Saturday, October 27, 2007

Cease Donating to DeSantis

The Comet has been increasingly clear about the mayor's race for some time. We would prefer that you vote for Mark DeSantis.

The DeSantis campaign recently announced it had raised $300,000; a princely sum in these parts for any respectable underdog.

That should be the end of it.

Mark DeSantis already possesses at his disposal the tools to make a winning run. He should already have budgeted for it, which considering he is who he is, he no doubt already has.

But let's be frank. He's the underdog. Who knows where his leftover campaign cash would wind up if he loses?

Seriously. Who knows?


Look, we've all got to get our arms around this alleged Santorum contribution.

We are guessing Mark did not donate five figures. We are guessing he did not exactly go to war for the guy.

We are guessing that he, like so many Pittsburghers, felt expected to make an appearance, hold his nose, and write a check. His oldest friends were there, and he's an important figure.

The man worked not only for Senator Heinz, but for Bush 41. For years.

41 was the one who knew how to organize the nations of the world, win a war, and get the hell out of there.

41 was the one that knew enough to raise the revenue necessary to keep government functioning, even if it was politically unpopular in his party.

Whatever. The point is, it's okay for him to make a token contribution to Slick Rick if that's what he feels -- but not for us. The tale underscores our assertion that we really don't know where DeSantis funds will go in the event of a loss. State races could be affected. National races could be affected.

Popular challenger Mark DeSantis will require a hearty last-minute push to get this boulder over the top of the mountain, no question. Cash always helps, and more is always better than less.

He should look to the apparatus of the state and national GOP. It is long past overdue for them to come through for one of their newest, most promising leaders -- one that may even restore their party to the beginnings of dignity.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Last Normal Weekend

YDAC Retains Current Leadership

Brian O'Malley won election as President of the Young Democrats of Allegheny County in his own right. The election was held this last Wednesday evening, at Deja Vu lounge in the Strip District.

One-time favored candidate Breen Masciotra lost to O'Malley by a vote of 33-18.

A third candidate, Justin Lewis, withdrew his name from consideration just prior to the vote.

O'Malley ascended to the presidency early this summer under unusual circumstances. President Ken Wolfe stepped down after having exposed a city Redd Up crew wearing political campaign gear while on the job.

Vice-president Jessica McCurdy passed on the opportunity to rise to the presidency. O'Malley, holding the office of either secretary or treasurer on the executive board at that time, ascended to the presidency for the interim.

Before the election, we asked both of the contending candidates how much was at stake that evening.

"I wouldn't say there's anything directly at stake," O'Malley told the Comet just prior to the vote. "We both have great ideas."

Meanwhile, Masciotra opined that, "Honestly, I think the future of the organization is at stake. I'd like to shift the focus."

Both candidates spoke of the importance of growing the organization, but their strategies for and definitions of "growth" differed sharply.

O'Malley emphasized his good relationships with current Democratic officeholders. He credits recent events with Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, County Executive Dan Onorato, and State Representatives Joe Preston and Don Walko for having attracted new members to the organization.

"We had six paid members in June. Now we have between 42 and 64."

Furthermore, O'Malley indicated that the YDAC can exert influence on those officeholders in return. "Candidates pay attention to us."

Masciotra criticized the incumbent regime for a lack of focus on mobilizing a regional voting block of young Democratic voters. She identifies a potential field 130,000 eligible such voters -- 7,000 of which are valued "four star" voters -- that she says is being underutilized.

She encourages increased voter registration efforts, and outreach to "non-traditional" voters.

"There's a value to social events, and candidate meet-and-greets," Masciotra conceded. Yet she also insists the YDAC must be more about "bringing in new people, diverse people" to the larger Democratic tent.

Masciotra allowed that resources are limited, but insisted the YDAC could be doing more. She also faulted the recent leadership for issues relating to transparency.

One-time presidential candidate Justin Lewis was rumored to control the support of maybe six or seven members. When he bowed out, he threw his support to the incumbent, and eventual victor, Brian O'Malley.

In doing so, he cited the room full of so many new members as evidence that the incumbent leadership is on the right track. He echoed Malley's enthusiasm for officeholder events as a major draw, and credited him for pushing changes to "give back power" by scaling back the presidency.

To the extent that Masciotra was indeed the front-runner in September, the decision to delay the vote for about six weeks must have worked against her. All the same, that delay did not seem to achieve its intended purpose of significantly boosting diversity in the short term.

Instead of being the lone African-American in the room, as he was six weeks ago, Shawn Carter was on this occasion one of only two or maybe three.

Carter maintains that upwards of twenty young African-American Democrats stand ready to join the YDAC sometime in January. Asked why these new recruits did not produce themselves to take part in the election, Carter replied, "because they weren't about to vote for either one of these candidates."

Paul McKrell, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Association of Young Democrats (PAYD), emceed the event and counted the votes. He emphasized at every opportunity the importance for all YDAC newbies to remain active and engaged beyond the election, regardless of the outcome.

Dietrich Kelley won the office of Vice President by unanimous voice vote. She was recruited by O'Malley to join his "slate" for the executive board only in the week prior.

Shannon Connoly retained her position as Secretary, and Michael Phillips won election to Treasurer.

Former president Ken Wolfe was in the room as a regular member, being as nondescript as humanly possible.

Friday: Time for Issues

Ravenstahl expresses his confidence. (P-G, Timothy McNulty)

There is also policy. There are intriguing notes on his posture towards non-profits and foundations, to say nothing of intergovernmental cooperation.

On consolidating the city and Allegheny County governments, the mayor said he would only be supportive if a merger saved money and improved government services. So far, information suggests, if anything, that consolidation may trigger duplicative police, planning, garbage collection and other municipal services, he said.

"I'm willing to have any discussion that makes sense. I'm willing to talk about city-county consolidation. I have not said 'no' to that but I have not had any blueprint put in front of me that makes sense. It just doesn't," he said.

We are operating one of the most Byzantine, massively overbuilt regional government models on the planet. It is a constant drain on our region's resources and growth. It has been studied unto death for millenia.

That doesn't make it easy -- but there are surely ways of doing this right. There is only so much low-hanging fruit in Wilkinsburg.

You are waiting for someone to hand you a "blueprint?" How about putting together a plan of your own? At least Mark DeSantis has a vision.


Mixed bag from the Trib columnist Eric Heyl today.

DeSantis campaign manager Mike Bauer quickly emerged. He talked to me long enough to tell me he didn't have time to talk to me.

Then he rapidly loaded the signs into the vehicle and sped off to distribute them to DeSantis supporters.

This is an accurate slice of life. There are an eerie number of Mark DeSantis for Mayor signs out there -- and they are cropping up in peculiar locations.

Ravenstahl's ongoing lurch toward Belushiism certainly has played a pivotal role in keeping the DeSantis campaign afloat.

Here and elsewhere, the author falls prey to the worst kind of Lupinacciistic Potterism.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Mr. DeSantis said his campaign also is attracting some 300 volunteers, many of whom are Democrats and independents, which he said should be scaring the incumbent. (P-G, Timothy McNulty)

The real news is that Mark has raised about $300,000, an insane increase over previous Republican efforts, and a respectable sum even by Democrat standards.

But it's the 300 volunteers that so pleases the Comet.


Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper Wednesday removed a petition in police headquarters seeking signatures from police officers who disagree with the police union's political endorsement of Republican mayoral candidate Mark DeSantis.

The petition, which had five signatures at 1:45 p.m ... (Trib, Jeremy Boren)

This is pretty darn amusing, considering the hype this petition had received from Councilman Jim Motznik, not to mention some comments on the Burgh Report.


A draft report on Pittsburgh's Fire Bureau suggests changes over a decade that could eventually cut the number of fire stations from 29 to 23, if the city can first raze abandoned buildings and reduce the number of fires. (P-G, Rich Lord)

Fire fighters union chief Joe King is assailing the report. Luke Ravenstahl sounds extremely skeptical of it and noncommittal -- but Mark DeSantis is embracing it wholeheartedly. This should help dispel the notion that Mark is willing to sell the city dahna river for union endorsements.

One would think.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Tuesday: It Is What It Is

Pittsburgh must pay nearly $148,000 to lawyers for police Cmdr. Catherine McNeilly, in relation to her federal whistle-blower protection lawsuit, according to an arbitration award handed down Friday and released yesterday. (P-G, Rich Lord)

This would have been a reasonable answer to those "biggest mistake" questions -- constitutional rights are pretty popular.

The suspension came three days after she accused Ravenstahl's former top aide Dennis Regan of improperly meddling in police disciplinary matters. (Trib, Jeremy Boren)

Alternately, that very appointment would also have been a fine answer.

Pokora said the best solution would be for the state Legislature to pass a revenue-sharing law that makes the state responsible for reimbursing the city for property taxes it doesn't receive from nonprofits. (Trib, Jeremy Boren)

Who reimburses the state when it goes bankrupt?

"I think we all agree that we have to have a solution on nonprofit contributions," said Mr. Ravenstahl. "If it's revenue sharing, and that's what the state is willing to consider, then that's something we'd be willing to talk about." (P-G, Rich Lord)

Yes! He's willing to talk about it, provided they're willing to consider it.

Mr. Ravenstahl said that if the community lists a supermarket as a top priority in the ongoing planning process for a new arena and adjacent development in the neighborhood, then it would be "a very reasonable goal ... over the next five years." (P-G, Rich Lord)

If they list it as a top priority (at the expense of development funds, loan programs, and other uppity community initiatives), then maybe. The sheer pro-active leadership of it all is making our eyes streak with tears.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Caption Contest

h/t WTAE, by way of CSB

Liveblogging from the DeSantis Debate Party

Click this link to access live streaming video of the mayoral debate, or else you may use an actual television machine pre-programmed to Channel 4.

The place is filling up. We're sitting next to Mike DeVanney, who played the role of Luke Ravenstahl during debate prep. He's giving us the spiel on 21st century jobs and wetlabs, as opposed to 18th century jobs like millers and blacksmiths.

A minor Romney vs. Giulliani debate just broke out around us. Though we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we shall fear no evil...

A Ravenstahl administration official stopped by, saying he or she was "in the neighborhood," and requesting that we preserve his or her anonymity. We shall comply ... for now ...

Rauterkus tells us that a controller debate IS ON ... a week from today, hosted by the League of Women Voters and B-PEP... along with a District 9 debate. No word if it's going to be a tag-team matchup.


Who did Jeremy Boren have to drug to get onto this panel??

Luke, opening: (Sorry, we're distracted. The Daily Number was 999; those are my dad's numbers. Also, DeVanney is pointing out that Sally is wearing DeSantis colors.)

Mark, opening: With a confession? Oh, he was rooting for Mayor Ravenstahl, originally. Now he's given up.

Sally: Consolidation. How?

Mark: Is for it, but wants a referendum.

Luke: City-county task force did great work. More than willing to take a look at.

Bob Mayo: Why does your budget say there's going to be a deficit in later years?

Luke: 2nd consecutively balanced budget (drink). Honored that the ICA approved his budget. (Did not exactly answer question)

Mark: Luke increased $50 million. "Let's cut through the bureaucratic code of what a structurally balanced budget is ..."

Luke: (whatever. these debates are getting monotonous)

Jeremy: Why eliminate city residency requirement for employees?

Mark: Yeah, I said that months ago. We need to give employees flexibility. "Government by folklore."

Luke: "I don't think that it's fair, and I don't think that its right." Smackina face. Moral issue.

Mark: To chain people, force people ... "Mr. Ravenstahl didn't really answer the question."

Luke: (yeah i did)

Sheldon Ingram: Do you have the stomach to lobby Harrisburg for the Ferlo-Comet-Shields position on Act 55?

Luke: "Absolutely." Except he's happy the nonprofits antied up whatever they did or did not commit to anteing up.

Mark: "General fund is a financial shredder." Would be willing to give more if it went into pensions.

Luke: "I know that's not the case."

Bob: Why should Pittsburgh's large, loyal Democratic base feel comfortable voting for you?

Mark: City gov't is not about party. It's about transparency and responsibility.

Luke: "And this is about party affiliation and this is about ..." [ASK HIM WHAT MAKES HIM A DEMOCRAT ASK HIM WHAT MAKES HIM A DEMOCRAT ASK HIM WHAT MAKES HIM A DEMOCRAT...] Luke says he became a committeeman at age 15.

Jeremy: Why don't you support the Ethics Hearing Board's new rule?

Luke: Proud of my history when it comes to Ethics Hearing Board. That board met; it was previously vacant. "The Mayor has to be at events."

Mark: "Government's not about gifts and perks." [Applause here in France] "The idea that you can't participate in charity events unless you accept a gift is just false." Ethics compliance officer.

Sally: "Do you feel you're being irresponsible?"

Luke: (Shockingly, no.) [Rauterkus: "The ethics code sucks! Write that!"]

Mark: (Making connection with police whistle blowers). "In my administration, you're not going to be punished for pointing out a wrong."

Luke: We didn't weaken the ethics code.

Sheldon: How deeply would you employ regionalism and consolidation?

Mark: "I'm with Dan Onorato on this." also, "I'd like to be the last mayor of Pittsburgh"

Luke: Does it save money and provide better service? We're picking up garbage in Wilkinsburg.

Sally: If city continues to shrink in size, is it necessary and wise to have two powerful executives?

Mark: "We can't tinker at the edges?" "Standing in the way of a referendum, as Mayor Ravenstahl is.."

Luke: I'm ready willing and able to make that decision, when the information comes in, which it hasn't yet.

Bob: something about closing fire stations if the study says so

Luke: Won't sell city dahna river

Mark: "He's had the last ten months to open the fire union contract, and he hasn't done so."; "It's been studied again and again and again and again." "That's a fact, it's out there, the data is out there."

Luke: "The reason I haven't done so is because it would cost the city money." He was approached by FOP for this and that, he stood up to FOP (boos and hisses in room).

Mark: "Hasn't been specific about demands I caved into, which were none."

Jeremy: Why should voters take you seriously?

Mark: Citizens for Democratic Reform. Get rid of antiquated row offices. Started companies. He loves the city.

Luke: Went to bed a caterpillar and woke up a butterfly. "To the north, to the south, to the east, to the west..." and then he WINKS at us. Randy!

Sheldon: Tax abatements creating an artificial demand for downtown housing. Or something.

Luke: Somebody just moved here from New York. (Somebody: "Now he only needs to get 200,000 more!")

Mark: Encourage the growth of new businesses. Continuing to invest building after building after building isn't going to create jobs. "Magnificent structures", but "no net new jobs."

Sally: Too much retail space downtown?

Luke: (sorry, ordering another gin & tonic. It didn't sound important.)

Bob: How can you cut money from budget and not have services suffer?

Mark: We ain't that efficient. Smarter use of information technology. Act 47 had access to every noche and cranny for savings.

Luke: My opponent didn't answer question directly.

Bob: Your budget says we'll dip into deficit. How to do that?

Luke: We'll do what Act 47 says. (Um....)

Mark: Opponent has offered no evidence of efficiency.

Jeremy: Was the deal with the Penguins fair, especially considering the plane trip?

Luke: No local tax dollars. Better than Steelers or Pirates.

Mark: "That plane trip was bad judgment."

Luke: Ah, I've learned a lot.

Sheldon: PILOTs for sports teams?

Mark: Something to consider. Footprints are large.

Luke: They pay parking taxes, payroll preparation taxes, et cetera. We get revenue from them. (Basically saying no.)

Bob: What's the most difficult moment you've faced outside of politics?

Luke: Friend / Family member had a car accident, messed him up bad.

Mark: Senator Heinz plane crash.

Jeremy: Pension fund dramatically underfunded. What can you do over the next 2 years that Luke isn't already doing?

Mark: Luke borrowed money at extremely high interest rates. We need to get money in there as quickly as possible. Gambling money, nonprofit money.

Luke: Mark's plan will cost the taxpayers in excess of $80 million. Meanwhile, he himself "has been very aggressive" in dealing with pensions, by way of two meetings with mayors to organize for a state bailout.

Sheldon: How to make Pgh. a magnet city for young professionals?

Luke: "Elect a 27-year old mayor!" Goofy grin. Four beats. Then create jobs and whatnot. Amenities.

Mark: "Offer incentives to create jobs." Most of my employees are under 30 years old. Eliminate gross receipts tax and payroll something tax. Also minority-targeted entrepreneurial tax increntives.

Sally: Close it up, fellas!

Luke: "Let me tell you what I see in the future." A balanced budget. Only it's not, by his own budget's admission. But maybe he means farther in the future. We don't know. We can do this whole freaking debate in our head. We almost hope there's not another one.

Mark: "It's about expecting and demanding more of your government..." "And of your mayor." "We need to take a real chance." We recovered from a fire in 1845. Give me a chance.