Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

WHAT IS CONNECT?

The Congress of Neighboring Communities (CONNECT) is an organization that promotes cooperation and collaboration between the City of Pittsburgh and the 40 neighboring municipalities that comprise the region’s urban core. For a map and list of member communities in CONNECT, click here.

CONNECT’S MISSION is to bring together these municipalities to identify common public policy challenges and advocate for collective change on behalf of the urban core.

We measure our success by our ability to:

  • Advocate for public policy change
  • Engage municipalities
  • Develop and maintain effective partnerships with stakeholders

CONNECT aims to advocate and voice the collective interests of the nearly 690,000 residents that reside within CONNECT borders; to develop and enhance ways the 41 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.

CONNECT’S VALUE TO THE REGION

As the alliance of the region’s urban core, CONNECT has considerable demographic, economic and political strength:

  • 2/3 of all jobs in Allegheny County
  • 56% of the county population
  • All 3 U. S. Congressional Districts that lie within Allegheny County
  • 12 of 13 County Council seats
  • 16 of 25 the county’s State House districts and 5 of 5 State Senate districts

WHY CONNECT?

CONNECT emerged as a response to the absence of a formal structure for dialogue among the communities that comprise the economic and political powerhouse of Southwestern Pennsylvania. Forty member municipalities that comprise first-ring suburbs of the city of Pittsburgh have a combined population of over 390,000 residents. Together with the city – population just over 305,000 – they create a core community of nearly 695,000 with an intuitively logical and practical common connection.

HOW DID CONNECT GET STARTED?

In 2009, Dr. David Miller, Director of the Center for Metropolitan Studies at the Graduate School of Public Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh, gathered together representatives of the City of Pittsburgh and municipalities surrounding the City to determine if there was an appetite and a willingness to come together to discuss common cross boundary issues. The first CONNECT Congress was held in 2009, and resulted in the passing of organizational resolutions, and a resounding agreement that the need for an organization that would address the needs of the urban core was necessary. CONNECT has been working to address these common policy challenges ever since.

WHAT IS THE CITY OF PITTSBURGH’S INVOLVEMENT WITH CONNECT?

The city of Pittsburgh plays an active role at CONNECT. Since member municipalities share a border with the city, it is vital to our mission that the city is at the table with our municipalities to discuss and deliberate on issues that reach across borders. At CONNECT’s inception, former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, City Council, and Controller Michael Lamb supported the organization’s creation and committed to the active and engaged participation of the City.

The City has remained an integral part of the organization; Mayors Ravenstahl and Peduto have each served as a CONNECT Chair, the City pays a financial contribution, and City Council and staff members are actively engaged in our policy work.

HOW IS MEMBERSHIP IN CONNECT DETERMINED?

When CONNECT launched in 2009, membership was limited to municipalities that shared a common border with the city of Pittsburgh, as well as the city itself. This original definition was proposed for the sake of simplicity, and also because all of the communities within this urban core boundary share logical and intuitive, practical connections.

As the years passed and CONNECT began to tackle more issues and make a name for itself, municipalities outside this first ring began to inquire about membership. This led to the officers of CONNECT creating and passing the Criteria for Membership (approved in January 2015), which allows for municipalities that meet its criteria to become members. Since its passage, CONNECT has added five municipal members: West View, Carnegie, Churchill, Forest Hills, and Heidelberg. Click here for a full list of CONNECT members.

If your municipality is interested in becoming a member of CONNECT, please contact us at connect@pitt.edu.

IS CONNECT IN SUPPORT OF CONSOLIDATION?

CONNECT is providing a framework for continued interaction and collaboration between the city and its neighboring municipalities while respecting the borders in place. Consolidation has never been a goal of our membership or organization. Instead, we understand that our fragmentation causes unique challenges that sometimes can be addressed through cross boundary solutions and communication, and work towards finding and implementing those solutions.

WHAT IS CONNECT’S ORGANIZATIONAL STRUCTURE?

Each member municipality appoints three representatives to CONNECT— typically a manager and two elected officials. CONNECT is led by a slate of officers (rotating each year), an Executive Committee comprised of one representatives from each member municipality, and policy working groups that develop the policy agenda in each area.

The 2017-2018 CONNECT Officers are:

Marita Garrett, Chair (Vice President, Wilkinsburg Council) 

J.R. Henry, First Vice Chair (Mayor, West View)

Mary Ellen Ramage, Secretary/treasurer (Manager, Etna Borough)

Mark Sampogna, Immediate Past Chair (President, Green Tree Council)

William Peduto, Mayor’s Office of the City of Pittsburgh Representative (City of Pittsburgh Mayor)

Rich Fitzgerald, Allegheny County Representative (Allegheny County Executive)

Steve Beuter, Manager Representative (Manager, Carnegie Borough)

The Executive Committee meets monthly, on the third Thursday morning of each month at member municipalities’ borough/township buildings.

Executive Committee meetings typically begin with a short presentation, or “Municipal Spotlight,” by the hosting community where a local official shares success stories or best practices in their community that might be of interest to their neighboring municipalities. This is followed by presentations from partners in relevant policy areas (ie. PAAC and public transit updates, Allegheny County Department of Human Services, etc.), and concludes with CONNECT working group business updates.

CONNECT Executive Committee are open to the public to attend, but we do ask that visitors RSVP to CONNECT at CONNECT@pitt.edu or by calling a staff person at (412) 648-2282.

CONNECT convenes working groups in each of the major policy areas, which are headed by CONNECT staff and its graduate student interns.

CONNECT is currently staffed by Executive Director Kristen Michaels, Project and Outreach Manager Lindsay Angelo, and CONNECT Founding Advisor Dr. David Miller. CONNECT also has student interns from the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs that assist with policy working groups, policy research, writing, and added administrative capacity.

WHAT OCCURS AT THE ANNUAL CONGRESS?

CONNECT hosted its Seventh Annual Congress on April 21st, 2016, where CONNECT’s legislative body passed nine new resolutions that range from organizational matters to specific multi-jurisdictional policy goals on common issues including emergency medical services, infrastructure coordination blight/vacant property, transportation, green infrastructure, and water and sewer infrastructure.

The Congress also elected new officers for the 2017-2018 term:

Marita Garrett, Chair (Vice President, Wilkinsburg Council) 

J.R. Henry, First Vice Chair (Mayor, West View)

Mary Ellen Ramage, Secretary/treasurer (Manager, Etna Borough)

Mark Sampogna, Immediate Past Chair (President, Green Tree Council)

William Peduto, Mayor’s Office of the City of Pittsburgh Representative (City of Pittsburgh Mayor)

Rich Fitzgerald, Allegheny County Representative (Allegheny County Executive)

Steve Beuter, Manager Representative (Manager, Carnegie Borough)

Two new positions were added to the slate of officers:

Rich Fitzgerald, Allegheny County Representative (Allegheny County Executive)
Tim Rogers, Manager Representative (Manager, Shaler Township)

To date, more than 100 resolutions have been passed by CONNECT’s Congress, and our membership has worked diligently towards each one. As CONNECT has evolved so has the sophistication and depth of the issues addressed. Detailed summaries, photos, and passed resolutions are available in the ‘Events’ section of our website.

WHAT POLICY ISSUES IS CONNECT TACKLING? 

Currently, CONNECT is working on policy issue areas including Blight & Abandonment, Infrastructure and Utility Coordination, Emergency Medical Services, Water/Sewer, Transportation, Energy and Sustainability, and Health. The issues the organization tackles depend on a number of factors including the political climate, current events, the desires and interests of our membership, and capacity.

IS CONNECT A COUNCIL OF GOVERNMENT (COG)?

CONNECT is not a COG. There are currently seven Councils of Government in Allegheny County that serve the municipalities around the City. Turtle Creek Valley COG, Steel Rivers COG, Char-West COG, North Hills COG, Quaker-Valley COG, South Hills COG, and Allegheny Valley North COG. Each COG has a distinct value and mission suited to the communities that it serves, primarily providing services for their members.

Whereas the footprint of the COGs begins at the City’s border, CONNECT’s focus is on Allegheny County’s “urban core,” including the City. CONNECT seeks to compliment, and never replicate the work of the COGs, and encourages its members to be active members of both CONNECT and their COG.

WHAT OTHER GOVERNMENTS OR PARTNER ORGANIZATIONS DOES CONNECT COLLABORATE WITH?

Many! CONNECT’s work could not be accomplished without our partners. Through the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), the state has been actively involved in CONNECT. Allegheny County, Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission (SPC), Port Authority of Allegheny County (PAAC), Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group (PCRG), Sustainable Pittsburgh, Allegheny County Sanitary Authority (ALCOSAN), Allegheny County Department of Human Services (DHS), Allegheny County Health Department, and Three Rivers Wet Weather (3RWW) are also active in CONNECT activities. A complete list of our partner organizations can be found here.