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Brief description of the Pittsburgh Open Government effort


n 2016, OpenPittsburgh.Org managed to obtain enough signatures to place a comprehensive City Charter Amendment on the fall ballot after acquiring a federal injunction that enabled using professional canvassers to collect petition signatures.   However, the Mayor's Chief of Staff objected and sought to have the Amendment removed from the ballot.   Though the objections were filed well beyond the mandatory challenge period, nonetheless, Judge Joseph James rejected 70 years of case law and allowed the objections to stand, then withheld his ruling in the expedited case until over two weeks later, issuing it just two days before the ballots were sent to the printer, making a successful appeal virtually impossible.

Allegheny County Charter Amendment for 2021


ith the 2016 election raising public concerns about the cybersecurity of our voting system and the pandemic requiring widespread use of less secure mail-in balloting in 2020, establishing an independent Board of Elections (BOE) in Allegheny County could help bolster the public's wavering confidence in the election process.   As it stands now, though, we have elected incumbents in charge of conducting elections, and that constitutes an inherent conflict of interests.   Fortunately, it is possible for a home rule county, such as Allegheny County, to change the composition of its BOE by amending its home rule charter.

As a starting point, we can look to Lucerne County which has had an independent BOE for a number of years.   With it as a reference, OpenPittsburgh.Org has drafted a proposed amendment to the Allegheny County Home Rule Charter which would establish a better qualified, independent BOE.   Unfortunately, since the current pandemic makes it virtually impossible to circulate petitions in 2020 in order to place a referendum for a County Charter amendment on the ballot, that effort has had to be postponed until the next available opportunity which will be in 2021.

Top-down Politics vs Bottom-up Change


he 2016 election year brought to the polls large numbers of first time voters and those who seldom vote.   The overblown hype and distrust sown in the lead up to the election proved to be quite divisive and has wasted energies which could be put to more productive use.   By focusing upon the selection of public officeholders, in general, and specifically upon the nation's highest office, we keep hoping in vain for meaningful solutions to trickle down.

Electoral democracy's inherent nature of top-down governance is simply insufficient to address today's challenges.   While electing good candidates is important and not to be discounted, it's time that we pursue a new bottom-up approach.   Real solutions can only come when average citizens are provided with a structural and operational framework that enables them to work together within the halls of government where they can better monitor and hold it accountable and, at the same time, proactively catalyze needed changes.

4 pillars of the Open Government concept


hen most people hear the phrase "open government." they think of "transparency," but, while that is essential, it's only one part.   There are actually four essential pillars -- transparency, notification, public participation, and accountability -- all of which are necessary for truly open government.   By implementing comprehensive reforms at the municipal level, first with Pittsburgh and then other interested communities, we can build a base of open government from which the model can eventually be expanded to higher levels of government too.

Pittsburgh Open Government Amendment



ew Article 6 -- The Amendment deletes the present Article 6: Community Advisory Boards which is now irrelevant because City Council abolished all of the City's Community Advisory Boards, effective December 31, 2000.   In its place, the Amendment will substitute a new Article 6: Open Government which expands upon the recent Open Data legislation passed by City Council, providing greater opportunities for public participation in the governance of the city, including an ability for individuals to be notfied about legislative and administrative actions before they occur and assuring that Council and the Mayor give more attention to resident's input.

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