The issue: Mayor Luke Ravenstahl moved to replace five of seven members on the Citizen Police Review Board. An independent agency created in 1997 by voter referendum, the CPRB investigates citizens' complaints of improper police conduct. The board is currently pressing for full access to city police records from the G-20 summit in September, and the city has been fighting it.
Point: All seven members are serving on expired terms, some since 2007. "If I was an officer" facing a review-board investigation, "I'd challenge that their board was not current," said Pittsburgh City Councilor Theresa Kail-Smith at a June 22 council meeting. Smith and council President Darlene Harris also cited a handful of e-mails to prove that councilors, including critics like Bill Peduto, had been given ample opportunity to submit nominees. "If there was a willingness to keep this board with current members serving, then you should have nominated those people," Smith argued. They also cited a letter from CPRB Executive Director Beth Pittinger alerting council to the expired terms. "We've done this because we were asked," Smith said.
Counterpoint: Some say the move was purely political -- an effort to undermine the independence of the CPRB and its G-20 investigation. At the same meeting, Peduto called it "power politics" and noted the timing was no coincidence. "If you're on a board, your term is expired and you don't vote the way the mayor wants, you're gone," Peduto said. "They play the system," he later said, arguing that the CPRB nomination process should be restarted. The ACLU, meanwhile, has sent city council a memo arguing that the process was flawed, and that the current board should be allowed to serve out the equivalent of another full term before being replaced. Among the reasons: Under the city code, council was supposed to submit three names for each vacant board seat it has input on -- but failed to do so. Interviews with the proposed board members are pending.
How you can sound off: Voice your support or opposition prior to city council's regular public meetings each Tuesday and Wednesday at 10 a.m. on the fifth floor of the City-County Building, 414 Grant St., Downtown.