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.

Develop PGH Bulletins: City planners weigh their role in pushing minority business inclusion

Develop PGH Bulletins will update you on the Pittsburgh region's economy, including close coverage of the Urban Redevelopment Authority, City Planning Commission and other important agencies. Please bookmark, check back frequently, sign up for the Develop PGH newsletter and email rich@publicsource.org with questions, tips or story ideas. 9/29/20: Planners delay Uptown rehab project, citing Hill group’s concerns
A proposal to convert an abandoned industrial laundry facility in Uptown into technology space failed to win the Pittsburgh City Planning Commission’s approval, after the Hill Community Development Corporation [CDC] said that the developers did not detail plans to use minority- and women-owned businesses. The commission said that developer Westrise Capital can come back before it Oct. 13, and encouraged negotiation between that firm and the Hill CDC.

Robert Aldred flips through photos on his phone showing injuries sustained when a police dog bit him in June 2017. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

Police chase settlement would push lawsuit payouts beyond $10 million since 2009

PublicSource reviewed the cases because federal court is typically the referee of last resort in disputes between citizens and police. Officials sometimes portray the court as a backstop against other systems’ shortcomings. Scholars of law enforcement, though, view federal court as an uneven playing field on which results have little to do with the severity of a constitutional violation or the injuries caused.

Outside of the Allegheny County Jail building

‘Dehumanizing and unlawful’: Allegheny County Jail sued over alleged mistreatment of inmates with psychiatric disabilities

On Tuesday, a law firm and two legal aid nonprofits jointly filed a federal class-action lawsuit against Allegheny County and three top officials of the Allegheny County Jail [ACJ], alleging “inadequate” treatment and “dehumanizing and unlawful” conditions for inmates with psychiatric disabilities. According to the lawsuit, the jail’s practices violate the Fourteenth Amendment, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act. The lawsuit claims the jail does not provide meaningful treatment for individuals with mental health diagnoses and instead uses solitary confinement, irritant spray, a restraint chair and other forceful tactics. “The mental health care system at the Allegheny County Jail is rife with systemic deficiencies that deprive people with psychiatric disabilities of necessary care, and indeed, make their conditions worse,” the federal court complaint said. 

The suit was brought against the county and Warden Orlando Harper, Chief Deputy Warden of Healthcare Services Laura Williams and Mental Health Director Michael Barfield on behalf of five plaintiffs who are currently incarcerated and have psychiatric disabilities, according to the complaint. The plaintiffs are represented by Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis, the Pennsylvania Institutional Law Project and the Abolitionist Law Center.

Outside of the Allegheny County Jail building

‘It almost broke me.’ How the pandemic is straining mental health at Allegheny County Jail.

No personal visitors, hardly any time for inmates outside of their cells and chronic vacancies in mental health and health staff raise concerns that the mental health of Allegheny County Jail [ACJ] inmates is deteriorating, according to inmates recently incarcerated there, family members of current inmates, advocates and current and former ACJ staff.  

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. (Photo by Ryan Loew/PublicSource)

Behavioral crisis responses and police are focus of new, unannounced Allegheny County panel

As incidents both local and national continue to raise questions about policing and mental health, the Allegheny County Department of Human Services [DHS] has quietly convened a panel that appears to be reviewing the public safety and social services response to behavioral health crises. The 28-member Allegheny County Crisis Response Stakeholder Group held its first full meeting, virtually, on Friday. The meeting included remarks by DHS staff including Director Marc Cherna, plus county Emergency Services Chief Matt Brown, Pittsburgh Police Chief Scott Schubert, and representatives of The Pittsburgh Foundation* and the Council of State Governments Justice Center. Its formation does not appear to have been heralded by any public announcement. It comes as the city sees near-daily protests demanding changes in policing, sometimes including calls to “defund” police, which some describe as the shift of law enforcement resources to human services or community building.

Police in Penn Hills enter the last occupied building in Valmar Gardens, asking residents to leave, on June 19, 2020. The residents were eventually given more time to prepare to move. Some advocates fear that large-scale displacement will follow the expiration, after July 10, of a statewide moratorium on evictions and foreclosures. (Photo by Rich Lord/PublicSource)

Eviction Day: Between the state moratorium and the CDC order, landlords file flurry of cases

Update (9/4/20): Allegheny County President Judge Kim Berkeley Clark issued an order instructing district judges on the handling of eviction filings in the wake of an order issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If a landlord attempts to file an eviction against a tenant who has declared that he or she falls under the income limits and income loss guidelines in the CDC order, the judge may hold an initial status conference to “give the parties an opportunity to also consider available rental assistance,” according to Clark’s order. Other than that, the judge is instructed to stay the case until the expiration of the CDC order, set for Dec. 31. In such cases, judges are not to issue writs or orders of possession — which tell the tenant to get out or be removed by a sheriff — until after the CDC order expires.