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Friday, June 1, 2018

Pittsburgh students call on Bill Peduto to oppose Shell cracker plant

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

Banner hanging from the Smithfield Street Bridge - PHOTO COURTESY OF MARK DIXON
  • 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

Fight over Penn Plaza highlights city’s inability to plan neighborhood growth equitably

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

Former Penn Plaza building - CP PHOTO BY AARON WARNICK
  • 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

Bill Peduto skeptical of Uber’s plans to resume autonomous-vehicle testing

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

Uber autonomous Volvo - CP PHOTO BY REBECCA ADDISON
  • 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

Pittsburgh officials remove controversial Stephen Foster statue

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

Pittsburgh workers removing the Stephen Foster statue - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • 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

Pittsburgh officials to create paid-leave policy for victims of domestic abuse

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

Susan Frietsche (left), Bill Peduto (center) and Janet Manuel (right) at an April 3 press conference in mayor's conference room - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • 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

Bike Pittsburgh calling for more possible regulation of driverless cars in light of fatal crash in Arizona

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

A Ford Focus model of an Uber driverless car - CP PHOTO BY KIM LYONS
  • 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, February 28, 2018

Pittsburgh official Twitter account retweets a user with title "WHITE NATIONALIST"; city says it was in error

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

IMAGE COURTESY OF TWITTER
  • 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

How re-allocating a Pittsburgh parking tax can combat the city's affordable-housing shortage

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

The Penn Mathilda affordable-housing complex in Bloomfield is an example of a project that could benefit from parking-tax diversion. - PHOTO COURTESY ACTION HOUSING
  • 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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Thursday, December 21, 2017

How Pittsburgh finally funded its affordable-housing trust fund

Posted By on Thu, Dec 21, 2017 at 3:05 PM

Corey O'Connor discussing the affordable-housing fund at a December Pittsburgh City Council meeting - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
  • CP photo by Ryan Deto
  • Corey O'Connor discussing the affordable-housing fund at a December Pittsburgh City Council meeting
In early 2015, Pittsburgh City Council knew it needed to investigate and address the city’s affordable- housing problems. Back then, there was a reported shortage of more than 18,000 subsidized affordable units in the city, and since then that figure has only marginally decreased. In January 2015, City Councilor Daniel Lavelle (D-Hill District) introduced legislation to create an Affordable Housing Task Force, and the task force was created in February 2015.

Then that summer, more than 200 residents of the Penn Plaza apartment complex in East Liberty were given eviction notices, and Pittsburgh’s affordable-housing crisis took center stage. Much has happened since then, including continuing disputes around the Penn Plaza site and more legislative activity at city council.

This month, on Dec. 19, city council passed a bill that would fund its $10-million-a-year affordable-housing trust fund called the Housing Opportunity fund. The bill passed by a vote of 7-2 with councilors Natalia Rudiak (D-Carrick) and Darlene Harris (D-North Side) voting against the bill. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto has indicated support for the bill.

The fund will be filled by raising the city’s realty-transfer tax up .5 percent for 2018 and 2019, and then up to 1 percent in 2020. This means closing costs on home purchases in the city will go up slightly; those costs are typically split between the buyer and seller. The $10 million Housing Opportunity Fund will be used to provide gap funds on new affordable-housing projects, as well as help low-income home-buyers with home purchases and rehab costs.


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Friday, October 6, 2017

Pittsburgh City Councilor Darlene Harris caught driving car on pedestrian path in park, upsetting constituents

Posted By on Fri, Oct 6, 2017 at 3:34 PM

Now-deleted post by North Side constituent photographing Darlene Harris as she drove by on pedestrian path - IMAGE COURTESY OF FACEBOOK
  • Image courtesy of Facebook
  • Now-deleted post by North Side constituent photographing Darlene Harris as she drove by on pedestrian path
In April, Pittsburgh City Paper reported about a video showing Pittsburgh City Councilor Darlene Harris honking at a cyclist who was obeying all traffic laws and yelling at him to “get in the damn bike lane,” when there was no bike lane to ride in. This video was from 2016, but the story ran when Harris was running for mayor.

Now, it appears Harris and her gold Jeep are drawing ire again. A now-deleted Facebook post shows a Jeep that matches the description previously reported by CP driving in the pedestrian path in Allegheny Commons Park in the North Side. The post’s author writes: “Does Darlene Harris realize it is a sidewalk not a road through our park? Apparently not since she almost ran over my stroller.”

CP reached out to the post’s author, who asked not to be included in the story, but Harris confirmed that she was driving through the park in a Oct. 5 Facebook post that reads in part: “I have received reports that some people are upset that I was using my vehicle in a park. I’m so glad that we have such vigilant citizens who are willing to report what they think is wrong, but I’m here to set the record straight. I was out on business personally investigating complaints that I had received from my residents.”

The post from the North Side resident received a lot of comments on Facebook when it was posted on Oct. 4, but was taken down relatively quickly. Still, Harris indicates in her post that people were “jumping to conclusions” when accusing her of any wrongdoing. Harris writes: “If anyone has an issue with me in the future — no matter how big or small — I invite you to contact me directly so that we can have a conversation. I have dedicated my life to public service and don’t plan on stopping any time soon. I was out serving my community and will continue to do so!”

One Harris constituent spoke to CP and was upset about Harris driving in the park.

“I am not very happy it, I live across the street from the park,” says Zandrea Ambrose, who has lived in the Mexican War Streets section of the North Side for 10 years. “It is concerning that she is driving in there. … I don't think I have ever seen a car in the park, outside of an event, or city park vehicles.”


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