Pittsburgh, Allegheny County celebrates two days of inaugurations

Pittsburgh, Allegheny County celebrates two days of inaugurations

Author: Stephen Caruso/Wednesday, January 3, 2018/Categories: Pittsburgh

In the high-ceilinged auditorium of Soldiers and Sailors Memorial in Oakland, introduced by short films trumpeting success from high rankings on LGBTQ rights to the newly ubiquitous bike lanes, Bill Peduto was sworn in for his second term as mayor of Pittsburgh Wednesday afternoon. 


The veteran East End politician’s inauguration capped 24-hour flurry of ceremonies starting Tuesday night that swore in three new elected officials to Pittsburgh and Allegheny county councils as well. 


Tuesday 


Allegheny county council seated two new members Tuesday night in their Allegheny County Courthouse meeting room — Democrats Anita Prizio (District 3) and Robert Palmosina (District 12) — as well as reelecting John DeFazio as president of council.  


The council, split 11-4 between Democrats and Republicans, voted down the party line for DeFazio, with the four Republicans supporting at-large Councilman Sam DeMarco over DeFazio.  


DeFazio’s term will last two years. The veteran councilman, who was one of the original members of the council when it was formed in the 1990’s, said he appreciated his reelection as President. 


Palmosina won his seat unopposed after defeating the incumbent, Jim Ellenbogen, in a May primary. During his inauguration speech, he thanked a fellow newly elected representative, Pittsburgh city councilman Anthony Coghill, seated in the room, for helping push him to campaign. 


Palmosina was not the only one whose supporters were in the room. District 3’s Prizio beat incumbent Republican Ed Kress in November by running a progressive campaign, backed by the local Democratic Socialists of America chapter. 


That evening, about a dozen DSA members showed up, many with red hats or bows in their hair. At the end of the meeting, the group crowded around Prizio for a photo before singing the socialist anthem “Solidarity Forever” in celebration. 


“It’s empowering, I want to be their voice,” Prizio said of the vocal support after the meeting. 


While Prizio didn’t reveal any policy specifics, she said she was working on proposals based around her values as a candidate, including environmental issues and government transparency. 


Four other incumbent members of council were also inaugurated to a new four-year term, including Tom Baker (District 1), Charles Martoni (District 8), Patrick Catena Jr. (District 4) and Bob Macey (District 9). 


In an inaugural speech, Baker, a Republican who won reelection by a little over one percent of the vote, conceded that county council usually only passed small changes compared to the “home runs” hit by County Executive Rich Fitzgerald.  


But, Baker held that voters often appreciated those incremental alterations to their lives, whether from public works or the Port Authority, just as much as the big changes pushed by the administration.  


And those changes, Baker said, were often achieved because of how the council worked together. 


“Unlike other branches of government, we get along here,” he said. 


Wednesday 


Wednesday marked the swearing-in of a new Pittsburgh City Council member, two returning Council members and the start of another four years for Mayor Bill Peduto.  


Much of City Council’s inauguration ceremony focused on Anthony Coghill, the newly elected Democrat taking over Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak’s District 4 seat. Coghill, a roofing contractor from Pittsburgh’s Beechview neighborhood, finally won the seat after three failed attempts to represent the city’s southern neighborhoods.  


“Some people take the easy path; some people take the hard path. Mine was the hard path,” said Coghill during his inaugural speech. “It’s been sixteen years in the making…I’ve lost this race three previous times. I want you to know how much I appreciate it and how honored I am to be here. It’s something that I take very seriously, I think because I worked so hard for it over the years.” 


He went on to mention his plans to rebuild the District 4 Public Works building that was condemned and shut down, and went on to thank his family, the voters, and his political supporters such as the local labor unions and the city police, fire and EMS departments. 


“I think its very odd for one person to be supported by all three divisions, but I want them to know that they can always count on me to make sure that they have the best equipment and are the best paid,” said Coghill.  


In a 7-1 vote, Council members elected Bruce Kraus (District 3) to a third term as City Council President. His position is responsible for scheduling Council meetings, setting meeting agendas, assigning members to council committees, and is first in line to succeed the mayor.  


“You have my deepest, deepest respect and commitment to lead with integrity, with inclusivity and with an open mind and an open heart,” said Kraus. “I make that commitment to you in public so that everybody knows where I stand and what I stand for.” 


The decision to nominate President Kraus for another two years to the position came after hours of deliberations by Council members Tuesday evening. Councilwoman Darlene Harris (District 1), a political foe of Kraus’, was the sole no vote on the nomination.  


Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith (District 2) and Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle (District 6), both of whom were re-elected in November, were also sworn in.  


Councilman Dan Gilman (District 8) resigned his post to take the position of Chief of Staff to Mayor Bill Peduto. A special election for his open seat has yet to be scheduled.  


After city council's ceremony ended, Pittsburgh's political notables streamed from Grant Street Downtown to Oakland's Soldiers and Sailor's on Fifth Avenue on the campus of the University of Pittsburgh.  


There, a two-hour ceremony waited for them, featuring performances of breezy jazz and jangly folk melodies by local musicians as well as a brief speech by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf, to swear in Peduto for his second term.  


The event was emceed by outgoing chief of staff Kevin Acklin, who traded off the reins of the show halfway with Gilman for his official unveiling as the mayor's new right-hand man. 


Speaking halfway through the event, Wolf heaped praise upon Peduto for leading the rebirth of Pittsburgh from downtrodden steel town to sparkling tech metropolis. 


"It’s a story that could not have happen without Bill Peduto," Wolf said. 


After taking the oath of office, Peduto then started his own inaugural address in the style of a Ted Talk, clicking through a slideshow featuring pictures of Pittsburgh history and landmarks, from Native Americans looking over the confluence to streetcars with signs celebrating the passage of clean air ordinances.  


In his speech, Peduto contended that Pittsburgh's greatest success come from working together, and laid out a 2030 plan, which would invest $1.5 billion into Pittsburgh via numerous programs and initiatives with help from the nonprofit, foundation and corporate community. 


“We cannot do it alone, the only way this city was able to survive was working together,” Peduto said. 


If accomplished, the plan would include universal pre-k, eradicate homelessness, create a program to let entrepreneurs enter abandoned urban main streets for low or no rent and create 10,000 new affordable housing units on top of the plans for the Urban Redevelopment Authority plans and the affordable housing trust fund.  


Peduto also said the plan would make all Pittsburgh children live within a 10-minute walk of a park of playground, divest the city pension fund of fossil fuels, create more job programs and perform a survey of the city to identify future problems. 


The mayor, who was not available for comment after the revealing the 2030 plan, will serve until 2021 under his new term. And despite repeated media reports otherwise, Peduto has consistently held he does not want to pursue higher office. 


Pittsburgh mayors are not term limited, though only one mayor, David Lawrence, has served more than three terms. 


But regardless how far the mayor might see through his grand plan, he is confident the future is bright for the Three Rivers. 


“We are at the beginning for potentially the best times of this city,” Peduto said.


Pittsburgh Bureau Chief Alanna Koll contributed to this story. 

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