City-county merger could be on ballot next year
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Pittsburgh and Allegheny County officials expect to have legislation ready by the end of the year on their way to seeking a voter-approved merger of their respective governments, the two leaders said yesterday.
Allegheny county Chief Executive Dan Onorato and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl met Saturday with state legislators from throughout the county and found receptiveness, if not enthusiasm.
"No one said, 'Let's block this,'" Mr. Onorato said. "They agreed that if the two of us want to push this, they shouldn't block it."
The next step is to identify a handful of local legislators -- Democrats and Republicans -- willing to keep the rest of the General Assembly informed while they work with the mayor and executive on the language of legislation allowing a consolidation vote. State law on municipal mergers specifically excludes Pittsburgh and Allegheny County.
"So I would say in the next two weeks, we'll sort of coalesce around some names" of legislators, Mr. Onorato said. "We want it to be bipartisan. We want it to be county and city [legislators], too, all at the table."
If the General Assembly passes a law this year allowing a voter referendum on the merger of the city into the county, the two will try to get it on the ballot in November 2009, said Mr. Onorato. But he acknowledged that the time frame set at an April 3 announcement of the push could prove overly ambitious.
He said that "obviously our goal was to do it by November of ." But he'll have to see the "politics of how that goes forward" before determining "when that [vote] actually happens."
Mr. Ravenstahl said a 2009 referendum "is a goal. If we're not able to reach that, that doesn't mean we won't continue."
Mr. Onorato has long favored melting the city into the county, but Mr. Ravenstahl's conversion was a surprise when a committee headed by University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark Nordenberg released a report recommending that step. The report set parameters for a merger, but left many details undecided.
First Published May 20, 2008 12:00 am