How We Got Here
Wilkinsburg Borough has struggled for decades to counteract growing problems associated with declining population, unsustainable tax rates, municipal finance challenges, and vacant and blighted property. Many people who study government argue that municipal consolidation is a key pathway to addressing widespread fiscal shortages—especially in areas with highly fragmented government structures, like ours.
Many Wilkinsburg residents believe we should consider merging with the city of Pittsburgh, and are working to gather enough signatures have the opportunity to get a referendum on the ballot in November. A referendum would allow us to decide the issue together as a community. Here’s what has happened so far.
- 2020 Focus Groups: WCDC hosted a series of focus groups to gain input on the vision, challenges, and critical issues for revitalizing the community. More than 150 people participated in the focus groups. Residents pointed to vacancy, blight, and high property taxes as key concerns. Many also expressed concern about how we can address these issues and become more sustainable while maintianing our community’s diversity and access to affordable housing.
- Formation of Merger Analysis Committee: Late in 2020, a group of residents began meeting to better understand what a merger could mean for our community, and how it might work. The Merger Analysis Committee had about 40 participants, and formed two subcommittees to tackle the toughest challenges.
- Formation of Diversity and Gentrification Subcommittee: The Diversity and Gentrification Subcommittee took a strong stand that building resilient neighborhoods and maintaining our community’s diversity will require new ideas, sustained attention and effort, and moving together with intentional plans and actions.
- Formation of Service Comparison Subcommittee: The Service Comparison Subcommittee tackled the daunting task of trying to understand how Wilkinsburg’s services would change in the event of a merger. We combed through both municipalities’ budgets and public communications to understand and document key differences.
- Fact Sheet research and documentation: From January–May 2021, the Merger Analysis Committee and two subcommittees worked together to inventory the kinds of questions residents might have, and to find and document the answers. This website and the fact sheets covering merger-related topics in detail are the outcomes of that work.
- Ongoing community outreach: WCDC and the Merger Analysis Committee will continue working through additional research and analysis, community meetings and polling. Meanwhile, Wilkinsburg residents are gathering petition signatures to get a referendum on the ballot in Wilkinsburg.
Reaching this point has taken hundreds of hours of community discussions, meetings, working sessions, and tough conversations—but there’s more work to be done. We welcome additional information and documentation to help us correct any errors responsibly. Contact us to submit suggestions. We’re dedicated to helping Wilkinsburg residents understand the details of what a merger might mean, as well as the process and next steps.