Dear Councilman Kraus,
On May 8th, a South Side Improvement District plan was approved by the South Side Planning Forum organizations - five organizations that serve this community in ways that a City Council office never could.
The neighborhood process that developed this plan has served this community for nearly 30 years, being respected by previous council members, mayors and city leaders. The process was consensus-driven and transparent. Within 24 hours, we read the Post-Gazette to find out that you had already cowered from initiating action.
We know that you and the rest of City Council acknowledge the effectiveness of Improvement Districts across the city. You, Councilman Kraus, are on the board of the Oakland Business Improvement District. You and your council colleagues voted unanimously for the five-year renewals of both the Oakland Business Improvement District and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, in recent years. But now you have decided to exclude the South Side?
We are particularly disappointed in your decision in light of the fact that your office was invited to Steering Committee meetings over the past year and a half and that you publicly pledged to work with the committee. The committee repeatedly asked for your input and received zero leadership from you on how we could work toward a solution together.
When the Steering Committee presented alternative plans to you, including a Business Improvement District (BID) plan, and asked what it could do to create a plan that you could support, you gave no response.
The Committee has also responded in a timely way to your requests for information. Your assertion that you asked for additional information from the committee that was never provided is incorrect. You were given a detailed business plan in a meeting on 3/16/12 and again via e-mail on 3/22/12. This business plan addresses your questions requesting more detailed accounting and a more detailed description of services.
In your letter, you indicate that it would not be productive to reject the Improvement District plan without offering other solutions, yet you offer no other solutions. South Side has been the subject of myriad studies, promises, and conversations over the past several years.
Your RHI plan is another study with no new resources. Worth noting, the 2008 South Side RHI report that came out of your council office included the recommendation to form an Improvement District. An Improvement District provides resources for making the changes we all want to see in the community. We can all point fingers at the lack of local laws and city enforcement to address neighborhood needs or at businesses and landlords who do not help take care of our neighborhood.
Pointing fingers has gotten us nowhere. It is time for action. In the absence of leadership from those who cause the problem, the residents and business owners of the South Side asked the question "who will help South Side" and answered it with a resounding "we will help ourselves."
Councilman, we urge you to show leadership and let the South Side vote on whether or not we want to have a say in our neighborhood's future. We have discussed with you time and time again that you have the power to make changes to the South Side Improvement District plan before introducing the plan to City Council.
Do not throw the baby out with the bath water - make the changes that you consider imperative, and introduce a South Side Improvement District plan to City Council. We have the right to vote. Allow the democratic process to occur.
If the neighborhood does not want an Improvement District, we will be ready to work with you on alternative options. If the neighborhood approves an Improvement District, we stand ready to help put this plan into action. In either case, a decision this important should be up to our neighborhood.
The South Side Improvement District Steering Committee