Thursday, June 4, 2009

Independent Kevin Acklin Gets It Started On Massive Scale (VIDEO)

Last night, before a festive crowd of well over 300 at the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts, local attorney Kevin Acklin began his Independent crusade for the city's top job.

A fifteen-minute "convention style" biographical video introduced Acklin as the progeny of South Oakland fire fighters, public workers and nurses; as a Central Catholic student-athlete who in football played both offensive and defensive tackle, and in ice hockey also played like a tackle; and as an attorney who ran off to pursue a big job in Boston only to grow homesick for Pittsburgh, return eventually and start a nonprofit dedicated to executing odd but difficult jobs for local communities.

It was this work with Renew Pittsburgh that formed the foundation of his public service bona-fides. Community leaders testified during the video of Acklin's refreshing generosity with his time and energy and his willingness to "get his hands dirty". Paul Ellis -- the serious and self-reserved sibling of Dr. Kimberly Ellis AKA Dr. Goddess -- spoke highly of Acklin's determination to help restore the area around the historic August Wilson home.

During his speech, Acklin promised to work hard as Mayor and to demand excellence.

I'll make decisions based not on what's best for my administration, but on what's best for all of our neighborhoods. I'll create policies based not on what's best for a few donors and dignitaries, but what's best for all our citizens. I'll support legislation that helps not just the powerful and the politically connected, but the powerless and the politically forgotten.

In an interview with the Comet, Acklin identified his biggest adversaries in the coming race as fear and complacency -- fear regarding political blowback for supporting him, and complacency over the fact that the City is "getting it done good enough", a sentiment he described as "kind of un-Pittsburgh".

When asked what are the two greatest challenges awaiting him as mayor, Acklin first said that Pittsburgh "needs to become more competitive -- how do we grow?" He listed factors inhibiting Pittsburgh's growth as its schools, its "perception of unsafety", and its high taxes. He also grumbled over the ability of businesspeople to get their permits processed correctly "if they don't make out checks to the right people."

When asked a follow-up about crime and public safety, he clarified that his second biggest challenge would be "our neighborhoods", and finding a way to reinvest in their smaller business districts. He says there are 88 neighborhoods in the City of Pittsburgh and there are 88 separate plans -- and that cynics might observe this is a way to play neighborhoods off each other.

"You need to invest in City Planning; it's been gutted."

Regarding politics, Acklin declared during his speech that he would like to join forces with all the people "that liked Bill, and Mark, and Patrick and Carmen". During our interview he said that he didn't think Democratic primary rival Patrick Dowd went too negative during his campaign.

"On election night, the Mayor had an opportunity to be a Mayor -- and he didn't."

Acklin called this an "exciting" time to run for government office in Pittsburgh, with encouraging faces arriving on the scene like Natalia Rudiak, "Who I supported fairly heavily", and Daniel Lavelle, "who I didn't have the opportunity to support financially" but sounded enthused about.

When asked about the other independent candidate likely to run, Franco "Dok" Harris, Acklin pointed out, "I am the Independent," having collected his ballot signatures and filed as the Independent candidate already.

"I mean, that's state law," he clarified. "He'd have to run as, you know, the Immaculate Reception whatever kind of party."


  1. Romney/Acklin '12!June 4, 2009 at 12:37 PM

    Acklin and his wife gave thousands of dollars to Romney in '07. He also contributed to Melissa Hart and Specter. He is a Republican, regardless of his current claim of independence.

    I know spouses often don't see eye to eye on many issues including politics, but we might be able to glean some insights into Kevin from his wife, Erica's blog.

    First, she does not mention his mayoral bid on her "Acklin's Army" family website. Does she know about it? Is she embarrassed by his candidacy? Does she think it's loony or is she just showing good sense?

    But wait, she does occassionally address politics.

    Last June 4 she put up a post about a conversation that she had with her 3-year-old son about how wonderful Ronald Reagan was. It started when the boy saw her wall calendar, which featured pictures of Reagan. She concluded the conversation by showing him a YouTube of Reagan's Brandenburg Gate speech:

    "George listened and when Reagan said, "Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate!" George said, "And tear down this wall!" It doesn’t take much to butter-up a mommy (and daddy) who studied government in college. Yet another proud moment in the life of the Acklin Army."

    On April 24 2008 she posted this gem:

    "This picture from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review caught my attention . . . of two local men as they rig in favor of Hillary Clinton prep and pack a few hundred of the over 4,000 voting machines used in Tuesday’s primary throughout Allegheny County." (It doesn't show up here, but Ms. Acklin coyly crossed out the phrase "rig in favor of Hillary Clinton")

    Independent visionary, or opportunistic Republican hack? You decide.

  2. Are Kevin Acklin and QED's Deborah Acklin related? There is a resemblance.

  3. Thanks for posting this stuff Bram. I had hoped to attend but the parking/rain combination overcame my civic curiosity.

    Did you get the impression that Acklin can at least bring some issues to the forefront in this campaign and get the mayor talking again about some of the topics Dowd raised?

  4. Chris - Hmmm. I got the impression that both the candidate and the operation are credible enough to warrant real engagement by the incumbent. The fact that he talked about city planning and spoke ominously several times of "stadiums" suggests to me that he might exceed Dowd's capacity to get Pittsburgh talking about issues that resonate. Then again they could just Romney him to death.

    Personally, as a voter, I think about how Acklin might instead have supported Rudy Guiliani, or Fred Thompson, or for heaven's sake John McCain at least once he secured the nomination or in the ENERGIZING aftermath of Sara Palin's historic nomination. Of all the options available to a Republican, Romney actually had a record of being an economic liberal, having having BEEN pro-choice for example, and not a warmonger. What fouled him up was that liberal record, as well as being Mormon and a stiff. However, I would not expect much of the Pittsburgh electorate to make those distinctions. FWIW personally I just can't get excited looking at party labels when contemplating city government.

  5. Kevin Acklin? Isn't he one of the guys the Pirates just got for Nate McLouth???

  6. Acklin said he voted for Obama in the general election. He started to split from the Republican Party after his loss to that McCullough scumbag in the County Council primary. Apparently the County Republicans voted for the d-bag who was under investigation for fraud because they weren't sure about electing a "city guy" to represent their interests.

  7. Re: Romney/Acklin '12's "comment"

    OMG. Kevin Acklin's 3 year old son knew the words of a famous Ronald Regan speech.

    the horror, the horror...

  8. An abbreviated list of Acklin's fellow local Romney financial backers is below. FWIW, they don't look like a bunch of economic liberals, or progressives, or Dowdistas or Pedutoites or whatever. They look like rich Republicans. Birds of a feather and all that.

    Since we've already got a Republican in the mayoral column--Ravenstahl--Acklin should wait for a Republican opening in another race and let Harris, the real Independent who first announced his intention to run, have a clear shot.

    James Getz

    Ann Breedlove

    Frank Clements

    Gideon David

    Timothy Fisher

    J. Harvey

    Michael Dolan

    Gary Zenter

    David Gerson

  9. I got the impression that both the candidate and the operation are credible enough to warrant real engagement by the incumbent.

    Well that's good. In an election like this, where the race is Ravestahl vs. Ravenstahl vs. Acklin, the best we can hope for is that the Independent candidate gains enough momentum to force some issues into the public dialogue.

  10. Would rather hear about freedom, privacy, liberty, democracy, self-determination, constitution -- as that plays in Bloomfield, East Liberty and everywhere else.

    Rather not have everyone's boy -- because we already have a boy. But, I'm seeking a gentleman / women who is conscious to the ethos of America -- the founding fathers.

    My voice doesn't need to be found - if I've got the weight of the consitution to support it. That's what's lost. The involvement of Pgh isn't the best key IMNSHO.

    Go Kevin Go.

    Speaking of Republicans, I wish he would have given support to Ron Paul.

  11. "An abbreviated list of Acklin's fellow local Romney financial backers is below."

    I'm guessing the full list would be more than Bram's comment box could hold.

  12. All Acklin needs to get a credible campaign going is to mobilize a slice of those Central alums (and their wives). They are everywhere in Pittsburgh government, law firms and business. Still a serious long shot, but at least it could be interesting.

  13. Professor Haroldd HillJune 5, 2009 at 9:28 AM

    What's up with Renew Pittsburgh? I looked all through the website, only found Acklin and some PG articles referencing the "group". No board members, no list of volunteers. Seems like a clever one-man band.

  14. Romney/Acklin '12!June 5, 2009 at 9:35 AM

    To TheTruth: As you know, the point wasn't that a 3-year-old can parrot a tagline, it's that while Acklin publicly holds himself out to be an Independent who has broken with the Republican Party, back at home Acklin's Army's four-star general and his second-in-command are indoctrinating their young charges into the cult of Reagan and preaching the anti-Democratic gospel. (I mean, really, voting machines being fixed for Hillary? I thought that was Ron Brown's job.)

  15. Tear Down This MythJune 5, 2009 at 12:13 PM

  16. Romney/Acklin '12 looks and sounds (and most definitely smells) an awful lot like Zober/McKrell '09.

    Gee, guys, don't you have a baby mayor to feed?

  17. Dok Harris for Pittsburgh Mayor '09.

  18. Just out of curiosity, how do we know that Acklin (or should I say DO we know) is not a plant by Zober/Ravenstahl to thwart Dok Harris? I really thought Dok had a chance, but by my reckoning Acklin has no more chance than Dowd or Peduto or Desantis. He's just more of the same. I was hoping Dok Harris could combine some of the appeal that Dowd or Desantis had to East End elite liberals with the appeal of Carmen Robinson and/or Ravenstahl to working class and African Americans. Acklin looks a lot like a spoiler to me. Anyone have any thing to suggest he is or isn't meant to ensure another Ravenstahl term?

  19. Oh, yeah. Dok Harris. Most definitely.

    Because if there's one thing we need in the mayor's office, it's to replace one unaccomplished, underqualified narcissist with another.

  20. Anon 11:55, you reckon wrong. Acklin has a bio better suited to attracting working class Pittsburghers, and he has community ties across the city (including AA communities like the Hill and Homewood) thanks to his non-profit and volunteer work. He's got a much better chance to get support outside the East End than the other candidates you mentioned.

    If you want more of the same, look at Harris. Inexperienced, unqualified, and almost as smug as Luke. If he weren't the son of a Super Steeler, the media would ignore him. "East End elite liberals" may have their flaws, but they aren't gullible enough to fall for Harris' schtick.

    The rumblings from inside Zober/Ravenstahl Land are clear: the one they're worried about is Acklin. If there's a spoiler, it's little Franco.

  21. Acklin and Harris should be holding 'debates' now -- every week. The two of them need to pound the streets and have JOINT appearances through September. They can be in all the neighborhoods. They can be talking about all the topics.

  22. Of course, none of this matters because even if Jesus Christ were running as a Republican against Luke, Democrats - like the subjects in the Milgram experiment - would do as they are told.

    All that nonsense about labels and stereotypes not mattering is a bunch of crap.

  23. Romney/Acklin '12!June 9, 2009 at 4:35 PM

    Acklin's community cred is bogus. Let's nip this in the bud right now.

    Just as Chris Briem revealed that Acklin's Wikipedia entry had no clothes, Renew Pittsburgh is a self-generated sham. No board members or organizational structure is listed on the "group's" website, for instance--just Acklin repeatedly, with lots of verbiage and links to a couple of glancing mentions in newspaper articles.

    I watched his campaign video a few days ago and noted that he has used Renew Pittsburgh as a vehicle for hopping around the city, parachuting in for clean-up projects and thus attaching his name to various neighborhoods. The video quotes a guy from Brookline who said something to the effect of, "I didn't know who Acklin was. He just called me up one day and said he wanted to paint our cannon." Exactly.

    I give Acklin credit for conjuring a clever, if painfully contrived, mayoral campaign. It's a dang 'Burgh luvfest: Kevin grew up in Oakland, lives in Squirrel Hill, does projects in the South Hills, Hill District, North Side, works Downtown, Big Brother for a South Side kid, etc., etc. Heck, he's a real Man About Town, kind of, you know ... Everybody's Boy.

    Ain't that cute!

  24. Below is a tidbit from the PG's April 27, 2007 endorsement of Acklin as the lone county council Republican candidate. Interesting how Acklin rejected his family's Democratic roots in the mid-90s, when it was cool, and beneficial career-wise, to be Republican, and just a dozen or so years later he's changed teams again, now that the Republican brand is tainted:

    "Kevin Acklin, 30, of Squirrel Hill and also a lawyer, would have made an ideal Republican candidate to give Mayor Luke Ravenstahl a run for his money. Although his family roots are Democratic, he told the Post-Gazette editorial board that he was put off by the patronage he saw while growing up in south Oakland and so registered as a Republican at age 18. After college, and before going to law school at Georgetown, he worked in Gov. Tom Ridge's office in Washington, D.C."

  25. From Acklin's wife's blog, "Life and Times of the Acklin Army".

    Posted without comment.

    June 5, 2009
    the train is a comin’. [family, politics] — Erica @ 12:08 am

    Yesterday was a big day for the Acklin Army. The boys and I watched in awe as Kevin proudly announced his candidacy for mayor of Pittsburgh. Our friends keep asking, "How does Kevin do it? Does he ever sleep?" Well, we all know that behind every great man, is a great, no crazy, uh, okay, so there’s a woman. And here I am! The biggest cheerleader Kevin could ever imagine. Although, I’m not expecting my wife-of-the-year award in the mail anytime soon because I woke up this morning and realized that on one of the most important days of his life I didn’t take ONE PICTURE! I’ll have that darn camera glued to my hand for the next five months for sure! What can I say about yesterday. I watched my best friend realize his childhood dream. I’m just full to the brim with pride. My cup runneth over. My only wish is that our boys were just a tad bit older so they could fully understand the fearlessness in their father. They will someday. (For now they just think that daddy has lots of friends who like to celebrate his birthday over and over. I told them last night that we were going to another birthday party for daddy. George of course asked if there would be a cake.) Although I have to point out that our boys have picked up on the word "campaign" but they say it in two words - camp pain. Hysterical. The first time George asked us about it he said, "Does ‘camp pain’ hurt?" Ha! Does it hurt . . . well, not for us. It will be hard work but very exciting. So I will continue to do what I’ve been doing for the past 4 years - being a mom and a wife. But maybe with a little extra dose of pride, if that is even possible. And I’ll leave the politics to the experts.

  26. For the record, I think most politicians' Wikipedia entries are filled with fluff from supporters. Not sure the Acklin one is much different. It is just interesting seeing the evolution of Wikipedia as another political front as was seen on LR's Wikipedia post years ago. That they were so out in front at getting a page up there was interesting as well. A datapoint on organization if nothing else. Interesting contrast to say Carmen Robinson who I don't think has a Wikipedia entry at all. Shows how far she got on sheer will alone.

    I did, however, think the "American Activist" tag a bit gratuitous. Can't really blame them for trying. I suppose I or anyone could delete it. That's the whole Wiki concept right?

    Just my really humble opinion.. but maybe this nitpicking on his wife's blog is unnecessary. Yes, she is going public and a legitimate target for critique/response. But it seems harmless whether you are a supporter or opponent. I certainly hope she is her husband's biggest supporter. This counter-blogging is counterproductive at best. I myself had no idea that blog was out there before reading all these comments. This race is not going to be impacted an iota by anything like this..

  27. apologies, I was mistaken sort of. There isn't a Robinson Wikipedia page, but it looks like there was one that was deleted. I don't think Wikipedia displays the reason for deletion. I don't quite get it then. Why would Robinson not rate a Wikipedia page given her poll results, but Acklin's page stays? Maybe it's something else? I heard there was some hacking on some Robinson site after the election. Maybe that has something to do with it.

  28. "This counter-blogging is counterproductive at best."

    And yet we're all doing it!

  29. Maybe I'll have to rethink Acklin, judging by the company he keeps, right Chris? ;~>

    From the PBT: The Economic Club of Pittsburgh elected its officers for 2008-09. They include: President Kevin Acklin, Morgan Lewis; Vice President, Programs Anne McCafferty, Vivisimo Inc.; Vice President, Publicity Robert Dye, The PNC Financial Services Group; Treasurer Debbie Scarpari, Sisterson & Co. LLP; Vice President, Membership Service Roger Cranville, Pittsburgh Regional Alliance; Vice President, Student Affairs Christopher Briem, University of Pittsburgh; and Secretary Diane Panzak, The PNC Financial Services Group.

  30. Anyone delve deeper into the true Acklin Army? Why no mention of Acklin Sr or Acklin Jr?