Congress of Neighboring Communities (CONNECT)
On June 19, 2009, the 1st bi-annual Congress of Neighboring Communities (CONNECT) formally established itself as a forum for local government cooperation within Allegheny County. CONNECT’s mission is to coordinate the collective activities of the City of Pittsburgh and the 35 municipalities that share its border. CONNECT’s unique goals are to advocate for and voice the collective interests of the urban core and its 680,000 residents; to develop and enhance ways the municipalities work together to deliver important public services, and to maintain a forum for the discussion, deliberation, and implementation of new ways to maximize economic prosperity for Western Pennsylvania.
As the first alliance of the region’s population center, CONNECT has considerable demographic, economic and political strength. Its member communities represent 56% of Allegheny County’s population, 75% of Allegheny County’s jobs, a majority of seats on the local and state level, and all three federal Congressional Districts.
The Innovation Clinic at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public & International Affairs, directed by Professor David Y. Miller, initiated and led the development of CONNECT. Since October 2008, a planning committee of community representatives, Innovation Clinic staff, and local policy advisors have worked together to draft 24 strategic resolutions regarding CONNECT’s structure and priorities. These include the establishment of three ongoing committees – Executive, Policy, and Operations – and approaches to shared policy and infrastructure challenges.
These resolutions were approved at the June 19 Congress, solidifying and re-energizing this alliance. 34 of the 36 eligible communities have indicated their participation in CONNECT. The City of Pittsburgh has been involved in all formative stages of CONNECT. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl was elected to a one-year term as Chair of CONNECT along with the following new officers: Vice Chair Patricia Schaefer (President, Edgewood Council); Vice Chair Daniel DeMarco (President, Ross Board of Commissioners); and Secretary/Treasurer Marcia Taylor (Assistant Manager, Mount Lebanon).
CONNECT now seeks to implement the resolutions set forth by the Congress and undertake its first actions as a formal alliance. In order to build on the momentum of the Congress, the Innovation Clinic has proposed to work on several of the critical issues within the CONNECT communities by:
- Establishing CONNECT by-laws to formalize and complete its organizational structure.
- Creating a web-based directory of CONNECT point-persons in each member community.
- Collaborating with 3 Rivers Wet Weather to facilitate a unified plan to rehabilitate the region’s outdated sewage collection and treatment systems.
- Collaborating with Port Authority of Allegheny County to improve and federate public transit issues, across communities.
- Facilitating Executive, Policy, and Operations committee meetings to address the next generation of issues for the CONNECT.
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