Monthly Archives: January 2016

Dignity vs. Loyalty

Pittsburgh City Council
Public Comments

January 13, 2016

Dignity vs. Loyalty

On July 31, 2015, the city of Pittsburgh submitted an application for a $3 million Multimodal Transportation Fund grant to the State Department of Community and Economic Development and the Commonwealth Financing Authority for a roadway project that would destroy Panther Hollow, one of Pittsburgh’s first Italian neighborhoods.

Courage is often defined as the willingness to seek the highest truth, or as honesty even when it is not in one’s own best interest. Cowardice is refraining from seeking the highest truth, or hiding the truth. Numerous inquiries to the city and other officials who support this project went unanswered and are well-documented on the website: www.SavePantherHollow.com

Council President Bruce Kraus, you represent Panther Hollow, but chose not to attend a meeting last month that would have given you an opportunity to voice your solidarity with those of us who oppose this roadway project. By the events of these past five months, it is apparent that your personal friendship with the mayor is greater than your caring for the community you represent. We cannot force you to change that.

However, here is a consideration that may help you choose greater caring for our community, and also help others understand our commitment. At a City Council meeting several months ago, you talked about your past alcoholism and how you have refrained from drinking alcohol since 1988. That is truly a remarkable and commendable accomplishment. There is nothing that anyone could say to you that would break your commitment and lead to your downfall and destruction. Similarly, there is nothing that anyone could say to those of us who oppose this roadway project to break our commitment to preserving and protecting Panther Hollow.

Here is another consideration. You have been repeatedly ignored and deceived by the secrecy of the supporters of this roadway project, and their actions have formed a cloud of suspicion about the integrity in city government. Therefore, you must ask yourself this question—a question that others in city government, in the judicial branch of government, and in those media outlets that have remained silent about this issue should also ask themselves; What is my highest priority: my dignity in my profession, or my loyalty to the mayor?

This is the year of the city of Pittsburgh’s bicentennial celebration. It would be hypocritical of the mayor to talk about his Italian roots, and about immigrants’ and their descendants’ many accomplishments that made this city great, while attempting to destroy one of our first Italian neighborhoods. We hope the mayor will abandon this roadway project, and instead focus on collaborating to preserve and protect our historic neighborhoods that truly make us say: “Lucky we live in Pittsburgh.”

Carlino Giampolo

Remembrance

Pittsburgh City Council
Public Comments

December 21, 2015

Remembrance

This morning’s comments will focus on the community of Panther Hollow. Many of those individuals who seek to destroy Panther Hollow with an ill-conceived roadway project have never made the time to know its residents, or experienced the neighborhood’s peace and serenity.

The historical and cultural significance of Panther Hollow, one of Pittsburgh’s first Italian neighborhoods, is well documented on the website www.PantherHollow.us. The neighborhood continues to have an Italian sense of place. Preservationist organizations and historically-minded citizens understand the importance of protecting and preserving this iconic neighborhood.

Mayor William Peduto, who often talks about his Italian roots, does not share that belief. The mayor’s allegiance is with Carnegie Mellon University and the Almono site’s profit-seeking owners and property managers, among others. As a councilman, he allowed the universities to destroy much of Oakland. However, the line is drawn at Panther Hollow.

Descendants of early immigrant families visit to show their children the neighborhood where their grandparents lived. Last week, I met with a childhood friend visiting with his younger sister and significant other. We walked past every house recalling the people of the past and beautiful memories there, and ended the day by visiting with longtime residents who never moved away. That was a magical day of remembrance.

There is a famous movie playing this time of year called It’s a Wonderful Life. In a poignant scene, Jimmy Stewart says to his angel, “I wish I was never born.” The angel shows him what the neighborhood would look like then. In a similar fashion of projecting into the future, would the name of our neighborhood be changed to Pedutoville? Would the site of the Italian social club that provided for the welfare of newly arrived immigrants become a four-hundred bed dormitory for Carnegie Mellon University students? Would the area where children played for countless days of fun and laughter instead be filled with CMU President Subra Suresh’s autonomous vehicles? Would eminent domain cause all the longtime residents to move away?

There is a force that cannot be fully described in words, and that is beyond our imaginations, which the residents of Panther Hollow have for this sacred place and the mayor and his supporters do not. That force is called love. And that force that residents have for their beloved neighborhood will prevail. There will be no roadway through Panther Hollow.

My comments will continue this afternoon at the Standing Committee meeting.

Lack of Integrity

The lack of integrity in city government is again the focus of my comments. The mayor’s plan to build a roadway through the communities of Panther Hollow and The Run was deceptive to the public when a $3 million grant was applied for in secret. However, it was also deceptive to our councilmen Bruce Kraus and Corey O’Connor, who were unaware of the plan until a month after the URA submitted the application.

The deception and disrespect to our council members continued last week. In an interview with the Pittsburgh City Paper, a reporter asked Chief of Staff Kevin Acklin when the idea for the transit connector first materialized. He responded that it was “irrelevant,” and thus the secrecy continues. The council members were also deceived when the URA gave them the application. Numerous important documents were missing. Some of these documents included letters to the State Department of Community and Economic Development from Mayor William Peduto, Chief of Staff Kevin Acklin, and RIDC President Donald Smith, as well as budget sheets showing the project cost was reduced from $7.2 million to $4.2 million.

Council members were further deceived when the city said that lights were needed on the bike trail parallel to the proposed roadway, due to a vast increase in bike traffic because of the Greenfield Bridge closure. Residents of both communities will tell you this justification is untrue. City administrators further insulted our council members’ intelligence when the city revealed that these seventeen light structures will be removed when the bridge reopens. Honest individuals will tell you this lighting work is connected to construction projects on Second Avenue and Almono, and has very little to do with any bike traffic increase.

The application for the $3 million grant itself is deceitful to the decision-making Commonwealth Financing Authority. Numerous individuals who support this roadway project have not commented or have refused to reply to inquiries. These individuals can continue with their arrogance and avoid answering to the communities and media. However, they may not be able to do so with the district attorney’s office. A four-page letter was hand-delivered to the office of the District Attorney Stephen Zappala. This roadway project warrants an investigation, and our communities trust in the integrity of the judicial system. The letter can be viewed on the website www.SavePantherHollow.com. We will continue to shine the light on this roadway project and we welcome further support from the media.

Carlino Giampolo