Pittsburgh City Council has returned from recess to finish out the 2017 session. So what’s on the agenda?
At their first post-break meeting Friday, members approved a resolution that encourages lawmakers in Harrisburg to pass bills that expand hate crimes protections. Nothing like a well-meaning, non-binding gesture to get back in the swing of things.
Council President Bruce Kraus’ office didn’t return a request for comment about what’s in store for the next four months. So The Incline looked into its crystal ball to see what’s on the horizon.
Funding the fund
The Groundhog Day drama of how to pay for the affordable housing trust fund approved in 2016 continued in July when council held a post-agenda meeting then public hearing on a funding mechanism. Council member Theresa Kail-Smith declared that her colleague Daniel Lavelle didn’t have enough votes to pass an increase to the realty transfer tax. She also vowed to return with her own legislation to provide the $10 million a year needed for the fund, although she did not provide details. (A request for comment from Kail-Smith’s office on when she plans to introduce her bill was not returned.) Look out for this one.
Each fall, the mayor introduces a budget to City Council for approval. This comes after the mayor has gotten the OK from the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, a necessity under Act 47. Council then holds hearings in November and December. (You can learn more about the budget process here.)
Last year, budget season went pretty smoothly, with the ICA giving its stamp of approval and only council member Darlene Harris voting against the mayor’s budget. The composition of council remains unchanged this session, but that won’t be the case next year, when Anthony Coghill presumably wins the seat held by Natalia Rudiak.
What will be different this time around is the man in the oval office. If President Donald Trump does succeed in getting Congress to completely ditch the Community Development Block Grant program, the mayor and council would have to figure out how to deal with a $12 million shortfall. “I think everybody has a huge fear of what’s coming,” Councilman Corey O’Connor told PublicSource earlier this year.
A rare public hearing
Aug. 30 will bring just the second resident-requested public hearing of the year. (The other was on making Pittsburgh a sanctuary city.)
The hearing was requested by David Tessitor of OpenPittsburgh.org, who contends that state statute allows municipalities to request the type of voting machines they want residents to use in elections:
Authorization of Voting Machines.–Any county, city, borough or township may, by a majority vote of its qualified electors voting thereon cast at any general or municipal election, authorize and direct the use of voting machines for registering or recording and computing the vote at all elections held in such county, city, borough or township, or in any part thereof.
Under Tessitor’s hypothetical, City Council could pass a resolution that directs the county — which runs elections — to use a machine that satisfies election integrity groups’ concerns about voting machine vulnerability. The hearing is part of a larger effort by these organizations, including VoteAllegheny and Don’t Tread on My Vote, to lobby county council to create a voting machine commission.
Want to request a public hearing of your own? It’s really easy!
More Trump reactions
Since Trump took the oath of office, council has responded by condemning the president’s proposed ban on trans service members and his budget cut requests. Councilman Dan Gilman introduced a package of bills intended to provide additional protections for immigrants and refugees in Pittsburgh, but advocates and residents are pushing council for sanctuary city status.
Expect that request to return as Trump continues to ramp up deportation efforts, as well as future reactions from council against the administration.
Capital ‘D’ drama
Now that the Post-Gazette has publicly blown the whistle on council’s favorite tiff, will Kraus and Harris continue to go at it with allegations of flatulence and Trump support?
Council watchers can only hope.