Going Through the Motions | Pittsburgh City Paper

Going Through the Motions

We've all heard politicians talk about how young people need to find something to do to keep them off the streets. Now it's time to put up or shut up.

The deadline for applications to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's summer job program hit last week with 114 jobs up for grabs. The positions -- cutting grass, pulling weeds, etc. -- pay $7.15 an hour for 30 hours per week.

The problem, however, is that 726 young people -- a lot of whom are African American, according to Councilor Tonya Payne -- came looking for a job. That could mean a lot of disappointed youngsters. But Payne says that no one must leave this experience disappointed.

"If a young person put in an application, then hire them," Payne said at city council's June 5 meeting. "Hire them all. We need to make it a priority to find work for every one of those kids."

The program's cost is $125,000. The ballpark figure to hire 726 young people? About $1.2 million for eight weeks of work.

Joanna Doven, the mayor's acting mouthpiece, says the administration is looking into ways to expand the program. Let's hope so. The mayor has made retention of young people his favorite soapbox since taking office. It doesn't take meetings by yet another special committee to know that providing jobs for young people now will go a long way toward assuring them that there will be better jobs for them here as adults.

Maybe a $1.2 million youth-employment program overstrains the budget. But with escalating crime in our neighborhoods, leaving more than 600 young people out of this program is definitely a bad move.

On the day of the application deadline, a line of young people turning in their applications stretched out of the mayor's office. This led indicted lame-duck Councilor Twanda Carlisle to remark how the media had dropped the ball by not covering the positive story. (Note to Carlisle: If you want the press to devote space to more positive stories, stop making such a spectacle of yourself.)

Bills 2007-1501, 1519, 1520: The panel spent a couple of hours debating and arguing about licensing cats (1501), euthanizing wildlife (1519) and studying the feasibility of letting the city's animal-control department handle all aspects of the office instead of continuing to privatize the shelter and euthanasia duties. Jim Motznik's proposal to license cats has been referred to a public hearing (time and date to be announced).

Bills 2007-1490, 1491, 1492, 1493: Council approved the sale of more than 40 properties, some acquired by the city as far back as the 1940s, to private citizens. Most of the properties will either be rehabbed for residential use or the land will be used for new-home construction. Also, many of the properties -- which are scattered throughout the city -- were purchased by adjoining property-owners through the city's "side yard" program.

Quote of the week:

"Wisdom is lacking at the other end of the table."

-- Councilor Jim Motznik, referring to colleague Doug Shields' attempt to block Motznik from holding a public hearing on whether the city should license cats.