Peduto makes enthusiastic start as Pittsburgh mayor


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The temperature was falling swiftly as Mayor Bill Peduto left Heinz Hall last Monday, with the threat of a record-breaking chill looming.

So he trudged back to the fifth floor of the City-County Building, where his newly minted operations director, Guy Costa, briefed him on the weather. Then came a news conference on the weather and throughout the evening, as thousands of people packed the Heinz History Center to celebrate his inauguration, there were discreet briefings on the situation with his chief of staff, Kevin Acklin.

It was that kind of first week for Mr. Peduto and his staff, ranging from the practical, nitty-gritty of aspects of governing and settling into a new office -- getting magnetic key cards, learning how the phones work, new work cell phones and iPads -- to the tough work of carving out and implementing his vision.

His term began in last Monday's bitter cold with an inauguration moved indoors at Heinz Hall. The celebration stretched late into the night at the history center, where Mr. Peduto wrapped up the evening singing alongside local rockers Joe Grushecky and Donny Iris.

And Tuesday morning started early for Mr. Acklin, who arrived at the City-County Building at 5 a.m. By 8:45 a.m., the first meeting of the mayor's office had convened. At 10:15 a.m., Mr. Peduto, who had eaten his only meal of the night standing up in his kitchen, joined a second meeting with the city's newly hired chiefs.

There, too, was a meeting with Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald -- a longtime supporter with whom he has pledged to build better city-county relations.

By around 1:30 that day, he crossed Grant Street to One Oxford Centre, where around 200 Pittsburgh Promise scholarship recipients were waiting to hear him speak. His entourage now included Corey Buckner, a 26-year-old former campaign worker who was hired as his personal assistant, and Detective Amy Mattia, who will serve, for now, as his bodyguard.

When organizers showed him to his table, he rejoiced. It was the first meal he would eat sitting down in a long time. Amidst the din of forks against plates, he tried to inspire confidence in the young people before him that Pittsburgh was a worthwhile place for them to stay.

"The future is there for you to write it and to be a part of it," he said. "It's about building from within."

Then, he continued: "I am so thrilled about the opportunity to be the mayor of this city. I can't even explain it. I woke up this morning after four hours of sleep."

The day also included announcements he would beef up the bureaus of police, fire, emergency medical services and building inspection and cut loose three politically tied public works directors.

He also continued his campaign to keep the city under the Act 47 program for financially distressed municipalities, lobbying the governor in his first official correspondence.

The next two days would include equally frenetic schedules.

On Wednesday, he sat down with council President Bruce Kraus at Michelle's Diner, where he discussed the creation of a position to direct wide-ranging plans to address the city's problems with nightlife. Those problems plague Mr. Kraus' district, which includes Oakland and the South Side.

There, he also made plans to meet weekly with Mr. Kraus and other members of council. Having been on the other side of the hall once, he said the last administration rarely -- if ever -- met with council members.

From Michelle's it was onto the Zone 3 police station in Allentown, where he discussed plans to beef up public safety departments and create high school-based public safety training programs that could get more Pittsburghers interested in being police officers or firefighters, modeled after a program in Washington, D.C.

Thursday, too, was jam-packed, starting with an event billed the Progressive Coalition Inauguration Event. There, members of numerous unions and organizing groups packed the Kaufman Auditorium in the Hill District to celebrate Mr. Peduto's start as mayor.

"There has become a chasm, a canyon, between the haves and the have-nots," he said. "Tuesday, Pittsburgh changed from an old boys' network city to a progressive city."

On Friday, after earlier meetings with Gov. Tom Corbett's representatives and his longtime aide and city council successor, Dan Gilman, Mr. Peduto raced out to Homewood for a meeting with residents reviewing an early-stage proposal to establish a manufacturing site for tablet computers.

"Put yourself in my position,'' he told about 20 people gathered in a second-floor meeting room at the Homewood branch of the Carnegie Library. "It's the first formal meeting you've had in Homewood since I've become mayor. It's not about a shooting. It's not about police relations.

"It's about bringing technology and manufacturing into the community. I almost teared up as I was coming up Bigelow Boulevard, thinking about this. We want to turn the neighborhood around. Dream big, think big. Think about, 'Why not Homewood?' "

While Curtiss Porter, his new chief education and neighborhood investment officer, stayed behind listening to the group's questions, the mayor headed back to the City-County Building. After a meeting with Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak, he greeted U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, who had stopped by for a courtesy call.

Mr. Casey and his chief of staff, James Brown, joined the new mayor and his chief of staff for one more meeting in the big corner office on the fifth floor, the office that was finally his after a decade-long quest.


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

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