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Politics & Government

Mayor Peduto On Celebrating The Penguins And Moving Forward Former Arena Site Development

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Bill Peduto
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Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto spoke at Wednesday’s parade in honor of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ Stanley Cup victory — the largest sports celebration in the history of the city. He said a sense of community developed around the team during their cup run.

“Everything is so freaking polarizing right now, everything,” Peduto said. “We divide ourselves by age. We divide ourselves by race. We divide ourselves by religion. And then all of that gets together and puts away all that division and just cheers, ‘We won the cup!’”

Many people had written off the Penguins as a playoff team in December, but Peduto said many different players and storylines contributed to the victory.

“This team is like Pittsburgh; it’s resilient,” Peduto said. “It had all the adversity that any team faced in the season and more, and it ended up hoisting the cup.”

Timothy McNulty, Peduto’s communications manager, provided an estimate that each Stanley Cup Playoff game brought about $225,000 into the city, but Peduto dismissed the economic impact.

“It is a civic engagement on the highest level,” Peduto said. “The costs and the benefits outweigh anything financial.”

Peduto’s office has been urging the Penguins to begin development on the site of the former Civic Arena. He said they’ve had eight years to prepare and developers are ready to go.

“The market’s really hot, and we want to be able to strike while it’s hot,” Peduto said.

He said it’s his job to make sure the develop happens, because the team has a disincentive to move forward.

“While it’s not being developed, it’s like a big cash machine. All that parking revenue is going directly back to the team,” Peduto said. “I have to be the one that pushes for the public.”

Peduto also addressed the results of an audit conducted by City Controller Michael Lamb claiming the mayor’s office spent $283,000 remodeling staff offices.

“There would still be workers working in our office right now if those numbers were correct,” Peduto said. “Mathematically, it’s not even possible.”

He added that the total cost of the improvements amounted to 1 percent of the city’s facilities budget.

Last week, the mayor received a letter from Pittsburgh’s highest-ranking police supervisors with the exception of the chief, raising concerns about a proposed contract. The supervisors fear the proposed annual raises of no more than 2 percent and increased health care contributions would lead to a mass exodus among the rank and file.

Peduto said the raises are dictated by Act 47, so they are not even on the negotiating table. But he acknowledged the low morale and the feeling amongst officers that their mayor has disrespected them. Peduto said this couldn’t be further from the truth.

“I’m a big liberal. I’m about helping workers, and these are my guys and my gals,” Peduto said. “I want to be able to help them, as well.”

He chalked some of the disagreement up to misinformation provided to police by the Fraternal Order of Police leadership. He said he would like to see a better relationship between his office and the FOP.

“Every other union that we worked with … a lot of it was negotiated by Kevin Acklin sitting down with the guys having a beer and just talking without lawyers,” Peduto said. “That’s where I wish we were at with the FOP.”

He said it will take actions, not words, to restore his relationship with the police.

“I’ve gotta be able to, over the next several years, have a lot of different actions that let not just the officers but their families understand who I am,” Peduto said.

The mayor has been plagued by the Sprint advertisement on Mt. Washington. Peduto said the city sent Lamar Advertising a cease and desist letter and will continue to levy fines on Lamar and Sprint until the sign comes down.

“We are fining them until the day they take down that horrible, tacky, yellow, vinyl sign from our beautiful hillside,” Peduto said.

Peduto also visited Washington, D.C. last week to make a final pitch for a $50 million Smart City grant, which he said was like “Shark Tank for politicians.” He said Pittsburgh stands out among the cities competing, many of which are quite successful.

“If you really want to tell a story about how a city can be transformed through technology and mobility and creating a new system, pick a city like Pittsburgh,” Peduto said.

He said the money would initially be used to develop an app to provide services to the homeless and also help coordinate a shuttle service that helps transport homeless residents.

He also commented on his performance with Guster at the Three Rivers Arts Festival. Peduto gave a speech while the band performed a song they wrote about the city.

“It was a magical moment of the Three Rivers Arts Festival,” Peduto said.

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