‘You can’t outlaw compassion,’ Mayor Peduto says at budget address

Pittsburgh can prosper, regardless of feds, Peduto says.

Jasmine Goldband / The Incline
MJ Slaby

Updated 6:21 p.m.

Mayor Bill Peduto said he knows there’s been a lot of discussion after last week’s election about what happens next.

So as he neared the end of his 2017 budget presentation, he called Pittsburghers to action.

“We may have to go it alone,” Peduto said. “… No matter what the law in Washington is, you can’t outlaw compassion.”

Peduto outlined the city’s $539.4 million operating budget and $75.9 million capital budget to a packed city council chambers on Monday morning. But it was the end of his presentation that got the most applause from the crowd.

“There was no federal bailout when the steel industry collapsed,” he said, adding that Pittsburghers brushed themselves off and moved forward.

The mayor acknowledged there are “problems that may get deeper, especially for the most vulnerable” in the next four years. But, he said Pittsburgh can be an example of a city that prospers.

The city will release a resiliency plan in early 2017, Peduto said, comparing the plan to a what a city would have in place for after a natural disaster. But in Pittsburgh’s case the plan’s “greatest challenge will be addressing the disparities in this city,” he said.

The resiliency plan integrates smart city initiatives to prepare for “shocks and stresses that are inevitable in the city’s future,” Peduto said in an October Q&A with Cities Today.

As part of the plan — and as a signee of a pledge from The Rockefeller Foundation/100 Resilient Cities — Peduto committed at least 10 percent of the operating and capital budgets for flood control, street and facility improvements and other projects that will help the city be resilient in the future.

Peduto outlined the priorities for where the city can invest its money.

He listed expanding Pre-K, a 10-year plan for housing, caring for veterans and for the homeless, green infrastructure and increased recycling, and staying a leader in clean energy “with or without the Department of Energy.”

During public comment to council following the presentation, the line of speakers repeatedly spoke about housing and universal pre-K.

Among them was Celeste Scott, the affordable housing organizer for Pittsburgh United.

Scott told The Incline that the mayor has always been supportive of affordable housing, and she was happy to hear him speak about the strength of cities. Scott said she’s lived in Pittsburgh during multiple presidential administrations and she’s confident in the power of cities.

Also speaking to council was Erin Kramer, executive director of One Pittsburgh, a coalition of economic and social justice groups. She said she was excited to hear Pre-K and housing in the budget plans, because those are two of the highest priorities for her organization, and Pittsburgh could be a leader.

“After Tuesday’s election results, we know that real progress is going to come from cities,” she said

She said One Pittsburgh is ready to put aside differences, find common ground and work with people they haven’t worked with before to move forward.

“We’re excited that everyone is prepared to do that,”Kramer said.

The city council will have a series of hearings about the budgets this month and in December  — with time for public input —and has until Dec. 31 to finalize the budgets before they start on Jan. 1. Revisions can be made through the first week in February.