Pittsburgh’s City Council had a post agenda about the new parks’ tax and outcomes

They didn't allow for feedback, yet

The public could not speak at this meeting. However, a public hearing is in the works for the weeks or months to come. If you have something to say, do so in the comments below or on the comments at the YouTube video as well. 

All the videos from Pittsburgh's City Council are posted on this YouTube playlist. 

Various sites helps to organize the excitement

Lifeguarding, SKWIM, Learning, Water Polo, Maps, Swimming N@.

  • admin says:

    ASHLEY MURRAY wrote for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on March 5, 2020

    A united crowd of Beechview, Brookline and Carrick residents showed up in council chambers Thursday night wearing matching bright green District 4 T-shirts and holding signs that read “We Deserve Our Fair Share.”

    The share they want is one-ninth of the new parks tax revenue, the subject of an hours long public hearing.

    “Carrick is certainly an underserved neighborhood,” said Laura Doyle, a Carrick resident and volunteer in the neighborhood. “No money is coming to my park, and there are serious needs. … I don’t have a problem [with the tax]. I’ll pay my fair share. I just want to see my community benefit.”

    Forty-two speakers — a majority from Councilman Anthony Coghill’s district — shared with council an assortment of concerns, including skepticism over the nonprofit Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy’s roughly $800,000 campaign to support the November ballot referendum. On the hearing agenda were two bills: a formality-type ordinance to create the tax, and a contentious bill on how to use the tax revenue.

    Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy presents proposed spending plan for new parks tax to council

    Patrick Gianella, of Mount Washington, criticized Mayor Bill Peduto, who supported the conservancy’s efforts. Mr. Gianella called the tax referendum a “sneaky backdoor home rule charter change. Jim Boland, of Carrick, said the administration “didn’t have a backbone to introduce their own [tax increase].”

    Voters approved the parks tax ballot referendum by a narrow margin in November. Property owners will now pay an additional $50 on every $100,000 of assessed real estate value to fund the city’s 165 parks.

    The tax increase is expected to pull in an additional $10 million annually and matching private funds are promised in the charter’s new language.

    Eight council members were present, some for only a portion of the meeting. Councilman Ricky Burgess, who introduced a third and separate bill relating to the parks tax revenue, was absent due to another commitment.

    Former Councilwoman Darlene Harris was met with smiles and waves from some audience members. She registered public comment, urging her former colleagues to use their final voting power to wholesale reject the tax increase.

    “If I was on council only three months, I sure wouldn’t be voting on a tax increase,” she said, directing her comments to current District 1 representative Bobby Wilson.

    Councilman Bruce Kraus, at the end of the hearing, said that the idea to “in any way undo the referendum” would set a “terrible precedent.”

    Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy President and CEO Jayne Miller leads a tour for news media at West End Park in July in the West End.
    Ashley Murray

    Parks Conservancy disagrees with Peduto administration’s bill to establish tax

    Other members said they are hearing pain from District 4 and District 1, but “ultimately dividing it up equally would be shooting yourself in the foot,” said Councilwoman Strassburger, who said her neighborhoods, including Shadyside and Squirrel Hill, do not need the funds as badly as other districts.

    But Mr. Coghill answered her plea with his own idiom.

    “I’ve said that often [that] we have bigger needs, I feel, than probably a lot of the other districts. … I am fighting for an equal distribution,” he said. “I ask that you respect our wishes. … There’s an old saying, ‘one in the hand is better than two in the bush.’”

    Roughly a dozen residents spoke in favor of the tax and of dividing the money according to need as opposed to district.

    Zinna Scott, of Homewood, said that while several who spoke before her commented on poor park bathroom conditions or portable toilets, her neighborhood’s parks “don’t have bathrooms to [be] improved.”

    “Three of our parks are on the top of that [Parks Conservancy priority] list, and that’s because the city hasn’t done anything for us, and that’s a real issue,” she said. “Racism in this city is alive and well.”

    Brenda Smith, of the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association, said she found it “distressing to hear the rancor and suspicion” of the Parks Conservancy’s agenda and praised their “very detailed rubric of how to prioritize the [parks’] needs.”

    But “no matter how wonderful we think the people who work [at the conservancy] are today, it’s still not a public body,” said Councilwoman Deb Gross, advocating to keep the financial decisions in council’s hands.

    Council President Theresa Kail-Smith, who opposed the referendum, said that she wants to see all nine members “sticking together.” She said council is expected to bring the plan back to the table in two weeks.

    No representatives from the Parks Conservancy spoke.

    The conservancy declined to comment following the hearing.

    Mr. Peduto’s office did not have comment following the hearing.

    Ashley Murray: 412-263-1750 or amurray@post-gazette.com

  • admin says:

    News from Feb 5, 2020 in the P-G. Link above.

    City Council to ‘start from scratch’ on parks trust fund bill
    Amendment language removes concept to split money 9 ways

    by amurray@post-gazette.com

    Pittsburgh City Council on Wednesday all but started over on establishing a parks tax trust fund after an initial proposal to split the money equally among the nine districts proved controversial and the city’s law department rejected multiple aspects of the bill.

    Members unanimously approved a bare-bones version to replace the original seven-section bill that council members Anthony Coghill and Deb Gross introduced on Jan. 21, 2020.

    “It’s very generic. I think you’re going to see some more changes,” Council President Theresa Kail-Smith said after the standing committee meeting. “But we really wanted to make sure that we had something to work on without killing Councilman Coghill’s bill.”

    According to Ms. Kail-Smith, at her request Mr. Coghill and Councilman Ricky Burgess — who were at odds over Mr. Coghill’s proposal — are working together.

    Mayor Bill Peduto
    Ashley Murray
    City Council works to create trust fund for new parks tax revenue
    The half-mill property tax increase to fund city parks passed in a close November vote after the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, with public support from Mayor Bill Peduto, petitioned for the ballot referendum.

    “We promised the people that we would be equitable in the distribution of these funds, so that’s my priority,” Rev. Burgess said. “… This current amendment is the beginning of crafting an equitable, implementable, legal piece of legislation.”

    A law department opinion issued Jan. 28, 2020, found that the original proposal clashed with the city’s Home Rule Charter, as it aimed to establish council as a governing board of trustees for the money and to house the funds in the City Clerk’s budget.

    The amended one-page legislation strikes those two provisions as well as language that the funds could be used to hire additional unionized city employees. Rather, it specifies that the city’s already established competitive bidding and contracting policies should be applied.

    Any mention of splitting the parks money nine ways has also been removed.

    “We decided in the spirit of cooperation let’s start from scratch, let’s get all city council members’ opinions, and we’re going to craft something. It’s not going to be easy, but we’re going to do it,” Mr. Coghill said. “I will continue to argue for the nine equal sub accounts, and I think I made a pretty good case as to why.”

    Mr. Coghill, who represents District 4, said that the mayor’s six-year capital projects outlook includes little or no investment in his district’s parks.

    “I’m the president of the Beechview Athletic Association; our facilities are falling to pieces. [At] the Brookline dek hockey rink, they’re using outhouses. These things I want done right away, I can’t wait for 25 parks to be fixed up before mine,” he said, referring to a list of parks prioritized by an “equitable” “investment priority score” that the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy campaigned on.

    Ms. Gross — who said she was never sold on splitting the funding nine equal ways said “the important part is that the money stays in the public’s eyes and that they get to participate in the debates on the allocations, and not that [funds] get [diverted] to some special agreement that they can’t see.”

    City Controller Michael Lamb’s office is currently auditing 54 existing agreements between the city and the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy.

    Council motioned to hold the amended bill for three weeks and to schedule a public hearing.

    The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy declined to comment.

    Ashley Murray: 412-263-1750, amurray@post-gazette.com or @Ashley__Murray

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