Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Race for the Mayoralty (and the Clock)

How is the old Mayor doing, anyway?

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl will sign the bill, his spokeswoman, Joanna Doven, said. (P-G, Joe Smydo)

Another day, another passage. Things have the appearance of proceeding adroitly.

"We must put what's in the best interest of our children's education first before seniority," said Joanna Doven, spokeswoman for the mayor. (CT via Trib, Bill Zlatos)

That probably plays nicely enough in Overbrook.

Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority voted 6-1 to approve a contract of up to $250,000 with Ohio-based MS Consultants, which will study problematic watersheds and make flood-prevention recommendations.

Mr. Dowd pleaded with colleagues to reject the contract but was the only one to vote against it. (P-G, Joe Smydo)

Does not seem to have mushroomed into anything that would negatively affect such necessary work.


When was the last time we all got upset with our incumbent, anyway?

Was it Snowmageddon? One thing next year that I will have remembered three years ago about Snowmageddon: there was a lot of snow.

Was it the proposed parking lease? If so, was it simply the lease deal with LAZ/JPMorgan or was it the year-end game of chicken with the pension fund? It all turned out fine, though. Right? The City still has a certain debt-and-pension-obligation monkey on its back -- but for now we're mostly agreed that we're fine. We seem fine.

Gov. Tom Corbett, the recession and a legacy of contraction are applying the main squeeze. What can we be expected to do about finding more loose millions to pave more streets, deal with abandoned property, fix up parks and provide other amenities, anyway?

We borrowed some money. We were welcome to it.

Unless... uh-oh, here it comes...


Andrew M. Lee, [embattled] owner of Executive Cigars at East and Suismon streets, showed photographs of what he called notable patrons in the shop, including comedian Eddie Griffin, jazz drummer Roger Humphries, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and a smiling Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl in the retail section of the shop. (Trib, Bob Bauder)

Care of Guy Manningham:

Looks like a Mayor posing for a picture with a small business owner in his part of town. Splendid. Try as I might, I could not come up with any photos including lit cigars, stacks of cash, $800 bottles of champagne, cronies, showgirls, and that ridiculous fedora.


That's the story of Mayor Ravenstahl. Wait -- what's that you say?

Let's review some of the particulars -- all known to Pittsburghers -- that refute the mayor's assumed virtues.

Civic-mindedness? He has a reputation for fulfilling his duties casually. He manages to attend the fun events -- the U.S. Open at Oakmont, the press conference for the Batman movie -- but for some of the everyday stuff he is AWOL. Even the county executive-elect, a Democrat no less, said so.

Pragmatism? He wasn't so pragmatic when he went to Seven Springs to celebrate his birthday in 2010 while a blizzard was on its way and Snowmageddon paralyzed the city.

Vision? Yes, but it seems limited to his election campaign two years hence.

Tenacity? If it means stubbornness in sticking to bad decisions, we'll give him that.

Helping to lead a transformation of the economy? That's news to us. (P-G, Editorial Flaying)

And supposedly,

“Empirically, his approval rating has hovered really around 19 to 20 percent which probably isn’t terribly flattering,” says John Dick, CEO of the company. (KDKA Aug. '11)

Clearly, le Resistance lives on.


So who would try to wrest dominion over the Forks of the Ohio away from Ravenstahl?

Bill Peduto?

Arguably, though, the biggest winners [in local May 2012 primaries] were Matt Merriman-Preston -- who managed both the Gainey and Molchany campaigns -- and the politician for whom Merriman-Preston acts as field marshal: city councilor Bill Peduto. Last night's results showed that voters across the city are ready for new faces and a progressive message -- the same message Peduto will no doubt campaign on during his likely run against Mayor Luke Ravenstahl next year. The outcomes also suggested that the old guard's grip on power is increasingly arthritic. (CP, Chris Potter)

Most likely he'll try.

"Because I'm a bad politician. Good public servant ... ba-a-a-a-d politician." (CP, Chris Potter 3/07)

Time would need to be called upon to tell if that has changed. Since that conversation, Peduto will have brought to Ravenstahl six years of near-relentless dissent, in votes and words. Being now the senior member of Council, the public record is long and reasonably varied. That recent city-center redevelopment vote could be considered an archetypal pitfall arising from amassing such an involved paper trail. The occasion on which he urged for state takeover of the pension fund could be another.

Michael Lamb?

The city of Pittsburgh finished last year in better financial shape than it did 2010, but Mayor Luke Ravenstahl shouldn't get credit for that, Controller Michael Lamb said Tuesday in releasing the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. (P-G, Joe Smydo)

Most likely he'll try. But that's the thing about Lamb: for just as long, he has enjoyed the luxury of being able to position his jabs.

On the funding side, it is disappointing to see that Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's 2012 budget takes a huge step backward. The annual pension benefit paid out to current retirees is in excess of $80 million. The mayor's proposal to reduce payments to the pension fund in 2012 is both irresponsible and misguided. (P-G, Michael Lamb)

Positioning. The question for him is: do cagey subtlety and technocratic prescriptions translate to mayoral politics? What is the music of the yearnings of his heart?

Jack Wagner?

"I'll be giving it a lot of thought over the next year," Mr. Wagner said. "I live in Pittsburgh. I love Pittsburgh. I think we have tremendous resources here, and I don't think we're managing those resources wisely." (P-G, James O'Toole)

Possibly, but I can't see it. If he is seriously thinking about running, we would start hearing more from his circles quickly.

Is there anybody else? Darlene Harris? Likelier not. Patrick Dowd? The word is, no. Hop Kendrik? Never sleep on it. Corey O'Connor? Can you imagine? "Bugger all. Thank you for keeping my throne warm, now, get out."

So it looks like we'll have a heated two- or three-person race. Perhaps four, but then again as soon as we reach four contenders another five will leap out of the woodwork to join the ribald California Recall circus. Whatever the field, do not anticipate the Ravenstahl administration to undertake anything too drastically controversial on the City's behalf before the primary next year -- this is Luke's race to lose.

After all, the city is afloat on an even keel and crime is down six years running.