The goal of the forum was to present Mayor Peduto’s budget priorities for 2018, receive community members’ feedback, and then hopefully incorporate that into the final product. Staff from Mayor Peduto’s office presented five priorities of the administration, some with clearer paths forward than others. The five values laid out were: 1) leveraging partnerships “through coordination with community stakeholders,” 2) “building a Complete Streets network,” 3) “establishing a baseline of core infrastructure,” 4) “creating opportunities for stability and growth for communities,” and 5) “utilizing data to invest strategically.”
One major question that lingers is what will happen to these community and infrastructure programs if Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding is cut by Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Ray Gastil, the head of City Planning, was able to address this partially, assuring us that funding levels will remain stable for 2018. However, it remains unclear what local governments across the country can expect from HUD in the coming years. Sam Ashbaugh, Pittsburgh’s Chief Financial Officer, explained that in the case of a drop in CDBG funding, the City is able to rank which programs are most vital and in need of preservation– either because they are people-centric (e.g. Housing for People with AIDS [HOPA]) or provide a strong return on investment. However, funding was just one of many issues brought up by participants, and other topics covered included adding digital infrastructure costs to the capital budget, determining who is responsible for deciding what constitutes a baseline in our neighborhoods, and how to City determines which neighborhoods get assistance and capital upgrades first.
Unfortunately, due to severe rain and a flash flood warning, attendance was relatively sparse. Of the estimated 45 people at the event, roughly half were staff and presenters. As a group representing neighborhoods from every corner of Pittsburgh, PCRG hopes that the City will work on creative ways of getting bigger crowds and more diverse participants in the future.