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Bill Would Limit City Council Mass Mailings

Pittsburgh Council Members' ability to send out mass mailings would be restricted under a bill being considered by the legislative body.

Sponsoring Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak said the bill mirrors the Congressional laws regarding "franking," under which lawmakers may use public funds only for mailings within their respective legislative districts.

Under the bill, Council members could still use city dollars to mail material to address within their districts but if there are 50 or more addresses outside of their district on the list they would be forced to use private funds or campaign dollars.

The content of mass mailings would also be restricted with the goal of preventing the use of city funds for political campaigns.

Rudiak said the bill also requires that mailings must read "paid for by taxpayer money" before being sent out.

"This is straight out of Congress, and I think it's also helpful, as we talk about our budgetary issues, and we talk about how taxpayer money is being spent in the city, that taxpayers understand how their taxpayer money is being spent," said Rudiak.

But Councilman Patrick Dowd questioned the need for such a law, saying that if a Council Member did abuse the rights to mass mailings, bad media coverage and "negative approval" from the public would be punishment enough.

However, Rudiak and other supporters countered the bill represents good government, and will clarify a murk of state and federal laws.

Councilman Ricky Burgess argued some issues demand citywide mailings, such as those concerning low- and moderate-income communities across Pittsburgh.

In order to work out such concerns, the legislation has been held for a week. The bill is up for a preliminary vote next Wednesday.