Background: Pittsburgh Open Government Amendment

Open government = better government!

Historical Background

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ittsburgh's Open Government Amendment grew out of a December, 2002 library give away where City Council tried to slip past the public a set of problematic leases for the City's library buildings.   Buried within them is an option that enables the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Board at any time to buy the City owned buildings for $100 each and receive clear and marketable title.   The Board could then immediately sell them to any speculator for whatever they can get (the Library had been talking about getting rid of a number of the branch buildings).   Council broke with all precedent and denied a public request for a hearing on the matter.   Subsequently, after a series of failed attempts to get information and have public hearings on other important matters, it became evident that it would be necessary to amend the City Charter.

A large portion of the Open Government Amendment draws upon the experience of the Citizen Advisory Panel of the Southwest Pennsylvania Regional Planning Commission (CAP of SPRPC).   It was so effective, SPRPC abolished it after it uncovered a massive fraud involving billions of dollars and reported the matter to federal authorities who then did nothing.   The impacts of the improprieties which the CAP uncovered continue to plague the City and the region -- depressed property values, continuing decline, and one of the highest rates of suburban sprawl in the country within the only major metropolitan area to have a continuing decrease in population.   They and subsequent improprieties are responsible for a virtually useless tunnel being built under the river and the looming Mon-Fayette Expressway which is intended to further drain investment out of the City.

There are more interesting details in the accompanying brief history of the CAP of SPRPC which explains some important lessons that proved invaluable in developing the Pittsburgh Open Government Amendment.

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