Weed and Seed must be an incredibly popular program, when it is working well.
Where else do so many motivated neighborhood residents collaborate so closely with the mayor's office? How else can a mayor foster such appreciation and good will from troubled citizens in far-flung neighborhoods?
The details in the Rich Lord article about missing Weed and Seed equipment were troubling. Yet for the Comet's money, the most interesting section was simply this:
"Under [former Mayor Tom] Murphy, it did work," said Sarah Campbell, president of the Zone 5 Public Safety Council and vice chairwoman of the Homewood-Brushton Community Coalition Organization. She said drug houses were eliminated with the help of "weed" money. "Seed" dollars "funded a lot of community activity around programs that were dealing with self-esteem."
Throughout Mr. Murphy's 12-year term, city Grants and Developments Director Dave Farley served as the Weed and Seed project director, and for 10 years John Tokarski was its coordinator. Stephen Chatman joined as assistant coordinator.
They "were actually national experts" in Weed and Seed administration, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Elliot McLean, who is Ms. Buchanan's point person on Weed and Seed.
Even before Bob O'Connor became mayor on Jan. 3, 2006, he fired Mr. Farley and Mr. Chatman. No reasons were given for the dismissals, which came as much of Mr. Murphy's staff was being shown the door.
There is an interesting discussion in the Burr Reporr comments evaluating the tenure of a Bernadette Lynch -- a new Weed and Seed administrator under Mayor O'Connor, who was subsequently replaced by Mayor Ravenstahl. It illustrates that nobody knows who to blame.
The point is, staff turnover continues, and the program is suffering -- while crime is continuing to encroach on neighborhoods as much as ever.
During the Iraq War, one of our most crucial mistakes was instituting a program of DeBaathification, or cleansing the government of anybody remotely connected to the Baath Party of Saddam Hussein. This ultimately crippled the central government's ability to take care of itself, and alienated many who might have been helpful.
Tom Murphy and Bob O'Connor were longtime rivals -- to say nothing of the special antipathy Ravenstahl seemed to bear toward Murphy.
The question is, in their efforts to DeMurphicate city government -- in their attempts to consolidate power and loyalty in the neighborhoods by replacing Weed and Seed leadership with "their own people" -- did both O'Connor and Ravenstahl do real damage to a good program?
A P-G editorial reads:
This recent history -- in which new mayors come in, perhaps see the Weed and Seed posts for political value, then supplant experienced staff -- does not serve Pittsburgh well.
We suppose once again, the Comet is naive to think politics should operate any other way.
In a city governed by one political party, at least, the players should be secure enough to set aside intra-squad squabbling, and utilize competent professionals -- even if they hail from the (gasp!) Murphy administration. Especially when it comes to public safety.