As the newest incarnation of Pittsburgh City Council got down to business on Jan. 15, it also received one of its first pieces of legislation -- a bill that will test exactly how reform-oriented the new council is.
Councilor Bill Peduto, the newly appointed chair of council's Finance Committee, officially introduced his campaign finance-reform legislation. Under the legislation, candidates seeking city office can only receive up to $2,500 annually from one particular individual and just $5,000 per year from any one political action committee (PAC). Currently in Pennsylvania, only Philadelphia has limits on campaign contributions.
"Almost every state in the country – all but four – have some sort of standard procedure," Peduto says. "If Pennsylvania is not willing to reform campaign finance, Pittsburgh should be."
Peduto says his legislation "levels the playing field" and gives challengers a better chance to run against incumbents. He says it doesn't allow politicians to "create a war chest year after year," and it doesn't allow any one person or PAC to influence a race.
The legislation will be discussed briefly at council's Jan. 16 standing committee meeting; however, Peduto says he will set the matter for a public hearing. He says he expects support from groups like the League of Women Voters and Common Cause Pennsylvania. So where does he expect the opposition?
"Quietly, from the people that have made a business out of politics in the city," Peduto says. "When there's not a limit on the number of zeroes you can put behind your check, there's no checks and balance in city government. So I do expect some opposition from those people that know how to play the game."
On the Horizon
Bill 2008-0007: The Borough of Wilkinsburg is seeking to extend its garbage collection contract with the city through 2010 at a savings of about $1 million, according to the mayor's office. "When we help our neighbors to drive down the cost of government, we make our region even stronger," Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said in a press release.
For its part the city will make about $2.3 million over the life of the contract.
CBA battle comes to council
Thus far, city council has been on the sidelines in the fight over a new arena between Hill District community groups and the Penguins, city and county. But the community's quest for community reinvestment, it seems, may be headed to council chambers.
Hill District residents filed a legal petition seeking a public hearing "relative to the arena development and Community Benefits Agreement." The hearing has yet to be scheduled. Members of One Hill packed a Jan. 14 planning commission meeting and a council hearing will likely draw a similar response.