Thursday, May 7, 2009

District 6: Someone's Going to Lose, Finally

"If Lavelle wins, you might as well put Udin's name on the door."

... Tonya Payne, CP, Chris Young

To call my candidacy "an act of revenge" completely ignores the hardships facing the people of District 6. They're not interested in Ms. Payne's personal feuds, her paranoia or her fascination with "power."

... Robert Daniel Lavelle, P-G Letters

In a previous post about an RFP release party, I may have unintentionally left the impression that the meat of the feud between the Payne camp and the Lavelle camp has to do chiefly with disagreement over the Isle of Capri casino project. That's really only one flash point.

The crux of the issue seems to stem from Payne's electoral defeat of her former employer, Councilman Sala Udin, and whether A) Udin's minions have been irreconcilably intent to hound her off the edge of the earth ever since, or B) Payne is simply profoundly paranoid and in some respects an unskilled politician.

This was most famously addressed at the culmination of a controversy about a historic designation bill for the childhood home of August Wilson -- a bill which went missing in Councilwoman Payne's office for so long, despite numerous inquiries, that it may have legally expired. (P-G; 1, 2 , 3, 4, 5)

The greatest playwright of the 20th century was involved, so the Law Deptartment and City Council found excuses to approve the thing anyway. Payne apologized profusely -- in a manner of speaking:

It started off as a tardy but totally classy apology -- then veered into condescension and passive aggression -- swerved around to a legitimate-sounding claim of undue persecution -- shifted bizarrely into what sounded like a completely off-topic attack on Sala Udin for making her commit the mistake and an accusation of his "hurting the District" in so doing -- and finally straightened back out into an apology.

Make what you will of all that, but it does seem like Payne has an uncommon number of "adversaries" -- Udin, Lavelle, Jake Wheatley, Joe Preston, Kimberly Ellis, Paul Ellis, Marimba Milliones -- and these are only the ones I know about.

For his part, Lavelle is doing the best he can to build a substantive phalanx of criticism of Tonya Payne's leadership that has as little to do with politics as possible (see "The Record" and "Top 10 Mistakes"), while Payne is putting forward her own story through the novel "The Tonya I Know" video series on her campaign website. Here's an example:


  1. I noticed the other day that if you drive across the Birmingham Bridge from the South Side toward Oakland, there is a gigantic - no hyperbole at all - Tonya Payne banner hanging on the vacant house just across Fifth Avenue from the bridge (the gateway to the Hill District, if you will). This thing is enormous, and I wonder who you have to pay to put up something that big if the house is vacant.

  2. The post fails to mention the other, 3rd candidate, Mark Brentley, Sr. -- the only one who didn't have a job working for Sala Udin.

    But, he does have a job with Public Works for the city.

    He is the "Switzerland" in the fued/race. That says plenty when he can fill that role.

    I think Mr. Brently would make a decent addition to city council because he does care about kids.

  3. But, the biggest, most outlandish quote that I ever heard any member of city council ever utter was from Tonya. She said, "I don't care about the Constitution."

    Nuff said.

  4. Here's a symptom of a lack of leadership in District 6 - it's been coming for a while. I'm "Payned" at reading this news.

  5. Are you kidding, Mark R.? While I believe Mark Brentley is a nice enough guy, there is no way that he could effectively represent the people of this district. If you look at his representation of his School Board district (the lowest acheiving district) you will find that he has been ineffective at building coalitions, combative and hasn't really been able to connect the dots for the kids on deeper issues. We cannot have a representative like that in District Six, there are just too many important, varied and complicated issue. We are all entitled to our opinions, but I just can't see how Mark Brentley and Tonya Payne could be serious considerations for such and important Disrict. Again, nothing personal, but Tonya Payne seems to be a little obsessed with her adversaries. How can you blame your adversaries for ignoring 6 pleading emails from the City Clerk and City Planning? Just doesn't make sense.

    A District Six Voter (Northside, but raised in South Oakland)

  6. An interesting exerpt from cmments left on I would like to know the what happened to the Uptown Comunity Action Group finances and the circumstances that allowed Payne to move into one of the new Uptown townhomes ahead of others. Smells bad to me definitely.

    # Jim Says:
    May 13, 2009 at 4:05 am | Reply

    Actually, Tonya DID NOT work for years with the Uptown Community Action Group — what she did was work for herself. When the community group became too time-consuming for the capable and dedicated volunteer founders, that is when Ms. Payne stepped in. It didn’t take long for the residents and those who nurtured the Uptown Community Action Group to recognize that Tonya’s motives were self-serving and that she was not representing the neighborhood. A deal was in the works for a couple of years before Tonya’s appearance on the UCAG scene with Mercy hospital of Pittsburgh to donate Mercy-owned land on Locust Street for the development of new townhomes. When the project finally came to pass, Ms. Payne somehow found a way to obtain one of the handful of homes for herself and her family, despite there being interest from others. Hmmmm — how did that happen? With Tonya at the UCAG helm, the position she assumed suddenly became a paid position. The UCAG leadership were volunteer positions from the time the group was founded in 1990 or 1991 until Payne became the group’s leader. Where the Uptown Community Action Group, it’s activities and finances were open before, after Payne took over, all that was open was now suddenly closed and secretive. A thorough audit of the UCAG finances should be conducted. After UCAG began buying property cheap and selling for much more, lots of cash passed through the group’s coffers. To this day, the whereabouts of proceeds from the sale of property, as well as donations (some very significant) are unknown. Some questions I would like answered: What is the current official status of UCAG? Where are the group’s assets? Even though it appears the group is defunct, UCAG still owns parcels of property and homes and renovated homes were sold by UCAG recently. Where did the money from the sales go? These questions are simple and reasonable. Ms. Payne refuses to broach the subject.

    * George Says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    May 14, 2009 at 8:15 pm | Reply

    The Uptown Comunity has been wondering for years what happened to the Uptown Community Action Group after Payne assumed the leadership role of the group (only because the founders of the group and others who wree active decided to move on, by the way). The UCAG group has absolutely no affiliation with the Uptown Partners group, which is now active in the community. At a few Uptown Partners meetings, I recall residents being vocal about what their options were to find out what happened to the Uptown Community Action Group finances after Tonya took over and expecially ater selling properties for hefty sums and accepting large donations. An audit definitely s in order here. Hopeful someone can take a serious look into this. I hope Lavelle does very well in his attempt to unseat Tonya Payne. She is only for herself — definitely self-serving like the previous comment says — and is an embarassment to the City and District 6. She’s done nothing … and takes, takes, takes. Go Daniel!

  7. I couldn't agree more. I lived in uptown and was a member of the 'original' Uptown Community Action Group. The group changed after Tonya Payne got her greedy hooks into it. I, and many other Uptowners, have been wondering for a very long time just where the UCAG finances have gone to. We have our speculations. As for her performance as a council person, it can best be summed up by saying that not many are satisfied with Tonya Payne.