Thomas J. Murphy Jr.

Thomas J. "Tom" Murphy Jr. (born August 15, 1944) is a city management consultant and was a Democratic politician from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He served in state government in two capacities, from 1979 to 1982 representing the 17th district, and from 1983 to 1993 representing the 20th district. 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.

Thomas J. Murphy Jr.
57th Mayor of Pittsburgh
In office
January 3, 1994  January 3, 2006
Preceded bySophie Masloff
Succeeded byBob O'Connor
Member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
from the 20th district
In office
January 4, 1983  December 15, 1993[1]
Preceded byStephen Grabowski
Succeeded byBarbara Burns
Member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives
from the 17th district
In office
January 2, 1979  November 30, 1982
Preceded byRobert Ravenstahl
Succeeded byBob Robbins
Personal details
Born (1944-08-15) August 15, 1944[2]
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Political partyDemocratic

Early life

The son of a steel worker, his education includes graduation from John Carroll University in Cleveland in 1967 and receiving 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, the Murphys returned to Pittsburgh and he became a neighborhood organizer for the North Side before entering local politics.

Early political career

Murphy served as a state representative from the 17th district from January 2, 1979 until November 30, 1982. He also served in the same capacity representing Pittsburgh's North Side 20th Legislative District from January 4, 1983 to December 15, 1993.

In 1989 he was an unsuccessful candidate for the Democratic primary nomination for mayor of Pittsburgh, losing to Sophie Masloff (who ran unopposed in the November general election later that year).

In 1991 he and two other state legislators spearheaded reforms at the regional Pittsburgh industrial corporation, stressing that the agency needed more minority and female representation in its leadership, that the agency was not focusing on urban redevelopment so much as suburban properties, and that it was awarding grants to financial institutions instead of for industrial concerns.[3][4]

As mayor

Murphy was elected the mayor of Pittsburgh in November 1993 and was sworn-in in January 1994. He used his educational background in urban management and administration, to function more like a city manager than a politician. He initiated a public-partnership strategy that leveraged approximately $4.5 billion in economic development in Pittsburgh. Against public opposition,[5][6][7][8] he secured $1 billion (along with Allegheny County Commissioners Bob Cranmer and Mike Dawida) in funding for the development of Heinz Field, PNC Park, and a new David L. Lawrence Convention Center that in 2003 would become the largest certified "green" building in the United States.

The combined leadership of Commissioners Cranmer and Dawida with Mayor Murphy led to a building boom in Pittsburgh dubbed "Renaissance III" that was a catalyst for how the city would be viewed a decade later, when it was selected to host the 2009 G-20 summit, led by President Barack Obama.[9][10] The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette commented in 1998 that "Allegheny County Commissioners Bob Cranmer and Mike Dawida understand the importance of a strong urban core and, through their partnership, have helped the mayor find ways to do what lesser leadership would considerable unthinkable... It is a meeting of such focused minds and willing spirits that stands to take Pittsburgh into a new era. Call it Renaissance III or call it just a better place to live, this is the blueprint of a renewable city that more people will be proud to call home." [10]

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 & Taylor department stores to the city's downtown core. Both stores eventually failed, however, each closing within a decade.[11][12] The idea of big box retail along the city's downtown core of Fifth and Forbes Avenue actually goes back two administrations to the Caliguri mayoralship in 1987.[13]

Murphy also led the development of more than 25 miles of new riverfront trails and urban green space. "Big idea" initiatives such as these, combined with the commonwealth-imposed century-old restrictions on annexing any suburbs or consolidating with the county for a "regional" or "metropolitan" tax base to equitably spread costs to commuters and urban dwellers alike and drove the city to the brink of bankruptcy. Several initiatives to modernize the state-controlled regional tax and government structure to reflect the rapid growth of nonprofit universities, hospitals, churches, and parks within the city limits with the rapid population migration out of the city to formerly rural suburbs and counties all failed to be approved by the state.

The city eventually was declared financially "distressed" by the state after blocking all annexations, county-consolidations, nonprofit hospital or university tax levees, and commuter or suburban tax balances.[14][15] To help recoup some of the city's losses during this period and to highlight the state's refusal to allow the city to grow geographically as the region's population had, with annexing or consolidating modern suburbs, Murphy was forced into the controversial 2003 decision to lay off a number of city employees, including Pittsburgh Police officers.[16][17] Some of these jobs were later saved by dramatically increasing the city's parking tax as one of the few "commuter"-"suburban" taxes within the city's power to levy without state power to block, making it the largest such tax in the country.[18][19] While at the time, the parking tax was met with ridicule and contempt, it has presently been analyzed as one of the key factors in rejuvenating the downtown core, while encouraging the growth of rapid transit, bike lanes and trails, and "green alternatives", and while providing a fiscal foundation for the city for decades to come. In light of the comparable city of Detroit's devolution into bankruptcy, Murphy's parking tax and its effects on both the fiscal health and downtown vitality in business and mass transit has become a case study in effective core city management.[20][21]

Murphy's dealings with the city firefighters union also has 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.[22][23][24] He would go on to narrowly defeat then City Council President Bob O'Connor (who later would become mayor).

In 2004, Murphy announced that he would not run for re-election. In June 2006, Murphy entered into an agreement with federal government to avoid prosecution from his involvement with the firefighters union.[25][26]

While being considered a man with big ideas, Murphy's political skills were questioned later in his tenure as some of his policies slowly wore out relationships with the Pittsburgh City Council and the increasingly Republican and rural-focused commonwealth legislature. Impatience in working with the opposition-held Pennsylvania General Assembly late in his career, harmed the city's image in some state political circles.[27]

Praised as a visionary, but not as a politician, his tough choices after the city's budget crisis in 2003 resulted in a citizen group unsuccessfully proposing his impeachment.[28][29]

In 1999, Murphy served on the selection committee for the Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence.[30]

Murphy was one of Pennsylvania's presidential electors in 2000, casting his vote in favor of Al Gore.

Murphy's mayoral election history

Post-political life

Since leaving City Hall, Murphy and his wife continue to live in their self-restored, 150-year-old farmhouse in North Side of Pittsburgh, where they raised their two daughters, Shannon and Molly, and their son, T.J. He has one grandson, Wyatt Murphy.

Murphy now serves as a city management consultant with the Urban Land Institute.


  1. Cox, Harold (November 3, 2004). "Pennsylvania House of Representatives – 1993–1994" (PDF). Election Statistics Project. Wilkes University. Retrieved October 10, 2008.
  2. Barnes, Tom (September 13, 1991), "RIDC is criticized at legislative hearing", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh, PA
  3. Barnes, Tom (February 22, 1991), "RIDC Chief answers critics", Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pittsburgh, PA
  4. "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – PNC Park Fifth". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  5. Barnes, Tom (April 29, 1998). "Plan B draws fire at RAD meeting". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  6. Shelly, Peter J.; Barnes, Tom (November 8, 1998). "Stadium fight moves to Capitol". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  7. Barnes, Tom (March 11, 1998). "Plan B naysayers, big, small". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  8. Whatley, Stuart (September 23, 2009). "G20 Pittsburgh: The Latest News And Analysis". Huffington Post. Retrieved June 21, 2012.
  9. "Editorial -- Renaissance III". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. March 27, 1998. Retrieved June 21, 2012.
  10. Fitzpatrick, Dan (January 17, 2004). "Lazarus abandons Downtown". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  11. Barnes, Tom (January 17, 2004). "Analysis: Murphy triumphs, failures a test in urban realities". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  13. City is declared distressed – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
  14. Barnes, Tom (December 30, 2003). "City finally wins 'distressed' status". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  15. McNulty, Timothy (August 16, 2003). "Ax falls on 551 city employees". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  16. Levin, Steve (August 11, 2003). "Mayor, FOP resume talks today on police layoffs". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  17. Belko, Mark (January 16, 2004). "Rates leaping at city lots". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  18. McNulty, Timothy; Blazina, Ed (January 13, 2004). "Reaction to city parking tax hike: 'Shell-shocked'". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  21. McNulty, Timothy (April 14, 2004). "Fire union chief talks of votes-for-jobs deal with Murphy". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  22. McKinnon, Jim (May 13, 2004). "Firefighters deal examined". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  23. McNulty, Timothy (April 15, 2004). "Zappala eyes fire union's charges". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  24. Murphy makes deal – Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Archived March 11, 2007, at the Wayback Machine
  25. Roddy, Dennis B.; Lord, Rich (June 27, 2006). "U.S. won't indict Murphy for contract with firefighters union". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  26. O'Toole, James (December 22, 2004). "Analysis: Murphy's legacy may be as visionary, not politician". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  27. Toland, Bill (August 25, 2003). "Newsmaker: Jim Genco heading move to unseat Murphy". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
  28. "Forum: The unwinnable impeachment". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. August 31, 2003.
  29. "Rudy Bruner Award for Urban Excellence". Selection Committees. Bruner Foundation. Archived from the original on January 7, 2014. Retrieved January 7, 2014.
Political offices
Preceded by
Sophie Masloff
Mayor of Pittsburgh
Succeeded by
Bob O'Connor
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Preceded by
Stephen Grabowski
Member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for the 20th District
Succeeded by
Barbara Burns
Preceded by
Robert Ravenstahl
Member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives for the 17th District
Succeeded by
Bob Robbins
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