Peduto recruits 1,059 for transition team

Volunteers will form eight committees

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Adam Jette did not campaign for Mayor-elect Bill Peduto, and he has never worked in government.

But as a South Side Slopes resident and a member of the neighborhood organization, he knows plenty about the city's struggles with maintaining infrastructure -- particularly the sidewalks and stairs that scale the steep inclines in his part of the city.

"We put a lot of effort into trying to make the stairs more usable, helping out with maintenance," he said of the South Side Slopes Neighborhood Association. "I think that's something as a whole the city can get better at."

A computer programmer by trade, Mr. Jette, 32, is not someone who would have been tapped to serve on a transition committee in the past, posts usually reserved for the politically connected or those with experience in government.

But today, he'll join hundreds of other people who will have a say in the city's future at the inaugural meeting of the group at the University of Pittsburgh's David Lawrence Hall. With 1,059 people, it is perhaps the largest transition committee in the city's history. Everyone who submitted a completed application and met the minimal requirements of living in the city or being connected to a city-based organization will get a spot at the table.

Mr. Peduto said he did not plan to have a transition team of this magnitude and instead envisioned one with about 100 people or so. But when more than a thousand applied for spots, he rethought the process.

It became "impractical to tell 1,100 people 'no,' " he said.

"We basically changed the format of the transition committee because of the great demand of people who want to be a part of it," he said. "We don't want people to not have a voice."

Mr. Jette, who designs software to help governments prepare for emergencies, believes the committee could benefit from a diversity of perspectives.

"I think ideally there's going to be different people from different backgrounds who can solve problems in ways that we haven't been solving them in the past six years," he said.

The thousand-plus volunteers will be broken up into eight committees, many of them chaired by members of Mr. Peduto's Cabinet. They include committees for economic development, innovation and performance, administration and finance, operations and infrastructure, housing and urban empowerment, education and neighborhood reinvestment and public safety, which will be co-chaired by Mr. Peduto and former public safety director Bob Kennedy.

The transition team is broad and diverse, including members of the nonprofit and business communities, as well as members of the administration of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. Scott Kunka and Cathy Qureshi, finance director and deputy finance director, respectively, signed up. There also are veterans of city government and newcomers, such as Amanda Rubio, a 32-year-old attorney who serves on the city's human relations commission.

Ms. Rubio said she's a longtime supporter of Mr. Peduto and believes the city's legal department will benefit from his push for greater professionalism within city government.

"I really agree with his vision for a newer progressive Pittsburgh, so when I heard they were getting together these transition [committees], I was really interested in being a part of this new administration," she said.

Mr. Peduto said each of the committees will be expected to come out with a report by the end of the year. He'll consult their findings and recommission committees into the coming year as needed.

"We intend to keep them on the back burner for next year so that when additional policy issues arise, to reignite them and have them weigh in," he said.

He's hoping to extend the concept that underlies his transition super-committee with a website modeled after the website Change By Us, which has versions in New York City, Philadelphia and Chicago. The websites allow users to give input on ideas, connects them with other community members who have a shared interest in a project and then links them with nonprofits or government officials who can help them.

Kevin Acklin, the chief of transition who will become Mr. Peduto's chief of staff in January, said the administration has also weighed creating a website that would allow the public to track the city's progress toward specific policy goals.

"What we don't want to have is people to spend their time and energy to make recommendations that go into a report that becomes a paperweight," Mr. Acklin said. "We want to make sure they're a part of building the new Pittsburgh."


Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee.


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