Pittsburgh is burdened by several challenges that are affecting the quality of life of its residents. Some of those challenges include significant blight and abandonment of private and publicly owned land and constructions, sewer and rain water containment and processing, lead contamination with its public water system, a failing aged infrastructure, long-time mismanagement of its public water system, and nationally recognized poor air quality. The associated challenge is the prioritization of processes that will address the aforementioned challenges.
My vision for the city is to first address lead crisis many residents are facing whether is in the water or in the soil. Increasing the available green spaces can make a positive contribution to the ecosystem thereby improving air quality but this has to be linked also to the enforcement of the diesel fuels ordinance passed by city council, ensuring the retrofitting of heavy equipment used on construction project reducing carbon emissions.
Secondly, the consent decree issued by the EPA on Allegheny County to sewage and rain water containment is significant. As the former President of PIIN and still one of its leaders, I was part of the organizing collaboratives that pushed ALCOSAN to consider and support green infrastructures to help in remediation and to foster a positive workforce development effort in many of our neighborhoods and municipalities. With the increasing number of formerly incarcerated men and women trying to re-integrate into society this is just one way to provide job training and employment opportunities for them as well as members of our homeless community.
Thirdly, with the significant number of vacant parcels under the auspices of the city of Pittsburgh, many of which are in low income communities with high unemployment, the opportunity to beautify these neighborhoods is ripe. This is a perfect use of CDBG funds to contract out with neighborhood organizations that have the appearance of their communities in the forefront of their minds, organizations like the Rosedale Block Cluster, Hilltop Alliance, and others. This will also create an opportunity to hire community residents looking for employment, especially youth during the summer. This will teach them the value of taking care of their own communities.
I would push to have an ordinance that will require new developments to include green. For example, many of the new constructions downtown could have reduced footprints thereby moving sidewalks and using the current curb spaces for bioswales to reduce rainwater runoff. With the desire to increase residency downtown, the increase in greenery will enhance the look and feel. These improvements in sidewalk infrastructure should be paid for by the developers and not by taxpayers.
Investments of federal dollars is an option to pursue in addition to leveraging funding from foundations. President Trump pledges to invest in infrastructure. We should have long declared a state of emergency seeking federal and state aid for our water crisis. The obvious challenge is that with the current Federal administration’s dismissal of the affects of climate change, seeking federal funding to improve our county and city parks could be difficult. However, pooling our city and county funds is always an option, especially with the growing surplus in city funds.