Peduto vows 'reform', new beginning



As the freezing winds swirled outside on Monday afternoon, Sue and Max Sciullo, the parents of slain police Officer Paul Sciullo, held the Bible that belonged to Bill Peduto's late brother, Tom, as the mayor placed his left hand on its cover, raised his right and uttered the oath of office before a large audience in Heinz Hall.

With that act, the longtime councilman and three-time candidate for mayor officially took the reins of the city, whose confidence in local government may have been shaken by scandal and corruption. In an address that followed, the 60th leader of the city of Pittsburgh declared his intent to lead the city to better days.

"We have gone through some challenging times in the past decade," he said. "It is my job to turn this moment into an opportunity for reform. I understand that my election doesn't complete the task of setting things right. It only offers us a chance to begin."

Bill Peduto sworn in as new mayor of Pittsburgh

Bill Peduto was sworn in today as the new mayor of Pittsburgh before a gathering of dignitaries and the general public. (Video by Andrew Rush; 1/6/2014)

Excerpts of mayor's inaugural address

Bill Peduto, in his inaugural address, spoke of his Italian roots, the city's work ethic and its potential for prosperity. His remarks were delivered inside Heinz Hall, a concession to frigid weather. (Video by Nate Guidry; 1/6/2014)

Pittsburghers offer good wishes to mayor

Several citizens took the opportunity to offer good wishes to Bill Peduto, the new mayor of Pittsburgh. (Video by Nate Guidry; 1/6/2014)

Vanessa German's poem at Peduto inauguration

Artist Vanessa German performs a spoken word poem at Mayor Bill Peduto's inauguration ceremony. (Video by Andrew Rush; 1/6/14)

Mr. Peduto enters the executive's office after a tumultuous year for former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, who looked on from a seat near the stage on Monday. In his last year in office, his police chief resigned and was indicted and the mayor's office became the subject of scrutiny by federal investigators.

"Events have raised questions about some of our civic institutions, and scandal has caused us to wonder if government can again be a force for true progress," Mr. Peduto said. "Let me be clear: The qualities that make a city successful are the same ones that make a city honest."

And he called these things -- scandal and corruption -- not only a threat to the public's faith in its leaders, but a threat to the economy. The mayor ran on a platform of continuing the reform he began as a councilman, when he sponsored legislation strengthening ethics and campaign finance laws and tightening contract and bidding restrictions to limit undue influence on city dealings.

"The policies that undermine growth -- corruption, self-dealing and disregard for the common good -- are the very ones that doom a city to economic failure," he said. "Good government isn't only a question of civic virtue. It is the thing that determines a city's survival."

He paid tribute to some past leaders -- George Armstrong, David Lawrence, Richard Caligiuri -- and gave an affectionate shout-out to Sophie Masloff, calling her "the steady, sensible and wise woman who needs no last name, because we all know and will always love her as simply 'Sophie.' "

But without naming them, he criticized recent administrations. He noted, for example, the unrealistic spending that led the city to be declared "financially distressed" a decade ago under Mayor Tom Murphy. Mr. Murphy was seated not far from Mr. Ravenstahl.

"Responsibility means facing the facts as they are, especially our financial realities," he said. "I take office in a city still recovering from the disastrous effects of spending money it did not have on things it could not afford."

He buoyed confidence that things would change, referring to the 1,100-page report prepared by transition teams -- comprised entirely of volunteers -- that he intends to use to guide his administration in his first term. He divided this monumental task into three categories: accountability, responsibility, sustainability.

And he assured the audience that many of the problems with city government, his criticism of which became a central theme of his campaign, had solutions.

"I tell you now, there is nothing wrong with the institutions of this city that cannot be repaired with good faith, square dealing and hard work."

The ceremony opened with a friendly rendition of "It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" by the CAPA 6-12 chorus and musician Joe Grushecky. Faith leaders also spoke, offering not just inspiring but serious counsel. They pushed him to see the city to its greatest potential, but without leaving its most vulnerable citizens behind.

Bishop David Zubik implored him to "unite the city in its diversity" and prayed that "the poor will always be thought of first in every decision."

The Rev. Randy Bush of East Liberty Presbyterian Church urged the nascent mayor to focus his efforts not on reshaping the city's skyline, but to make his legacy his work and investment in the underserved.

"Maybe you have dreams for Pittsburgh that are grand and panoramic," he said. "Remember, the secret of success is not how high you build things, but making sure there is a floor that exists below which no one can fall."

Vanessa German, a spoken word poet and artist, delivered a stirring and energetic poem, bringing the audience to its feet for a standing ovation.

"We rise and claim the reins of change with both hands!" she said, in a cadence and tone befitting of a preacher. "We aim ourselves to the stars for we are champions and the city is ours today and we claim it, singing against the steel mills, foothills that still call our grandfathers name. We rise with the horizon of luminous high-rises and rivers' shine, for the future is bright and it is getting brighter."

Much of the local delegation of state and federal legislators was present for the ceremony, along with a representative from Gov. Tom Corbett's office. Longtime ally Rich Fitzgerald, the Allegheny County executive, was there along with Allegheny County Council members.

So, too, were representatives from a laundry list of unions and local judges.

Sonya Toler, spokeswoman for Mr. Peduto, said there was no official head count but that around 3,000 tickets had been distributed for the event when it was to be held outdoors in the portico of the City-County Building. The mayor's team decided to move it indoors because of dangerous weather conditions.

"It is cold out there today," Mr. Peduto said, in closing his address. "Let's warm our city with the fires of reform and the sunlight of a new era."

And indeed, outside the warmth of Heinz Hall, temperatures were falling swiftly with sub-zero wind chills. A few hours after he delivered his address, delivering rhetoric about a "city that glows with the hope of revived neighborhoods," he was headed back to the fifth floor of the City-County Building, where he crossed the threshold of the mayor's office for the first time in his official capacity.

His first task? A news conference about the weather.

On a day filled with allusions to the city's history, its immigrants, its mayors past, it seemed almost inevitable that the new mayor would end up at the Heinz History Center.

Undeterred by the cold, thousands of his new constituents lined up outside the Smallman Street entrance Monday evening. Lines of cars snaked around the block jockeying for parking spaces in the crowded Strip District streets.

Inside, they jammed exhibit spaces and stairwells. Food stations donated seemingly by every imaginable eatery, dotted the floors.

On the fifth floor, guests got in shape for the cold outside, munching on Klondike bars as a parade of Pittsburgh musicians played in the large meeting space overlooking the Allegheny River.

In the great hall downstairs, the musical array included the Deryck Tines Gospel Choir, the River City Band, Etta Cox and Al Dowe.

U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus, R-Bradford Woods, was one of a noticeable smattering of Republican minglers. Noting that he had attended the Heinz Hall event earlier in the day, he said, "I thought the mayor had some very good remarks. I really liked the good government message."

"He's a data-driven guy. I like to look at data myself. We need a strong Pittsburgh," Mr. Rothfus said. "A strong Pittsburgh is good for a strong southwestern Pennsylvania."

Just a few steps away, former city Councilman Doug Shields, Mr. Peduto's longtime council ally, was savoring the evening.

"The city has never had a person so well prepared to take the office," he said of his old friend. "And more importantly, Mayor Peduto has assembled the most incredible administrative staff I've ever seen. Bill's going to bring a lot of good serious business to the city, but it's also going to be a lot of fun."

 


Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee. Politics editor James O'Toole contributed. First Published January 6, 2014 12:19 PM

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