Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb is running for Allegheny County Board of Directors

Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb, a fixture in local politics for more than two decades, is hoping to broaden his resume by becoming Allegheny County’s next borough leader.

Lamb announces his bid to replace incumbent Rich Fitzgerald, who has a tenure Monday morning and will no longer be able to run. The post is arguably the most powerful local public position in western Pennsylvania, and Lamb was an enthusiastic supporter of a government restructuring effort that created the office more than two decades ago.

In a WESA interview, Lamb said that “everything I’ve done has pretty much led to a job like this” – including his efforts to create the post itself as part of a Home Rules charter change affecting the previous three -County commissioner scrapped form of government.

“I’ve shown something, I think, that a lot of officers don’t do, and that’s persistence and persistence to get something done that’s hard to get,” Lamb said. “The way from the press conference to training is not easy. Implementing change is difficult. But it’s something I’ve done my entire career.”

Lamb’s interest in the seat has been well known in political circles for months, and he set the stage for his run in late August when he announced he would not seek another term as city controller. He now becomes part of a democratic field that already encompasses former congressional candidate and social services leader Erin McClellandand is widely expected to include attorney and former county councilor David Fawcett and state rep. Sara Innamorato.

Lamb said that one of the things that sets him apart from other potential suitors is his ability to navigate the often treacherous waters of local civic life.

“We’re living in really divisive times, and that has had an impact on our community, too,” he said. “Throughout my career, I’ve been someone who builds bridges and advances. I think my ability to unite different interests is important.” Both inside and outside the Democratic Party, “I’ve had a foothold in all of these factions and not only been present, but engaged with all of them.”

Throughout his career, Lamb was the rare politician who moved easily in Democratic Party circles while also being an outspoken government reformer. And while he’s not necessarily a political arsonist, his campaign for the county board seems likely to address some progressive concerns with county government, particularly on criminal justice issues.

When asked about ongoing controversy over inmate deaths and other concerns at the Allegheny County Jail, Lamb gave a blunt assessment of Warden Orlando Harper: “I don’t think there needs to be a change in leadership of what’s going on down there. He also agreed with criticism of Fitzgerald – with whom he has long had a cautious relationship – for sending a representative to the Jail Oversight Board meetings instead of attending them himself.

While Lamb generally praised Fitzgerald as “a guy that everyone knows puts in a lot of time — you don’t go anywhere and you don’t see Rich,” he said, “I don’t agree with the way he made his decision not to go to prison supervisory meetings. I think that’s part of the job.”

More broadly, however, Lamb said, “Part of the problem with jail is that we have a lot of people in jail who shouldn’t be there” — and not without bail decisions that punish the poor and people of color who are waiting for them Study. Lamb said he worked as an intern at the public defender’s office to do preliminary hearings — where bail decisions are made — and he called the experience “the place in my career where I first witnessed real institutional racism because some black defendants were treated differently than others.”

While the county has limited ability to dictate such decisions to courts, Lamb said it could make broader changes to make criminal justice more humane, such as making criminal justice more humane. B. Better pay for public defenders and lawyers in the public prosecutor’s office. “We cannot continue to attract the best talent to our public defender’s office,” he said.

Lamb’s public career began in 2000 as county protho-notary, an elected position overseeing civil court records. But the government overhaul he supported involved the phasing out of his own position. And while he ran twice unsuccessfully for Pittsburgh mayor, he has served as city controller since 2008.

In that capacity, he has scrutinized and sometimes criticized three mayoral administrations – particularly for their failure to take down large tax-exempt nonprofits – but with little of the magnanimity such positions can hold. During his tenure, he strove to make city government less opaque, publishing an easy-to-understand “People’s Budget” to explain the city’s operations and putting information on contracts and campaign contributions online.

Some of these interests feed into his current offering. For example, Lamb laments that despite all the reforms brought to the county government, officials still produce a tenuous budget document that contains little more detail than it did 30 years ago. “Transparency hasn’t increased.” He says as a manager, he would create budgets that reveal more detail about individual items. “When you open up the finance process, ask yourself, ‘Hey, why are we doing this? Why is this money being spent here?’ This was not available to the general public.”

Lamb also said the county government can play a more active role in encouraging the county’s 130 communities, and perhaps governments themselves, to consolidate services. (Lamb helped found CONNECT, a coalition of local leaders seeking better regional partnerships.) “If you think about the conflicting system of local government that we have…county government plays a key role in driving the discussion about improving.” services,” he said.

Lamb’s interest in challenging big nonprofits like UPMC, Allegheny Health Network and other big nonprofits also remains — although he says these entities cast less of a shadow on the county than on the city where their holdings are located. “I think there is a key role for the large nonprofits to assist the county with some mission-focused work that they and the county need. And I suspect this will be somewhere related to education and working with our community college.

And the amount of land held by tax-exempt corporations is just part of a broader problem in the county’s property tax implementation, he said. The issue has plagued Fitzgerald throughout his tenure, with court-ordered property value revaluations raging in the county. The assessment process is currently embroiled in another court battle, and Lamb predicted that “if we don’t do something ourselves, we’ll be judged again, so I think we need to think about real solutions.”

He did not respond during his interview, saying such proposals will be rolled out as the campaign progresses. But he said that “for me, the solution lies somewhere in creating a system that values ​​property fairly, but then recognizes long-term homeowners” and protects them from sudden jumps in their tax bills.

In any case, in the coming months he said: “We will be in the neighborhood and talking to constituents. you learn so much In May it’s almost like knowing everything that’s going on in the world.”

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