For Immediate Release
PITTSBURGH – The Senate Urban Affairs and Housing Committee, chaired by Senator David G. Argall (R-29), held the first of three joint statewide public hearings with its House counterpart on the future of Pennsylvania’s large and small cities on Wednesday.
“Many of the concerns and suggestions brought to our attention during this hearing are similar to the concerns I hear in the 29th District,” Argall said. “I want to especially thank Senator Brewster, the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County for hosting the hearing as well as the testifiers for offering solutions to tackle the most important issues facing our cities, both large and small.”
The joint hearing took place at the Allegheny County Courthouse and included mayors, council members, state officials, advocates and urban policy experts.
Pittsburgh City Councilman Bill Peduto told the panel that four topics are critical to the future of Pennsylvania cities: pensions, infrastructure and transportation, economic development and education.
“As economic development budgets shrink at the federal and state levels we must find ways to more effectively leverage funding tools to have the most impact in Pittsburgh and in the surrounding region,” Peduto said. “I would like to see more of an emphasis placed on aid that can be structured into small business loans and grants to help rebuild some of our neglected business districts and offer economic assistance for young entrepreneurs who are interested in starting a company but need that extra boost of up front capital to do it.”
Cassandra Collinge, who serves as the Manager of the Housing Division with the Allegheny County Department of Economic Development, noted the collaborative effort between levels of government to accomplish goals.
“We are proud to be partners with our cities and our municipalities to help them with the redevelopment of their land, helping their businesses grow and assist with creating and improving the affordable housing stock that exists,” said Collinge.
Duquesne Mayor Phillip Krivacek said his city’s future depends on continued access to several state initiatives, such as the Enterprise Zone Program, to spur economic development.
“Through the Enterprise Zone we’ve leveraged substantial private and other public investment, creating new jobs and increasing the business tax base,” Krivacek said. “With State Enterprise Zone resources we’ve assisted American Textile Company, Duquesne’s largest employer with over 200 employees, Thermal Transfer Corporation and most recently Dura-Bond Industries, Inc. who invested over $12 million, directly creating 75 new jobs.”
The future of Pennsylvania’s cities will vary due to the fact that there are a wide variety of characteristics of those cities, according to Eric Montarti, Senior Policy Analyst.
“Factors such as where the city is located, the prospects for job opportunities and growth, and the performance of its schools are just a handful of influences that impact the future of a city. So too does the financial health of a city,” he told the joint committee.
Brian Jensen of the Pennsylvania Economy League of Greater Pittsburgh said many of the commonwealth’s cities, as well as boroughs and townships, are struggling to maintain financial health because of outdated and intrusive state laws. Other speakers focused on housing needs and cultural attractions, as well as city-university partnerships.
“Most of the focus of the hearing was on jobs, improving property values and finding efficiencies in our city governments,” Argall said. “With 41 percent of Pennsylvanians living in a distressed municipality, it is our goal to find solutions to help these economic engines recover across the state.”
The next joint hearing with the Senate and House Urban Affairs committees will be held on Thursday, June 13 at York College of Pennsylvania, Alumni Hall (West Campus Community Center), 441 Country Club Road in York starting at 10 a.m.
More information on the hearing, including agenda and written testimony, can be found at http://www.SenatorArgall.com/UrbanAffairs.
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