In what he believes is political payback, Pittsburgh Councilman Bill Peduto said the city's public works director shelved two street-paving projects and canceled two meetings on traffic safety because the councilman's chief of staff criticized the department in a news story.
Not true, public works director Rob Kaczorowski insisted. "I don't play those games."
Mr. Peduto, who intends to challenge Mayor Luke Ravenstahl in next year's election, said the delays mean that residents of Sellers Street will continue to experience flood-related problems, that residents of Kittanning Way will have to live with a deteriorated street and that traffic concerns at Central Catholic High School on Fifth Avenue and Matthews Marking Products on Penn Avenue will remain unresolved for the time being.
Sellers is in Shadyside, Kittanning Way is in Squirrel Hill and the high school is in Oakland, all in Mr. Peduto's district. Matthews Marking is in Larimer, just outside Mr. Peduto's district.
Asked in an interview whether he would reschedule the safety meetings, Mr. Kaczorowski said, "Absolutely."
In a story Tuesday about paper streets, written by the journalism nonprofit PublicSource and published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Mr. Peduto's chief of staff, Dan Gilman, criticized the promptness of the public works department's response to a sinkhole on one never-completed street. He said there's a problem if it takes an inquiry from a reporter or a city council office to get a problem fixed.
At 7:13 a.m., 8:54 a.m. and 9:02 a.m. Tuesday, Mr. Gilman received emails from Mr. Kaczorowski. Mr. Kaczorowski doesn't deny sending the emails.
In the first email, part of a string that had "paper street article" in the subject line, Mr. Kaczorowski said, without elaborating, "Another BS statement ..." He then said, "On another front, sorry to inform you but after second thought Sellers may not be paved this year until the catch basin issue is resolved."
In the second email, Mr. Kaczorowski ruled out the possibility of paving Kittanning this year. "Not able to add to this year's list," he said, referring to the citywide paving list.
In the third email, referencing traffic safety meetings for Central Catholic and Matthews Marking Products that had been scheduled for 2:15 p.m. and 3 p.m. next Tuesday, Mr. Kaczorowski said, "Unfortunately, we will need to officially cancel these meetings at this time."
Mr. Peduto claims that Mr. Kaczorowski canceled the paving projects and safety meetings because Mr. Gilman criticized the department and because Mr. Peduto intends to challenge Mr. Ravenstahl next year.
"The first priority for everyone should be delivering the best services for the people of Pittsburgh," Mr. Peduto said. If Mr. Kaczorowski wants to involve himself in politics, he said, that's fine as long as it's "not on government time, not with government resources and certainly not when it's hurting the people of Pittsburgh."
Mr. Peduto said he decided to go public with his concern because he doubted that complaining to Mr. Kaczorowski's superiors would be productive.
"With this administration, the politics becomes the priority and not the public," Mr. Peduto said, recalling that in 2007 five public-works employees were caught wearing T-shirts for then-Councilman Jeff Koch's campaign. They were ordered to quit wearing the shirts.
Mr. Kaczorowski said the timing of Tuesday's emails was coincidental, not political.
If a project needs to be done, "we do it, regardless of who it is, even if a guy bum-raps us. ... I'm not going to jeopardize anybody's quality of life," he said.
Mr. Gilman said he has been trying to get Sellers Street leveled and paved for more than a year. The street is sloped and lacks curbs or catch basins, so stormwater runs directly onto homeowners' property.
In the end, Mr. Kaczorowski said, he concluded that flooding would worsen if he paved the street before the authority installed a catch basin or did other water-management work there.
Mr. Kaczorowski did not promise to pave Kittanning this year, but said in a Sept. 25 email to Mr. Gilman that he would get to the street if he could. He said it will probably be paved next year.
As for the meetings that were canceled, Mr. Kaczorowski said he wants to attend them but had a scheduling conflict for next Tuesday. He said there is no need for Mr. Peduto or his representative to attend.
Joe Smydo: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1548. First Published October 4, 2012 4:00 AM