Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Measure to Monitor City Development Funds

Pittsburgh Council has approved a $35,000 grant to help ensure Pittsburghers are hired at the new Bakery Square development in East Liberty.

The money will be met with matching funds from developer Walnut Capital, and will be used to create programs aimed specifically at hiring city residents.

The bill was passed with an amendment to monitor the usage of those funds, from Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak. Rudiak says her revision would require reports on the total number of employees, their average wage, how many Pittsburgh residents were hired, and what outreach programs were used to reach Pittsburghers.

But the amendment drew sharp criticism from Councilman Ricky Burgess, who says it is a way of picking on a low-income neighborhood.

“It seems to me whenever there's some development done in certain communities, then all of a sudden, here jumps up a progressive performance police to want to earmark performance data to certain projects," says Burgess. "And it's specific, usually, to low- and moderate-income communities."

Burgess says he doesn’t see this level of scrutiny about developments in more affluent areas, citing the lack of such monitoring measures in the $250,000 grocery store development in Beechview last year.

But Rudiak says monitoring measures should be used in every new development in the city, and her office is drafting legislation to require that.

“Tracking accountability in public dollars in low- and moderate-income communities should be our highest priority because of the extreme need for investment in those areas," says Rudiak. "And every single dollar wasted is a lost opportunity in a low- and moderate-income community, especially dollars specifically designed to provide jobs."

Council Members Lavelle, Peduto, and Smith said they would support comprehensive tracking of city funds used in developments.

No comments: