Obviously, there is a point to all this. It's called Pittsburgh.
No one hates Luke just because they hate him, no matter how things may appear. For whatever reason, Mayor Ravenstahl has alienated himself during his tenure from one wing of the typical Democratic base of support. Or perhaps that wing has alienated itself from him.
No matter. We live in politically fluid times (boy, howdy!), and the average progressive Pittsburgher (there is such a thing) isn't going to have patience for a bitter jihad waged against a personality. Yet they're never going to vote for somebody who doesn't "get it", either.
So here are six things that Mayor Ravenstahl can do between now and May that will demonstrate to area progressives that he not only gets their ideas, but is committed to achieving their objectives.
1. Support Conditional Use Application and Approval for Club Pittsburgh
It's difficult for a business to win a new occupancy permit for adult entertainment from city government -- they have to withstand public hearings and votes before the Planning Commission and before City Council. A new "straight" strip club was recently rejected on Carson St. in the city's West End.
If one looks at the adult entertainment landscape as a whole, one will find a healthy number of straight clubs throughout the city and region -- all of which benefit from certain levels of scrutiny and regulation. If there are any gay clubs, we seem to be treating them as second-class citizens.
That's not Luke's fault. This state of affairs springs from a history that predates him considerably; at one time there might have been sound reasons for it. Now however we have the opportunity to turn the page, and bring gay adult entertainment respectfully out of the shadows.
Club Pittsburgh is obviously a highly regarded civic institution by some, and its owners are highly respected and even beloved of many. Legitimate permitting will require certain reasonable thresholds of compliance and verification -- in fact, it will probably lead to the routine attentions of off-duty police officers working side assignments, as is customary at straight clubs. Yes, some outlying practices at Club Pittsburgh may need to be curtailed, but so what? There is no shame in having played the part of a typical gay club in yesterday's environment. Now it's time to move forward.
2. Green Up the City-County Building Forthwith
Mayor Ravenstahl came up with this one himself, but in the process he was lambasted by the press for failing to apprehend the real facts of where the project stood -- that being, the wholly conceptual stage. Then he went so far as to suggest the construction of wind-turbines in the same breath. The impression was of a Mayor that holds a lot of happy-talk news conferences, but isn't making any progress.
This should be an easy one. Luke could commit to holding bi-weekly press conferences right alongside the city's new Sustainability Coordinator and the relevant department heads, delivering progress reports and status updates on the mammoth project. And a mammoth project it is -- the City-County building is a hulking 8-story masterpiece some decades and decades old. It wastes energy in ludicrous ways we probably don't even want to think about.
Putting the project under the klieg lights over time will allow the community as a whole to arrive at better understandings of the vagaries and the frustrations of public work. Good!
Granting reporters behind-the-scenes access to this noble and paradigm-shifting project would not only help motivate progress along its road, but would ultimately draw attention to Pittsburgh for positive reasons. The key, however, is to start now -- no matter how necessarily humble the beginnings. Then make darn sure it snowballs!
3. Tighten Up Proposed Ethics Legislation (think KISS)
A special meeting and a public hearing in regards to new ethics legislation sponsored by council members Shields and Peduto have yet to be scheduled -- the AFC Championship Game against the Ravens is not until this Sunday. So there's plenty of time to weigh in.
There can be no question but that the proposed legislation represents a significant weakening of that which is currently on the books -- but perhaps that is justifiable. The Ethics Board took about a ten-year hiatus, during which time the Code of Conduct was hardly ever referenced. Some of the dollar values are a little dated. There is good reason for today's public officials to recommit to something of their own design.
Yet the proposal now before us is rife with loopholes by which a public official can easily attend all eight Steelers home games, a significant number if not a majority of Penguins games, and more Pirates games than I would inflict upon Hitler.
And let's not forget the University of Pittsburgh! Do we need to remind anyone that all of our honored sports teams represent significant and domineering land owners and developers (feudal lords?) in the City of Pittsburgh, whose impact on their neighbors is immense?
When the North Side Leadership Conference, North Side United, the One Hill CBA coalition, and the Hill Faith & Justice Alliance get it together to start wining and dining public officials on a regular basis, we can start debating the accuracy of the public's "perceptions of impropriety". Until then, the model ethics code produced by the very outfit that has been advising the City of Pittsburgh down this path has a simple rule: no gifts, and no admissions to cultural or civic events by interested parties.
Is City Ethics the end-all-and-be-all of municipal ethics considerations? Probably not. There could be extraneous or local considerations we've not taken into consideration, but these experts seem very comfortable drawing a hard line and a clean line when it comes to accepting gifts. That conforms very closely to what concerned Pittsburghers know in their gut: it's best to stay as far out-of-bed with certain interested parties as possible.
That one goes for you too, Dan.