Monday, June 4, 2007

A Fistful of Voters: Ranting and Raving

The City Paper post-election analysis is cowboy-themed.

Not ninjas -- not even pirates -- but cowboys. That's a pretty good synopsis right there.

Okay. We acknowledge we might be bitter because we were cast as part of a "a chorus of bloggers" described as "seizing" this and "damning" that, like so many deranged pit-bulls.

When later on, a triumphant new city council nominee is quoted describing us roughly as band of privileged dilettantes, more concerned with the likes of Britney and Anna Nicole than Iraq and New Orleans, we were not further encouraged.

How did that portion of the interview go, anyway? "Mr. Burgess, do you hate Luke as badly as the bloggers do? Do you take your cues from them?"

That's okay. We know how the game is played.

We're the guy who works at the Taco Bell drive-thru -- you pull up late at night to get your precious fix, then you toss the empty wrappers out the car window, brush your teeth, and tell people you eat mainly organics.

You love your zeitgeist, but don't want to see how it gets woven.


Here it the illuminating portion of the article:

And amidst the excited buzz, Peduto described the fledging coalition taking shape under the label of "progressive." The progressives, he said, would be an "entirely new form of alliance" including environmentalists, good-government reformers and "the more progressive labor unions."

For the record, any time the Comet uses the word progressive, we are using shorthand for the movement you are calling progressive. We despise the word progressive, largely because it evinces that liberals are still running scared from Ronald Regan and Rush Limbaugh. But more importantly, it does not describe what is going on out there.

Peduto correctly identifies an alliance, but just like everybody else, he gets the emphasis all wrong. It will only realize the powers of majority when it marches to the beat of good government. At least for the next hundred cycles.

Are you grinding the same political axes that your grandparents gave you? Are you always having to defend certain factions in intergovernmental turf-wars? Are your relations with the Scientologists merely cordial, or you a fully operating thetan?

Are you comfortable with the language of data-driven decision making, of multiple causes, and of four-pronged solutions?

These are the questions that will matter, and the answers to them will shape a political environment that is not so much fluid, but clay-like.

Inexplicably, the City Paper keeps returning to abortion as a good test of how these particles will interact.

If you're in it for abortion, or for gay marriage, or for peace in the middle east, you will find yourself intermittently frustrated, as ever.

But if you're in it for a solution to our public debt, our pensions burden, our sewer nightmare, for efficiency and equity in public services, for a more creative city government that takes a nuanced view of neighborhoods and development -- if you want a city that can take care of itself to the point where it can tackle big problems like violence and poverty -- then you may have a Hollywood ending in your future.

Although it will have to come at the end of a trilogy.


  1. Jackpot ending.

    You are 'spot on' with the conclusion of the post. I agree that the "Hollywood ending" to this political saga can unfold at the end of an epic trilogy.

    The first 100 pages to the written work that became the Lord Of the Rings are bloody hell.

    Some of the details mentioned, such as equity, are more like pimples on a hobbit.

  2. How did that portion of the interview go, anyway? "Mr. Burgess, do you hate Luke as badly as the bloggers do? Do you take your cues from them?"

    >>>> Actually, Rev. Burgess brought up blogs himself, more than once. He teaches classes on media, and studies blogs pretty closely. In fact, he said he thought most people would be surprised to learn that about him. Looks like he was right, since you seem to assume the subject wouldn't have arisen unless WE brought it up.

    As for abortion, I'd argue it plays a relatively small role in the article. It's mentioned, briefly, as something Shields and Peduto have in common. (Their common interest in "fiscally responsible government and transparency" is mentioned in the next sentence.) And it's mentioned, briefly, as something Burgess DOESN'T have in common with Dowd and Kraus.

    I agree that hot-button cultural issues often obscure concerns that city officials have more control over. But let's face it: Those concerns DO animate people on all sides. Dowd raised the choice issue during the race, while Kraus' sexuality became an issue in District 3. Back when there was a mayor's race, there was also plenty of buzz about Ravenstahl's conflicting statements on buffer zones.

    And to be fair to both the article and Councilor Peduto, he DOES speak to the very "good government" mantra you espouse. We certainly say more about the reform agenda than we do about abortion. I'll reprint the most relevant passage here in case you missed it:

    Can council newcomers bridge gaps in race and income? "It's already been done," says Peduto. In Philadelphia, he says, winning mayoral candidate Michael Nutter "combined reform with government ethics and a progressive agenda, and he created the perfect storm."

    A similar storm could be brewing here. Ask Burgess if he thinks city services shortchange his district, for example, and he says he wants to see the numbers. Burgess stresses that he is "data-driven" ... and in that, at least, he is much like Peduto.

    Peduto's most recent cause -- computerizing the process for choosing which streets to resurface -- may sound wonky, or remote from the more pressing needs of District 9. But computerizing the system could provide the data to prove racial inequities exist ... and ensure that such inequities aren't a factor in the future.

    "How we pave streets may not change the city of Pittsburgh," says Peduto. "But it represents the old way of doing things." And a more open approach to such investments, he says, can translate into "creating community agreements with developers, providing opportunities for people not just with PhDs but with GEDs."

    To me, that says much of what you're faulting Peduto, and the article, for not having said.

    Thanks for reading, and providing the forum.

    -- Chris Potter

  3. "To me, that says much of what you're faulting Peduto, and the article, for not having said."

    Faulted? [gasp!] We don't recall having faulted anyone for anything. We were just describing what we saw happening, and using it as a jumping-off point.


    My description of your interview was a bit of a rimshot, and with the bass drum, for sure. Our bad.

    We wanted to give the councilman-elect an out for having dissed the splendor you see before you.

  4. Sorry, Mark. Democratic nominee for council.