Mayor Luke Ravenstahl is taking a major swipe at the red tape currently binding Pittsburgh's outdated development and job creation programs.
At a press conference today, the Mayor announced the creation of a position to directly manage the City's economic growth and to oversee the renaissance of Pittsburgh's neighborhoods and that he has appointed a professional whose background combines both private and public sector development experience to fill it.
City Planning Director Patrick Ford will be appointed as the City of Pittsburgh's first Director of Economic and Community Development. In this position, he will be challenged by the Mayor to A.C.T., or, more specifically, to bring accountability, customer service and transparency to the City's permitting and planning departments and to spearhead the Mayor's citywide neighborhood revitalization strategy.
"We must treat our existing businesses and neighborhood developers as the City's partners and customers, serving as an advocate, not an obstacle, to economic development," Mayor Ravenstahl said. "We must be more proactive in reaching out to the business community, especially our small businesses, by providing the tools they need to grow and flourish, adding jobs in Pittsburgh. The new Director of Economic and Community Development will also be charged with working closely with our partners in local growth sectors, like those in the university and healthcare community, to ensure that the business opportunities that spin off from them find a home in Pittsburgh."
Mr. Ford has already created a more efficient and expedient zoning review and approval process for projects in the Department of City Planning and has implemented programs identifying and meeting the needs of Pittsburgh's neighborhoods. He has also reorganized the department as a whole to operate more effectively. Those changes included reinstituting the highly requested practice of assigning each of the City's neighborhoods to one staff planner, who then serves as the point person for issues in that district.
"Part of the mission of the new Director of Economic and Community Development will be to improve the City's economy and create jobs," the Mayor said. Mr. Ford will begin by bringing the Mayor's A.C.T philosophy to the building, public works and code-compliance departments, as well as the City's authorities, including the URA.
"Together we will create an environment that is conducive to development," Ford said. "I will challenge City staff at all levels to be more accountable in assuming responsibility for their jobs and to improve customer service in their interactions with residents and businesses.""
Mayor Ravenstahl expects the new management structure to streamline the City's development related services by eliminating the duplication of efforts and by allowing staff to respond more quickly to the needs of development projects.
In addition to bringing together key City departments, Mr. Ford will also work directly with the executive directors of the URA, Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, the Parking Authority and the Housing Authority to maximize their organization's roles in development projects.
"Communication," Mr. Ford said, "will be our first step to bringing transparency to these organizations respective decision-making processes."
While the Department of City Planning will also be under the umbrella of Economic and Community Development, the leadership of that department is being turned over to the current Assistant Director of Strategic Planning, Noor Ismail.
Ms. Ismail, like Mr. Ford, brings a combination of private and public sector experience to the Director of City Planning position. From 2001-2005, Ms. Ismail was a private planning consultant in Fort Myers, FL, where two of her projects, the Palm Beach Boulevard Community Plan and the Charlotte County SR 776 Corridor Plan, won State Awards of Excellence from the Florida Planning and Zoning Association.
"Ms. Ismail brings a specialization in urban design to the Department of City Planning," Mayor Ravenstahl said. "This expertise is a perfect complement to Mr. Ford's development sensibility: he ensures that a project is possible, and Ms. Ismail will ensure that only the highest quality development is brought into our communities."
Both Mr. Ford's and Ms. Ismail's appointments will be effective immediately.
Monday, February 19, 2007
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Office of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl
512 City County Building | 414 Grant Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
telephone: 412-255-2626 | facsimile: 412-255-2687