Republican Neugebauer hopes to oust Peduto from City Council
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A Republican won Shadyside in the 2007 mayor's race, so Greg Neugebauer figures he has a chance as the GOP's challenger to Pittsburgh Councilman William Peduto.
"In a democracy, thank God, anything can happen," said the 26-year-old Shadyside resident, who wants to deny Mr. Peduto, 45, of Point Breeze, a third term. "A lot of times, people want to try something different and get some new blood in there."
His would be the first Republican blood in city government since the Great Depression, and he's the only hope for his party this year. It failed to field candidates for the other three council seats on the ballot Tuesday, and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, a Democrat, won the GOP nomination for the top post via a write-in bid.
Mr. Peduto said the city's all-Democratic government isn't monolithic, with council featuring "probably nine of the most diverse opinions on some issues."
But Mr. Neugebauer said he would be "more of a true fiscal conservative."
He said Mr. Peduto's environmental bills -- like legislation last week to require energy audits of city-owned buildings -- "tend to be very costly," at a time when the city is in fiscal distress.
Mr. Peduto said that even his most capital-intensive initiatives, like one to replace old streetlights with energy-efficient ones, will save money in the long-term.
Mr. Neugebauer also critiques Mr. Peduto for being "a little out of touch with specific neighborhoods. He focuses a lot on the overall city" rather than on the parts of Bloomfield, Friendship, East Liberty, North Oakland and West Oakland that round out the district.
"I've spent 15 years of my life working for the people of District 8," countered Mr. Peduto, counting his time as an aide to former Councilman Dan Cohen. "There isn't a week that goes by that I'm not at some type of community meeting, for 15 years."
One of Mr. Neugebauer's core ideas is a citywide proposition. To address the city's daunting pension liabilities, he'd like to see new employees put into an investment plan like a 401(k), rather than pension plans with promised benefits. He also wants the city to offer current employees the right to shift their pension dollars into such a plan.
Most of the city's work force is unionized, so such a plan would be subject to collective bargaining. Mr. Neugebauer said he would ensure it didn't compromise the city's ability to keep good police and firefighters.
Mr. Peduto is council's most adept fundraiser, and a media presence, while Mr. Neugebauer has raised little more than $1,000 and campaigned between University of Pittsburgh Law School classes and work in a local retailer's legal department.
"Nobody's really given me a whole lot of money, which is exactly what I wanted," Mr. Neugebauer said. "I don't owe anything to anybody."
His hopes are built on Republican mayoral candidate Mark DeSantis' 61.6 percent win in Shadyside two years ago.
He grew up near Johnstown, worked in banking, moved to the city for law school and bought a house in 2007. Like Mr. Peduto, he's unmarried. He referees football, basketball and baseball games "to keep busy and stay in shape."
First Published October 31, 2009 12:00 am