Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Tuesday: Who's Up for Change?

To wit:

Last summer, before the American economy sank, Mr. Lamb faulted the water authority contracts and said they were far from transparent. "Why are we participating in these complex deals, when the board members don't understand them, they've caused huge losses in other communities in Pennsylvania and they've led to criminal [probes] in other jurisdictions?" he told the Post-Gazette.

On Thursday he said that even if the economy had not soured and even if the deal had gone well, "it still would not have been right." (P-G, Edit Board)

What is the Water Authority's stated excuse for sweeping this swaptions fiasco under the rug? That they don't appreciate how Patrick Dowd highlighted the issue while running for mayor? Maybe he would not be running for mayor if he were not discovering all these cow patties lying around.

One thing you cannot take away from Patrick Dowd is that he is a man of action -- who knows how to get things done in a world full of complex and recalcitrant institutions.

This is the guy who replaced a School Superintendent and drew up a whole new performance-based contract. This is the guy who forced the URA to surrender ill-gotten grant money. This is the guy who wrestled with the ICA until it consented to make conservative, transparent investments on our behalf. This is the guy who successfully protested the GSTC billboard permit, for crying out loud.

Show me a pious statesman without any political calculation or cunning audacity, and I'll show you Bill Peduto. I'm thrilled to live in a city in which Bill Peduto is a bona-fide progressive leader, but as we've discovered Peduto only gets us so far. We need something extra. We need a Hercules. We need a Shaft. We need someone who knows how to (ahem) get 'r done.

I bet you the Water Authority winds up reconsidering within a month.


OMG, the Citizen's Police Review Board is perking up. Did they pick the right fight, I don't know, but it's good to see. (P-G, Jonathan D. Silver)

Dan Onorato appears to be accomplishing a fair bit in the way of efficiency, given that few other governments are cooperating with him in this regard. (P-G, Karamagi Rujumba)

Something about calling A+ Schools a "community group" doesn't sit well. The Riverlife Task Force also perpetrates like it's some kind of community group, but they're both more like government authorities -- with a bunch of heavies sitting on their boards and very significant funders. Just sayin'. (Trib, Bill Zlatos)

Now read this:

Few were more closely involved in the North Shore Connector than Mr. Biehler.

He helped conceive the project as a Port Authority executive, then left the agency in 1996 for a private firm, Frederic R. Harris Inc., which got a multimillion-dollar contract to serve as the authority's consultant on the connector. Mr. Biehler headed the consulting team for Harris.

Still later, as Mr. Rendell's transportation secretary, Mr. Biehler actively supported the Port Authority's efforts to secure federal and state funding for the connector. (P-G, Jon Schmitz)

Now we're getting somewhere. There are always jokers finding ways to make careers out of these atrocious boondogles, influencing events around the periphery.


Lady Elaine posts questionnaires for each of the District 2 candidates. (View from the BurghChair)

Run your own Patrick Dowd Field Office out of a box. A virtual box! (Thoughts on Schultz)

Actually ... um, do that!

Ruth Ann Daily be drivin' Ed Heath up the wall. (Cognitive Dissonance)

Luke Ravenstahl: Impenetrable Fortress of Solitude. (Busman's Holiday)

Does your family or do any families that you know need a little help right now getting food on the table? Because there are resources for that. Really, it's alright. (PghLesCorr)

She thinks about problem-solving a way politicians either don't or won't. (PGH is a City)

Once again, a stand-alone link to my Mary Beth Buchanan piece is right here. (Pgh Comet)


And now, one of my favorite posts from the old TWM has been reprinted in the Chadical Middle (ha!), because it is still extra-relevant.

Recall the North Shore Connector, the resourceful Mr. Biehler, and how projects won't die? Well, this triply redundant amphitheater won't die, and I think it's time to break out the wooden stakes and cloves of garlic.

What if I really wanted the state to pony up $4 million of a $12 million business venture? And what if my primary business were worth, at least according to Forbes magazine, about $929 million? Would my request, my attitude, my sheer freaking audacity make any sense to you whatsoever? Would you, living in an overtaxed city in an overtaxed county in an overtaxed state, think that would be a fine and fitting investment of your hard-earned, too-easily-taken money? Or would you laugh in my face, tell me to use my own damned money, and remind me that the last people in the world who ought to feed (once more) at the public trough are rich, arrogant, always-thinking-you're-entitled people like me?(P-G, Radical Middle)

As it happens, the Pittsburgh Scribblers actually made Gov. Rendell blink for half an instant. Now he says he's only prepared to give Continental Real Estate / The Steelers $2.5 million instead of the full $4 million they originally had earmarked for themselves.

How much do you want to bet Our Commonwealth will wind up giving them at least $6 million by the time this dance is over? The one great thing about zero is, it's a nice round number.


  1. I don't deny that Dowd has the look of a cat that won't cop out when there's danger all about, but the one thing I wonder about is Dowd's history of "not playing well with others." While independence, autonomy, and individualism are important qualities - and arguably the things that make Dowd a good candidate, I think most people understand that the process of governing does require occasional doses of give-and-take, as well as compromises in the interest of "getting 'r done" (anybody have any snuff? I need a dip).

    It just seems from reading various reports on Dowd, as well as previous blog posts on his time as a councilperson, I'm not sure if he has demonstrated that ability. He shouldn't give up his priorities and the hard-line ethics that have made him who he is, but if he's going to be mayor I'd like to believe that he has the capacity to work with the people/institutions that will surround him in city government.

    The key is to elect a leader. This city suffers from a lack of strong leadership at the top of the executive, and perhaps Dowd can provide that leadership.

  2. The CPRB needs new leadership. Beth Pittinger grabs headlines about issues outside her jurisdiction while her caseload backs up and her staff turnover is ridiculously high. Ask some of us who worked there. The CPRB should be a valuable tool to fight police abuse and stand up for citizens. Instead, it is a showboat for Pittinger's personal agenda and a gravy train to her City pension. How about investigating her effectiveness as a supervisor, Bram? Maybe the responsibility for the CPRB's ineffectiveness isn't entirely due to the police union and the Administration. You don't have to be an elected official to play politics.

    Beth Pittinger should resign and allow for new leadership to guide the CPRB to what is was created to be.

  3. One more thing. I know the liberals in this City love Beth Pittinger and believe she IS the CPRB. That's a problem. She says all of the right things, just like Luke Ravenstahl. But, a leader, is about action and outcomes. I also know she reads these blogs and jumps all over any criticism, but if you believe managers are responsible for results you have to hold her to the same scrutiny as the PWSA, Public Works, etc. A lot of talented people have left her office because she is not a good manager.

  4. P & G - I need to sort through my archival material on Patrick Dowd soon, but for what you are talking about this is the first thing that came to my mind.

    I feel like I have seen him forge compromises and shepherd processes on many occasions. I also feel like his proclivity towards action sometimes takes people off guard.

    In considering him, we should not discount the fact that he never seriously racked up the gifts or endorsements (strings attached) from a lot of the same interest groups that all Pittsburgh politicos have catered to since the beginning of time -- the ACDC, bigger developers, public sector and building trades unions -- so that makes him a fundamentally different animal.

    Finally, if Dowd is a little too much of an individual, maybe that makes him better suited to the executive branch rather than legislatures?

    STAR - Thanks for these thoughts. The idea that we've had a CPRB that "grabs headlines" is a little foreign to me, but the fact that we've had one that could stand to be more effective is not. I've always blamed the situation on their being toothless compared to the FOP, but you've given us something to consider.

  5. As I read P&G's comment, I reached the same conclusion that you did, Bram. I still have concerns related to some of the confusing positions Dr Dowd has taken on Council, but as you say, being the executive may reduce his problems in playing well and getting along with others. And the varied duties of Mayor in a city with as many problems as Pittsburgh will give him a satisfactory outlet for his impressive level of energy.

  6. Can you give an example of Dowd not playing well with others?

  7. Good point, anonymous. I know he was less than productive in how he chose to discuss that notorious issue of legal fees (he was against - and won). I know that Councilwoman Harris isn't a fan. Basically, maybe he does play well, he just doesn't mind opposing people when he thinks he has to.

    Can anyone think of his being out of line, really?

  8. Oppose issues, I should say. Though that legal fees thing got pretty personal by all involved. I think that messed up his public perception in some quarters.

    It all seems pretty silly now.

  9. An interesting mental exercise that really illustrates the stark differences between the candidates was suggested to me recently. Imagine Dowd doing anything that Ravenstahl is known for, and vice-versa. Can you even picture Dowd forcing his way into the Tiger Woods outing, changing his name to Steelers-Dowd, or strong-arming city council to favor developers/campaign contributors. On the other side, can you see Ravenstahl blowing the whistle on swaption contracts, forcing out an incompetent superintendent, or taking on a sweetheart/illegal deal against a billboard developer?

    One is a serious and qualified candidate, the other is our mayor.

  10. I think I probably overstated my opinion, and like any true observer, I rely primarily on impressions rather than actual evidence. I think I was probably drawing on the legal fees issue and something about Penguins Stanley Cup banners (???). Additionally, the relative nascence of his political career gives me pause, if only briefly, and probably contributed to my previous statement.

    Nevertheless, Dowd is clearly preferable to Ravenstahl and I agree with Pittsburgh Conservative's points.

  11. All very good points. Now you just have to get the majority of city residents who vote the incumbent in over and over despite their incompetence to vote for Dowd instead of a group of bloggers. Good luck with that.

  12. Anon 8:51 - It sounds as though you're taking pleasure in your certainty that "the majority of city residents" are likely to vote for an inferior commodity. Am I correct about that?

    I think the worst thing anybody can do in this election, strategically, is to grossly underestimate the interest or intelligence of city residents. I've been on the streets just like everybody else. We're ready for this.

  13. Anon 8:51, this is exactly the same type of "I'm too cool, ironic, cynical, and jaded to care, and by the way, I got the memo, you didn't" mentality that poseurs put forth right before the wave hits them. It sounds like McCain in August, the Republicans in 2005, and Democrats in 1993.

    I think that electoral upheavals like we've had for the last 15 years or so have laid the groundwork for just this type of thing to happen here. Across the country, voters are more and more willing to shift gears, and incumbents are the last ones to realize this.

  14. No, I am not taking pleasure in it, and I am not certain of it, for that matter, either. I hope I am wrong. But as a lifelong resident/observer of Pittsburgh and its politics, it seems as though the Democratic machine's chosen candidate wins. In my estimation, Dowd is far superior to Revenstahl. As is Acklin (? sp), the republican. But Pittsburgh politics is riddled with incumbents or candidates with the right name (i.e. Costa, Wagner, Wecht, Onorata, ect ect). You bloggers do an outstanding job of presenting the "other" candidates and their qualities but the older folks who vote don't read the blogs. At any rate, your contributions to the alternative are valuable and I certainly hope they translate to change.

  15. Nathaniel HornblowerMarch 18, 2009 at 1:56 PM

    Read: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/09077/956353-53.stm
    Now, does anyone want to try arguing that he was a good leader during his time in Pittsburgh?

  16. Anon 8:51/12:26 - It's a good reminder, anyway. At least it's my hope that the readers of blogs (young and old) take some of what they learn out here into the physical world of friends and neighbors.

    Nate - No, I've never heard that, though I'd be interested to hear what Mark Brentley's arguments consist of.