There are a few pieces of legislation before City Council right now that directly affect the quality of life of Pittsburghers, and I encourage your input.
I am very encouraged by legislation recently introduced by Councilman Doug Shields entitled Massage Establishment and Practitioner Licensing, Bill 2011-1635, geared toward eliminating sex trafficking in massage establishments in the City of Pittsburgh.
This sort of illegal activity has become a national issue, and I feel that Pittsburghers especially will not tolerate such hidden issues as women being held against their will and being forced to work in some of these establishments as prostitutes and otherwise, as well as the extortion and other monetary crimes that occur.
This legislation would require all massage parlors and their employees to be licensed, renewable each year. Reliable research has shown that there are at least 15 establishments in question within the city, and nine more outside the city limits. If licenses were required, inspectors would be permitted in to check for the licensing, the first step toward a case against illegal activity.
Additionally, very soon to be introduced is the bill on electronic signs, which I’ve discussed here before. The city’s Planning Department worked with consultants on this legislation. Some of the more contentious points involve whether we actually permit electronic billboards, if we permit them how bright we permit them to be at various times of day and how frequently the advertisements change, whether we regulate where they are placed (not within sight of rivers, not blocking views), whether we permit the BAYER sign on Mount Washington to be made into a huge LED sign, what we permit for business signage, what we allow for temporary signage, etc.
I will be looking for input from the community — from you — as we go forward on this. These signs directly affect your neighborhood. The consultants recommended banning LED billboards altogether, but the final legislation they will be sending for Council to consider does not include that sort of ban.
And finally, an even more direct effect on the atmosphere of your neighborhood is the lighting plan that was introduced to Council on April 20 for LED streetlights. Based on the preliminary recommendations of the lighting experts, Pittsburgh stands poised to become a very beautifully lit city.
They have taken into consideration reducing glare, presenting more true colors at night (no more orange light), helping to prevent our older citizens from tripping at night, and the ability to change lighting levels at different times of day and night, and even to be able to decorate for events, such as gold lighting for sporting events, red-white-and-blue lighting for patriotic holidays and the ability to create emergency lighting as well. (The plan will be posted online at the City Clerk’s website, which you can reach through my own, below.)
Additionally, lighting for business districts will be distinctive — geared toward happy shoppers and inviting storefronts. As many of you already know, I am also working on business districts in District 1 (East Ohio Street, Brighton Road, California Avenue, Lowrie Street, Perrysville Avenue) and hope to make us the model for the rest of the city.
The LED lights are a great investment, because not only will they greatly improve safety and security and highlight our business districts, they are environmentally friendly in manufacture, function and disposal, and they will save us around $650,000 a year in energy costs alone.
As you know, I am quite eager to improve our business districts, as well as the rest of our lighting. My office has been heavily involved with Councilman Bill Peduto’s office on this legislation, and we are very eager to see the results within the next year.
The city will be issuing a request for proposals targeted toward implementing all the suggestions of the consultants who presented on April 20. The plans offered by any company would have to include the design of the lighting produced by the lights. Our city is beautiful, and it should be lit to its best effect.
Of course, we continue to work on vacant and blighted properties (and how the new state legislation can help with those), nuisance properties and the overall quality of life in District 1 and in the City of Pittsburgh.
Councilwoman Darlene M. Harris can be reached at 412-255-2135, or by email through her city web page, http://www.city.pittsburgh.pa.us/district1.