By Aaron Warnick | Photo Editor
Bill Peduto wants to chaperone Pittsburgh into a new renaissance.
“I believe Pittsburgh is more poised than any other city to become the next great American city,” Peduto said from the end of a conference table near his office in City Hall.
The Democratic nominee and favorite to win on Nov. 5 is prepared “to pick up the ball” dropped by soon-to-be former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.
“The Ravenstahl administration tried to follow what had been done in the past. What David Lawrence had created, what Joe Barr and Pete Flaherty looked at as how city government operated,” Peduto said. “They had the opportunity to change that, to look more inward to create a community driven approach to economic development and to modernize city government.”
Peduto, 49, was not groomed as a politician by his family. Nothing in his upbringing pointed toward public office. His family never had campaign yard signs in front of the house. His pursuit of a political career is driven by a love of history and was engendered at the family dinner table by simply listening to his father and uncle discuss the news of the day.
In college at Penn State, a younger Peduto volunteered feverishly to try and “find an in” into the political arena. His work paid off, but not monetarily at first. He spent his early days working in various offices and bussing tables at night to make money so he could continue to advance his political career.
His political career has gone from fixing copiers in campaign offices to standing in the doorway of the mayor’s office. With one unsuccessful bid for the desk behind him in 2006, Peduto is favored to join a long line of Democratic mayors. He wants to leave a substantial mark. However, his plan for the city is not sky high, but miles wide.
“What will transform Pittsburgh isn’t the big developments, it’s restoring the neighborhoods,” Peduto said.
Peduto wants to build the city horizontally by investing in the areas in Pittsburgh “that have not caught the wind in their sails of the new economy.” During his campaign, he has highlighted neighborhoods such as Hazelwood as a location ripe for rebirth.
“Any neighborhood has the amazing potential to come back and be something great,” he said. “For me, it’s fun, it’s enjoyable, that’s the best way I can describe it. It’s Sim City for real.”
Part of the challenge for the next mayor is not just to repair broken parts of the Greater Pittsburgh Area, but to heal a shattered trust between citizens and the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police. Peduto said that if he wins, there will be an intensive national search for a new chief who can eliminate corruption in Pittsburgh.
The next mayor will also be faced with addressing safety issues in South Side, where thousands of thrill seekers gather on weekends in the numerous bars on and off East Carson Street.
“Our goal is to get ahead of the game and clean up the South Side,” Peduto said. “So it seems out of place for the ludicrous behavior of a few. I want people to have fun, but I also want to make it safe for people to be down there and right now it isn’t.”
With the challenges of refurbishing a city inside and out in his sights, Peduto said he is prepared to lead the city.