Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Take-Home Cars: A Must Read Update

City Council grants preliminarily approval to Ricky Burgess's revised city-wide policy by a vote of 4-2. (P-G Rich Lord)

Mr. Specter told Councilwoman Darlene Harris that voting for the legislation would be illegal, because it infringes on mayoral power.

That sparked a fiery interrogation by Councilman Patrick Dowd.

"Is it illegal, then, for us to exercise our authority?" he asked. "If we were to bring all of the Act 47 recommendations to the table, would it be illegal for us to pass those recommendations?"

"We can talk about any one of them," Mr. Specter said. "Council is overstepping its charter and code prerogatives."

Mr. Dowd then asked if the exact same legislation would be legal, or illegal, if it were proposed by the administration.

"I think it would be legal," Mr. Specter said.

"It's illegal if it comes from the legislative branch," Mr. Dowd sniped back. "All we can do is wait for the executive branch to bring things forward to us? . . . That's amazing."

(UPDATE: The only way we can explain it is some kind of Dr. Jekyll / Mr. Hyde arrangement, or an evil twin.)

Council's own interpretation is backed by an attorney who helps to run the Act 47 recovery team.

The Comet reminds everybody that the Act 47 recovery plan was adopted by ordinance and signed into law, and has been and remains the law governing the City of Pittsburgh.

Mr. Burgess said that Mr. Specter said at a prior special meeting on take-home cars that council could pass legislation that matched the Act 47 plan.

"This is sad," the councilman said. "It is sad for our solicitor to come here and change his opinion, on air. . . . Let's just go home. Why are we here? Why should we introduce bills?

The Comet was present at the post-agenda one week ago, and can attest that Specter seemed to concede in plain English -- at the conclusion of a long line of questioning by council members hampered by a lack of legal counsel themselves -- that so long as Council adheres strictly to what has been made law in Act 47, it then has authority.

"I think you may have hit the nail on the head," were Specter's exact words.

Thereafter, Specter took a backseat to Scott Kunka, who emphasized the political argument -- that the Mayor knows how to "complete the mission," and that Act 47 is "more like guidelines," or a "toolbox for the Mayor."

Suffice to say that Doug Shields, having finally had his morning coffee, had something to say about that.

Fast forward one week, and that set the stage for today's Must Read Update.

FUN FACT: If this is to be vetoed by the Mayor, it will be vetoed shortly prior to the City's public hearing before the Act 47 boards.


  1. wow, council meetings are becoming 'must see tv'.

  2. I'm eating my heart out I wasn't there today.