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As City Awaits Amazon HQ2 Answer, Peduto Says Growth Should Benefit All Pittsburghers

Keith Srakocic
The Pittsburgh skyline is seen from the West End Overlook, a city park, Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017.

As Pittsburgh continues trying to grow its tech sector, including a bid for Amazon’s second North American headquarters, Mayor Bill Peduto said he's conscious about ensuring that rising tide lifts all boats.

The mayor said he asks himself, “What type of programs can we create that will maximize societal benefit from the infusion of 50,000 jobs over 17 years and minimize the negative impacts that will occur whether it's through transportation, the environment or even the place?"

It'll be important to reduce -- not widen -- the gap between “the haves and have-nots,” he said.

“Within the city of Pittsburgh, we realize that inequity follows race; that there is a very strong correlation between being black in Pittsburgh and inequity,” Peduto said.

He pointed to health care delivery, access to affordable housing and pre-K education as the city's biggest modern hurdles. He said he's working with Pittsburgh Public Schools, not just on early childhood education, but also providing community health services for students and their families.

The Pittsburgh Board of Education in May approved the designation of the first five community schools; they're expected to their needs to the district this semester, but resources for expanded health services aren't likely to be among those initial asks.

Peduto and other leaders have also estimated a need for 17,000 units of affordable housing in the city.

“We are looking to create one of the largest per capita trust funds for affordable housing in the nation,” Peduto said. “We're working locally with local neighborhoods to establish inclusionary zoning policies.”

City Council approved creation of a housing trust fund in December, but not how to fund it. There’s disagreement over increasing the realty transfer tax by 1 percentage point to provide the funding.

Peduto said he’s open to other options, but said, “I believe that the wealth that we're generating in this city today and the sale of property from that should be the vehicle in which we create affordable housing options in this city. But by the end of this year, we need a solution.”

Taxes can't be the only answer, he said, and called on partnerships with non-profits, foundations and corporations to create programs that “will be an investment in people that really needs to be done across the board.”

Coverage of issues of social justice and racial and economic equity in Pittsburgh on 90.5 WESA is generously supported by the Heinz Endowments.  

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago.
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