Mayor-elect Peduto begins setting the stage



Bill Peduto had been waiting for this day -- his first full day as mayor-elect -- for about a decade. And he opened it with an interview Wednesday with Mikey and Big Bob, hosts of the "Morning Freak Show" on 96.1 FM, where he joked that, while there was no ceremony to mark his victory, he would change his Twitter description from Democratic nominee to mayor-elect "at home, potentially in a robe."

From there, it was on to business. Mr. Peduto, who celebrated his victory until the early morning hours following Election Day, quickly got back to the work of implementing his vision -- spelled out in lofty rhetoric the night before.

"So I haven't really gotten much sleep," he said at the start of a Wednesday afternoon news conference, where he laid out his rapid-fire plan for transition, which includes major announcements for five consecutive weekdays.

Peduto: 'We want to build a new city'

Mayor-elect Bill Peduto talked today about the hiring protocol he expects to use in filling positions. That includes a request for the voluntary resignation of all members of city agencies. (Video by Nate Guidry; 11/6/2013)

The transition -- which began in earnest when he won the Democratic nomination in May -- will be "effective and short-lived," he said. And while he's said the transition with the administration of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl -- his one-time arch rival -- has been smooth, Mr. Ravenstahl indicated otherwise Wednesday as the two disagreed over whether he had made a commitment to have mayoral appointments on boards, commissions and authorities resign.

Today, the mayor-elect is expected to announce his selection for top posts in an overhauled mayor's office. Friday and Monday, he'll reveal details of his transition. And Tuesday, he'll unveil legislative initiatives he hopes to undertake.

Today's announcement includes selections for chief administration officer, chief innovation and performance officer, chief operations officer and chief legal officer. Some of these positions are new, and others are remade versions of existing ones. Significantly, the chief administration officer will now oversee the Office of Municipal Investigations, which investigates complaints against city employees, including police officers.

Mr. Peduto also plans to announce his picks for two positions within the newly created Office of Urban Affairs, which the new administration hopes will be partially funded by foundations.

The head of the Department of Public Safety, however, will be left to a national search, and Mr. Peduto said Mike Huss, who currently holds the job, will be a candidate. Department heads, too, will be selected through a national search conducted through Talent City, a website and program funded by the Pittsburgh Foundation to recruit candidates from around the country for jobs in city government.

In his first official act as mayor-elect of Pittsburgh on Wednesday, Mr. Peduto asked Mr. Ravenstahl to hold off on any major personnel decisions for the rest of the year and on entering into contracts that will extend into the next year.

"As you are well aware, the fiscal status of the City of Pittsburgh remains precarious," wrote Kevin Acklin, the head of transition and Mr. Peduto's future chief of staff. "As a consequence, it is important that we take prudent action on behalf of the residents of our city to ensure a smooth transition."

In an email statement sent from his spokeswoman, Mr. Ravenstahl said he will continue to work with Mr. Peduto's staff but appeared to disagree with Mr. Acklin's characterization of the city's finances.

"Over the last 7 years, we've balanced every budget without raising taxes, received 10 bond rating upgrades and paid down a quarter-billion dollars of the City's debt. I can assure the incoming administration that the City's finances will be in great condition when they take office in January," the statement read. "My administration will continue to work with the incoming administration to ensure a smooth transition, which is in the best interest of the residents of Pittsburgh."

His spokeswoman, Marissa Doyle, did not respond to follow-up questions about whether the administration planned to abide by Mr. Acklin's specific requests. But Mr. Acklin said he expected cooperation from the current administration and that he had received positive responses to the letter from several department heads.

Mr. Peduto said he had not received a congratulatory phone call from Mr. Ravenstahl, but his staff has been working closely with other members of his administration, including Mr. Huss, operations director Duane Ashley and members of the mayor's budget team.

Mr. Peduto also plans to ask for the resignation of all members of boards, commissions and authorities, which he said was "protocol" for a mayoral transition. He said the current administration agreed to the request.

Mr. Acklin said that during a meeting with the mayor and follow up meetings with administration officials, "the expectation was clearly set that the current administration would not obstruct our ability to make appointments to boards, authorities and commissions," he said.

"We're hoping that the administration will keep its word and that all members of boards, authorities and commissions will voluntarily resign by the end of the year," Mr. Peduto said.

But Ms. Doyle said "the voluntary resignation of board members was never discussed."

"Proud that I've never once pressured or even asked any board member to take any action -ever -not going to start now," a message from the mayor's Twitter account, @mayorluke, read. "I'll leave it up to each individual board member, as I always have. Looks as if it'll be an interesting couple of months!"


Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com. First Published November 6, 2013 11:43 AM

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