Pittsburgh Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith sponsored one of her regular Mount Washington constituent meetings on May 7 to air concerns, complaints and grievances.
And this time she got an earful.
Among the questions she heard at the session attended by more than 80 residents were:
Why are people from Ohio parking in my front yard? Why are some streets chosen for resurfacing and others are just ignored? Why are teens fighting in front of my house? How long does it take staff to react to a complaint relayed via the Mayor's 3-1-1 Response Line?
She brought along a team of city staffers to help her answer the queries. On hand were: Commander Catherine McNeilly of the Zone Three police station; Ed McAllister of the Bureau of Building Inspections; Nick Martini of the Mayor's Office; and Public Works Director Rob Kaczorowski.
Some residents said they complained to the police but it seemed that they got no response. There were complaints about a mail box on Shiloh Street in Mount Washington's business district that is blocked by parked cars while the owners visit local bars.
"I give them a ticket. Officers are doing their stuff up there. I am sorry and disappointed to hear your complaint," an off-duty policeman in the audience told a resident in response to his remarks.
"There are a lot of variables. But if a citation is in order, my officers issue one," Commander McNeilly said.
The consensus was the problem of people parking in front of residents' homes is because nowadays there are more vehicles than there are parking spaces.
Ms. McNeilly offered to give a disgruntled resident with such a complaint her phone number in case there were future problems but he turned her down. "How can I satisfy you?" she asked. "Why wasn't something done?" he responded.
A police lieutenant who accompanied Ms. McNeilly said if residents felt the lack of action by police was inappropriate they should complain to a supervisor. "If a cashier at Wal-Mart tells you that there is nothing she can do, wouldn't you take it to a manager?...Everybody has a boss."
explained how streets were chosen for paving. "There usually is a high traffic volume there…There are trouble spots…The maintenance supervisors are out in the trenches every day and they make recommendations."
"It is really hard. It is like you are a doctor and you are making a decision about who lives and who dies." "You're doing a good job," the resident told him.
Mr. McAllister responded regarding the speed in addressing 3-1-1 concerns. He said the complaints are read within two days and a response is issued within seven days. It may take seven to 30 days to address the concern if "there is no compliance. Also, it depends on the nature of the complaint."
Prior to the meeting's start Ms. Kail-Smith distributed lists of projects where she accomplished goals or offered assistance or obtained partial or complete funding to make them happen.
These projects included: planting flowers; cutting grass for seniors and the disabled; researching grant opportunities for the Mount Washington Community Development Corporation; working with the Mayor's Officer to locate a dog park in Olympia Park; secured the mayor's youth employment program; and held numerous meetings on development, police, parking and public works.
Mr. McAllister distributed a listing of the 2012 fees for building and electrical permits, demolition, signs, zoning appeals and occupancy permits.
"People don't show initiative," resident Nick Vrcic said near the end of the meeting. He noted there should be more community interest in attendance.
There were some attendees who came because of concern over Ream Center closing. There were a couple of adults and some children who stood with protest signs outside the Mount Washington Senior Center, where the meeting was held. One resident who has been active in advocating for Ream said it was just a misunderstanding. Ms. Kail-Smith said she and others hope to get the center back in operation.