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Media Coverage | Burgess, Lavelle propose measure to boost equity in city budgets and affordable housing

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By: Ashley Murray | Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | May 14th, 2019 | Read the full article

Pittsburgh City Council members Ricky Burgess and Daniel Lavelle on Tuesday introduced a package of legislation aimed at addressing racial and housing inequities, including hiring a full-time policy analyst to work in conjunction with the mayor’s office.

Mr. Burgess, who represents the city’s 9th District, which encompasses East Liberty, Homewood, and several other East End neighborhoods, called the proposals “groundbreaking.”

One proposed ordinance would require developers to submit affordable housing impact statements for new housing developments to the city’s Planning Commission, which would hammer out the exact details of the now loose proposal.

Another seeks to measure each city department’s budget for equity by requiring directors to submit to council and the mayor a breakdown by neighborhood of allocated resources, the race and gender of the department’s vendors, and an explanation of progress toward goals outlined in a “Racial Equity Toolkit,” to be established by the mayor.

“Because we’re doing it in context with their budget, the assumption is that if you don’t meet your equity goals, you may not receive the funding level that you’re requesting because you’ve not been a good steward of the resources you’ve already been given,” Mr. Burgess said.

The councilmen stood side-by-side at a press conference with Mayor Bill Peduto, several nonprofit leaders, and members of the Pittsburgh Black Elected Officials Coalition.

The introduction of legislation comes less than a week after Mr. Peduto announced the creation of the Office of Equity, a reorganization of the former Bureau of Neighborhood Empowerment.

“What we want are real measurements to show where we can have success and where we have challenges that still need to be addressed,” Mr. Peduto said.

Both initiatives originating from council and the mayor involved consulting from outside nonprofits.

Mr. Peduto’s Office of Equity, which will be made up of 12 current employees in the mayor’s office, is partnering with the Government Alliance on Race and Equity, a joint initiative by the New York City-based nonprofits Race Forward and Center for Social Inclusion, to create an equity scorecard “to see how [government] is performing on an equitable basis,” Mr. Peduto said.

The local nonprofit Neighborhood Allies worked with the Sacramento, Calif.-based nonprofit research institute PolicyLink to create an “All-In Cities Initiative,” a framework after which Mr. Burgess and Mr. Lavelle modeled their legislative proposal, Mr. Burgess said.

One of their proposed resolutions Tuesday included declaring Pittsburgh an “All-In” city.

“What you’re going to see, although it is city led, is a coalition of partnerships all working together,” Mr. Burgess said.

Pittsburgh’s economic output would be $5 billion higher annually without “clear racial inequities in income,” according to an analysis published by the “All-In” initiative in partnership with the University of Southern California.

The councilmen also put forward a resolution for a six-member “Equity and Inclusion Implementation Team” to “support city departments in meeting the new equity goals.”

The team would include representatives from the city’s human resources and city planning departments, the mayor’s office, the Urban Redevelopment Authority, the city’s Equal Opportunity Review Commission, and a diversity professional to be appointed by the mayor.

A full-time policy analyst will begin June 1 to work with council and the mayor’s office on the initiatives, Mr. Burgess said. The salary has been set at $57,086.

Council could discuss the proposed legislative package as early as next Wednesday.

Ashley Murray: 412-263-1750, amurray@post-gazette.com or on Twitter @Ashley__Murray

First Published May 14, 2019, 4:30pm

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