Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's Speech in Council Chambers
Good morning members of City Council, men and women of our City's workforce, and residents of our most livable City of Pittsburgh. I am humbled and honored to stand before you today to present Pittsburgh's proposed 2009 Operating and Capital Budgets.
Over the past two weeks our world and my own life have changed in fundamental ways. I come to you today with a new perspective on my life...our City and our country. With the victory of President-Elect Barack Obama, America is on a new course that will change our lives forever. Listening to his acceptance speech on that historic Tuesday night, I heard a call for unity, for cooperation, for putting aside the divisions of the past and creating a new nation- one big American family working together through the hard times and the good. On a personal level, I am also understanding the importance of family and unity in a new way, and I hope you won't mind indulging a new dad as I share my thoughts with you.
As many of you know, my wife Erin and I recently welcomed our first son, Cooper Luke Ravenstahl to Pittsburgh and to the world. The ways that little Cooper has changed our lives in less than two weeks is unbelievable. We are excited and proud to introduce our newest family member to a City rooted in family unity. How lucky is Cooper, and the hundreds of babies born here every day, to live in a place where generations live in the same neighborhood, and sometimes even on the same street.
These generations have strong family values and a blue-collar work ethic. These fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, grandparents and grandchildren don't need a special occasion to get together for Sunday dinner. Generations, like myself, who have long traditions of attending the same high schools and churches. Even our sports teams rally around family – who can forget the "We Are Family" Pirates of the 1970s, and the family of the Steeler nation that stretches far and wide across our city, across the country and across the world.
On Election Day, Cooper made his first trip with mom and dad to the polls. Together, we made history with the millions of Americans who decided the time is now to stop looking back and start moving forward. President-elect Obama will face tough challenges: but together, under his leadership and with a united citizenry, we will restore America's promise, just like we are restoring Pittsburgh's.
When I accepted Pittsburgh's call to serve as your Mayor over two years ago, we faced enormous obstacles. Our future was uncertain, the financial condition of our City had us worried just like we worry about meeting our own financial burdens at home. But together we rallied to restore our city- resident by resident, family by family, block by block. We rallied to clean up our neighborhoods. We rallied to bring Pittsburgh the change it needed and renewed our City's promise.
I would not be standing here today, so optimistic about our future, but for the hard work of the City workforce and finance team, the partnerships that have strengthened and endured over the years with the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority and Act 47 team, and my esteemed colleagues in City Council. Thank you for believing in Pittsburgh, for never accepting less than the best, and for working with me to overcome some of our greatest obstacles.
Today, I present this budget to you in the spirit of progress, in the spirit of cooperation, and in the spirit of optimism for a better future for Pittsburgh and our families. We have an obligation to the residents of our City, to solve the problems we face together- as a family. Pittsburgher's have honored us with their trust, and they deserve the promise of unity.
Let's look back on what we were able to accomplish over the past year.
We've made great strides in turning the tide against crime, putting serious crimes at a 40 year historic low. We went "back-to-basics" putting beat cops back on our block, back in our neighborhoods and armed with new technology to give them more time to patrol our streets. We called on churches, communities, and neighbors to join us in the fight to keep our streets safer. Still, we have lost far too many to drugs and violence. To help us in our fight, we worked with leaders on Council and announced an initiative that will save lives and bring hope to communities: The Pittsburgh Initiative to Reduce Crime (PIRC). This vital effort will be up and running before next summer, providing criminals a choice: stop the violence or go to jail. It has worked in every City in which it was implemented. And it will work for us here in Pittsburgh.
Together, we transformed trash-strewn lots into gardens. We eliminated vacant buildings, and planted the seeds of hope for neighborhoods seeking opportunity. We built the framework to enforce new ordinances which tell the Pittsburgh "few", the careless neighbors, that enough is enough. Not here, not in our town.
Through our pay-as-you-go capital budget, we promised to invest in neighborhoods without mortgaging our children's future. And, we've succeeded. We made the largest public safety fleet investment in our City's history, purchasing more than 100 police vehicles, 9 fire trucks, and 8 ambulances.
We demolished hundreds of condemned buildings and equipped our building inspectors with technology that allows them to receive 311 complaints and fight blight from the field.
We paved more streets, bought new snow plows, and patched a record number of potholes. We launched an initiative to 'take care of business districts,' putting 'hokeymen' and beat cops back on our mainstreets. We're providing new bike racks, trees, lighting and garbage cans to our neighborhood lifelines.
Investing in our families, we built the area's first splash zone spray park; provided summer-long camps and activities for young people; and served nearly 250,000 meals to children during the course of the summer;
Investing in our families, we turned the Schenley Oval into a "sportsplex" where kids learn the value of teamwork and fair play. We rebuilt a baseball field in Bloomfield, renovated a recreation center in Arlington, and enhanced a senior center in Homewood. We provided financial and technical support to nearly 60 neighborhood celebrations that showcase Pittsburgh's diversity and vibrancy. And perhaps most importantly, investing in our families, we've restored the promise of higher education for our kids. This year, more than 800 youths will benefit from the Pittsburgh Promise, receiving scholarships to put them on the path to a brighter future. As families across the country are struggling to put their kids through school, there are no limits to what is possible in Pittsburgh.
Together, we've built a better City for our families.
The 2009 Operating Budget and Five Year Plan, with revenues of $441 million and expenditures of $438 million, maintains the investment our families deserve and addresses our long-term challenges. For the third consecutive year, our budget is balanced. We maintain healthy reserves, we continue to drive down the cost of government, and we've already received endorsement and approval by our state overseers.
2009 is the last year under Pittsburgh's original recovery plan. To recognize how far we've come, let's take a look at how we've met and beat the goals set by our overseers.
In the original recovery plan, projections showed the City facing operating deficits by 2009 and running out of cash by 2011. By cutting spending by 90 million more than was envisioned in the original plan, we were able to balance our checkbook and implement a pay-as-you-go fund. This fund, which we've grown to nearly $100 million dollars, allows us to catch up on years of disinvestment. We are investing in our neighborhoods' safety and infrastructure without using a credit card.
Our progress in restoring Pittsurgh's financial health has not gone unnoticed. For the third time in my two years in office, the City's bond rating has been upgraded by national rating agencies.
Still, we must be prepared to face the tough times that lie ahead. We face uncertain prospects of a worldwide economic downturn, and legacy costs remain a shared challenge for Pittsburgh and cities throughout the state. This is a shared challenge that we will face together. But, we will do our part to solve the problems locally, by aggressively paying down our outstanding debts and increasing our contributions to the pension fund above the minimum required levels.
We will not solve these problems overnight, as they've been created over decades. We will not solve these problems alone, as the power of many is greater than the power of a few, and we will not overlook solutions because of the enormous obstacles that lie ahead.
The 2009 budget makes strides in addressing the City's major cost driver, personnel expenditures. With over 70 percent of our budget attributable to salaries, benefits and retiree costs, it is critical that we closely examine and actively manage our personnel resources to ensure our checkbook remains balanced. To that end, we have made a commitment to a thorough personnel review.
In the past, if we had a vacant position, we automatically filled it, without even questioning the validity of that position. I asked my department heads to take a hard look at all the positions in their departments and determine which ones were absolutely necessary. As a result we were able to eliminate 65 vacant positions - roughly 2% of our workforce - without any layoffs. We will absorb these current vacancies by continuing to work smarter and better.
As we move forward, position reviews, performance evaluations, compensation reviews, and investments in education, training and workforce development are all part of our plan to redeploy our resources to improve services and enhance customer responsiveness – without spending more money.
This 2009 budget also addresses some of our most pressing needs: public safety, rebuilding our neighborhoods, and investing in our workforce.
This budget once again provides funding for more than 900 police officers. The difference in 2009, is that we'll be civilianizing the administrative part of our police force, replacing uniformed officers with qualified civilians to perform administrative functions. As a result, our officers will spend more time patrolling our streets and less time behind desks filling out paperwork. We will be relocating a police zone to the Hilltop communities to put our officers where the most violent crimes are occurring. And in 2009, our promise of cameras to help neighborhoods fight crime will be delivered.
In 2009 we will take down even more vacant structures and rebuild the Bureau of Building Inspection (BBI) from the ground up. BBI inspectors are on the front line on blight and today I am proud to say there is a new, brighter day for BBI and for our neighborhoods.
BBI will be more visible in your neighborhood, outfitted with City vehicles and technology to get the job done. Inspectors will report to neighborhood police zones instead of a downtown office. Firefighters will be trained in code enforcement to act as force-multipliers in the field. Together, inspectors, police, and firefighters will join the fight to renew our neighborhoods.
The 2009 budget renews our commitment to neighborhood revitalization. We're investing in our neighborhood business districts to provide them with the tools they need to conquer past neglect. We're investing in our parks, and playgrounds, transforming more empty pools into splash zones, improving and creating the places where our family and children play. We continue to invest in our streets, our bridges and our infrastructure, without leaving future generations to foot the bill.
We're also investing in the development needed to create jobs and keep and attract families. Right now, we are experiencing our City's third renaissance. A new arena and casino are being built. Four billion dollars of construction is underway in downtown alone. Neighborhoods are experiencing growth and seeing more opportunity and we are building and planning for a brighter tomorrow. From East Liberty to the Strip District; from the riverfront to the hilltops; from South Side, to Oakland; Brookline, to the Hill District, economic development projects are being planned for throughout our City.
From public safety, to neighborhood renewal, to economic development, we are restoring the promise for Pittsburgh's families.
Our progress to date and our future successes is due in large part to the efforts and sacrifices of the men and women who make up the City of Pittsburgh workforce.
I am honored to continue working alongside each and every one of them, with City Council, the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, and Act 47 Coordinators to ensure that the 2009 Budget and Five-Year Plan allows us to continue the gains we have made over the past few years, and maintain Pittsburgh's status as America's Most Livable City.
But, if we are to continue our success and overcome future obstacles, we must unite as only a family can. Together, we are one Pittsburgh family. Like a Pittsburgh family, we will root for each other, we will come together. Like a Pittsburgh family, we will put personalities aside to fight for the future of a City that depends on us. Like a Pittsburgh family, we will work together in the spirit of this historic election, to resist the urge to say "no we can't" and instead say "yes we can."
To unite as a family, we must remember who we are as Pittsburghers. We are selfless, kind and warm-hearted. We are people of courage, born from hard working families who came here to make a better life for future generations. That spirit, that hope, and that optimism have taken us to a point right now that has exceeded the expectations of many.
Today, I come before you as a proud father and a proud Pittsburgher to call on you to pursue and realize the dream for a better Pittsburgh for ourselves and for generations to come.
We are all in this together, Pittsburgh. We're all one Pittsburgh family.
Thank you, may God Bless America and may God Bless Pittsburgh.
Monday, November 10, 2008
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MAYOR ANNOUNCES SECOND ROUND OF PUBLIC MEETINGS FOR CITY'S CULTURAL HERITAGE PLANNING EFFORT
Dec 06, 2010
Office of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl
512 City County Building | 414 Grant Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
telephone: 412-255-2626 | facsimile: 412-255-2687