Just days after the Pittsburg City Commission approved its new Land Use Plan, members of the public were invited to hear from city officials and planning partners and to ask them questions about two topics addressed in the broader plan: education and housing.
The Imagine Pittsburg 2030 (IP2030) Committee hosted a “community conversation” event Thursday evening, which was attended by about 80 people, not including city staff, at Butler’s Quarters on North Broadway.
“We should be creating intentional career exploration pathways,” Pittsburg Community Schools Assistant Superintendent Brad Hanson told the audience during the education presentation at the event. “We should be giving our kids opportunities to see what’s available in our community for them to be able to maybe aspire to work at your businesses someday.”
Shawn Naccarato, chief strategy officer at Pittsburg State University, who also spoke during the education presentation, noted that the university may not be the right fit for some students in achieving their career goals, but discussed how for those who do aspire to earn a four-year degree, PSU could help with Pittsburg’s goal of keeping its college graduates in the community after finishing school. He said the opportunities for creative and collaborative projects at Block22 in downtown Pittsburg were one way to do that.
“We want to be able to give them hands-on experience to where they can go in and create, and possibly the best job they can have is one that doesn’t yet exist and that they make, and so what we want for there to be is this real entrepreneurial, innovative spirit that is — that has always been — the backbone of our area,” Naccarato said.
One question from an audience member at the education presentation was whether Pittsburg schools require students to take a personal finance class.
“We have a course in personal finance but I’m sad to say there’s not that many kids that take it,” Hanson said, adding that the reason for that is probably that the state doesn’t require them to, although Pittsburg schools might want to consider adding such a requirement.
Deputy City Manager Jay Byers also spoke during the IP2030 event, noting that Pittsburg was recently notified that it ranked in the top third of 800 cities that were analyzed as part of a nationwide study of how many new businesses had opened in recent years.
“It’s kind of a big deal for us,” Byers said. “We’ve had over 40 businesses started in the last couple years. That’s a lot.”
Speakers at the event’s housing presentation included City of Pittsburg Community Development and Housing Director Quentin Holmes, who discussed topics ranging from housing being built and developed in Pittsburg for varying income levels and for people with specific needs such as senior citizens, to the problem of local homelessness.
“It’s tough to gauge” whether most homeless people in the Pittsburg area are originally from nearby versus the number who are transplants from other parts of the state or the country, Holmes said in response to a question from Dr. Bienvenido Cortes, associate dean of PSU’s Kelce Graduate School of Business.
“I speak with a lot of them personally,” Holmes said. “Some of them probably grew up here, left, and came back. But there have been some that have been dropped off here.”
While there are programs and services available locally to assist the homeless, Holmes said, there are also some homeless people who refuse help offered to them.
Cortes said he appreciated Holmes’ response.
“I’m really glad to know that the city has all these programs in taking care of homeless people, those who just happen to be in that situation,” he said.
“I’ve lived in Pittsburg since 1986, so I’m familiar with some of the social programs we’ve had with respect to homeless folks,” Cortes said. “And we used to have some facilities that were available, but you know, due to funding those things kind of just disappeared. But the problem, you know, kind of remains, and maybe it kind of comes in ups and downs and swings and so forth, but we need to just be aware that that issue is there.”