Wednesday, January 7, 2009

UPDATE: Mayor Says We're Being Unfortunate

"Nothing was done for those individuals that wouldn't be done for someone who sent a random letter to our office," said Mr. Ravenstahl. He called reports suggesting that his campaign contributors get special treatment "unfortunate ... Every contributor that has ever given money to me has not been given preferential treatment." (P-G, Rich Lord, or watch it on WTAE, Bob Mayo)

It seems like it should go without saying, but here goes:

Should we believe The City's Number Two Official responds to every complaint received regarding B.B.I. cessation orders by personally arranging a "series of conversations" with the city's number one and number two attorneys -- culminating a handshake agreement, a total voiding of the cessation order, and absolutely no verification or follow-up?

I'm going to say no. I don't know who would believe such a thing.

For the record, I suspect this has less to do with a $2,000 contribution than it does with the Mt. Washington fundraiser -- specifically, the idea of continued fundraisers and events. In the wake of a dust-up involving his declared opposition to gay civil unions, Mayor Ravenstahl would be keenly aware of a need for political allies somewhere in the GLBTQ community.

Did Ravenstahl choose to nurture the right kind of gay leaders? I suppose we'll find out.

Did Ravenstahl's chief of staff run interference in order to do an exceptional favor for a political ally? That seems plainly to have occurred.

Would it be as big a deal if it weren't the world's longest pattern -- including Lamar and the billboard, Walnut Capital and the floating hotel, McTish and the parking lots, et cetera? No, it probably would not be quite as big a story, but there you have it.

It's an organizational compulsion.


  1. Could this be indicative of another problem with the Mayor's Office? That is, regardless of the issue or the parties involved, there's actually very little (if any) follow-up or follow through by the Mayor's Office or department staff.

  2. I call this one as the one that brings the Mayor down. Not too much gay love in the burgh for this kind of stuff. This place is basically a massage parlor. Look at the website for god sakes.

    The other shoe will drop soon.

  3. This whole thing is a story because a man died, but the relationship between gay bar owners and city officials is a well-known and longstanding fact of life (and not only in Pittsburgh). It began in the pre-Stonewall days when they had to pay off the cops and other officials to prevent raids by the vice squad, and it never stopped. My understanding is that this fact is well-known in the gay community, and it wouldn't take much digging by anyone who was interested to trace the money from bars like the Holiday to politicians like Gene Ricciardi.

    No doubt other bars, other businesses, and other building owners pay the equivalent of protection money to keep the regulators away. This is not a trivial fact, and specific examples ought to be exposed, but it is also wildly commonplace. To use it to imply that this is something unique to the Ravenstahl Administration is to enter Captain Louis Renault territory.

  4. "I call this one as the one that brings the Mayor down."

    I've heard that tune before.

    There's a way out of this. Last time, it was a special blue-ribbon committee on procedures for awarding contracts. Not a bad idea, IMHO, except for the June deadline.

    This one is something trickier, and more direct and to the point. How are we going to handle the temptation to "fine-tune" city management in a political environment? From permits to enforcement to zoning? It seems to be a problem of gatekeepers; gates that swing both in and out.

    That, or he might not care.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. If you E-mail Zober personally he does get involved.

  7. Why don't you e-mail him then Matt and ask him to fix those potholes?

  8. If I was a mayoral challenger I would make a big deal about this. In general, Pittsburghers don't like gay people. This will cost some votes.

  9. I'm gonna allow that.

    As a matter of fact, there was a smoke detector story about a year ago that sort of spoke to the point. Where was that again?


    Blast that Rich Lord. Blame him.

  10. Note: "This post has been removed by the author" denotes that person who wrote the comment took it down themselves.

    "This post has been removed by the blog administrator" is me, but in the majority of those cases I obliterate all trace of the comment.

    Those interested in inquiring about Comet Style Guidelines are invited to do so via e-mail.

  11. Luke should resign now.

  12. Anonymous of 10:50 -- You're talking crazy, IMHO [In My Humble Opinion]. It should only be as big a deal as it is.

  13. I agree Felix that historically some bars have had to pay protection money, whether it be for the reasons you suggest, or gang or mafia(s) related reasons. I am not so much concerned as to the type of club, as I am the violations that were brought forth by BBI, when BBI attempts to do their job, politicians violate that trust. How much is BBI supposed to do? They are ill equipped, staffed, without proper tools to do the job(s) they were initially being charged to do. They are attempting to do jobs they have never done and don't have the training or manpower to do it. How many smoke and mirror programs are going to be brought forth for BBI to do, in addition to what they cannot do now? When will everyone get their heads out of their respective a$$es? When they do handle a situation that was brought to their attention, that falls under their experience and training, and attempt to address it, they are stopped, then brought forth and blamed? Why is BBI in charge of trying to enforce codes they were never experienced or staffed to do? Maybe it is because that is what politicians and high dollar developers want, they can sneak even more cuts and manipulating the codes through? When a tragedy strikes that hits our city residents and visitors, maybe not now, but years to come (one man is dead in a building violating codes already) when these politicians have moved on to bigger and better things, everyone will be asking “How did this happen?” and no one will be standing there taking responsibility for anything. They will probably again, be pointing fingers at entities that they handcuffed, and stripped, but no one will never admit it.

  14. "Why don't you e-mail him then Matt and ask him to fix those potholes?"

    Don't need to. 311 handles that stuff very nicely for me.

  15. Could this be why Ron Graziano, the former head of the Bureau of Building Inspection was forced out/quit because he refused to be complicit with the dirty deals being done by Ford, Zober and others to aid the Mayor's political allies?

    Graziano was a man of integrity. He would not have allowed lives to be jeopardized in order to pay back the mayor's supporters.

    I am sure that Ron would have no part in sweeping this type of matter under the rug at the orders of the Mayor's Office.

    Could this also be why so many city attorneys have left the law department? Perhaps the attorneys who left when Ravenstahl/Zober came into power had too much integrity to be parties to this type of dealing.

  16. Exactly! Pay to play, public safety be damned. So much for the "well respected" members of the Mayors staff. Stage right, enter, another useless initiative,(program) announced before the primary to address such indiscretions.

  17. Did those potholes really get filled? You better give us all an update. I'll wait up all night for your response.


  19. I assume that is Shields, and I hope its true. Finally !

  20. I got a kick out of Shields saying that he had lunch with these guys... and said the he "read them the law"? Since when does Shields have a law degree to give legal advice?

    Dougie. You are the pot calling the kettle black regarding pay to play politics. They called you first, they found that you didn't have enough juice and went up the food chain.

    This place has been around for years. Has always stayed off the radar. I will not be surprised to find that this poor guy died from some type of natural condition or exposure to a controlled substance.

    Drugs are every where. Straight bars, gay bars, clubs, dive hotels, fancy hotels.

    IF this is a private club, then what is the harm? As long as everyone is an adult, there are no illegal activities inside? And the patrons do not cause problems inside and out? Leave them be.

    I don't think anyone is going to be able to prove that Luke knew (if he even did) that these guys came to Zober for help.

    These owners really do get involved in local politics. Which is good ? right? IS there that much $$$$ in gay clubs? That's a lot of 9$ cover charges (I mean membership dues)

    Watch out for the morals police. LMFAO.

    This thing will go away, once the autopsy-toxicology results come back.

  21. About thirty years I was told that maybe 20 to 30 percent of the population pays attention to the news (not including sports and entertainment gossip). I'm sure it was true thirty years before that, and thirty years before that, etc. The arrival of the internet has not changed that situation either. This story is going to be another example of the low voter interest in Pittsburgh and everywhere, and there is nothing anyone can do about it. Until the Mayor does something indictable and someone bothers to indict him, he will continue to just say whatever serves his own self interest, and use his office to bully anyone who disagrees with him (a bully’s pulpit?). Our own personal Blagojevich, except that unlike in Illinois, the voters (who show up to vote) prefer Ravenstahl to any alternative by at least two to one.

    Ideally, the timing of this event would be an impetus for the Burgho-sphere (or whatever you want to call it) to join with City progressives to rally ‘round some challenger to the Mayor. Except there’s no clear challenger out there, there’s no clear leader of City progressives, there’s no clear voice in the Burgho-spree and in a minute we will all start arguing like children, with people from the suburbs sending in comments that the City should just die in a conflagration of riots and looting (kind of like a Saturday night at Club Pittsburgh … rim shot).

  22. I think that the City should just die in a conflagration of riots and looting.

    Unless of course - City Council could enact an ordinance to legalize the use of weapons of mass destruction. That would be neater.

  23. I'm surprised that more posters aren't following the Shields connection here (except for, I'm sort of embarrassed to say, "LUKE IS A PUSSBAG").

    Anyway, Doug will be announcing his run for mayor soon. His chances didn't look good without some hot controversy, so it seems clear that he had a hand in exposing (ha, ha) the Mayor and Yarone. And Doug is very tight with his 14th Ward GLBT constituents.

    In the not too distant past, Bob O'Connor embraced young Zober, launching him into a brief stint as Acting Mayor and, eventually, his current lofty status. Doug was O'Connor's right hand for 11 years. Nevertheless, his toes must have been throbbing after Yarone stepped on them so many times.

    And now, a shot at revenge. As Doug gleefully quipped following an earlier skirmish, "You're on your own, Yarone."

  24. On the other hand, it could just be that Rich Lord's voluminous database of campaign contributors and city business dealings is a bottomless well of delicious scandal.

  25. "IF this is a private club, then what is the harm? As long as everyone is an adult, there are no illegal activities inside? And the patrons do not cause problems inside and out? Leave them be."

    This sounds like a needed topic of discussion for, among other people, the mayor's new GLBT Advisory Board. One of the things that got lost in the shuffle, according to Sue's reporting anyway, is that some of these club owners were taking up the responsibility of organizing that board. I'm not sure what happens to that now, but it does look like the City needs advice on this.

  26. This Club Pittsburgh place apparently has a glory hole.

    That's wonderful.

    I read a long winded defense of this place on another local piece of crap blog. I read how this scumbag thought these club pittsburgh owners were great guys. People need to get a grip. I don't care who these people are or how much they donate. This is a club/massage parlor/sex club and the Mayor's staff looked the other way.

    And yes Virginia, they sell more then lube there. I can't get cock rings and 10" dildos at my drugstore. Check it out- The club pittsburgh accessories store.

    Don't forget the anal lube.

    I'm outraged by this. It's really pathetic. If the mayor did not know then he needs to work a bit harder and mabye hold a few less fundraisers at the homes of people who own sex clubs.

  27. Did Ed Heath say rim shot?!

    The Burghosphere rallied around DeSantis, who is not a progressive. It attempted to rally around Chelsa, who is not a progressive. Shields will run for mayor, and while he is occasionally apparently progressive, the BS (Burghosphere) will not rally around him because he is essentially a mainstream quantity due to his long political service on council. So, despite its insider nabobing, the Burghosphere is neither progressive nor organized enough to exert any meaningful political influence. Someday maybe, but not now.

  28. Oops, perhaps a poor choice of words. Ow.

    I don't believe places zoned as health clubs can also be "private clubs".

  29. I wonder how the story of this young man's death became a story about the BBI issue? Who turned Lord onto that angle, and why was he so receptive to it? He seemed primed to write about the pay-to-play angle, even though there doesn't seem to be any cause/effect between Mr. Pettway's death and the lack of enforcement of any city regulation (i.e. lack of smoke detectors, fire escapes, etc.).

    Was Lord's source someone with an ax to grind with Ravenstahl?

    Were Karlovich and Herforth approached for a contribution by a potential challenger to Ravenstahl and rebuffed, and perhaps this is payback?

  30. Patrick wrote:

    "He seemed primed to write about the pay-to-play angle, even though there doesn't seem to be any cause/effect between Mr. Pettway's death and the lack of enforcement of any city regulation."

    What we call adult entertainment requires Planning Commission and City Council approval; Pittsburgh just denied a citizen the right to run a business in the West End because our civic institutions, backed by legions of politically conscious neighbors, would not sanction that. Nor is what was apparently going on in Club Pittsburgh so sanctioned.

    There are many who believe a connection exists between sex clubs and adverse health and welfare consequences; I for one believe there is a correlation between secret, underground sex clubs and adverse health and welfare consequences. We're getting ahead of the investigation obviously, but there's your cause/effect theory in a nutshell.

  31. What if they were able to get a meeting with the highups b/c they were blackmailing the highups who maybe frequent the club?

  32. Anonymous of 9:25 - The conferences with the highups are one thing, but the lack of legally recommended follow-through is another. Play the audio at the Busman's website and play it through and you'll get the idea.

    As to your specific concern -- well, that'd be a headache, but I've seen nothing to suggest any of that. The fundraisers, events, and political support are more than enough to suggest at the requisite motivation -- and, to an extent, (sigh) precedent.

  33. "It's our prerogative who we have meetings with" Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. So is every complaint or cease and desist order handled the same?

    I pray for the gay commumity. The distractions of a few, insisting on reviving the old stereotypical bathhouses and the negativism that ensued during the aids crisis, will thwart the efforts of those pursuing the equal rights of marriage and protection from discrimination of the gay community, many, whose concerns are living in peace and in family unity.

  34. I am getting a big kick out of the gay sex club scandal at the beginning of election season. Way to go Luke! This is so much better then the other numerous scandals of years past!