Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Advice for Bill Peduto - Final Edition, Unresolved

"He should have gotten his five," one political insider opined just prior to the Council presidency vote -- not an insider that should be considered to have been 100% totally disinterested, mind you, but one offering spot-on analysis nonetheless.

"He should have pulled his votes together. But he couldn't. And that says something."

Yes. Undoubtedly. Indubitably. But without explanation, that's really just a shot. What is it exactly?

"Bill believes that the whole city of Pittsburgh is pretty much like his district. It isn't," Payne said. "It's mostly working-class people, who are doing their work and raising their kids. The majority of people don't have it as good as the people in his district." (Trib, Jeremy Boren)

That's -- that's just not it. If someone would start identifying positions Peduto has taken that benefit the upper crust to the detriment of working-class, child-rearing and God-fearing yinzers, we could all entertain such an argument. Consider this an open thread, please. But I think that's a hollow argument which exploits ignorance and maybe a little prejudice. An effective one at times, to be sure, so maybe it bears thinking about anyway, but it's not "the core".

"Legitimate objections are one thing, but if Bill is saying 'night' simply because Luke is saying 'day,' people are going to stop listening," said Jim Burn, chairman of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee, who stressed he has always gotten along with Peduto. (ibid)

That's only a wee bit warmer. I don't recall Peduto having opposed a worthwhile mayoral initiative for its own sake -- indeed it's usually Peduto launching one crusade after another and the mayor opposing those. When Ravenstahl has put something laudable together, usually around bike paths or green lighting or the such, Peduto has been on board. Again, this is an open thread, please use it.

But what Burn said does suggest the difficult position Peduto has staked out. He's not just a rival of Ravenstahl. He is, by his own words frequently enough, a foe of "the machine". He's an opponent of "the way business is done in this city." He has that picture of the tanks in the street in Tianenmen Square up prominently in his office. He has compared administration maneuvering to North Korea on more than one occasion.

He's a True Believer -- which is great if you're also one, but it's not great at all for the game of politics.

That seemed timed to react to the Trib article. It's exactly why the "progressive" base, such as it is, will not abandon him -- probably not ever, no matter how sound the practical argument. He carries that dog-whistle. He's the "It" girl. Anyone else who wants to take their shot will have to do so either with his blessing, or over his cold dead body.

Which means that either A) somebody needs to emerge who carries a louder, better dog-whistle, or B) he needs to fall into less of the pitfalls of a True Believer. If Option A happens, we'll know it, so let's talk about Option B:

1. Bill -- they say that behind closed doors, or even only around corners, you are full of yourself. And I can believe it! What's with this, "Give Up The Crown To Save The Kingdom" claptrap? Did that need to be said? Here you go: "I would have liked to have been picked, but Council President Harris is going to do a great job and I'm proud to have voted for her." How hard was that? There have been many examples of this -- and you're beyond the point of anyone needing to be reminded of your leadership. It's like, why would anyone want to go out of their way to pump your balloon? Because they agree with you on principle? Most people don't have principles, Bill, at least not so much that it's worth making look good someone with whom they're not terrific friends. Which leads me to...

2. Bill -- Skilled politicians don their brightest shit-eating grin and embrace people they can't stand, or at least are sorely upset with. That way, the schnooks feel like they can still do business with you, that you can always be of use to them. So what's with the cold, silent treatment for young Councilman Lavelle? Yeah, I know ... I know ... I know. Still, think like Caesar would have thought, or like Mayor O'Connor. The more you hate a guy, the bigger and more effusive the greeting, back-slapping and bear-hugging. People appreciate when you leave it on the field, it's a magnetic quality. In fact, next time you see Councilman Dowd, I want you to greet him like he's your son and he just got back from fighting heroically in World War III.

(PSSST -- that goes for the rest of you too! In fact, that's what I really wanted to write this post about. When you tell a politician, "You've betrayed me, I hate you now, you've lost my vote," then they only think to themselves,"Well, that's one less person / constituency to worry about -- ever. I'm surely better off!" Whereas, when you tell a politician, "You've really saddened me, I hope this doesn't compromise your support for [issue]," then they think to themselves, "Well now maybe I've got to balance this out, get these kinds of people jazzed up about me again." You can always save your heavy snark ammo for election-time, when it's more fun.)

3. Bill ---
and I hope this doesn't undercut what I wrote way up above -- I think you're still suffering from Pittsburgh First / Isle of Capri-itis. Remember that? Maybe there is a kernel of truth to what Tonya Payne said, even if that can't be how she meant it (since she was also a big Isle of Capri booster). Irregardless (love that word!), maybe you should actively build more bridges among unarguably hard-luck neighborhoods. And not just where Pittsburgh United is involved, I mean! It could round out your profile. It could give you some ideas for initiatives that can not so readily be refused by some of your colleagues.

4. Bill --
if you really want to screw them -- I mean really, really frag them good -- consider lending your support to another Democrat for mayor. Maybe a deal can be worked out. Maybe there's a path for you to get into Congress somehow, or at least into the state legislature. That strikes me as a markedly not-horrible universe.

I'm just saying. There's no real reason to think about this for an eternity. Or to be precise, for three eternities. Though I'm sure we will. Or you all will.


  1. This reads more like a Peduto political obit than anything else. I think Riccardi, Motznik and Shields have the right idea--when you're at the end of your city council rope, go for district justice.

  2. In the words of William Rehnquist, "I feel bound to inform you that there is no word in the English language irregardless. The word is regardless.”

  3. Is there a better job in the world than district justice? Has anyone ever been voted out of the seat?

  4. I think Bill comes across as superficial and/or arrogant much of the time.

    He is a lightweight campaigner, too. I mean, Mayor Luke gets caught on a free plane ride to NYC on Burkle's plane. Bill's response -- he drops out of the race, illustrating his remarkably bad political instincts.

    I think City Council member is the best he is ever going to do

  5. He is a lightweight campaigner, too. I mean, Mayor Luke gets caught on a free plane ride to NYC on Burkle's plane. Bill's response -- he drops out of the race, illustrating his remarkably bad political instincts.

    Ah Yes. I once read an interesting piece that discussed Mr. Burkle's plane

  6. Anonymous said...

    Is there a better job in the world than district justice? Has anyone ever been voted out of the seat?

    Yes - PA Turnpike Toll Collector

  7. Bill's ardent supporters do him few favors. They convey an attitude that says "If you don't support Peduto, you're stupid, a yinzer, or both." And I agree with you that Bill himself does not convey that impression. But whether what Tonya Payne says is not true in fact, I think it may be true in perception.

  8. Yes. A women was voted out of the magistrate seat in my part of town -- by a city councilman, Gene Riccardi. Nancy Longo. And, then there was another..... I can't type her name at the moment.

    Those jobs are what they are. So there.

  9. Anon 8:43 - Read into it what you will, but it was not intended that way. I know there is a concerted effort out there by some to stick a fork in Peduto in the wake of his failure to seize the presidency, but this strikes me as a poor excuse for that -- a vote among nine insiders with their own political futures and calculations to consider. It is however an occasion for critical brainstorming and truth-telling, something no politician gets enough of from their friends. We come here not to praise Peduto nor to bury him, but to make sure we are all getting the best bang for our buck.

  10. Grimace:

    Yes, One DJ has been voted out. Pete Wagner was voted out as District Justice in Beechview 20+ years ago, ousted by Charles McLaughlin, who just retired (read: "aged out") and was replaced by now District Justice Motznik

  11. @Bram:

    "[C]onsider lending your support to another Democrat for mayor."

    The fact that this suggestion is infinitesimally unlikely to be taken seriously by Peduto is what really dooms him. It's sure easy to take policy-oriented potshots at he of the W&J football scholarship and double digit IQ when he's bumbling about the day-to-day of running a city. Hell, Patrick Dowd (to whom this screed could just as easily apply) ran a whole primary campaign about trash cans. But Peduto has shown absolutely no stomach for throwing high elbows to the mayor in the political low post, no matter his apparently orthogonal divergence from mayoral policy priorities. Should he desire to be a progressive kingmaker, he certainly had his chance this summer. His silence spoke volumes. I truly believe the man has no interest in being a state legislator or congressman. He likes being recognized at le Mardi Gras or Kelly's by the recent Heinz School/GSPIA graduates who elect him, and he likes the impression of the tireless technocrat tilting at the machine-operated windmill. He can achieve that without much effort or exposure by just staying where he is. His lack of spine makes Zober and Ravenstahl almost sympathetic in their craven determination.

  12. "Is there a better job in the world than district justice? Has anyone ever been voted out of the seat?"

    Good Ol' Pistol Pete Wagner was.

  13. Bill is not a bad guy to have a beer with. I hear he's not a bad guy to work for. But he is awful to work with. He can be sneaky and loves to take credit for things. He lives for the media coverage. That's why he never got elected President.

  14. Grimace,

    Very funny comment indeed.


    PS: Mark R.

    Pete has a better job with County and is the Chair of the 19th Ward...point is, 'They' never lose.

  15. Sorry not Mark R. but Matt H. in regards to Pete Wagner comment.

    On Peduto:

    Peduto reminds me of my X. Whinny…and contrary.

    Many in this town are intrigued with the Mayor and his vision and as such are prone to overlook mistakes…in judgment. Blue-collar folks are blue perhaps due to miscalculations in judgment.

    Peduto is the kind of person that will fault you for saying it is ‘A beautiful day in the neighborhood’.
    Not because of storm clouds, but because on a sunny day he will not spend time appreciating the beauty of a clear sky, but… because there is a stray cloud off in the horizon.

    The pension situation is a storm brewing and correctly identified by the Mayor…Peduto will hide the umbrella and laugh when you get wet.

    He does what he does because he can. Bravo to City Council for smelling the reign…and saying no to reign of Peduto.


  16. Does Peduto know that Coghill has him on his radar?

  17. Monk:

    You said: The pension situation is a storm brewing and correctly identified by the Mayor

    Please. The pension problem was not "identified" by Luke Ravenstahl. It was identified and recognized by the Commonwealth back in 1984.

    You could say Murphy "identified" the problem in the late 1990's. With guidance from his "friends and advisors", he developed a scheme to fix Pittsburgh's pension problem.

    It failed, but his friends made off pretty well.

    Now Luke Ravenstahl, with guidance from his "friends and advisors", is developing the latest quick fix scheme. Following the lead of Chicago politicians, he will lease our parking assets for pennies on the dollar. (to a totally independent third party, of course)

    Pay no attention to that stray cloud off on the horizon Monk. It is truly a beautiful day......in the land of make believe.

  18. If I say that it would be cool to have a hydro electric plant built into one of the locks on the river and 2 years from now some public official proposes to build such a plant. Should I whine about it being my idea? Bill would.

  19. Lukes gonna put one of dem windmeals on mount warshinton and Peudodo gonna say he did it.


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  21. First off, Brad, it's brave of you to say what you do here. It's not easy to call a good man out on his faults. That said, I agree with you on one point and disagree on another. One, I agree that there is some substance to Tonya's comments, but only so far as it coincides with perception. Bill's work supports the blue collar citizens of Pittsburgh as much as the work of any politician. I think Bill doesn't so much have to buddy up with his opponents, but he shouldn't let his pissing contests spill out into the public square. For a politician (and the supporters who want him to succeed), shaping perception is at least as important to doing his job as his actual legislative abilities.

    And, as a second point. I disagree that Ravenstahl usually shoots down Peduto's initiatives. The mayor does actually support a lot of Peduto's initiatives, he just waits a couple months after Bill proposes them, dresses them in new clothes, and calls them his new ideas (e.g. bike paths, campaign finance, etc.).

  22. Polemics - That's exactly the way it was intended. And I filed the Payne-inspired point 3 under "Pitfalls for True Believers" because I agree, Peduto has every good reason to believe that he obviously is on the lookout on behalf of the downtrodden. But just because that's clear to me and you and him, that doesn't mean it's remotely clear to all of them. It's something that requires constant attention -- maybe even more so than shadowing Ravenstahl a la Tie Domi.

  23. The real crux behind why Bill can't "get it right" is that he is all about Bill before anything else. Not only did he "not support" Dowd when Dowd ran for Mayor, Bill went around lobbying the East End AGAINST Dowd. You don't make friends that way and this story has gone uncovered by the bloggers.

    Further, Bill changes him mind depending on political winds. He voted against prevailing wage in 2004, but supports it now. He is in favor of fiscal responsibility sometimes, but not always. Not when it involves doing things green or adding costs to government or businesses.

    Finally, if you cross Bill, he will target you and come after you - just the same as he claims the administration does. People aren't stupid and they know this.

  24. Moon Shadow...how cool is that, Moon Shadow, Moon Shadow..(cat stevens, monk)

    You are correct Murphy and I served on Pension Board together..

    The real problem, the costs that are breaking the bank lie within Public Safey Unions. Poor smucks plowing streets and under paid clerical workers (women) are scape goats.

    When Murph borrowed money to fund unfunded pension liabilities...the local newspapers sung his praise.

    The Pension problem has been around since 1984...again, you are correct.

    I always advocated a hybrid as solution...released report in 1999.

    Stand firmly behind it 10 years later...