Monday, June 30, 2008

Monday: Random N'@

1. 414 Grant Street is getting antsy:

Sure we can argue about some Council member's legal bills (that taxpayers should not be on the hook for) incurred fighting this dreadful and illegal sign, but how about we focus on the fact that Pat Ford is still on the URA payroll. He is still collecting a paycheck and is still getting health and medical benefits paid for by taxpayers.... 83 days (by our count) after he was placed on administrative leave by the Mayor.

Go read the comments therein to get our take.

2. Keeping tabs on what anyone might do to a tree in the city is "a monumental task," said Mr. Gable [deputy director of Public Works]. "When we see violations, we cite people; we need calls to 311 to be made aware of it."

He said the city is considering whether to cite a contractor of Lamar Advertising for topping three trees on Court Place at Grant Street.

"That job had permission, but it was permission to prune, not top the trees," said Mr. Gable. "We have made the contractor aware" and may cite or require the contractor replace the trees. (P-G, Diana Nelson Jones)

When Diana Nelson Jones is investigating and exposing your misdeeds, it might be time to take a personal inventory.

3 "I thought this council was transparent and we would want to hear both sides," said Councilwoman Darlene Harris, who wants the city to pay the invoice. "If anything, what I'm seeing right now is politics at its finest." (P-G, Rich Lord)

Similarly, when Darlene Harris is torching your ass at will, it may be time to rethink your political footing.

Let us be clear: Len Bodack wouldn't have voted in favor of campaign finance reform, Len Bodack wouldn't have supported a bill to curtail abuse of the city's take-home car fleet, and Len Bodack wouldn't have authored and successfully passed legislation to seize authority from the mayor on the city's Pensions Board. So some of the rhetoric appearing in the Burgh Report comments is way overblown.

Yet it is clear that something peculiar is eating Councilman Dowd when it comes to paying this legal bill.

As part of what Dowd himself dubbed a "sideshow" that is distinct from "the important business of the city", he ranted animatedly, and it must be said snidely, for a full 20 minutes comprising only his opener, over what now amounts to a $5,000 expenditure to pay retroactively for what both he and Our Solicitor admit was an action committed at least "in good faith" by the Lamar 5 4, and one that no one has yet suggested how it profited anyone personally.

We are reminded of an episode during our interview. We asked the Councilman why he had been opposed to a formal council investigation into the Lamar issue. At first he sermonized that City Council lacks the capacity and the resources to conduct an efficient, professional investigation -- until we pointed out that the launching of an investigation opens the budget, so that those professional resources can be secured.

Dowd's rationale shifted. He was actually being mindful of the oppressive ugliness that was the Watergate hearings, and didn't want to take the city needlessly down that acrimonious path at that time.

So this anecdote might be doubly relevant -- but for our purposes, we will say Dowd had a personal or policy preference, which he masked at first as a process issue because he felt more comfortable arguing on those grounds.

Similarly, he now objects that Council never voted publicly as a body to retain Attorney McGough, and that the process was unclear as to what this attorney would do. However, Council is in fact right now asking to vote -- a public, transparent, majority-rule vote -- and it is very clear what the attorney wound up doing. If he doesn't like it, if he thought it unwise, if he had some problem with the tactic or the outcome, he should say why. It makes no sense to hide behind a process argument, or to say "imagine if the situations were reversed."

The situation isn't reversed. We have a situation. What do we think of it? Is it a valid use of city resources?

4. Here is another good Null Space post. The Comet falls squarely into the "It's Too Big to Fail" camp. However, since we (before we were an 'us') used to belong to the "We Don't Want Casinos in PA at All" camp, we wonder if we ought now belong to some kind of "We Hope This Fails and It Serves You All Right" camp.

Probably not. But we cynics are all about the schadenfreude.

1 comment:

  1. Re Dowd and the Lamar mess……

    Council may have made some procedural errors while handling the Lamar mess. But one of those procedural errors may have occurred, in part, because the Lamar clock was running out due to Patrick’s “tactical error” of filing a ZBA appeal as a private citizen. (he reportedly had no legal standing as a private citizen).

    Additionally, there was a “will of council” regarding this matter. Darlene Harris was the 5th councilperson, individually asked by Council President Doug Shields, to approve hiring outside attorney McGough. She said ‘yes’.

    True, that “will of council” was never made official by a public vote. But why does Dowd choose to let the “wrong” of Lamar win out on a technicality rather than work cooperatively with council to find a legitimate legislative fix so that the “unofficial” but true will of council can become in fact “official”?