Council eliminates mileage, reduces take-home cars

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Pittsburgh City Council voted today to eliminate mileage reimbursement for elected officials and cut in half the number of city employees allowed to take home taxpayer-funded cars each night.

Council members have long been able to get as much as $150 per month in reimbursements for use of personal vehicles for city business without detailing the trips taken. Legislation authored by Councilman Ricky Burgess would have allowed a maximum of $378.75, but would require that the trips be documented.

Councilman Dan Deasy, though, proposed an amendment to disallow mileage reimbursements for elected city officials, which includes the nine council members, the controller, and the mayor, who doesn't need the benefit because he is chauffeured in a city vehicle.

Most council members found it politically impossible to oppose, and it passed, 8-0, with one abstention -- but not without criticism.

"I think everything that's gone on here is ridiculous. I think everything we've been doing is child's play," said Councilwoman Darlene Harris, who abstained. "I don't think this solves any problem, is saving any money at all. I think it's ridiculous. ??? All this is, is child's play, and I wish some how, some way, we could get back to the business of this city."

Council President Doug Shields said the reimbursements have become part of a game of "one-upmanship."

Mr. Burgess's legislation lifts reimbursements for employees like building inspectors who regularly use their personal vehicles on city business, and had faced lower reimbursement caps.

On take-home vehicles, council voted 5-3 vote, with one abstention, to reduce the number of vehicles authorized for take-home use.

The bill will go to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl for his approval or veto. His administration has argued that the legislation would infringe on the mayor's authority to run city operations.

It calls on the mayor to reduce the number of employees with take-home cars from 59 to 29, a number drawn from the Act 47 recovery plan approved by council and then-mayor Tom Murphy in 2004.

Voting yes were Mr. Shields, Mr. Burgess, Patrick Dowd, Bruce Kraus, William Peduto. Voting no were Ms. Harris, Jim Motznik and Tonya Payne. Dan Deasy abstained.


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