Bill Peduto, the Democratic nominee for mayor of Pittsburgh.
By Karen Langley Post-Gazette Harrisburg Bureau
HARRISBURG -- Bill Peduto's first visit to the Capitol since the mayoral primary was filled with high-profile meetings -- the governor's chief of staff, legislative leaders -- and a few specific requests, most prominently that the city remain under Act 47 financial oversight.
Also, a disclaimer: "I'm the Democratic nominee for mayor of Pittsburgh, which means I haven't won an election yet," he said while introducing himself to reporters.
But as the party's choice in a city with lopsided voter registration, Mr. Peduto is the prohibitive favorite to become mayor, and he described plans to become a regular presence in the state Capitol. That effort commenced Monday and Tuesday with visits to a series of state officials, including Secretary Alan Walker of the Department of Community and Economic Development.
Pittsburgh since 2004 has been subject to the provisions of Act 47, a state law that imposes spending restrictions, such as wage caps for union workers, on municipalities that are considered financially distressed. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has worked to extract the city from Act 47 oversight. Mr. Peduto has held that the city's finances, while improved, still require the program's protections, and he said the "big ask" of his trip was that DCED keep Pittsburgh in the program.
"The city is not out of the financial woods," he said. "We're still in the middle of it, and in fact we have an opportunity in the next five years to build a sustainable budget for at least a decade."
His push comes as police and firefighter unions prepare to head to the bargaining table over contracts that expire in 2014.
Steve Kratz, a spokesman for DCED, said Mr. Walker appreciated meeting with Mr. Peduto and would consider his comments. The agency is continuing to evaluate the city's fiscal position -- including its budget and pension liabilities -- but has not determined if it will release Pittsburgh from oversight, he said. He said the law sets no timeline for the decision.
Besides the Act 47 determination, Mr. Peduto asked the state for administrative changes involving two projects, a transit center in East Liberty and the Summerset at Frick Park housing development.
His schedule included meetings with Stephen Aichele, Gov. Tom Corbett's chief of staff; the state treasurer, Rob McCord; the auditor general, Eugene DePasquale; and leaders in the House and Senate.
"Everything in politics is based on protocol, and that's why I'm here," he said. "I'm here just to do the introduction. I'm here to follow the protocol.
"I haven't won anything, I'm not elected as the mayor, I'm just the Democratic nominee. But at the same time I'm here to introduce myself to both the Democratic and Republican leadership and to fight for my city."
Mr. Peduto was accompanied by campaign aide and Pittsburgh attorney Kevin Acklin, who he said would be his chief of staff, and his current chief of staff, Dan Gilman, who won the nomination for Mr. Peduto's seat on city council.
Pittsburgh-area lawmakers who supported Mr. Peduto in his primary campaign said the city has had less than robust representation by its chief executive in the Capitol.
"The current mayor has not had a strong presence in Harrisburg, particularly compared to mayors from other cities across the commonwealth," said Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, whose brother, Guy Costa, managed Mr. Peduto's campaign. Mr. Costa mentioned Philadelphia, Allentown and Scranton. "They've been visible here and have had a presence."
Rep. Dan Frankel of Squirrel Hill, whose district overlaps Mr. Peduto's council district, said he believes Mr. Ravenstahl has spent less time in Harrisburg than previous mayors.
"It's been sporadic," Mr. Frankel said. "The mayor has been up here on occasion, but I would say, based on my experience over the years, less of a presence than certainly Tom Murphy had when he was up here and, briefly, Bob O'Connor."
Marissa Doyle, a spokeswoman for Mr. Ravenstahl, said his administration has had positive relationships with Mr. Corbett and former Gov. Ed Rendell, as well as with Republican and Democratic legislators.
"Through those relationships, the mayor was able to help bring hundreds of millions in resources to Pittsburgh, helping to advance countless economic development projects across the city," she said in an email.
Mr. Frankel pointed to Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, who was walking the Capitol halls Tuesday, as an example of a city leader who has built relationships beyond his region of the state.
"Ultimately, when you need to get things done here, you need more than your own regional delegation to work with," Mr. Frankel said. "I think it's important to have a presence up here, and hopefully we'll see what the city's specific agenda is, assuming Bill Peduto becomes mayor."