00). Council shall be notified in writing by the department director requesting services of the specific project. Council shall also be provided with a list of names and addresses of all bidders by the Director of the Department of Finance on all emergency and maintenance contracts exceeding thirty thousand dollars ($30,000.00)." .Please forward this information to City Council prior to a vote on the extension of the Declaration of Emergency so we know what we are approving and what has been expended to this point. Additionally, per the email from City Council Budget Director Bill Urbanic this morning, please also provide. a breakdown of expenditures related to the snow emergency, specifically the contractors that we hired, the number of hours they worked, the amount per hour they charged and the total cost of outside contracts to date as well as proposed spending on outside contracting related to the declaration of emergency.. In addition, Council is requesting all in-house costs, including but not limited to: overtime, maintenance costs, any workers comp injuries, claims, salt, fuel and other commodity purchases related to the storm.

 

I appreciate your attention to these important matters.

B.

 

-----Original Message-----

From: Peduto, Bill

Sent: Monday, February 15, 2010 12:41 PM

To: Huss, Mike; Johnson-Wasler, Linda; City Council

Cc: Regan, Daniel; Mazefsky, Gabe

Subject: RE: Emergency declaration

 

I believe we need a written signed letter from the Mayor to the Council President - we can then have a signed interim approval before we would officially ratify the extension at tomorrow's Council meeting. What time will the Mayor sign the declaration? LJW, do we have 5 Councilmembers downtown to sign it? If not, we would need a call to get five present after the Mayor has signed. Let me know if I can help.

 

B.

 

 

-----Original Message-----

From: Huss, Mike

Sent: Mon 2/15/2010 12:00 PM

To: Peduto, Bill; Johnson-Wasler, Linda; City Council

Cc: Regan, Daniel; Mazefsky, Gabe

Subject: RE: Emergency declaration

 

Yes we need to extend it, can Council act on it today?

 

-----Original Message-----

From: Peduto, Bill

Sent: Monday, February 15, 2010 11:50 AM

To: Huss, Mike; Johnson-Wasler, Linda; City Council

Subject: Emergency declaration

 

Director

Just a reminder that the city's emergency declaration was ratified by city council last monday and if the Mayor intends to extend a declaration of emergency for the city of Pittsburgh, it will require council approval

 

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