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Despite 'Great Uncertainty,' Mayor & County Executive Look To 2021 For Recovery

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Laura Tsutsui
/
90.5 WESA
Mayor Bill Peduto and County Executive Rich Fitzgerald sat down for a conversation to reflect on 2020 and what they hope for in 2021.

  On today's program: Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald spoke about what the pandemic has revealed about the state of the city and county ahead of 2021.

Not enough ‘robust help’ from federal government
( 0:00 - 18:00) 

The economic challenges families across the region are experiencing sent waves through the city and county government. While attempting to address the increased need, city and county leaders tried to maintain everyday services.

“Many of the revenues the county relies on were impacted, things like hotel tax, drink tax, car rental tax, gaming tax, sales tax,” says Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. “I think more of the devastation has actually occurred to individuals in the private sector who have seen their jobs overnight get changed."

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto agrees, and says one out of every six dollars in revenue was lost in the city’s budget.

“As we go into 2021, we’re facing great uncertainty,” says Peduto. “If we have learned anything, we’ve learned our revenue structure for the city is not resilient. It cannot withstand the shock of a global pandemic.”

Both noted that local governments are in dire need of financial support from the federal government. 

“There hasn’t been enough robust help coming from the federal government along those lines,” says Fitzgerald. He cites the county’s Health and Human Services Department as one of the biggest shares of the county budget that needs support. “If we’re not made whole as governments, it’s going to be the people that need the help the most that are going to be most affected.”

More than a week ago, President Trump signed a bipartisan stimulus package that includes direct payments to some Americans. However, President-elect Joe Biden has called this package a “down payment.” 

Despite the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic, both say they are continuing to press for priorities they laid out a year ago.

Peduto told The Confluence back in January that he wanted to focus on development. “We have to recognize that it’s not 1974 anymore. We can keep the heart of Penn Avenue the same way it was back then,” Peduto said at the time.  "But what we’re not going to see is a complimentary development.”

Development remains a key issue for Peduto.

“I believe the market will take off, it will stay very strong, and then we’ll prime the pump in the areas where it’s not taking off in order to give opportunity to everybody,” he says.

 Fitzgerald told The Confluence in November of 2019 that transportation would be a key issue for his final term in office. 

“Transportation and workforce development are still two key components to bring back places in the county that haven’t had the growth,” Fitzgerald says. He adds that progress has been slowed by the lack of revenue from gas taxes and turnpike tolls. 

Looking ahead to 2021, both say getting past the pandemic and distributing the recently approved COVID-19 vaccines are the new priority.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in weekdays at 9 a.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

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. kgavin@wesa.fm
Marylee is the editor/producer of The Confluence, the daily public affairs show on WESA. She got her start in journalism at The Daily Reveille and KLSU while attending Louisiana State University. She took her passion for audio journalism to UC Berkeley's graduate program and worked in public radio at WPR in Madison, WI, and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
Laura Tsutsui is a producer for The Confluence, WESA's morning news show. Previously, she reported on the San Joaquin Valley with the NPR affiliate station in her hometown of Fresno, California. She can be reached at ltsutsui@wesa.fm.
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