Peduto decides to disband Redd Up crew

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Pittsburgh has disbanded its Redd Up crew, a public works team that has was lauded by community members for its help in local clean-up efforts but panned by others for appearing to pander to political whims.

Tim McNulty, spokesman for Mayor Bill Peduto, said the decision to disband the crew's eight members was made last week by acting public works director Mike Gable. The employees are being transferred to other public works divisions, a process that is ongoing. Work that was previously done by the crew will be taken over by the divisions, which cover geographical chunks of the city.

Signs bearing the Redd Up program's name would also be taken down, but the city's Redd Up Zone program will remain intact.

Signs the crew would be dismantled came late last year, when the mayor's budget proposed to fold the properties bureau -- which included the Redd Up crew -- into the administration bureau. That properties bureau had been headed by Kevin Quigley, a close friend and former staffer of Mr. Peduto's predecessor, Luke Ravenstahl.

Mr. Quigley, an at-will employee, was fired on Mr. Peduto's first day in office in the name of streamlining the bureau.

The Redd Up crew -- named for the Pittsburghese phrase for clean-up -- was created by the late Mayor Bob O'Connor to be an ad-hoc team that could target hot spots of blight, overgrown lots, illegal dump sites, vacant homes and other neighborhood eyesores in any part of the city. Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith, now the public works chairwoman, said they filled in gaps when the divisions lacked the resources.

They also worked with community groups on clean-up efforts, lending a hand on heavier duty tasks like tree and debris removal.

But later, criticism mounted that the group had become a vehicle to dole out political favors. At the start of Mr. Ravenstahl's term, the Post-Gazette found that around half the work was done on the North Side, home of the former mayor. In 2010, an audit by Controller Michael Lamb found that the neighborhoods with the most 311 complaints were not receiving the most attention from the crew.

"It's no secret that oversight of many city functions was lax in the last administration, and this mayor is doing all he can to improve oversight and efficiency," Mr. McNulty said. "This is one of those moves."

Councilman Corey O'Connor gave a tribute to his late father's program in city council Tuesday. In an interview, he said that Bob O'Connor "put his heart and soul into it." He passed away about a month after its creation.

"The jobs that they did [made] us the most livable city," he said. He said he was confident Mr. Peduto would continue the Redd Up crew's work.

But council members said they were still awaiting information as to who would take over the functions of the Redd Up crew.

Councilwoman Darlene Harris said she was looking to the crew to board up vacant houses where doors and windows remained open because of her concerns about squatters.

"I'm very frustrated," she said. "I'm waiting patiently here to get these homes boarded up [and] find out that they disbanded [the Redd Up crew] without consulting us."

Moriah Balingit:, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee.

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