Difference between revisions of "Tom Murphy"

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Tom Murphy (born August 15, 1944) is a Democratic politician from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. From January 1994 until January 2006 he served as mayor of Pittsburgh. Murphy is currently the Senior Resident Fellow for Urban Development at the Urban Land Institute.

The son of a steel worker, Murphy graduated from John Carroll University in Cleveland in 1967 and received a graduate degree from Hunter College in urban studies in 1973. From 1970 to 1972, Murphy and his wife Mona were in the Peace Corps in rural Paraguay, constructing sanitation facilities and an elementary school. After the Peace Corps, Murphy returned to Pittsburgh and became a neighborhood organizer for the North Side before entering local politics.

Prior to his November 1993 election as mayor, Murphy served as a State Representative in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, representing Pittsburgh's North Side 20th Legislative District. In 1989 he was an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic primary nomination for mayor.

Murphy was elected the mayor of Pittsburgh in 1993 and was sworn in during January of 1994.

He is a somewhat controversial figure in Pittsburgh's recent history. As mayor, he initiated a public-partnership strategy that leveraged approximately $4.5 billion in economic development in Pittsburgh. Against overwhelming public opposition,[1][2][3][4] he secured $1 billion in funding for the development of Heinz Field, PNC Park, and a new convention center that was the largest certified green building in the United States. As mayor, he oversaw the transformation of more than 1,000 acres (4 km²) of blighted, abandoned industrial land into new commercial, residential, retail and public uses. He also lured, using public subsidies, both Lazarus and Lord's & Taylor department stores to the downtown section of the city. Both stores were monumental failures in Pittsburgh, each closing within a few years.[5][6] In addition, he oversaw the development of more than 25 miles of new riverfront trails and urban green space. Initiatives such as these drove the city to the brink of bankruptcy, resulting in it being declared a "distressed" city by the state.[7][8] To help recoup some of the city's losses during his tenure, Murphy made the controversial decision in 2003 to lay off a number of city employees, including police officers.[9][10] Some of these jobs were later saved by dramatically increasing the city's parking tax, making it the largest such tax in the country.[11][12]

Murphy's dealings with the Pittsburgh City Firefighters Union also had been questioned. Prior to the 2001 mayoral election, Murphy allegedly signed the firefighters to a new contract worth $10–12 million with a no-layoff clause in exchange for their vote.[13][14][15] He would go on to narrowly defeat future mayor Bob O'Connor. In 2004, Murphy announced that he would not run for re-election. In June 2006, Murphy entered into an agreement with Federal goverenment to avoid prosecution.[16][17]

While being considered a man with big ideas, Murphy's political skills were often questioned as he alienated Pittsburgh from the rest of the state.[18] His declining popularity after the city's budget crisis in 2003 resulted in various citizens pushing for his impeachment,[19][20] a move that would ultimately prove unsuccessful.


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