Pittsburgh Government Guidebook opens to public
Foundations-city officials partnership produces first-of-its-kind report to support mayoral transition, provide clarity and transparency in operations and promote best practices in governing
PITTSBURGH, Feb. 7, 2022 – Residents and others with a stake in the quality of day-to-day operations of city government will have a clearer understanding of its functions, strengths and challenges with the publication of the City Government Guidebook, now online at Pittsburghgovguide.org.
The Guidebook is a significant piece of a foundations-funded project that began after last summer’s primary elections determined that Pittsburgh would have a new mayor in the fall – and there would be opportunity to elevate the transition process.
The Guidebook documents the state of about two dozen city government departments, regulatory agencies, boards and authorities. It provides fresh research on challenges and opportunities and offers best practices from other cities. The first of a two-phase project to improve the quality of mayoral transitions, support for the program was offered by The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments to both the Republican and Democratic parties’ nominees. Each endorsed the effort and agreed to participate if elected.
Outgoing Mayor Bill Peduto and leaders in his administration also cooperated extensively during the four months of research and report preparation conducted by the New Orleans-based Thomas Consulting Group. Led by Michelle Thomas, a veteran of public- and private-sector leadership positions, her firm has managed transitions and advised on organizational and policy issues for a range of cities, including Washington, D.C., New Orleans, Montgomery and Shreveport.
Pittsburgh Foundation President and CEO Lisa Schroeder said the public posting delivers on a project goal of transparency and sharing information broadly. “The information should be as useful to the general public as it is for Mayor Ed Gainey and his leadership team,” she said, referring to the Guidebook as “the impressive product of extraordinary collaboration.”
“When we and Heinz Endowments staff discussed taking on this project, we knew that success would depend almost entirely on strong cooperation from the many stakeholders,” said Schroeder. “We wanted to lift the process above conflicting political loyalties and personal egos by providing a platform for many constituencies to work together. One of the great results is a reference guide that will allow the new administration to reduce learning time and govern with confidence.”
In posting the reports on the Foundation’s website, Schroeder said, “our hope is that residents will use them to be more effective in their interactions with city government.”
In his Dec. 20 press conference announcing leaders of the four transition committees, Equitable Development, Education and Workforce Development, Infrastructure and Environment, and Community Health and Safety, Gainey cited the research work as essential to the success of the transition process.
Each committee is meeting twice this month and then will go to city neighborhoods for a series of public forums to encourage residents to provide ideas and offer opinions on governing priorities. A report on the teams’ work will be delivered to the mayor and made public in mid-April.
Schroeder commended Thomas and her team on the several months of work undertaken on a tight timeline. The Guidebook reports are based on reviews of hundreds of pages of financial and other records, scores of interviews and best practices observed in other cities’ government operations.
The first phase of the project, which included production of the Guidebook and organizing support for the transition committees, was funded by a $125,000 grant from the Endowments and $100,000 from The Pittsburgh Foundation.
A second phase now underway with continued foundation support, includes contracting HR&A Advisors to do a detailed analysis of the city’s financial state and the impact of this year’s prepared budget. The Thomas Consulting team will continue advising the transition committees and researching best practices for the new administration.
The Guidebook material will be transferred to the City of Pittsburgh government website in the next several months.