Professionalism push behind website for Pittsburgh

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Want a top job in the new Pittsburgh mayoral administration?

Don't bother to call your ward leader.

Instead you might consult a website billed by its developers as a lever to move the city away from the vestiges of patronage and toward a more professional hiring culture.

Got an idea for improving city services?

The new site aims to aggregate those brainstorms for the new administration as well.

The site, www.talent-city.org, is the public face and access point for an effort designed to buttress the incoming administration with the resources and expertise of the city's foundation community. The $275,000 initiative is led by the Pittsburgh Foundation and the University of Pittsburgh's Institute of Politics. Both of the major party nominees for mayor, Bill Peduto and Josh Wander, have signed onto the proposal.

The site states that, "Talent City is a Pittsburgh-wide initiative designed to bring objectivity, transparency, and rigorous hiring practices to build the best available Mayoral Cabinet and Senior Leadership to lead the City of Pittsburgh."

An oversight committee for the talent search is co-chaired by PNC general counsel Gregory Jordan, manufacturing company president Gregory Spencer and Mariann Geyer, Point Park University vice president for external affairs.

"The idea side of our website is designed to create a town square or forum," said Grant Oliphant, the CEO of the Pittsburgh Foundation.

The talent search effort will identify candidates for senior positions including police chief and major department heads. The specific openings under consideration will be posted on the site in mid-November, after the Nov. 5 election.

Given the foundations' nonprofit tax status and nonpartisan orientation, "We're not in the politics business," Mr. Oliphant said. "We can't and won't help a particular candidate."

The oversight committee will preside over a multitiered search process. According to Mr. Oliphant, the group is in the final stages of hiring a professional search firm to identify and vet the credentials of the applicants. In an earlier interview, Mr. Peduto said that he was interested in a national search process but that wide net could also include members of the current city workforce.

The firm will recommend a short list of candidates to one of three yet-to-be named screening committees whose members will have expertise relevant to the positions under consideration. The categories are finance and administration, public safety, and planning and urban affairs.

They will send names to the oversight committee, which will in turn forward two or three finalists for the next mayor's consideration.

The effort is a twist on the transition teams many new administrations name before taking office. This one has a particular focus on combating patronage, Mr. Oliphant said.

"The idea of building public trust and transparency in civic government is not new," he said in the statement heralding the initiative. "But overcoming the many barriers to strong, open local government, including a tendency to indulge in patronage, too often is easier said than done."

The other members of the effort's oversight board include: strategic planner and nonprofit leader Cecile M. Springer, who also is a co-chair of Mr. Peduto's campaign committee; psychiatrist and Pittsburgh Foundation board chair Edith L. Shapira; Buhl Foundation president and former U.S. Attorney Frederick W. Thieman; and Margaret McCormick Barron, a former West Penn Allegheny Health System executive who was a senior aide to former Mayor Tom Murphy.


Tim McNulty: tmcnulty@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1581. Politics editor James O'Toole: jotoole@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1562. First Published October 22, 2013 10:25 AM

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