Pittsburgh City Councilor Natalia Rudiak wants to make it easier for parents with young children to visit city-owned buildings. That's why she recently introduced legislation to make baby-changing stations mandatory in restrooms in city-owned buildings and facilities.
Baby-changing tables are not required by state law, but one national study cited in the proposed legislation found that nearly 90 percent of parents visited public places with their children. Of those visitors, according to the study, three-quarters deliberately sought out establishments that had the tables.
Rudiak says she became aware of the lack of accommodations when friends and constituents raised the issue after visiting the City-County Building and other city-owned spaces, like pools and recreation centers, in District 4. The lack of such resources "is ridiculous," especially at the City-County Building, she says, "considering we are the center of democracy for the region and we don't even have basic services for parents."
Rudiak introduced the bill July 23. It comes before council for discussion this week.
She recently spoke to City Paper about the proposal, which, if approved, would go into effect by the end of 2014.
The bill requires the stations in men's restrooms as well as women's. What prompted that addition?
I can't tell you how many thank-yous I've gotten from men on this issue. I received a very memorable email from a guy who was explaining that he's a stay-at-home dad and takes care of the kids. When he comes Downtown to visit his wife and takes his kids different places and he needs to change his son, he's been ridiculed by establishments asking about baby-changing stations. I think when you go to a lot of establishments ... they have baby-changing stations in women's bathrooms but not men's. I think this is where we can plant our flag in the ground and say, "Dads are parents, too."
How many facilities are you anticipating will be affected?
[The legislation] basically directs the director of operations in the city, as well as department directors, to put their heads together to see where they should go. Some [facilities] may already have them. But they would be in city-owned, publicly accessible restrooms. We're not dictating they need to be in fire stations, but as far as rec centers, swimming pools, the City-County Building, 200 Ross Street and senior centers — people look at senior centers and say, "That's totally ridiculous, Rudiak," but we have community meetings in senior spaces.
Someone actually said, "That's totally ridiculous, Rudiak"?
In the [Pittsburgh] Post-Gazette [online] comments, some people have been like, "Argh you're going to raise our taxes to put them in," and I'm like, "Take a step back."
So what's your response to people who think it's a "ridiculous" use of tax dollars? And what will this end up costing the city?
The fact of the matter is, this is something other cities and states do. ... You can go into a local McDonald's and there's a [baby-changing] station. This is a convenience adults and kids should expect from any establishment, and frankly, city government should be a leader in these things, and not last on the list.
I want to sit down with Councilman [Bill] Peduto, who's the lead for [the mayoral race], to talk about the capital budget. ... I don't have a cost estimate yet, but if you just Google baby-changing stations wholesale, they're around $150 each. We're not talking about a huge cost.