A board election, an update on the prior Saturday's Pittsburgh StepTrek 2012, and an overview of the city's 311 non-emergency line were the highlights of the October 9 meeting of the South Sides Slopes Neighborhood Association (SSSNA).
In the board elections, a slate of six candidates was elected to two-year terms: Maggie Buck, Denise Fillip, Molly McClelland, Brad Palmisiano, Sarah Shea, and newcomer Jamin Bogi.
Paul Lorincy is stepping down as president.
New officers will be elected at the next board of directors meeting within 30 days.
In StepTrek 2012 news, Chair Brian Oswald reported there were 946 Trekkers. The fundraiser grossed more than $20,000, netting $9,500 after expenses.
In her presentation, Naomi Johnson, assistant coordinator of the city's 311 non-emergency line, said the program began in 2006 with five employees. Today, there are nine employees.
"We were made for you," she said.
For ongoing problems such as trash on a property, illegal dumping, graffiti, abandoned cars, or any other violation, residents should call 311, the city's phone number for government information and non-emergency services. Callers receive a reference number so they can call back to learn the resolution.
Residents can also call 311 to leave police tips if they don't want to call the police themselves.
When someone calls, the 311 staff enters the information into the data base and sends it to the appropriate department. Sometimes the owners are given more time to make corrections, which prolongs the process -- and frustrating those impacted by a neglected structure in their neighborhood.
"Your complaint is not falling on deaf ears," she said.
The most frequent complaints include weeds/debris, potholes, sign replacement, overgrowths, building violations, and inspections.
It is also okay to report drug activity, Ms. Johnson said, callers' names are never revealed should anyone ask.
The 311 hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays, with an answering service on weekends. Service requests can also be submitted electronically at: pittsburghpa.gov/311/form.
Chuck Half, of the Mayor's Office, said one-third of all 311 input is informational, and two-thirds is service requests. If people don't call for building infractions, he said, the Bureau of Building Inspection (BBI) may not necessarily know about the problem.
Mr. Half said the city requires residents' eyes and ears to be pro-active. They also must be persistent, he said, in calling until there is a satisfactory resolution.
An attendee said he has called 311 for five months about a neighbor who leaves trash strewn all around his yard. He asked why it has taken so long for a response.
Mr. Half said actions could have been taken which the caller would not know about. For instance, a citation could have been issued; the 311 staff is not allowed to inform the caller about citations.
Ms. Johnson said if a resident calls, and the 311 staff member is curt; ask to speak with a supervisor.
In a brief update, city councilman Bruce Kraus referred to the SSSNA's survey asking respondents to name their three most pressing neighborhood issues; Parking, weeds, trash, and the general condition of homes topped the list.
Mr. Kraus said quality-of-life issues are also on the minds of youngsters. The two questions he always gets from them are:
Why is there garbage in the streets?
The other question is: Can you take the guns away?
On another topic, he said he is very excited about the new, off-leash dog exercise area in South Side Riverfront Park, which was three years in the making. Residents tell him their favorite part is chatting outdoors with their neighbors.
To a question about whether any changes are planned for the residential parking permit program, Mr. Kraus said officials do not want to raise fees to fund a study.
Although the program was founded in 1981, and the neighborhood has changed drastically since then, Mr. Kraus said the program does make a difference.
"I don't believe it solves everything, but it is a step in the right direction," he said.
Permit parking is a way to give residents of a designated area a better chance to park near their homes because it helps alleviate parking on residential streets by non-residents.
Mr. Kraus said the program helps in two important ways: first, all-day parkers who hop a bus to jobs downtown will get the message they can no longer take up parking spots for eight hours as they will be tagged; and, second, only three people in one home can get permits, which helps with the problem of multiple unrelated people living in a single-family home, which is illegal.
Regarding 911, he said it is important to call for neighborhood issues, and gave the example of his driving by a house party on Labor Day afternoon while attendees were tossing beer bottles outdoors, resulting in broken glass on sidewalks and elsewhere.
He called 911. When he and the officer went to the house party's door, the officer addressed the myriad of issues warranting citations with the students. As a result, the students completely cleaned up the area.
So it is important to call 911, he concluded.
In SSSNA project news, architect Peter Kreuthmeier said the new lighting on the 18th St. steps is up and functioning.
The project's scope was to provide safety lighting for security, and to celebrate the unique infrastructure of the neighborhood, which are the steps.
Betty Kripp, of the Outreach Committee, said the group has two goals: to spread the word about SSSNA projects and achievements, and to engage more Slopes residents in becoming active in the organization.
In announcements, the Christmas party will be held on Tuesday, Dec. 11, at St. Paul's Monastery.