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Planning Forum to request mayor to come to South Side

 


The South Side Planning Forum will formally request the participation of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl at an open meeting about public safety in the South Side to be held as soon as possible.

It will be conducted at either the Brashear Center, the South Side branch of Carnegie Library, or UPMC Mercy South Side.

That was the upshot of the forum’s Dec. 11 meeting.

At last month’s meeting, forum members agreed to invite the mayor and members of his administration to attend a town hall meeting on the volatile South Side nightlife situation.

Upon receipt of the letter, Chuck Half, of the Mayor’s office, responded with a memo requesting the forum provide additional information about the purpose of the meeting, as well as a proposed agenda. At the Dec. 11 meeting, he said the mayor would like clarity as to what the outcomes should be.

“There needs to be some direction,” Mr. Half said.

Forum members weighed various strategies as they sought to define the optimal course for the meeting.

Forum Chair Hugh Brannan said there is an immediate concern about recent late-night events, such as a man being beaten and a young man falling to his death from a window.

At the same time, a longer view needs to be taken of what work all stakeholders can do together to ease the situation, he said.

A suggestion was made to keep the meeting closed in light of the shouting and name calling that ensued at the Neighborhood Improvement District (NID) public meetings in which many attendees opposed the formation of a NID in the South Side Flats.

“Nothing gets done,” Wanda Jankoski, of the South Side Community Council, said. She added, if it is not open, residents will accuse the forum of hiding things from them.

Mr. Brannan said if it is a forum meeting, it must be open to the public.

Christine Gaus, of the Brasher Association, said as the Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI) was scheduled to present its recommendations the next day, perhaps it was premature to invite the mayor without reviewing the recommendations.

Earlier this year, the city entered into a contract with RHI for a study on the Downtown, Lawrenceville, and South Side entertainment districts, and recommendations on managing such hospitality zones throughout the city.

Ms. Gaus said whatever the city’s response to the recommendations; it provides good discussion points for a meeting.

An attendee said while RHI will take care of the long term, there is an immediate need for the mayor to address the critical nature of the current safety crisis in the South Side. If a meeting is delayed until February, she said, the mayor will confront an emotional crisis as well as a safety crisis.

Another attendee said she knows five people who ended up in the hospital due to the problems that result from the volatile area nightlife.

Mr. Brannan concluded the forum would complete the “speaking or appearance request form” Mr. Half included with his memo, and request a public meeting with the mayor and members of his administration as soon as possible.

In other business, Mr. Brannan reminded forum representatives their organizations are encouraged to appoint an alternate. Currently, there aren’t any, which is problematic if a representative cannot attend a meeting.

A new initiative in the recent neighborhood plan revision is a Parks and Greenspace Committee. Members need to be recruited to serve, as yet there are none.

Another issue raised during the revision process was retaining the NID steering committee.

While Councilman Bruce Kraus would not support formation of a NID, the document adopted by the forum advocating its formation was transmitted to city officials, and awaits formal response.

Regarding the neighborhood plan, Mr. Brannan said the forum received a $500 check as distribution of the former South Side Local Development Company’s assets for funding the printing of the plan. Copies will go to, among others, the forum’s member organizations and city officials.

There was no report from the new Development Review Committee (DRC) because the committee didn’t meet in November. The DRC typically meets on the last Thursday of each month at 6 p.m. at the Brashear Center.

The DRC was formed as a merger of the LTV Steering Committee and the South Side LDC’s Design Review Committee.

The next forum meeting will be on Jan. 8. Jonathan Growall is expected to make a presentation about the grant he applied for, on behalf of the South Side Chamber of Commerce, to fund pedestrian and biking initiatives.

The grant involves signage, information, crosswalks and more in the South Side to link it with the Great Allegheny Passage, a rail trail connecting Washington, D.C. and Pittsburgh.

The initiatives would aim to encourage trail-goers to stop in the South Side and spend money while feeling safe in the neighborhood.

 

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