Transparency and Accountability
Vigilance is essential when it comes to overseeing large budgets like those of the City of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Public Schools. Safeguards must be put in place to stop fraud, waste and corruption. I take this watchdog role very seriously. The city of Pittsburgh has some measures in place currently to ensure that contracts are awarded fairly and unclaimed property is handled and administered properly. I will expand on those programs and make improvements to the Controller’s website. I also pledge to make these services more accessible, transparent and easy to use for residents.
Performing audits is another core part of the Controller’s job. Audits are about good government: They examine a department or function of city government or the school district and tell us what’s being done well, identify inefficiencies and potential improvements and occasionally flag wrongdoing. During my time with the County, I have participated in what’s known as the peer review accreditation process. Simply put, it is the gold standard for auditing. It ensures that audits are performed objectively and to the highest professional standards. The City to date has not adopted this standard — that would change if I’m elected.Following an initial engagement letter, the entire audit process will be conducted in collaboration with the subject of the review to ensure fairness and buy-in.
Good jobs are essential to the long-term viability of our communities and our economy. And Pittsburgh is fortunate to have such a strong presence of organized labor to help ensure these types of jobs. I’ve been a strong advocate for raising the living wage for county workers to $18 an hour. The City needs to follow suit. Pittsburgh’s prevailing wage ordinance must be strengthened and afforded more resources such as onsite inspectors. As Controller, I will work to ensure that contractors pay a prevailing wage. My office will also monitor work sites to ensure that no fraud is committed, undercutting tax collection and taking work away from legitimate laborers. I want to ensure that the workforce of the city is equitable and inclusive. The people that have worked with me and for me will tell you, that I am steadfast in fairness and empowering others to build upon their strengths and skills.
I have talked a lot about people and will continue to do so. I plan to serve as a representative of the people. I have worked for the City of Pittsburgh in Economic Development and sat on various executive committees for the Pittsburgh Public School Board. I have the experience and knowledge from those experiences to excel in this position. I have done the job as Acting County Controller and I know what it takes to tackle tough issues and do what is right. I have built relationships throughout my career across the corporate, public and nonprofit communities of Pittsburgh. I have worked with my peers and elected officials to strive for good government and promise to make that my guiding light as your Controller.
I believe the best leaders are in a constant state of learning and soliciting input. I pride myself on being a people person. I will work hard to ensure that I’m hearing from residents about how the office is performing and what it can do better. When I’ve told people that I’m running for City Controller, I can’t count how many times they’ve responded: “That’s great! What exactly does the Controller do?” People need to know it’s one of the most critical roles in any government. It ensures that their taxpayer dollars aren’t being wasted, and that there are checks and balances at every level of city government: fiscal and operating.
Taxpayers should be aware of where their tax dollars are going and know there is someone out there to protect them. To that end, I will begin my administration by hosting listening tours throughout the city, to hear from people directly which issues they’re most concerned about. During my time with the county, I made community input a priority, and it paid dividends. For example, I organized a series of forums and petitions about the proposed split between UPMC and Highmark. We heard from residents across the county who were in danger of losing doctors for persistent illnesses that had been treating them for decades. The healthcare insurance system was failing them and the matter was, in many cases, life or death. The findings were included as evidence presented by Attorney General Josh Shapiro as part of the settlement he brokered between the local health care giants, allowing people to continue to be treated by their providers regardless of health insurance carrier. All of these efforts are also currently featured in the documentary “Inhospitable.”
A Seat at
A number of critical issues are bubbling up in City government that will greatly impact the city budget. It would be beneficial to have the Controller at the table for these conversations. The Controller would be an asset in analyzing funding patterns and best practices.
The city is receiving federal infrastructure funds from the American Rescue Plan, but eventually that money will dry up. Leaders will then have to consider how to reprioritize spending. The Controller can and should be a resource in that process.
There is currently a dispute in the courts regarding personal property tax assessment appeals. A judge has determined that the Common Level Ratio (CLR) that is calculated to make recently purchased home taxes more equitable should shift to 63.5% from its current level of 81.1%. If the ruling is upheld, it would mean a significant loss in tax revenues to the City and school board. The Controller should have input on decisions about how to weather such budget hits.
The City of Pittsburgh and the Borough of Wilkinsburg have long been in talks about annexation. While there are certainly benefits of an expanded tax base and merged municipal services, there are also many areas of concern. The Controller should participate in these
Pittsburgh Public Schools
The Controller also serves as the fiscal watchdog of Pittsburgh Public Schools. The state Auditor General has been auditing school districts across the Commonwealth for decades. But recently it stopped performing this role. That means it’s more important than ever for the Controller to focus on the processes and budgeting of Pittsburgh's schools. I will work collaboratively with the district and its board to review for any potential fraud, waste or abuse.