October 20, 2015
Lack of Integrity in Government
For the past eight years I have spoken before this legislative body of the suffering of the longtime residents of Panther Hollow and Oakland because of the University of Pittsburgh’s never-ending expansion. While Pitt has severely impacted South Oakland, Carnegie Mellon University has been doing the same to North Oakland. I repeatedly asked that this council and the city’s executive branch have compassion for the residents, and have insisted that human dignity must be the highest priority of the universities and our government. My words went unheeded.
Our focus now is on the judicial branch of government to give our community the justice we deserve.
On July 31, the Urban Redevelopment Authority filed an application with the State Department of Community and Economic Development for a $3 million Multimodal Transportation Fund grant. The purpose of that grant, according to the application, was to build a roadway from Neville Street through Panther Hollow continuing on to the Almono site in Hazelwood. This plan would destroy Panther Hollow, one of Pittsburgh’s first Italian neighborhoods.
The application was filed fraudulently.
The application states: “This project will be a public-private partnership between the City of Pittsburgh, the Urban Redevelopment Authority, the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. The land for this project is owned by the City of Pittsburgh. The Urban Redevelopment Authority will execute the construction of the project and the operator of the shuttle will be a shared entity that includes the universities and large employers.”
A University of Pittsburgh vice chancellor emailed me on October 2: “The University has not been involved in any discussions about the proposed roadway. We first learned of the URA’s application to the Commonwealth for funding when the article appeared in the Post-Gazette several weeks ago.”
This assertion contradicts the grant application.
Although the application was filed on July 31, it was not ratified by the URA until August 13. No meetings took place other than for the ratification. Our first public notification was in the Post-Gazette article of August 29.
No council members have spoken up for the Panther Hollow community, or even acknowledged the possible effects it would feel from this project. Twelve city officials have not responded to letters requesting additional information about this project.
Integrity in government is not a window to open when the cameras are rolling and to close when the cameras are off. It is a window that must remain open.
City officials must break their silence and respond to our letters. We ask that they abide by this spirit-freeing principle – be honest, even if it is not in your best interest.