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Politics & Government

Gilman Says He Won't be a 'Rubber Stamp' for Former Boss Peduto

As Bill Peduto is sworn in as mayor of Pittsburgh, his former chief of staff will move into his old City Council seat.

Dan Gilman won the District 8 seat in a landslide victory in November, clinching 89 percent of the vote.

District 8 includes Shadyside, Squirrel Hill North and North Oakland. Gilman, who worked with Peduto for eight years, says the relative safety and economic stability in his district will free him up to focus on other parts of the city.

“One of the great things about District 8 is that it’s been the heart of the growth of the East End and of the region,” Gilman said. “Councilman in that district always has a little bit of flexibility to focus on many of the broader issues facing the city.”

But, Gilman said, that doesn’t mean his district is without its own issues. District 8 includes a UPMC campus and three universities — Chatham University, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Pittsburgh — and also butts up against the Veteran’s Affairs Healthcare facility in Oakland.

“We need those institutions to grow for the economy to grow, and they employ many people in my district,” said Gilman. “But in return you have to deal with things like traffic, helicopter noise, shuttle buses, parking issues.”

Gilman also said he has concerns about the fact that UPMC owns so much untaxable land in the city, and about the healthcare giant’s alleged labor violations.

“At the end of the day, if you put in a solid eight-hour shift at an institution like UPMC, your pay should be enough that you have health insurance, that you’re putting food on the table, and you can make a mortgage payment,” Gilman said.

Gilman said the most pressing issue facing the city is money, and he wants to make sure that the city exits Act 47 oversight with its house in order.

“We’re not out of the woods yet, and all council members and the mayor-elect need to focus on making sure we get to 2017 in a balanced budget, without excessively borrowing money and taking on new debt,” Gilman said.

The councilman-elect said he's on board with Peduto's push for data-driven governance. He also wants to see all city departments accept credit cards, as well as the digitization of more of the city's day-to-day operations.

“We’re trying to compete in the 21st Century economy, but we’re using technology from 1983," Gilman said. "If we’re going to grow and compete with other cities like Seattle; Portland; Austin, Texas or Providence, R.I., we need to change the way government operates.”

Gilman’s transition into his former boss’s City Council seat echoes Peduto’s own move into that seat. Peduto was chief of staff for Dan Cohen, who held the seat from 1990-2001. Gilman said his close relationship with the mayor-elect won’t color the decisions he makes as a City Councilman.

“Democracy is set up to have a check and a balance," Gilman said. "If votes are always nine nothing and council is a rubber stamp for the administration, the people aren’t getting good government.”

Gilman will be sworn in to Pittsburgh City Council on Monday, Jan. 6, 2014.