Pittsburgh’s Foundations to Help New Mayor Staff Up

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October 22, 2013; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


Members of Pittsburgh’s foundation community are organizing a national talent search to help the next city administration recruit senior officials, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in an article written by political reporter James O’Toole.

The article goes on to say that the effort could be a prelude to broader level of cooperation between the city and its foundations, a notable change of pace for the city that may arguably be ground zero in the trend of local governments seeking compensation from local nonprofits in the form of PILOTS (Payments in Lieu of Taxes).

Details of the foundations’ headhunting initiative were announced earlier this week, and the Democratic nominee and prohibitive favorite for the mayor said he welcomes the effort and plans to rely heavily on its recommendations.  The search would identify candidates for positions such as police and fire chief and other senior department officials.

Candidate Bill Peduto said that while the outside group would not have any formal or informal veto over personnel choices, his “intent is to participate.” He had been approached by foundation officials about the process, and that in addition to casting a nationwide net for outside candidates, the review would include current city officials who wished to apply for roles in the new administration.

Foundation funding and efforts similarly helped Allegheny County, which includes Pittsburgh, conduct the recent search for its new health department director. The article said that a number of key philanthropic leaders had enlisted several local foundations in the broader effort to recruit talent.

Peduto and a spokesman for the lead Pittsburgh Foundation said that this was a bipartisan initiative initiated by the foundation community, and the Republican nominee has also said that he would participate. Details of the search effort, including its budget and exactly how it would operate, are yet to be announced.

Also being considered are joint efforts to establish an office of urban affairs in the new administration, which would complement and synch the community-building and educational efforts of government with those of foundations and Pittsburgh’s many private non-profits. It sounds very similar to the Office of Strategic Partnerships within the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office and similar posts on the state and local level across the U.S.

Peduto contended that Pittsburgh’s well-endowed charitable groups have been historically underutilized, noting that, “they bring resources and a checkbook.”—Larry Kaplan