Pittsburgh City Council goes on recess today. Here’s how to petition for a hearing when they’re back.

It’s really easy!

Jasmine Goldband / The Incline
Sarah Anne Hughes

In late June, a fledgling group decided it wanted Pittsburgh City Council to hold a hearing on becoming a sanctuary city.

There wasn’t any legislation on the table, but that didn’t matter. The Pittsburgh Sanctuary City Coalition gathered enough petitions, delivered them to the City-County Building and, less than a month later, got their hearing in council chambers. Dozens of people told members of council about their point of view on the topic last month.

Here’s a fun fact about public hearings: They are really simple to request — and you can ask for one about anything. But very few Pittsburgh residents take advantage of this right.

According to the City Clerk’s office, just two public hearings have been requested this year. In 2016, there were six petition-requested hearings, according to online records, including one on “the Shop and Save on Centre Avenue, and its employees’ treatment of patrons.”

First, you should understand the difference between a post-agenda meeting and a public hearing. The former is a meeting sponsored by a council member where there is *no* public comment; the latter is a hearing petitioned for by residents where registered members of the public are given three minutes to speak.

Residents can request a public hearing to discuss a piece of legislation pending before council or a topic of interest to Pittsburghers. A representative from the City Clerk’s office confirmed that you can request a hearing about basically anything.

Intrigued? Here’s how it works:

  1. Download a petition from the council website. Look how basic it is!
  2. Find at least 24 other Pittsburgh residents who are eligible to vote and are willing to sign your petition. The people who sign up don’t even have to be registered to cast a ballot.
  3. Turn the petitions into the City Clerk. This is probably the toughest part: You have to bring the petitions to the City Clerk in person (not by mail or by fax) between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
  4. Wait for the City Clerk to determine the petition’s validity and for council to vote on your petition/schedule the hearing.

You can request a specific time and location for your hearing, but ultimately, it’s up to council to decide where and when the meeting will be held. It’s worth noting that council breaks today for its summer recess through Aug. 24.

That’s it. Need some inspiration? Here are some other topics residents have requested hearings on:

  • “Discussing the need to make dirt bikes, quads and other off-road vehicles be registered, licensed and insured as regular vehicles in the City of Pittsburgh.”
  • “Concerning the road/path construction and planned placement of trailers near Blue Slide entrance to Frick Park, and also, reopening the site selection process, the identification of new and different criteria and other options for trailer placement.”
  • “Elimination of parking along the Centre Avenue and Baum Blvd. corridor as a result of the construction of UPMC’S Luna Project and Center for Innovative Science (CIS) buildings.”
  • “Illegal gun trafficking.”
  • “The Re-Instatement of Parking Spaces located at 812 Grandview Avenue, Marmont Residence. They believe their physical safety and the value of their homes are jeopardized by the elimination of those space.”
  • “An extension of time during the Public Comment period from three minutes to five minutes.”