The Edgar Thomson Steel Works, photographed in January 2020. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

Develop PGH Bulletins: Bid to frack on Edgar Thomson site goes to court

Develop PGH Bulletins updates you on the Pittsburgh region's economy, including close coverage of the Urban Redevelopment Authority, City Planning Commission and other important agencies. Please check back frequently, sign up for the Develop PGH newsletter and email rich@publicsource.org with questions, tips or story ideas. 11/25/20: Edgar Thomson drilling fight moving to court
A New Mexico company’s bid to frack on U.S. Steel’s land in North Versailles and East Pittsburgh is now in court following a Tuesday appeal filing. Merrion Oil & Gas spent millions preparing to drill on the Edgar Thomson Works site, and the East Pittsburgh Zoning Hearing Board has misinterpreted that borough’s code, according to the company’s Notice of Land Use Appeal filed in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. The timeline: In December 2017, East Pittsburgh council voted to approve Merrion’s zoning application to conduct drilling-related activities on a sliver of the borough’s land.

Pittsburgh City Planning Commission members LaShawn Burton-Faulk (top left), Becky Mingo, Christine Mondor and Rachel O'Neill, from screenshots taken from the commission's virtual meeting on Nov. 10, 2020. (Photo illustration by Natasha Vicens/PublicSource)

Mayor: Pittsburgh’s board tilt toward diversity is no accident

Eight women and one man sit on Pittsburgh’s City Planning Commission. Mayor Bill Peduto would like to adjust that ratio. “I would love to have Pittsburgh be the first city in America to have a planning commission that is 100% women,” the mayor said, in an interview this month. Asked whether men might look askance at that goal, he reasoned that a powerful, all-female board would send a signal that the city was addressing a historical imbalance. “All we have to do is look at the past five decades, when it was all men, [or] there may have been one woman appointed” to the commission.

Left to right: Alberto Benzaquen, of Pittsburgh's Commission on Human Relations; Cori Frazer of the City-County Task Force on Disabilities; and Morgan Overton of the Gender Equity Commission are helping to diversify the region's power structure in ways that weren't even envisioned 15 years ago. (Photos by Jay Manning/PublicSource)

All on board? Powerful Pittsburgh-area panels are more diverse, but progress is uneven

Women hold nearly half of the seats on major boards and commissions that make many decisions in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, and Black residents hold more than one in every four, PublicSource has found as part of the year-long Board Explorer project. Both figures represent steps toward greater diversity in the region’s power structure. In 2005, women occupied fewer than ⅓ of seats on county and city boards, according to a study done then by Carnegie Mellon University students in partnership with the Women and Girls Foundation of Southwest Pennsylvania. Black residents held 23% of the seats for which the race of the member was known in 2005, but now hold 28%. Presented with PublicSource’s findings, diversity advocates were united in one sentiment: Progress is no cause for complacency.

Beth Cadman, of Glassport, spent election day passing out literature for a Democrat, after voting for a Republican for president. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

Ever Trumpers? Some blue-collar towns in Allegheny County said yes to the Republican president, again

Beth Cadman was passing out literature for a Democrat on Tuesday, but voting for the Republican at the top of the ticket. “I just like the man and I think he has been very good with his decisions,” Cadman, an unemployed preschool aide, said of President Donald Trump. “He’s nobody’s puppet, and he’s doing it all on his own.”

She voiced her support for Trump while handing out cards for state Sen. Jim Brewster, a Democrat, to voters entering the Glassport Borough Building. The lifelong Glassport resident was not at all surprised that many of her neighbors in the traditionally Democratic town were darkening the Republican’s oval in the race for president. “I think it’s an old mill town, and [Trump] is for helping the people in the mills,” Cadman said.

David Gabig holds aloft a "Count Every Vote" sign at a Wednesday afternoon rally on the portico of the City-County Building, in Downtown Pittsburgh, on Nov. 4, 2020. (Photo by Jay Manning/PublicSource)

Making it count: The Fight Back Table mobilizes to ensure that all Pennsylvania votes are tallied

Update (11/4/20): The Pittsburgh region’s first Count Every Vote action, in front of the City-County Building, Downtown, drew around 60 demonstrators who urged patience with the ongoing tallying of mail-in ballots amid continued threats to the process. A coalition of unions, community groups and faith-based organizations gathered around 4 p.m. on the Grant Street sidewalk as news broke that President Donald Trump’s campaign was asking for a temporary halt to ballot counting in Pennsylvania, and intervening in a court case regarding the state’s ability to count votes received after Tuesday. “It makes our message even more important, frankly,” said Sam Williamson, district leader of the Service Employees International Union 32BJ. “This will be the first time in America’s history when any party tried to intervene and tried to take millions of votes away from voters after they were legally cast. … It’s disgusting, it’s anti-democratic, but it’s what our president is about.”

Others took a less partisan approach.

A rendering of the proposed Uptown Tech building, slated for the corner of Jumonville Street and the Boulevard of the Allies, presented to Pittsburgh's City Planning Commission on Sept. 29, 2020.

October Develop PGH Bulletins: Uptown Tech proposal gets commission’s OK

Develop PGH Bulletins updates you on the Pittsburgh region's economy, including close coverage of the Urban Redevelopment Authority, City Planning Commission and other important agencies. Please check back frequently, sign up for the Develop PGH newsletter and email rich@publicsource.org with questions, tips or story ideas. 10/27/20: Talks on the Hill lead to approval of tech plan
Citing last-minute negotiations between a developer and the Hill Community Development Corp., the City Planning Commission approved the conversion of an abandoned industrial laundry facility into tech and office space. The Uptown Tech project, on Jumonville Street and the Boulevard of the Allies, didn’t get a vote from the commission four weeks ago, after the Hill CDC complained that developer Westrise Capital had not addressed community concerns. This time, attorney Robert Lampl, representing Westrise, said minority- and women-owned business participation in the building conversion would amount to 27% to 42% of the project.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto (center) stands with two members of his Pittsburgh Community Task Force for Police Reform, Richard Garland (left) and Tim Stevens, at the unveiling on Oct. 19, 2020, of the panel's report, at the City-County Building, Downtown. (Photo by Rich Lord/PublicSource)

Policing task force calls for 16 reforms, more data on Pittsburgh law enforcement

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and his hand-picked task force released 16 recommendations for reforming policing on Monday, as the mayor pledged to consider them all and to start implementing data-related measures promptly. The report of Peduto’s Pittsburgh Community Task Force on Police Reform

comes nearly five months after the death of George Floyd, under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, set off a summer of protests and reignited concern with police use of force, especially against Black people. 10 big problems with policing, and approaches to addressing themThe mayor called the 47-page report “a baseline” for improving policing in the city. “We’re at a very historic moment in this country,” Peduto said at a press conference in the City-County Building. “And there has never been a time like this, since the late 1960s, in order to address systemic racism, and in all the different areas that we can see it, whether it’s through education, or access to healthcare, or housing, or whether it is in police brutality.”

The report’s recommendations:

Gather and analyze more data on routine policing actions, to better understand “disparate outcomes” in which race seems to be a factor in law enforcement.