The process in South Side was started, but is broken
I am writing in response to Council President Bruce Kraus’ opinion letter published in the South Pittsburgh Reporter on February 23, 2016 (S.S. provided input).
Councilman Kraus promised our city a holistic, honest, and open planning process via the Responsible Hospitality Institute (RHI) and its subsequent recommendations known as the Pittsburgh Sociable City Plan.
The RHI process resulted in some good ideas for South Side. A recommendation in the Pittsburgh Sociable City Plan was the use of night time meter revenue to better manage our night time economy. This component of the RHI’s study recommended “using night time meter funds for staffing, implementation of nighttime transportation initiatives, and cleanliness/maintenance crews.” While not all of the RHI initiatives could be implemented immediately, some of them were piloted in South Side via volunteer staff with incredible enthusiasm. The process was started.
The process is now broken.
At a meeting in December 2014 shortly after the RHI contract ended, Mr. Kraus and I discussed his desire to include South Side in a plan to enforce on-street parking meters after 6 p.m. I explained the difficulty of the situation we faced without dedicated revenue for the South Side RHI initiatives.
Specifically, I pointed out the Pittsburgh Sociable City Plan recommended using night time meter funds for staffing, implementation of nighttime transportation initiatives, and cleanliness/maintenance crews. After three years of RHI meetings at tax payer expense, I felt the recommendations should be openly discussed with Mr. Kraus and the community. Council President Kraus later made an amendment to his legislation and removed South Side from the night time enforcement list without further explanation.
We heard nothing for almost 12 months on this topic although we asked for updates on a regular basis.
In October 2015, I requested a meeting with the Mayor’s Office to discuss the disastrous effects of a confusing and chaotic no-parking zone established within the South Side Cultural District. In fact, this no-parking zone conflicted with three years of RHI planning for a comprehensive approach to safety and transportation management. Council President Kraus supported the no-parking zone without notice or community input. Community members who attended this October meeting expressed concern and offered alternatives, such as organized valet services and a permanent taxi/ride share stand in the 1700 block of Carson Street.
At this time, I asked Mr. Kraus’ chief of staff about plans for night time meter enforcement in South Side. He said there were no longer any plans for night time meter enforcement. Consensus from the meeting was to wait for our new Nighttime Economy Manager to start her job before more decisions would be made on behalf of the South Side.
Months later by press release, we as a community heard about a proposed Parking Enhancement District (PED) to be piloted in South Side.
The South Side Chamber of Commerce along with the South Side Bar and Restaurant Association has done its best to help manage night time economy concerns in the absence of any clear plan or assistance from Council President Kraus’ office.
We have managed shuttles, valet, taxi and rideshare services, at various high-volume times throughout the past three years. We have also organized litter cleanup crews nearly every day in South Side since our Welcome Center opened in 2013. We have hosted and managed large events to benefit the South Side, while facing, in the best scenarios, indifference, and in the worst scenarios, direct opposition from Councilman Kraus. We have accomplished a great deal through the hard work of many volunteers. Unfortunately, this is not a sustainable model for the South Side.
We cannot continue to manage this neighborhood’s many needs without our council representative’s help and support. Mr. Kraus is well aware we do not have sustained funding in our neighborhood to implement anything permanently from the Pittsburgh Sociable City Plan. Now is the time for him to help us change the trajectory of our neighborhood.
Years of positive investment by our property owners, the URA, SSLDC, the City of Pittsburgh and many others have given us the best and most complete neighborhood in Pittsburgh. We need a sustainable and effective neighborhood management plan. Funding via the proposed Parking Enhancement District has the potential to work, if it is implemented in conjunction with the recommendations of The Pittsburgh Sociable City Plan. It could even help us develop a revised neighborhood plan to help our struggling daytime economy.
This community deserves better. We deserve open and free discussion. We deserve commitment and accountability from our elected representative. Business and resident leaders have put so much effort into proposed solutions to effectively manage our complex neighborhood.
I am open and willing to continue this discussion, and I know many others would like to as well. Hopefully our collective minds in the South Side can work together in this next phase of planning via the Mayor’s Office and our Night Time Economy Manager.
(The writer is president of the
South Side Chamber of Commerce)