Councilman-Elect Patrick Dowd has been taking heat for alleged fence-sitting in regards to the council presidency -- a race essentially between Doug Shields and Jim Motznik.
To calm things down and put things in perspective, Dowd wrote a letter intended for wide distribution. Ergo, it wound up on the Burgh Report almost immediately.
I have told Councilman Motznik what I have told every other member of council. First, we need to rise about the politics of personality and focus on an agenda that will help grow this city and improve the quality of life for those who live here. Second, I will cast my vote for council president based on the publicly articulated agenda that a candidate advocates.
Sounds logical -- except candidates for council president typically do not campaign in the public, let alone go around expounding a personal legislative agenda.
Not to worry -- history provides ample indications, which are probably more predictive of future behavior anyhow.
The Post-Gazette eschewed Len Bodack, Dowd's foe during the primary election, due to his lack of fortitude concerning financial recovery:
The Lawrenceville incumbent, 50, voted in March 2006 -- incredibly and unsuccessfully -- to end the state's oversight of city finances under Act 47. He was a member of council's "gang of five" who, in November 2004, rejected the stiff but necessary budget cuts to pull Pittsburgh from the brink of bankruptcy. He knuckled under to pressure from city employee unions in June 2004 and voted with three council members against the city's fiscal recovery plan.
Check the links. On each occasion, Councilman Motznik took the same ill-advised positions as Councilman Bodack. On each occasion, the reverse was true of Councilman Shields.
The same P-G editorial praised Pat Dowd as "concerned about the city's solvency", "a different story", and "a break with the past."
"I don't see City Council making tough decisions," [Dowd] told the editorial board. "We had to pare down school operations to get savings, but I don't see city government doing that. All the contracts and all the operations should go on the table."
History would suggest that a vote for Motznik would be a vote against paring much of anything down. A vote for Shields, by contrast, would fit in neatly with Dowd's stated intentions -- at least when it comes to financial discipline.
Maybe the budget is not your cup of tea, much less the Post-Gazette edit board. There are other issues, and other constituencies.
Planned Parenthood of Western PA endorsed Patrick Dowd ... and Doug Shields.
Conversely, LifePAC of Southwestern PA endorsed Len Bodack ... and Jim Motznik.
The Gertrude Stein Political Club and the Steel City Stonewall Democrats both endorsed Patrick Dowd ... and Doug Shields.
Meanwhile, both have refused to support Len Bodack ... and Jim Motznik.
By now, we should all be noticing a pattern about which leaders are representing the future, and which are still mired in the past.
BOTTOM LINE: It comes as no surprise that Patrick Dowd intends to focus on process, policy and agenda, rather than personality or perks. We expect nothing less of the other eight Council members, incidentally.
That is why the Comet is unworried about the outcome of this vote. Given that everybody's record stands right out in the sunlight, we can only see a continued Doug Shields presidency emerging, marked by pragmatism and compromise.
We suspect if Dr. Dowd has been acting a little coy and MacBethish, it must simply be a matter of decorum -- and of allowing for a robust public conversation.