Peduto cleans out office he used for nearly 20 years

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For a guy notorious for keeping everything, the idea was simple. Why not box up nearly 20 years of stuff and place it into time capsules like Andy Warhol? But instead of art world ephemera, the boxes would be filled with the wonkish detritus of an adulthood spent on Pittsburgh City Council.

A Waste Age magazine from 2008. Original stadium designs for the North Shore. A study of the city's scrapped land-value tax. Letters from angry union leaders.

"Fifth-Forbes! Holy smokes!" Bill Peduto said, pulling a document on Mayor Tom Murphy's failed 1999 Downtown redevelopment plans from a dusty file box. "I don't want to give this away. This could be my retirement fund."

That Pittsburgh's mayor-elect and longest-tenured current councilman actually thinks old Pittsburgh development documents are worth money says something about his outsized interest in such things, and why they remained in 19 years' worth of piles, desk drawers and boxes in his longtime office. But instead of holding onto them for an obscure auction or a time capsule opening someday, he decided to give the bulk to the Heinz History Center in the Strip District.

Mr. Peduto, 49, began working for then-councilman Dan Cohen in the same two-room office in the City County Building in 1995 and took over the office himself in 2002. He is turning the District 8 space over to his longtime chief of staff Dan Gilman in early January -- when Mr. Peduto goes down the hall to the mayor's office and Mr. Gilman becomes councilman -- and thus was forced to start cleaning it up on Tuesday.

The biggest historical value, he said, is probably in the documents that preceded the digital age. Take, if you must, a July 1995 waste-hauling bill, one of the first legislative measures he ever worked on. "None of this stuff exists in PDF. Nothing was done on email back then," Mr. Peduto said.

The mayor-elect agreed with Alexis Macklin, director of the history center's Thomas & Katherine Detre Library & Archives, to forward the materials. The library also has papers from Mr. Murphy and the late Mayor Richard S. Caliguiri among materials from other elected officials, said spokesman Brady Smith, which archivists have divided into research categories. They will similarly process Mr. Peduto's documents, although no date has been set for when they will be publicly available for view.

Mr. Peduto used to meet with developers at a small circular table in his private office, where he would position himself not so subtly, so they would face a poster-sized photo of a lone man standing before a row of tanks during the Tiananmen Square uprising of 1989 in China. As of this week, the table was mounded with books, letters, newspapers and design blueprints, and his usual seat was unreachable, blocked with unopened blue gift boxes from Tiffany sent by the Steelers to elected officials every year.

Across from his large desk, also piled with toppling papers, are the chairs where visiting constituents sat under a print of Norman Rockwell's "Freedom of Speech." The seats had become filled with wobbly stacks of awards and plaques, and leaning against one chair was an election certificate, elegantly framed for every council member by the city clerk's office. In the near corner under a wall-mounted TV was a no longer used VCR.

(Pittsburgh city government has struggled to keep pace with the technological times. This week, Mr. Gilman received an official letter welcoming him to elected office that included an "Ethics Training Seminar" transferred to DVD from a recording in 1994.)

From down the hall, Peduto staffers lugged 10 boxes of more old material from a high-ceilinged storage room for the mayor-elect to review, including some on still-relevant matters. His former boss, Mr. Cohen, opposed the leases between the city's then Public Auditorium Authority and the Pirates and Steelers in 2000, questioning their language on future capital improvements to the new stadiums. Mr. Peduto has vowed to keep fighting the Steelers on paying for their proposed additions of seats and a scoreboard to Heinz Field starting next year, and he boxed up a cache of old stadium documents to take to the mayor's office.

Other artifacts were personal: A Mass card for Bloomfield's Paul Sciullo, one of three Pittsburgh police officers fatally shot in Stanton Heights in April 2009; a coffee mug that a Fifth-Forbes opponent sent Mr. Cohen (with a note comparing the Downtown buildings set for demolition in Mr. Murphy's plan to heirloom family china); a flier for a 1997 rally in opposition of a doomed stadium-financing tax; and a bottle of Murphy's Oil Soap. One of Mr. Peduto's first jobs in local politics was for then-Councilman Jack Wagner's failed 1993 mayoral primary bid against Mr. Murphy, and in advance of their debates, the opponent's team sent the Wagner forces the bottle with a note saying, "Keep it clean."

Mr. Peduto has since patched things up with the former mayor (who recommended a member of Mr. Peduto's incoming executive staff) and 20 years later, of course, he beat Mr. Wagner in last spring's Democratic primary.

With just about a month left before he moves to the big corner office down the hall, he had a long way to go before leaving the council office empty for Mr. Gilman -- with the exception of a solitary envelope on the desk containing the traditional politician's letter welcoming the new occupant.

"I've thought a lot about what I'll say," Mr. Peduto said. "It's protocol to say 'This is yours now. Do great things.' "

Tim McNulty: or 412-263-1581. Follow the Early Returns blog at or on Twitter at @EarlyReturns.

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