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Bob Wants You, But Do You Understand What You're Getting?

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What's the Water Exoneration Hearing Board?

 

"Have no idea," says Dick Skrinjar, spokesperson for Mayor-elect Bob O'Connor, of this city government body

 

And the Sinking Fund Commission? You can practically hear Skrinjar shaking his head over the phone.

 

Nonetheless, O'Connor's boboconnorformayor.com Web site has already opened these and 35 other city boards and authorities for applications -- and even these obscure city posts have wannabe takers. A week into the application process, O'Connor had received 794 resumes online and approximately 200 more faxed or sent via mail, says Skrinjar, including those for the top jobs assisting Bob. The applicants were almost exactly divided between city residents and those from outside city limits.

 

The top draw so far is the Human Relations Commission, which decides cases of discrimination; it had 119 applicants as of Nov. 16. Next was the Urban Redevelopment Authority (93 hopefuls), which was at the forefront of city development both flourishing (Washington's Landing) and failed (Fifth and Forbes Downtown) during the Tom Murphy administration. O'Connor's proposed Youth Commission drew the third-most applicants, at 83, though how youthful they are is anyone's guess. O'Connor's other addition to the commissions, the Women's Commission, had 59 applicants of as-yet untallied genders, ranking seventh.

 

Bringing up the rear are the Water Exoneration Hearing Board, with a pair of applicants, and the Equipment Leasing Authority, with a lone aspirant.

 

"That should not be the least popular," says Heather Arnet, executive director of the Women and Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania. Arnet has led a local effort to study such city agencies and make it mandatory for the city to post information on these agencies -- information such as who are the current members, and what the heck do they do?

 

The Equipment Leasing Authority contracts for equipment leasing, obviously, "which can be incredibly profitable," Arnet notes, and which ought to be going to women- and minority-owned firms, if more than one citizen cares to watch over the process.

 

As for the Women's Commission, Arnet hopes it will never exist. "We feel strongly that there should be more women on commissions, not more commissions on women," she explains. "If all of the other boards, authorities, and commissions have fair representation for women, then there will be no need for a special commission for women." City Council recently gave preliminary approval to legislation that encourages exactly that.

 

She isn't certain why the Sinking Funds Commission had only five contenders, or whether this matters. (A "sinking fund" is used to pay off debts.) But she knows why the URA is one of the most popular. Says Arnet: "I myself have applied for that one."

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