#VoteNo – City of Pgh Ballot Charter Measure Unfair, Lacks Good Governance

Let me at the very beginning of this post affirm that I think students in Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS) deserve good coaches. I also think students at all higher education institutes deserve good faculty, both FT and adjunct.  I should also clarify that my partner is a 17 year employee of the City.

So, last week someone sent me an image of the sample ballot for Tuesday’s elections. There are two ballot referendums and one caught my eye:

City of Pittsburgh Home Rule Charter Referendum


My very first thought was to wonder why they would amend our City charter for only two types of outside employment – coaching and adjunct teaching at public schools? It struck me as being a very narrow exclusion that would only benefit a few people.

So let’s be clear. Almost every employer in the world has a say in your outside/secondary employment with regard to ensuring there is no conflict of interest or it doesn’t impact your primary duties. That’s common sense. Lots of City employees have second jobs. Some are perfectly legitimate, others are under the table, and some are in fact already coaching and teaching in public universities as adjunct faculty (just Google a few names.) So enforcement of this ban has certainly not been consistent and to some extent depends upon the ethics of the actual employee.

So why did the City Home Rule Charter address this matter of working for multiple governments? Lots of people have opinions, but I’ve yet to find anyone with actual facts. It is only 43 pages so you may want to take a look.  There has to be a reason they banned JUST this type of secondary employment. Conflicts of interest around secondary employment in the private sector are addressed by personnel rules, not the actual charter of our government.


No person shall hold more than one compensated position in City government and no
compensated city employee shall hold a compensated position in any other government except as follows:
a. officer or member of the Pennsylvania National Guard or federal reserve:
b. the controller may also serve as controller for the city school district; and the deputy controller may also serve as deputy controller for the city school district.
c. a treasurer, or person serving in that capacity, may also serve as treasurer for the city school district.
d. member or employee of any sinking fund commission or pension board.
e. Pittsburgh public school employees between the months of May and September of each year.

So if we don’t have clarity on why this ban was put in place, should we make any changes?  I would say no. The City has an entire law department and the members of Council has staffers who can do the legislative research to determine the ‘why’ factor. Members of the Home Rule Charter commission are still here in Pittsburgh. There are meeting minutes, there are drafts, there are notes and more. The reason can be found with the appropriate amount of work.  A Post-Gazette article quoting Councilors Corey O’Connor and Natalia Rudiak illustrates this lack of an informed perspective.

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Mr. O’Connor said a broader exemption could be problematic because other government side work — apart from schools — presumably would be full-time, and then “you’re conflicting with a job you have with one government entity over another. I don’t know how that would work.”

Ms. Rudiak said there’s no reason why exemptions for other government side work weren’t included in the referendum. But “it was not meant to be a slight. [Note the PG editors forgot to close that quote.]

So is it a problematic issue or is there no reason why? With Natalia leaving office, who would champion such a thing?

I’m troubled that City Council would agree and even champion changing the City Charter without this information. I’m also troubled that when people like me ask for the information, they aren’t responsive and forthcoming about the process.

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But let’s take another look at the changes.

If the goal is to create more employment and side income opportunities for City employees, why just coaching? Why not allow employees to do holiday temp work with the postal service? or work as crossing guards? or so forth? (Or compensate people fairly, but hey!) Coaching and higher education are important, but so are many other jobs. I started googling the various other governmental jobs that are PT or temporary. It is lengthy.

Is it reasonable to amend our City constitution to address select employment vacancies in PPS? Isn’t that the responsibility of PPS? We’re talking 3,100 people who would be ineligible out of the whole population of the City. Is that a reason to change the constitution? Would be change the home rule charter to meet employment needs of any other employer – like, say, Amazon? Wouldn’t it be more useful for PPS to be working with large employers like UPMC and AHN to recruit their employees? The City has 303,000 residents. Surely, filling those slots with qualified candidates isn’t so very hard to require this really rather drastic action.

This proposed change will disproportionately benefit men. Obviously, women can be coaches, but there are fewer opportunities for women. Women already make less $ than men, especially black women. Shouldn’t changes to the city hrc have a proportionate impact upon women as men?  Men represent about 78% of the City workforce. Men also represent about 75% of youth coaches (male and female teams, coaches and assistants) according to this July piece from The Atlantic. So why are we changing our charter to create MORE employment opportunities for men?
Source: PublicSource
With regard to the college instructor positions, again there is a disproportionate benefit to already privileged employees – those with advanced degrees, those who have cars and the job flexibility to drive to California State or Penn State Beaver to actually teach. If you again Google some names, you’ll see the folks who are already teaching in these roles in private universities are mostly manager, directors, etc. Again, this is creating more economic benefit for those who are among the highest paid in the city workforce. Is that a good reason?

Does this set up the possibility for excluded employees to sue the City because they are not able to pursue a sorting gig with the USPS over the holidays? No one answered that question.

My objection to this proposed ballot measure is two-fold

  • the lack of a robust research process on the charter provision’s history
  • the unfair benefit this creates for already privileged employees, especially at the expense of women

I don’t want to hurt the kids who need coaches, but the odds are good that seeking out coaches among the 300,000 other City residents would meet their needs. The status quo does not prevent any City employee from volunteering with the schools.

I don’t want to deny City employees access to secondary employment, but that should be evenly applied. Employees who haven’t had a raise in years because of financial distress should be given the same opportunities as the employees at the highest end of the pay scale.

I commend the City employees who put forth this suggestion because they are following the rules. It doesn’t take long to find plenty of City employees who have been breaking this rule. I applaud people who act with integrity and try to fix what they perceive as a flawed process. I just believe it is the duty of City Council to do the heavy lifting to make sure the process is fair and complete.

This is not about my partner who does have the potential to pursue these opportunities if she choose. This is about my partner 17 years ago who was a brand new FT employee who simply wanted to sort mail over the holidays at the post office to earn some extra money. This is about the fact that we are losing women in elected roles, have only had one female Mayor (20 years ago), and women representing 23% of the City workforce. 

According to PublicSource, overall, city employees are mostly white and mostly men. About 78 percent of employees are white, and 79 percent of the white employees are men, according to the data. White men make up about 62 percent of all city workers.

Perhaps we need to keep that in mind and determine if we need more voter actions to mostly impact men or we need to slow down to ask how other employees can also benefit?

I urge you to vote no. Our students in both secondary and post-secondary schools deserve a local government that puts ALL of their needs first and respects legislative best-practices.



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