Peduto gives Obama team a wish list

Mayor-elect pitches Pittsburgh as 'urban lab'

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Pittsburgh Mayor-elect Bill Peduto used a meeting with President Barack Obama to ask for everything from help on early-childhood education and sewer upgrades to a startling idea for marking the end of the Great Allegheny Passage trail.

Mr. Peduto and 15 other recently elected mayors met with the president for 90 minutes Friday in a conference room off the Oval Office, after spending the morning with White House officials and Cabinet secretaries talking about urban affairs.

Mr. Peduto had worked before with the incoming mayors of New York and Los Angeles, Bill de Blasio and Eric Garcetti, in an organization of progressive Democratic council members. After they made remarks to the president about their much larger cities, Mr. Peduto and the other mayors-elect each spoke, with Mr. Obama asking the longtime councilman what tips Pittsburgh could give Mike Duggan, the incoming mayor of struggling Detroit.

"I reminded everybody in the room that it took 30 years, that it wasn't like turning on a light switch. And that even despite the fact that we have rebounded, still 1 out of every 4 people in the city of Pittsburgh live in poverty and most of them are children," Mr. Peduto said Monday, in recounting the meeting.

Along those lines he asked for White House help on five initiatives: providing universal pre-kindergarten education; boosting small businesses in hurting neighborhood business districts; an energy-saving program that would make Pittsburgh the first city in the nation to move fully to LED street lighting; and amendments from the Environmental Protection Agency to requirements that local municipalities decrease their sewage overflows, which would allow for more environmentally friendly improvement plans.

The mayor-elect pitched Pittsburgh as being "an urban lab" where the White House could try out its initiatives, such as early education, before rolling them out elsewhere.

"We are the perfect size for this White House to test programs that it wants to see, and then to be able to have small successes to make them bigger," he said.

Finally, in a request that at first puzzled the others in the Roosevelt Room, he asked Mr. Obama for the scaffolding surrounding the Washington Monument.

With two years of repairs to the monument complete, workers last month began dismantling the 500-ton scaffolding from architect Michael Graves, to the dismay of some who liked the giant and illuminated structure.

Mr. Peduto proposed rebuilding it off the bike trails on the North Shore to mark the end of the trail linking Washington and Pittsburgh, possibly in time for the city's 200th anniversary of its incorporation in 2016.

"I think it would be really great if [the trail] started at the Washington Monument and ended at the Washington Monument," Mr. Peduto said.

In smaller meetings, Mr. Peduto and chief of staff Kevin Acklin met with Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan; Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a Squirrel Hill native; and David Agnew, the White House director of intergovernmental affairs.

The Peduto transition team has been in regular contact with Mr. Agnew -- whom Mr. Peduto first met after the fatal shootings of three Pittsburgh police officers in 2009 -- since the summer.

Mr. Peduto's swearing-in is set for Jan. 6. During city council's final approval of the city's $480 million budget Monday, Mr. Peduto said his administration will that day reintroduce his plan to offer buyouts to 136 to 176 city employees.

Until then he plans to work on final details with the city's fiscal overseers and council members.


Tim McNulty: tmcnulty@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1581. Follow the Early Returns blog at www.post-gazette.com/earlyreturns or on Twitter at @EarlyReturns.

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