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Friday, June 29, 2018

Posted By on Fri, Jun 29, 2018 at 10:48 AM

According to a March Gallup poll, Americans worry about health care more than any other issue. The poll found that 55 percent of Americans worry about the availability and affordability of healthcare, and only 23 percent worry about it a little or not at all.

Pittsburgh and Allegheny County officials seem to understand this. Last week, both Pittsburgh City Council and Allegheny County Council passed resolutions asking federal and state officials to take steps to pass a universal, single-payer health-care system.

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Friday, June 1, 2018

Posted By on Fri, Jun 1, 2018 at 6:11 PM

click to enlarge Pittsburgh students call on Bill Peduto to oppose Shell cracker plant
Photo courtesy of Mark Dixon
Banner hanging from the Smithfield Street Bridge
In June 2017, President Donald Trump announced the U.S. would be leaving the Paris Climate Accords, and in doing so said he "was elected to represent Pittsburgh, not Paris.”

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto responded to that statement in a tweet saying, “As the Mayor of Pittsburgh, I can assure you that we will follow the guidelines of the Paris Agreement for our people, our economy & future.”

Well, some Pittsburgh college students want to hold Peduto to his environmental commitments and are calling on him to oppose the under-construction ethane cracker plant in Beaver County, a facility that processes natural gas in plastics. Environmental groups warn the cracker plant, owned by oil giant Shell, will lead to increased air pollution that will flow directly to Pittsburgh and other towns in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Pittsburgh’s asthma rate is already 13 percent higher than national average and the cracker plant could make that worse.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Posted By on Wed, May 30, 2018 at 5:31 PM

Fight over Penn Plaza highlights city’s inability to plan neighborhood growth equitably
CP photo by Aaron Warnick
Former Penn Plaza building
In 2015, hundreds of evictions were announced at the Penn Plaza apartment complex in East Liberty. It created a flash point in Pittsburgh’s affordable-housing discussion. Since then, the arguments have only grown more aggressive, especially concerning development in East Liberty.

The battle continued over what will be developed on the former Penn Plaza site and has involved grocery giants like Whole Foods, a public park and ongoing chaos at Pittsburgh Planning Commission meetings. The developers, LG Realty, have recently proposed a retail/office space for the site, while housing-activists want the site to include affordable housing. There is no working relationship between housing-activists and LG.

And, there hasn’t been any in-depth analysis to determine what type of development would be best for East Liberty. The city needs more affordable housing, but does it need more units at that location? Would retail and office space add vibrancy to the Penn Avenue corridor or would it create too much traffic?

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Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Posted By on Wed, May 23, 2018 at 7:10 PM

Bill Peduto skeptical of Uber’s plans to resume autonomous-vehicle testing
CP photo by Rebecca Addison
Uber autonomous Volvo
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto was an early champion of Uber moving to Pittsburgh, and then of Uber testing autonomous vehicles here. When Uber balked at working with city officials on a federal transit-grant application in 2016, things started to go downhill.

Peduto has voiced much more criticism of Uber in the years since, and Uber has faced a series of issues unrelated to their relationship with Pittsburgh.

The latest issue involves Pittsburgh, though.

Uber announced May 23 the termination of its autonomous-vehicle testing in Arizona. An Uber driverless-car collided fatally with a pedestrian in Tempe in March, and Gov. Doug Ducey suspended autonomous-vehicle testing in that state. Since, Uber has suspended all autonomous testing.

The suspension includes Pittsburgh, but Uber stated in a news release that it's eyeing a return to Pittsburgh streets.

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Thursday, April 26, 2018

Posted By on Thu, Apr 26, 2018 at 11:54 AM

click to enlarge Pittsburgh officials remove controversial Stephen Foster statue
CP photo by Ryan Deto
Pittsburgh workers removing the Stephen Foster statue
Early in the morning on April 26, the controversial Stephen Foster statue was removed from its post in Oakland. In October 2017, the Pittsburgh Arts Commission voted to remove the statue, which many Pittsburghers had deemed racist for its minstrel-like depiction of a black man sitting at Foster’s feet. Foster, a native Pittsburgher, is the famous composer of songs like “Oh! Susanna” and “Camptown Races.”

The statue came off of its post fairly easily. A crew of several Department of Public Works employees wrapped thick rope around the statue and it was pulled off the base with a backhoe. The ropes were removed after the statue was loaded onto a flatbed truck; the truck drove slowly away and nothing was damaged.

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Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Posted By on Tue, Apr 3, 2018 at 2:24 PM

click to enlarge Pittsburgh officials to create paid-leave policy for victims of domestic abuse
CP photo by Ryan Deto
Susan Frietsche (left), Bill Peduto (center) and Janet Manuel (right) at an April 3 press conference in mayor's conference room
According to the National Partnership on Women and Girls, people who experience domestic abuse typically forfeit 7.2 days of work due to intimate-partner violence. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and other Pittsburgh officials want to provide help for these victims in the form of financial relief for the days that they miss from work.

On April 3, Peduto signed an executive order that will direct the Department of Human Resources and Civil Service to develop a policy to provide non-union employees with “paid safe leave.” This new policy will ensure that victims of domestic abuse can get paid time off to handle situations related to domestic violence, including acquiring Protection from Abuse Orders (PFA), going to meetings related to custody battles, finding child care, and visiting hospitals.

The policy has yet to be written, but Peduto said at an April 3 press conference that a policy must be established by July 3, 2018. Department of Human Resources and Civil Service director Janet Manuel said at the press conference that Pittsburgh officials will be working with local groups like the Women's Law Project, Pittsburgh Action Against Rape, and the Women's Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh to craft the policy over the next 90 days. Manuel said details to be ironed out could include exactly how many days off will be provided to domestic-violence victims.

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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Posted By on Tue, Mar 27, 2018 at 4:47 PM

Bike Pittsburgh calling for more possible regulation of driverless cars in light of fatal crash in Arizona
CP photo by Kim Lyons
A Ford Focus model of an Uber driverless car
On March 18, a semi-autonomous Uber car struck and killed a pedestrian who was walking her bike across a street in Tempe, Ariz. Initial reports stated the crash was caused by the pedestrian darting out in front of the car, but those would prove inaccurate. A video was released a few days after the crash by Tempe police that showed the car’s technology failed to identify the pedestrian, who was walking across the street slowly in very low light. Additionally, an Uber employee sitting in the driver's seat appeared to be looking down, immediately prior to the crash. According to the Associated Press, experts who viewed the video have said Uber’s driverless-car technology should have picked up the woman and stopped before colliding with her.

On March 27, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey suspended Uber’s self-driving testing privileges throughout the state. Now, the bike and pedestrian advocates at nonprofit Bike Pittsburgh are hoping Pittsburgh and Pennsylvania also consider adding some regulations to the driverless-car testing that occurs in Pittsburgh.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Posted By on Wed, Mar 21, 2018 at 4:44 PM

click to enlarge Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto says Trump’s tax cuts and proposals will increase economic inequality in region
CP photo by Ryan Deto
Bill Peduto (center) at March 21 round table discussing tax cuts
Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto has never been a fan of President Donald Trump. In June 2017, when Trump announced the U.S. would be leaving the Paris Climate Accords by saying, “I was elected by voters of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” Peduto clapped back. “As the Mayor of Pittsburgh, I can assure you that we will follow the guidelines of the Paris Agreement for our people, our economy & future,” he tweeted in response to Trump’s announcement.

And now, additional Trump-backed plans and announcements have raised Peduto's ire. On March 21, as part of a nationwide tour, the progressive coalition Not One Penny visited Pittsburgh to discuss the effects the recently passed tax-cut bill will have on Pittsburgh. Peduto took issue with that bill, but also with Trump’s budget proposal.

Trump’s proposed budget would make significant cuts to Community Development Block Grant funds (which help low-income neighborhoods build new development projects). Trump also has proposed cuts to funds associated with the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Transportation. Peduto said Pittsburgh and small rural towns in Southwestern Pennsylvania are reliant on these funds and that economic inequality could be exacerbated without their continuation.

“Look at the cities and places where disparities are increasing,” said Peduto. “These funds are necessary.”

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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Posted By on Wed, Feb 28, 2018 at 5:11 PM

click to enlarge Pittsburgh official Twitter account retweets a user with title "WHITE NATIONALIST"; city says it was in error
Image courtesy of Twitter
Sometime between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m., Pittsburgh's official Twitter account, @CityPGH, retweeted a tweet from an account named "WHITE NATIONALIST" in all caps. The user's handle is @FIGHT_4UR_RIGHT and the profile states, in all capital letters, "GLOBALISTS DESTROY BORDERS, LANGUAGE & CULTURE OF SOVEREIGN NATIONS. THEY WANNA DUMP TRUMP, HELP MUSLIMS & RULE THRU SHARIA LAW!"

The retweet in question was a reply to a video of actress Jennifer Lawrence saying "Hey Trump, fuck you," referring to President Donald Trump. The tweet from "WHITE NATIONALIST" stated "THAT PERSON IS THE ACTRESS, Jennifer Lawrence. I'M SURE HER PARENTS ARE VERY PROUD. ... #PENNSYLVANIA #PITTSBURG @dailypenn @PittsburghPG." Pittsburgh's official Twitter account was also tagged in this tweet.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Posted By on Tue, Feb 13, 2018 at 5:39 PM

click to enlarge How re-allocating a Pittsburgh parking tax can combat the city's affordable-housing shortage
Photo courtesy Action Housing
The Penn Mathilda affordable-housing complex in Bloomfield is an example of a project that could benefit from parking-tax diversion.
On Feb. 8, Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority voted to divert up to $6.8 million in parking-tax revenue to help fund an affordable-housing project in the Lower Hill District, near PPG Paints Arena.

The millions will be raised over 19 years by the expected revenue of a 423-space parking garage going up near PPG Paints Arena. The City’s Edge mixed-income development will be the beneficiary of the diversion, and the apartment complex will be home to 32 market-rate units, and 74 subsidized units located next to the parking garage.

On Feb. 8, URA Chair Kevin Acklin said the vote fits with the overall philosophy of Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto’s administration.

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