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In First 2016 Visit, Mayor Peduto Weighs In On Police Residency And New Public Safety Director

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Keith Srakocic
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AP Images

During his first regular visit to Essential Pittsburgh of 2016, Mayor Bill Peduto previewed what is projected to be a great year in the Steel City.

Tuesday morning marked Mayor Peduto’s official announcement of Wendell Hissrich as the city’s new acting Public Safety Director.  A Forest Hills native, volunteer firefighter, and Duquesne University graduate, Hissrich’s extensive resume includes work with Pittsburgh EMS, as well as 25 years with the FBI.  Mayor Peduto says that with Hissrich’s diverse background, the public safety department is adopting a new focus centralized in community outreach.

“It sort of brings together fire, EMS, and law enforcement and how joint operations can prepare us—and that’s really the key in both man-made and natural disasters,” Mayor Peduto says.

In regards to the state court’s ruling upholding the city’s requirement that police officers be residents of the city, Major Peduto says that this legislation is part of the city’s constitution, which is adopted and approved by the people.  Suburban legislatures changed the law saying that police officers were not required to live in the city, a law which did not resonate well with Pittsburghers.

“People voted overwhelmingly,” Mayor Peduto says, “Over 80 percent of the people said they want all city employees to live in the city of Pittsburgh.”

As a result, the city government took their case to the state court, and won.  However, Mayor Peduto is willing to negotiate with officers residing outside the city to give them enough time to relocate into the city.

Another change the Mayor hopes to see in 2016 is regarding subsidizing home ownership due to scarce affordable housing.  Although Pittsburgh is one of the most affordable cities, many lifelong Pittsburghers are still unable to afford to live here. Mayor Peduto’s plan involves wedding the 7,000 people who need affordable housing with the 13,000 vacant properties around the city.

By teaming up with non-profits, faith-based organizations, and people in need of work in the community, people can be trained with skills in carpentry, plumbing, and electricity in order to provide jobs while redeveloping neighborhoods.

“We want to go into neighborhoods like the Hill District, Homewood, and up on the hilltop, and be able to save these beautiful Queen Annes and Victorians and turn them into home ownership opportunities.”

Mayor Peduto also addressed the city’s plans for the Bicentennial celebration of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s decision to make Pittsburgh a city.  Mayor Peduto says  four large events including concerts, parades, and other activities, this year will be a celebration of the people.  Over 300 local organizations have already signed up to hold events open to all Pittsburghers, which Mayor Peduto says gives us all “a reason to party everyday”.  

More Essential Pittsburgh segments can be heard here.

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