Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Top 6 Things Mayor Ravenstahl Can Do To Win Back Progressives, Part II

For Part 1, see
HERE. Image cap h/t Trib.

4. Replace Todd Reidbord on the City Planning Commission.

He is your(?) Pittsburgh's number one political contributor. Aside from the state Democratic party, that is.

As one-half of the dynamic duo that is Walnut Capital, a firm that has long held a reputation for being aggressive, Todd Reidbord is the foremost developer in the City of Pittsburgh. He sits on the Planning Commission -- the commission with the power to green-light, yellow-light or red-light everything from stadiums and casinos to city streets and walkways to restaurants and hotels.

Although the Zoning Code is the ultimate arbiter in some instances, established case law and past recognized precedents are also extremely important to shaping new policy. Mr. Reidbord, through Walnut Capital, has a vested interest in setting precedents that advance the rights of corporate interests, and stifle the objections of individuals. In fact, he has a demonstrated interest.

I've seen Todd Reidbord at the Pittsburgh Planning Commission many, many times. He likes to speak up. He's not a big one for not moving development forward. He's not even a big one for wasting time discussing it. Only thing he ever spoke up against, it seemed, was PITG Gaming.

On occasion, Walnut Capital itself has business before the city, and at those times Reidbord properly recuses himself from adjudication. On these occasions, he will humbly approach the table from the opposite side, clad usually in jeans, propping an easel up on his lap, pitching exciting development projects to the City.

As such, he is sculpting Pittsburgh's future to a considerable and to a richly deserved degree. We are not banishing him from decent society. If free-market ideology or if the Mayor's position need defending at any time on the board itself, certainly there are board members capable of defending it who are not so conspicuously engaged.

Let the gesture stand as an example: no major conflicts of interest and no excessive politics on Boards, Authorities and Commissions!

5. Demonstrate Clarity and Achievement in regards to No-Bid Contracts and the Governance of the Authorities.

We are given to understand that Mayor Ravenstahl very recently has issued an executive order forbidding all no-bid contracts in the City -- and "strongly encouraging" that city Authorities do the same.

Back in October, in the wake of a minor scandal, Mayor Ravenstahl also announced the formation of a special panel to study city and authority contracting procedures. This panel would be comprised of a few civic titans, as well as council members Ricky Burgess and Patrick Dowd.

The panel was instructed to make some recommendations in June.

First off -- totally understandable if Luke would now like to replace possible mayoral challenger Patrick Dowd on that in-house panel. Not a problem.

Next -- was his more recent executive order so sweeping and definitive that it obviates the need for the panel altogether? Probably not -- though it'd be worth looking at -- so the panel should really begin the process of exploring recommendations sooner rather than later. Let's start now, and let's open it up to the degree that we can.

Finally, on the vague-sounding issue of Authority board governance: the Parking Authority remains without a Council member, which violates the Home Rule Charter and is not good for accountability.

The Stadium Authority and the Sports and Exhibition Authority both derive their Councilmatic representation from the same member (Darlene Harris, whom we love dearly), which also unfortunately violates the Charter, and also is not good for accountability.

It is unfortunate that some members of council insist on maintaining fundamentally uncooperative relations with Our Mayor. However, Pittsburghers as a whole are very fortunate that the city Charter affords them direct and meaningful representation on the Authorities, these hulking "instrumentalities of the Commonwealth".

6. Do Right by the Hill District: Stake Out a Position!

From what we are given to understand, there is a process. There is a Master Plan on the way, care of a board comprised of four One Hill coalition representatives and five political appointees, in accordance with what was arranged in a community benefits agreement (CBA) document.

There is a "drop dead" date approaching slowly at which time the Penguins can move forward with their very own plan if nothing acceptable arises from the CBA board. There is a lot of pressure to come up with something the Penguins will sign off on. The feeling among some is, don't be too demanding!

I don't want to jump ahead of the process -- but I'm not the Mayor. A Mayor gets to clear his throat and make his feelings known. Heck, the Mayor gets to establish ground rules and try drawing some lines in the sand.

At the very least, he ought to crack the whip and make sure things get done right.

Perhaps the semblance of a real street grid ought to be restored with Downtown. Perhaps a significant proportion of the development should be zoned for what we call "mixed use". Perhaps a portion of the old Mellon Arena should be adapted for reuse.

Perhaps the Crawford Grill needs to be a part of this. Perhaps there should be some green space. Perhaps the URA should let loose its budgetary floodgates towards an even further variety of home-grown Hill District initiatives as redevelopment and reinvestment move forward. Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

Yes, the Penguins have been awarded development rights to that land, bar none. This means they should carve it up however they want, and zone it to yield the very maximum profit?

Let's say the most profitable use turns out to be a slaughterhouse. You know -- hog processing. I'm going to say we stand against that.

We should figure out something about what this part of Pittsburgh needs to be. Part of that needs to be profitability -- but part of that also must be the establishing of healthy flow between two important Pittsburgh neighborhoods.

At least come out in favor of that.


So there you have it. Take me, I'm yours.

1. Recommend a Conditional Use permit for Club Pittsburgh.
2. Green up the City-County Building
3. Tighten up proposed Ethics legislation
4. Ask for Todd Reidbord's resignation
5. End no-bid contracts and improve the situation at the authorities.
6. Do right by the Hill District.


  1. I would add that Luke's follow-through is crap. For instance, he said he was going to put online all city contracts by October, and by the end of the year, hardly any were online.

    Accountability is key to reaching out to Progressives.

    And start reaching out to the reformers on City Council instead of playing them against eachother.

    Lady Elaine

  2. So... Why would Luke want to win back the Progressives?

  3. Does this even matter? Luke is going to win again. Everyone loves him. He has the easiest job in the Burgh. Anything short of smoking crack on camera while abusing a busload of nuns with a rubber chicken and he is in again.
    And we all will be screwed once again with ineffective leadership.

  4. He needs to win back the Progressives because he wants to become King of the County. Baaahhh.

    Lady Elaine

  5. Anonymous of 7:43 - Now, that's just stinkin' thinkin'. Peddle your pessimism elsewhere.

    O Angry Drunk One - You seem acutely interested, so I'll tell you:

    1. Luke cannot win a fiercely contested Democratic primary if 90% of Democratic voters who consider themselves at least "kind of progressive" are voting against him. 80%? 76%? You make the call.

    2. Life might be easier for him. Governing Pittsburgh might be easier for him, if he adopted a few of these ideas. And the constant warfare and strife is bad.

    3. The national party is getting more progressive; we are seeing this. There is no sense in Luke getting tagged early as Anti-Progressive. (Obviously I hate the word "progressive", but I am talking about that dog-whistle thing progressive-minded individuals understand).

    Elaine - I tried to express an emphasis on "follow-through" in some of the items. Execution is key, but it must be said that it is to a challenger's distinct advantage that he or she isn't expected to run a whole gosh darn CITY during the campaign.

    Chief Executive Ravenstahl? I think Luke is looking up, as politicians do, but just generally up. He's young -- opportunities abound. Then again he could be content rule Pittsburgh for 60 years, and build pyramids.

  6. It's a fact Bram. I know it sucks but it's the truth. The dumb people of Pittsburgh (and the are lots of them) love the guy.

  7. Anon 11:36 - Yeah but some of the dumb people are dumb progressives. Look at what happened in the PA primaries! Are you telling me that was a Mensa meeting?

    As to "love the guy": the honeymoon, as it were, is fading. As all honeymoons must.

  8. With no good challenger announced already and a million in the back Luke has this locked in.

    I bet he throws in a few SuperBowl rally appearances to clinch the deal.

    Ya know, lik dawn nat Primanties nnat twer see dah Mayer a da rallie? he sain go stilles! - This is your average voter. Get used to it.

    Pittsburghers have one thing going for them. They are consistent. Consistently dumb.

  9. I disagree Bram.

    1. In a crowded race, Luke just needs a plurality to win.

    2. Government in Pittsburgh is far more determined by competing egos than ideological differences.

    3. Yellow (and Blue) Dog Democrats are not an endangered species

  10. Currently there is no challenger who might capture the immagination of the voting public. If Mario Lemieux, Sidney Crosby or Ben Roethlisberger runs, any one of them would beat the Mayor. Apart from that, I am pessimistic. A barack Obama clone might well do well here, but there is no such person waiting in the wings. And so I echo the ADB's question. Why would Luke want to win the progressives?

  11. First off, it's Mayor Steelersteel. Baaaahhhhhh.

    And just because people are stupid in love with him now, doesn't mean they still will be stupid in love with him later.

    Why in the world do you think he was so quick to endorse the merging of the rest of Allegheny County with Pittsburgh even though it is an incredibly bad idea (Yarone, are you reading this?)? The Boy King would be the likely heir.

    It seems to me Steelersteel needs the Progressives because:

    1. Onorato is running for Governor and needs to prove his worth on a state level by passing key pieces of legislation he promised in his platform, i.e., merging of city/county services

    2. Onorato touted this huge plan of creating a mega city--the merging of Allegheny county and Pittsburgh--which could put Pittsburgh in line for more state and federal dollars, and if he does not succeed, this cound be used against him and therefore cost him the election (look at what kinds of things Corbett is doing and being successful at!).

    c. And when you merge the county with the city, you bring with it, a lot of conservatives, which I do not think Steelersteel resonates with, especially since the more he rules, the more he screws up. And that has a tendency to really get on people's nerves (i.e., George Bush II).


  12. To a degere I agree with Lady Elaine. Ravenstahl certainly seems to be acting concerned on some levels. "Campaign finance reform" didn't fall from space.

    O - You seem to be in disagreement only with my Point #1 above; my points 2 and 3 were either philosophical or longer-term matters. I'll address your own counter-arguments:

    1. Agreed. It would have to be a not-crowded race.

    2. That is true often, not all the time. And it suggests a solution to our first problem: if this is looking to truly become a crowded race, it will become necessary to start hitting some potential challengers squarely in the ego. Man, I hope that doesn't happen; there is still plenty of time to square things away before that.

    3. Agreed that Yellow and Blue dog democrats are not an endangered species, but my underlying premise is that "ordinary" progressive dems also exist. I said that Luke loses if he loses 90% of that vote. That's a conservative estimate. Also if he should fail to win the African-American vote by at least 20 points for whatever reason (they're not looking at a Republican as an alternative this time), AND if the Michael Lamb contingent can be harnessed to good use ... then we have something.

    This gets us back to Star Wars. At the climax to these movies, there is usually a fight on a planet, a fight in spaceships, and a light-saber duel somewhere all occurring simultaneously. The same strategy would need to be employed in Pittsburgh.

    Is it a realistic possibility? I put just such a convergence of factors squarely in the "realm of possibility", and I feel that Team Luke sees that possibility clearly.

  13. Raising RavenstahlJanuary 20, 2009 at 9:37 AM

    I hear Luke is planning a photo op where he will remove the sunflower seeds from his backyard bird feeder because the cardinals eat them. Also, he'll announce that he will not name his next son Phoenix or Arizona.

  14. Thanks for taking on Reidbord. How much money has Shields received from his constituents at Walnut Capital? How may Walnut projects has he voted for or pitched?