Peter F. Flaherty

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Peter F. Flaherty
Member of the Allegheny County
Board of Commissioners
In office
January 2, 1984[1] – January 1, 1996
Preceded by Cyril Wecht
Succeeded by Michael Dawida
United States Deputy Attorney General
In office
April 12, 1977 – 1978
President Jimmy Carter
Preceded by Harold R. Tyler, Jr.
Succeeded by Benjamin Civiletti
54th Mayor of Pittsburgh
In office
January 5, 1970[2] – April 11, 1977[3]
Preceded by Joe Barr
Succeeded by Richard Caligiuri
Personal details
Born Peter Francis Flaherty
(1924-06-25)June 25, 1924
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Died April 18, 2005(2005-04-18) (aged 80)
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Nancy Flaherty, Charlene Conely Musser (m. 1998)
Alma mater Carlow University
Notre Dame University (Law)
Profession Assistant District Attorney; City Council
Religion Roman Catholic

Peter Francis "Pete" Flaherty (June 25, 1924 – April 18, 2005) was an American politician from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

He served as Assistant District Attorney of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania from 1957 to 1964; a City of Pittsburgh Councilman 1966 to 1970; Democratic mayor of Pittsburgh from 1970 to 1977; United States Deputy Attorney General during the Carter administration from 1977 to 1978, and County Commissioner of Allegheny County from 1984 to 1996.

Flaherty was born and raised on Pittsburgh's North Side. He served in the United States Air Force during World War II and used the G.I. Bill to become the first in his family to attend college. He graduated from Carlow University in three years, then graduated cum laude from Notre Dame Law School and became a member of the Pennsylvania Bar. He developed his own legal practice which included the Pittsburgh Steelers among his clients.

Mayor of Pittsburgh

In 1965, Flaherty led the Democratic Party ticket when he was elected to City Council. Four years later in 1969 he easily won as "Nobody's Boy" against the Democratic Party machine candidate, Judge Harry A. Kramer, in the primary election. In the general election Flaherty beat the Republican, John K. Tabor. Four years later, in the 1973 election, Flaherty was re-elected by winning the Democratic primary and the Republican primary, the latter through write in votes. He was the only mayoral candidate to have achieved this feat in Pittsburgh's history; it would not be achieved again until by incumbent Mayor Luke Ravenstahl in 2009.[1] He first campaigned for Mayor with the promise to return the Mayor's Office to the neighborhoods instead of the "special interests".[citation needed]

Flaherty became immensely popular as he focused on infrastructure instead of the large redevelopment projects which had been pursued over the previous twenty years. He also focused on the tax burden which had been increased every year from 1960 to 1970 by tax increases and the addition of new taxes each year. In his first full year in office he had to deal with a Blue Flu of the Police, a strike by telephone operators and in the beginning of 1971 a general strike of all City of Pittsburgh blue collar employees, including refuse collectors. He made national headlines by using rental trucks and his administrative staff to collect refuse during the strike to comply with a mandamus action by the Democratic machine County Commissioners.[citation needed]

During his seven years as mayor Flaherty reduced the payroll by almost one third, balanced the budget each year without a tax increase or any new taxes, reduced the taxes by two mils, eliminated the wage tax for three years, and left office with a substantial budget surplus and taxes lower than when he took office. He increased the amount of street repaving from less than ten miles in 1969 to more than 100 miles in his last year in office. This was accomplished in part by using City personnel and a City owned asphalt plant instead of continuing to contract out the work. In order to improve refuse collection, Flaherty cancelled the contract for the North Side of the City with Browning Ferris Industries and had the North Side pick up done by City employees under the City's supervision. In reaction to public demand Flaherty organized the first City wide emergency ambulance system using City employees.[citation needed]

Flaherty converted the City Zoo, the Conservatory and a number of fire stations from coal furnaces to gas heat in order to eliminate pollution and operate the systems more cost effectively. Flaherty put in a modern centralized water filtration and pump station system which dramatically increased the efficiency of the Water Department. Flaherty's City management brought accolades from David Rockefeller and Fortune Magazine.[citation needed] However, he also was exposed for giving both his brother and brother-in-law city jobs.[4]

Flaherty was featured in a book on City governing called City Money by Terry N. Clark, a Professor at the University of Chicago. Throughout most of his tenure as Mayor Flaherty successfully opposed the Early Action Program, a huge project which included a rubber tired transit vehicle called Skybus.[citation needed]

At the end of his tenure the dispute over this program was resolved by a study performed through the agreement of Flaherty, the County Commissioners, representatives of labor and of City Council. The study recommended the abandonment of Skybus and the use, instead, of steel wheel on steel rail technology. This recommendation was adopted by the County transit agency, Port Authority of Allegheny County. While he was Mayor the City of Pittsburgh through Flaherty's staff negotiated the first collective bargaining agreements in the City's history pursuant to State laws passed in 1968 for Police and Fire and in 1970 for all other employees. Despite the labor strife caused by cutbacks during the first year of his administration, there were only five grievances appealed to arbitration during the remaining six years that he served as Mayor and there were no more work stoppages or interruptions. While Flaherty was Mayor, the City adopted a home rule charter which he supported. In addition, the law was changed so that the Members of the Pittsburgh School District Board of Directors were elected instead of being appointed.[citation needed]

Minority community relations

Flaherty insured through his influence and appointments to the body which drew up the School Board electoral districts that African Americans in Pittsburgh would have equal and fair representation on the Elected School Board. Although he was criticized in the African-American community for opposing forced busing, his administration was a leader in recruiting minorities and women for top administrative posts and throughout the work force. One of his early appointments was former Duquesne University and Boston Celtics basketball star Chuck Cooper, as Director of Parks and Recreation.[citation needed]

He also eliminated the Police Tactical Police Force unit which was associated by African Americans with racism during the late 1960s and especially the disturbances that erupted after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. The City of Pittsburgh was the first major City in Pennsylvania to adopt a successful affirmative action program for minorities and women.[citation needed]

County Commissioner

Flaherty was elected to the Allegheny County Board of Commissioners in November 1983.[5] He supported longtime Commissioner and fellow Democrat Tom Foerster's long-term goal of building a world class airport in Allegheny County. This became a reality in 1992 when a first class airport was opened and later named its terminal in Foerster's honor. He also supported Foerster and served as Foerster's intermediary with the City of Pittsburgh to build a new County Jail to replace a facility which was designed by famous architect Henry Hobson Richardson in the 1800s. The team of Foerster as Chairman and Pete Flaherty as the second Democrat on the three member Board of County Commissioners served together for three four year terms. Both Foerster and Flaherty were defeated for re-election in 1995.[6]

Senatorial and gubernatorial elections

Flaherty was the Democratic Party nominee for United States Senate in 1974, losing to incumbent Republican Senator Richard Schweiker in the general election. Flaherty was also the Democratic Party's nominee for governor of Pennsylvania in 1978, losing in the general election to Republican Richard Thornburgh, who would go on to become United States Attorney General under President Ronald Reagan and President George H.W. Bush. In 1980, he again ran statewide as the Democratic nominee for United States Senate. Flaherty was defeated by Republican Arlen Specter, having taken 48% of the vote.

Deputy Attorney General

He supported Hubert Humphrey in 1968, Jimmy Carter in 1976 and went to New Hampshire to support Bill Clinton in his first run for the presidency. His early support of Carter earned Flaherty his appointment as Deputy Attorney General of the United States in 1977.


Flaherty died at age 80 in 2005 and was interred in the Roman Catholic Queen of Heaven Cemetery, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Electoral history

See also


  1. "New Allegheny commissioners promise new era of cooperation". The Gettysburg Times. January 3, 1984. Retrieved December 29, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Walsh, Lawrence (January 5, 1970). "Boos Greet Flaherty's Pledges". The Pittsburgh Press (Final ed.). p. 1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Warner, David (April 11, 1977). "Pete Out in Mayor Switch". The Pittsburgh Press. p. A-1.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Beers, P.B. (2010). Pennsylvania Politics Today and Yesterday: The Tolerable Accommodation. Pennsylvania State University Press. p. 390. ISBN 9780271044989. Retrieved February 26, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Wade, Chet (November 9, 1983). "Jacob defeated handily". The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved December 30, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. "Democratic House-Cleaning". The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. May 21, 1995. Retrieved December 30, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Cyril Wecht
Member of the Allegheny County Board of Commissioners
Succeeded by
Michael Dawida
Preceded by
Joe Barr
Mayor of Pittsburgh
Succeeded by
Richard Caliguiri
Legal offices
Preceded by
Harold Tyler
U.S. Deputy Attorney General
Served under: Jimmy Carter

Succeeded by
Benjamin Civiletti
Party political offices
Preceded by
Joe Clark
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania
(Class 3)

1974, 1980
Succeeded by
Bob Edgar
Preceded by
Milton Shapp
Democratic nominee for Governor of Pennsylvania
Succeeded by
Allen Ertel