Understanding Pittsburgh's unelected power structure

First stop: 16 authorities that influence our economy and the people who serve on them

Agricultural Land Preservation Board
Air Pollution Control Advisory Committee
Allegheny County Conservation District
Allegheny HealthChoices
Board of Health
Clean Pittsburgh Commission
Pittsburgh Land Bank
Pittsburgh Shade Tree Commission

LaShawn M. Burton-Faulk

Much of what gets built in the city must win the Manchester Citizens Corp. director’s approval — twice.

Wayne Fontana

Long a quiet member of the state Senate and behind-the-scenes political player, this former Teamster now has a say in two potent development agencies.

Lindsay Powell

The only development board member under 30, this member of Mayor Bill Peduto's staff worked in Congress before taking on a city government role.

About this project

The Pittsburgh region is run in large part by more than 500 unelected board members of authorities, commissions and other governmental agencies.

Board members usually don’t get headlines. Those go to the mayor, the county executive or, occasionally, council members, controllers and directors. But boards often decide what does and doesn’t get built, who gets contracts and grants, what rates and fees we pay for everything from bus rides to water, and more.

Now, as the region copes with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, the operations of those boards are likely to affect our lives and futures more than ever. Already, boards are switching gears from managing growth to addressing an economic emergency. It’s time we got to know them better.

PublicSource’s new Board Explorer sheds light on the boards and their roles, providing information about each member and inviting analysis of this important part of the region’s power structure.

We’ll start with 16 boards involved — directly or indirectly — in the region’s economy. From ALCOSAN, which is rebuilding the sewer system, to the Zoning Board of Adjustment, which approves or denies construction proposals, these boards affect jobs, the built environment, housing, transportation, utilities, cultural assets and more.

Over the coming months, PublicSource will add more boards, further analysis and deeper looks at key members. Explore with us and, if you have a story idea or something you think we should investigate, please let us know.

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