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William Peduto. Pittsburgh is reborn, thanks to innovation

Innovation / -

William Peduto is the mayor of Pittsburgh and his administration is an example of social innovation and planning. A guest Innovation Forum of the USA Pavilion at Expo 2015, he was interviewed by Exponet, the official magazine of the Universal Exposition.

Mr Peduto, Pittsburgh has become a model city for innovation and sustainability, what are some key steps and partnerships you developed to foster and promote innovation?
Pittsburgh has a long history of sustainability: one need only look back to the 1950s when Mayor David Lawrence partnered with corporate leaders to approve the first clean air laws in the United States. Those partnerships eroded just as the city’s economy did in following decades, only to be reborn through new bonds the city built with its leading universities. Carnegie Mellon, the University of Pittsburgh and others, worked with me and other city leaders to support a new economic and societal model built on our shared abilities to innovate -- using our brains instead of our brawn.
As cities begin to grow, we’ve seen an increasing reliance on public-private partnerships. Please tell us how these relationships have or have not worked for the city of Pittsburgh?
We have been lucky enough to have great partners in Pittsburgh’s philanthropic community, who have seeded our work in innovation and sustainability and allowed it to build capacity. When I took office, I proved to them I was serious about the commitment to innovation our city needed to grow and compete -- I threw out the old patronage model for hiring my top administrators, and left the hiring process to search committees run through a local foundation, allowing them to seek out the top talent in the country and the world. Such commitments signaled to outside agencies such as the National League of Cities, the Rockefeller Foundation and Code for America we were serious about establishing a track record for innovation: it has created its own momentum, leading directly to outside funding and support for everything from new programs to provide meals and health care to struggling children to a restructuring of our procurement systems to bring transparency and more equitable opportunity to our contracting for goods and services.
At the Innovation Summit you spoke on the importance of the 4P’s (Planet, People, Place, and Performance ). How did you develop this concept and how have you put these ideas into action?
P4 arose through discussions with my good friend Andre Heinz and the leadership of the Heinz Endowments. How might we take the best practices learned for equitable and sustainable economic development in Scandinavian cities -- which have economies and environments quite similar to Pittsburgh’s -- and apply them in our city? How might we grow intelligently, sustainably and equitably for all? Heinz brought leading global experts in these concepts to a first of its kind conference in Pittsburgh this spring, and our first steps to implement them are already underway. This summer we announced that a leading firm in P4 concepts -- Copenhagen’s Bjarke Ingels Group -- will be leading design efforts for public space and housing at a 28 acre former hockey arena site adjacent to Pittsburgh’s downtown, where we will build mixed-use spaces that tie our main business district to the Hill District, a revered but struggling neighborhood that is directly adjacent.
The design of the Innovation Summit highlighted how problems should be addressed from multiple angles and take into consideration multiple stakeholders. Can you please provide an example of how the involvement of multiple stakeholders has addressed a problem in your city?
Just a couple miles from Downtown along the Monongahela River sits a 175-acre former steel mill site called Almono. While the mill once fed the local economy -- paying salaries that put food on the dinner tables in the local neighborhood of Hazelwood, and spitting out steel products to the world and revenues to the local tax base -- there was now a giant reminder of decline and blight. Four local foundations stepped in to not only buy the site but announce that it will become a model of sustainable development, combining net-zero energy concepts, storm and waste water management and transportation innovation. A panel of national design experts from the Daniel Rose Center for Public Leadership met with local residents and issued development recommendations. I joined other local legislators in seeking federal help for transportation studies and green solutions to storm and waste water issues. Working together we have set the stage for a world-class, sustainable, mixed-use, riverfront innovation district where there had once been a rotting example of Pittsburgh’s old economic past.
The City of Pittsburgh has developed strong ties to local universities through memorandums of agreement. Please tell us how this has benefited the city and universities, and also describe steps other cities (U.S. and Internationally) can take to begin the development of these relationships.
Pittsburgh has turned itself into an urban lab where universities can test concepts that, when successful, lead to better services for residents and products that researchers can take to market in other cities around the world. Carnegie Mellon University has worked with my city government on smart traffic signals that have reduced wait times and fuel emissions at intersections by 25%, on automated oversight of street conditions through cameras placed on city government vehicles, and predictive analytics of city resident complaint data to create more responsive public service systems. In September the White House named the city and Carnegie Mellon founding members of the MetroLab Network, in which cities and universities will further band together to research, develop and deploy innovative technologies to address critical challenges facing urban areas around the country. Additionally, the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Energy is helping us to manage a historic Memorandum of Understanding we signed with the U.S. Department of Energy to make us a world leader in district energy production, convening utilities and industry experts to build a R&D portfolio and identify high impact infrastructure investments. Pittsburgh is a special place: it is small enough that we can test concepts with university partners affordably and effectively, but big enough that when something works the whole world can find out about it and hopefully benefit.

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