Friday, October 23, 2009

Issue #1: Lying

Has Luke Ravenstahl at last utterly exhausted our capacity to require truthfulness from him?

KA: Who are John Verbanac and Ed Grattan, and what role do they play in your administration?

LR: John Verbanac and Ed Grattan are friends of mine, and they play no formal role in my administration.

As we now know for a fact, the frank answer would have been, "They are advisers," or "Two of my closest advisers on politics and strategy," or "People who I call on to do things like negotiate my position with the State Legislature," or "People who run my high-level strategy meetings."

Answering on television, before the people of Pittsburgh, that two persons as crucial to his government as this are "friends" was disgustingly coy.

It proved beyond a doubt that he didn't want to be open and honest about them. If the relationship were as innocuous as today we are being led to believe, he would have told us who they are and the fine work they do for Pittsburgh.

A week later Acklin stated during another debate that he had obtained:

KA: ...very specific documents and e-mails that prove that Mr. Verbanac has had a very intimate relationship with your administration He's written your speeches, he literally puts words into your mouth. He's called the shots on who you hire and fire. He advises you on city policies and developments, including developing your strategic plan. He advised you on the firing of BBI (Bureau of Building Inspection) Director Ron Graziano and also called for the purging of your staff.

All of which, you should note, was true. 100% true. Later:

KA: What business interests does John Verbanac have before your city administration or with any of these authorities?

LR: First of all, he has none, I answered the question last week that he is a friend of mine, your accusations are wrong...

First of all, Vebanac has some business interests before the City. Period. Whether they have been advantaged by the Mayor or not is still an open question, but it's inarguable that Verbanac has had and will continue to have interests before the City and its authorities (particularly, maybe, the Parking Authority soon). So that was not "wrong".

Second of all, everything Acklin said in the televised debate up to that point about Verbanac's role, duties and strategic advice given to the Mayor was CORRECT. Every word of it. So neither was that "wrong".

Luke is lying, and everyone is giving him a pass because they'd rather see him prosecuted than bother calling him a liar again. For goodness sakes, people, he said he wasn't Mayor when the casino license was awarded! He was up to his nostrils in kaka!

Ravenstahl later repeated again that Verbanac is only a "private citizen" (that wasn't the question) and that Acklin's accusations are "false". It was not until the end of the following day and concern about Verbanac's possibly inappropriate role had continued to build that the Mayor would even approach truthfulness.

He confirmed that the former political consultant advises him on campaign matters, and probably has some role in fundraising.

"He has been consulted there and talked to there and advised me there, just as he has on other issues," the mayor said. "He's never written me a check. Has he raised money? Yeah, I would assume that he's asked folks to contribute." (P-G, Rich Lord)

Der, gosh, I uh pfffft whooo weeeee yeah maybe, I dunno.

Isn't this still insufferably coy? Do you know if he raises money for you or not?

There is another issue I'll be touching on later today: that the press is grading inappropriateness on a curve. Don't you know this is how politics works, boys, when it comes to people like Verbanac. Welcome to the world! If Acklin can't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that actual laws were broken like some kind of prosecutor, then these cozy exchanges of influence by titanic private investors is just how it works and it'll never change. It doesn't impact Pittsburgh in ways that Pittsburghers will ever notice or care about. Have a cigar already.

But the issue of this post is simple:

Ravenstahl has been lying and dissembling through his teeth. Again. And somehow, we're grading that on a curve!


  1. am curious what role Luke's friends had in the g20 procurements, festivities, etc.

  2. Why is Ravenstahl still Mayor? I cannot believe that Pittsburgh doesn't have anyone more competent than this lying buffoon to run the city. His greatest accomplishment seems to some absurd record for extra points at a no-name college in the middle of nowhere. WTF? Why isn't the lead story every night -- moron mayor lies yet again. Where is the mainstream media on this? Bram -- I hope your coverage of this wakes people up...the emperor has no clothes -- in fact he is just some twit who sat on the throne a few minutes and decided not to leave...

  3. Doubt anyone will care. Verbanac's role has been known since the Spring campaign. Luke's a liar just isn't news anymore. Pay to play politics, it's how things get done in Pittsburgh. Walnut Capital gets millions in state and local tax breaks and credits, Luke's signs go up all over there properties in town. It's unethical, it hinders Pittsburgh's growth, and some of it may be illegal. But end of the day, the voters have spoken that it's not worth firing Luke over...Now maybe reporting on an extramarital affair or two might get some people's ire up...lots of rumors out there about his infidelity but none of it comes up. Not sure it matters, but the guy's dishonest, that's for sure.

  4. Bram, do not go overboard yourself. You wrote in part:

    "Luke is lying, and everyone is giving him a pass because they'd rather see him prosecuted than bother calling him a liar again. For goodness sakes, people,..."

    The EVERYONE part above is a lie too. Don't discount yourself. Not lecture to the masses and think you know what they (we) think. That's just a little trap that I'd hate to see you step in so as to discount everything else.

    Frankly, I do NOT want to see Luke prosecuted. That isn't a 'wish' of mine. Furthermore, it isn't good form to call anyone, yet alone the mayor of the city you reside within, a 'liar.'

    Being honest is one of my valued principals (Caring, Loving, Open, Honest) -- but at the same time it would be foolish to go around telling people that they are 'fat.' Being honest personally -- and being an overt enforcer with a scaret letter of honesty -- are two different matters. There are two sides to the sword of honesty and people don't like to swing it nor be around much when it gets serious use.

    There are so many things we, as individuals and a society, are not honest with that it becomes crushing.

    So, tag it. Then advance to the other driving points. Tip to KA and Dok. In your administration (because we all know some less than honest dealings are going to get spun) will develers be calling the shots? They did when Tom Murphy and Bob O'Connor were at the helm too. ??

    My point: Distinctions beyond honesty and liar are necessary for a campaign to be effective.

    And by all means, don't over-sell it -- because EVERYONE isn't giving a pass to those who are at odds with the truth.

  5. Touched up version of above now on my blog.

  6. @Mark: Why now is it not "good form to call" anyone "a liar?"
    What if they are indeed lying? For instance, say, a public official lying about a relationship between himself and a businessman?

    Second, your ideal-reality split on honesty--and its application in public office--is pretty disheartening. I guess Pittsburgh will never and could never have a modicum of transparency, even if it wanted it.

  7. Many politicans have ran on the format of transpaency, along with accountability. Pittsburgh talks the talk and as we can all see doesn't walk the walk. The city leaders all proclaim that they are for serving the people. They continuly ask the people to vote for them and to trust that they will do the work of the people when they get into office. The majority of the time these honest politicans LIE, so with that being said there should be no reason not to call a person who tells lies a LIAR.

  8. A MOVEMENT with lots of buy in is necessary. This is big picture stuff. Globally, we've got to wake up the masses. Then the real 'throw the bums out' or 'clean sweep' can begin.

    Voter turnout in a mayor's race is going to be modest, at best. And, many won't know all the options.

    Just general stuff.

    On the flip side, IMHO, talk of 'liar' is going to freeze citizens and diminish the potential for new arrivals to the "movement." Fewer may opt-in and be converted from informed voter to campaign supporter / worker / volunteer / donor / advocate.

    Pokes and even whacks on the opposition has its place and time -- and is necessary -- as PART of the full story. But, I don't think that (name calling) is the lead and headline, repeatedly.

    On another note: corruption is everywhere, not only in Pittsburgh. A political life/landscape is sorta disheartening. Term limits and churn among candidates and office holders has its merits. The rookies are never as experienced as the veterans when it comes to shielding (untransparent) the unethical.

    Luke is a young guy and sorta new in the mayor's office. He won't make the same mistakes over and over again, I expect. The mistake is 'getting caught' -- if you know what I mean.

    Think again: As the politicians get really good at their jobs -- it is often bad news from my perspective.

  9. Corruption - look no further than the White House. Do ya think Obama raised more money than any candidate in history without owing a few favors? Wonder why his top fundraisers and campaign staff line his inner circle and advisers? Oh yeah, I forgot, we don't criticize Obama, he is off limits. Wake up people, the reason most people don't care about this stuff is because it is everywhere and affects everyone. They know you are only criticizing one particular group and give the others a free pass.