December 22, 2004: Headlines: COS - Paraguay: Politics: City Government: Pittsburgh Post Gazette: The ups and downs of Tom Murphy's tenure as Pittsburgh mayor

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Paraguay: Special Report: Paraguay RPCV Tom Murphy, Mayor of Pittsburgh: December 22, 2004: Headlines: COS - Paraguay: Politics: City Government: Pittsburgh Post Gazette: The ups and downs of Tom Murphy's tenure as Pittsburgh mayor

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The ups and downs of Tom Murphy's tenure as Pittsburgh mayor

The ups and downs of Tom Murphy's tenure as Pittsburgh mayor

The ups and downs of Tom Murphy's tenure as Pittsburgh mayor

The ups and downs of Tom Murphy's tenure as Pittsburgh mayor

Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette


Robin Rombach, Post-Gazette
1994: Newly elected Mayor Tom Murphy greets former Mayor Dick Caliguiri's widow.
After 12 years as a state legislator from the North Side who often bucked Democratic Party leadership, Tom Murphy is sworn in as mayor of a city on the brink of serious financial problems.

Three weeks into his term, brutally cold winter weather gives Murphy his first crisis, causing him to have city workers call 30,000 senior citizens to make sure they had heat and food.

Budget problems result in a 3 percent pay cut for 300 nonunion employees in May and the layoff of 95 workers in August but Murphy is able to win approval for a no-tax-increase budget.

Another major crisis occurs when owners of the Pirates in August give the city six months to find a new owner for the team. In November, Murphy announces the city's preferred buyer is John Rigas of Coudersport, owner of Adelphia Cable Communications.

Darrell Sapp, Post-Gazette
1994: Model homes at Summerset at Frick Park in Squirrel Hill.
Positives and negatives mark the development front. After 212 years in Pittsburgh, Lazarus announces it will close its Downtown store at the former Joseph Horne Co. site and build a new, smaller store Downtown. Murphy also halts renovation of the Allequippa Terrace public housing complex in favor of scattered-site housing; announces plans for a housing development of 600 to 800 homes on a former slag heap on the edge of Squirrel Hill overlooking Frick Park; and proposes a $60 million city development fund to help developers who want to build in the city.


Budget woes continue as Standard & Poor's drops the city's bond rating to BBB+, the lowest in 33 years. Murphy lays off 74 workers in November to help balance the budget.

In development, the city reaches an agreement with Lazarus to build a $78 million store at Fifth Avenue and Wood Street, Downtown, with nearly $50 million of the project subsidized by the city.

After Major League Baseball rejects Regas as the new Pirates owner in June, Sacramento newspaper heir Kevin McClatchy agrees to buy the team.


Financial problems continue, with Controller Tom Flaherty predicting a major crisis in 1998 without serious spending cutbacks or tax increases. Murphy proposes a no-tax-increase budget for 1997 with $4 million in Fire Bureau cuts as a result of plans to privatize paramedic service, but council restores the cuts.

In March, the city announces violent crime decreased 17.5 percent in 1995, putting crime at its lowest level in 30 years.

A city task force settles on the North Shore as the site of a new baseball stadium, which was required as part of McClatchy's purchase of the team. That prompts the Steelers also to push for new accommodations.


Despite criticism that he has ignored city neighborhoods in his effort to build new venues for sports teams, Murphy survives an election challenge from Councilman Bob O'Connor to win a second term.

With the new Lazarus store under construction, the city quietly signs a one-year agreement in July with Chicago-based Urban Retail Property Co. to lure national retailers Downtown to a complex known as The Marketplace at Fifth and Forbes. The plan involves vacant or under-used buildings in the city's retail district, with some buildings being demolished to make way for new stores.

In a blow to construction of new stadiums, voters in the region reject a 1-cent sales tax increase for regional development projects. Murphy begins work on "Plan B," a method of financing the facilities without the tax increase.


After the state Legislature fails to approve funding in November to help with construction of new stadiums for the Pirates and Steelers, Murphy angers lawmakers by announcing he had secretly included language in an unrelated bill that could provide a "stealth" method to finance the facilities. In December, Gov. Tom Ridge and Murphy provide $18.5 million in interim financing so the Pirates' plans can proceed.

The city begins buying property along Fifth and Forbes avenues for a major retail complex to supplement the new Lazarus store that opened in November.


After three years of trying to make financial arrangements to pay for construction, the city and Pirates break ground for PNC Park on the city's North Shore in April and the Steelers for Heinz Field in June.

Opposition develops to the Fifth-Forbes project when it is revealed that 62 buildings would be demolished for new retail outlets. Preservationists say the buildings have historic value and vow to fight the project in court, if necessary.


Amid sharp criticism and the threat of lawsuits, Murphy drops plans to raze buildings for the Fifth-Forbes project and appoints a committee to work on another plan to revitalize the Downtown retail corridor. Lord & Taylor opens a city-subsidized store in a former Mellon Bank building on Smithfield Street.


John Beale, Post-Gazette
2001: PNC Park opens.
O'Connor again comes up short in his bid to defeat Murphy's bid for re-election, losing by 699 votes. One factor in Murphy's success is a generous, no-layoff contract with city firefighters, who endorsed Murphy after the deal was reached.

The Pirates open PNC Park and the Steelers begin playing at Heinz Field, spurring hope that long-awaited development will follow on the North Shore.


Murphy proposes a budget that calls for a pouring tax on the sale of alcoholic drinks and a half-percent payroll tax yet to be approved by the Legislature to fill a $29 million gap. He says there will be substantial layoffs and tax property tax increases if the taxes aren't approved.


Robin Rombach, Post-Gazette
2003: Mayor Tom Murphy walks through a crowd of Pittsburgh police officers and their supporters as he leaves the City-County Building with Police Chief Robert McNeilly, right.
Murphy announces layoffs of city police officers and other workers in August after his plan to balance the budget with legislative tax reforms from Harrisburg fails to materialize. In December, at Murphy's request, the state Department of Community and Economic Development declares the city to be in financial distress. That means the city can qualify for financial help from the state, which also will appoint a recovery coordinator with the power to override union contracts and open the door to a possible tax on commuters.


The Legislature pushes for and gets a second city oversight board, which is to work together with the Act 47 coordinator and the city to cut spending before lawmakers approve tax changes in Harrisburg. The three-headed approach proves burdensome and budget cuts are dragged out over the course of the year.

Once the budget cuts are approved, state legislators end months of haggling and approve new taxing powers for the city, including an increase in the $10 occupation privilege tax to $52 a year and a new 0.55 percent tax on payrolls of employers in for-profit businesses.

Lazarus, which never met sales projections, closes its Downtown store in January. Lord & Taylor closes at the end of the year. Murphy continues to explore plans for a retail revitalization Downtown.

With the budget and tax changes in place, Murphy announces he will not seek re-election to a fourth term.

When this story was posted in December 2004, this was on the front page of PCOL:

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Story Source: Pittsburgh Post Gazette

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Paraguay; Politics; City Government



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