Activists, public officials protest Peoples’ proposal to overhaul Pittsburgh water authority

About two dozen activists, public officials and onlookers gathered in front of the Peoples Natural Gas headquarters on the North Side Wednesday morning to oppose the company’s efforts to, as they say, "privatize the city’s water infrastructure." Holding signs, attendees engaged in a call-and-response with Rev. Vincent Kolb, a member of the Pittsburgh United’s Our Water Campaign and a minister at the Sixth Presbyterian Church. “Do we want to see our water become a commodity?” Kolb asked as the protesters stood behind him. “No!” the crowd responded. During the event, a few officials gave short speeches and the Our Water Campaign launched a petition drive to gather support for keeping PWSA’s assets public.

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority's water treatment plant in Aspinwall. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

Public-private partnership or ‘privatization scheme?’ New details emerge about Peoples Gas proposal to fix city water infrastructure

New information has emerged about an aggressive push by Peoples Natural Gas to take control of parts of the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority’s infrastructure, a deal the company hopes it can strike by promising to fix some of PWSA’s problems.

Details of Peoples offer — which to activists and public officials who have heard the company’s pitch in recent meetings looked like an offer to privatize parts of the city’s water system —  indicate that the company is offering to leverage its capital and expertise to solve Pittsburgh’s water woes. Led by Morgan O’Brien, the company’s CEO and president, and Kevin Acklin, a Peoples executive and former chief of staff for Mayor Bill Peduto, Peoples has been pitching its idea to city council members, PWSA officials and local activists. O’Brien has also courted Peduto, as the Post-Gazette reported in February. Acklin wrote in an email Tuesday that he wasn’t present at the meeting with the mayor or the meetings with city council members as his presence would violate city ethics rules. He said those meetings were conducted by O’Brien and other Peoples staff.

(Illustration by Anita Dufalla/PublicSource)

New developments in B-Three whistleblower suit detail complaint filed by accused official

Rosato-Barone indicates that an internal investigation she initiated through the city’s Office of Municipal Investigations (OMI) into Souroth Chatterji was wider in scope. Besides Chatterji, it targeted former Chief Cameron McLay and key police personnel, including former Assistant Chief Larry Scirotto. These individuals were all involved in the McLay administration’s scrutiny of software projects involving Rosato-Barone and Plum-based B-Three Solutions.

Find out how much Pennsylvania paid state employees in 2017. Take our quiz.

At times, government may seem like a black hole with little transparency on how your tax dollars are being spent. That’s why shedding light on how the state of Pennsylvania spends your money is a top priority of ours. As we have been since 2014, PublicSource requested and is publishing data on the salaries that state government employees earned in 2017. All told, those figures account for several billion dollars of taxpayer money. Our data includes the agency an employee works for, when they were hired, their annual salary and the overtime they earned.

Find out how much Allegheny County paid its staff in 2017. Take our quiz.

While you may be spending a third of your budget on housing or paying off debt, Allegheny County spends about a third of its budget on employee salaries. In 2017, 35 percent of the county’s operating budget went to paychecks. That line item, however, did not include health insurance or other benefits workers receive. PublicSource publishes data on the employee salaries from Allegheny County, the City of Pittsburgh and the state of Pennsylvania each year because we think residents should see how their tax dollars are spent. We've been reporting on salaries since 2014.