City of Pittsburgh Governmental Affairs Manager Paul McKrell accosted and impressed upon me at the sign-in table that I should turn around and leave -- allegedly in part due to a suspicion by "some" that I am currently on mayoral candidate Councilman Bill Peduto's payroll. So, let me correct that invention right away. This blogger is not and has never received anything of value, or assurances of anything of value, from Bill Peduto -- nor have we ever had a professional relationship. In fact, to the best of my recollection Bill Peduto has never lifted a finger for me, unless you count as I do absolutely these 301 Random Things Peduto Has Done in which I have no special interests.
The Comet supposes that if one feels like one is paying for most of one's own support, then it only stands to reason everybody else's support must have been similarly purchased. So I do not take my refusal from last night's event even the slightest bit personally.
With that important preface out of the way, we gladly report to our beloved readers this blogger and North Sider's experiences during an exciting campaign night across this City of Champions:
|Cersei Lannister: HBO|
A little background: Ravenstahl's 2009 election victory party was held at the Priory, a mere few blocks from my apartment. I attended the celebration and had a fantastic time with McKrell, city press secretary Joanna Doven, prominent Spring Garden mayoral fan Jeff Dzamko and others, including Ravenstahl himself just briefly. But Zober did seize that occasion to give me a thorough "piece of his mind." He critiqued my reporting with insistence that I oughtn't be spreading unfounded rumors that people are "stealing money" (although I have never made such accusations or insinuations) and volunteered some information new to me about personal relationships between himself and Councilman Peduto (who did not rank among the litany of challengers Ravenstahl was celebrating vanquishing that year), before settling into an extended speculative psychological critique of myself -- which is always appreciated. Yesterday I expected to receive a similar frank and open presentation of Zober's view if need be.
But since it was not my intention last night to disturb anyone's good time or cause any problems, I acquiesced to McKrell's suggestion to leave. But not without first asking, "Why?" In six years writing the Comet I have never gone in for hidden-camera surprises, scene-stealing demonstrations or anything that would discomfort event hosts -- indeed like anyone else, I find it harder to be a sharp critic of persons I meet and know well. I was looking forward to restoring some of those connections, as those Pittsburgh relationships themselves are even more important than city politics.
However, after claiming that everyone's "chief" concern was that I might be working for Peduto (I am not), McKrell also complained that my "tone has changed a lot over the past two years" as well as my position towards the mayor.
That also is easily explained. Two years ago, Comet readers may recall, I actually began a half-year's research consultancy out of the office of noted Ravenstahl ally Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith -- for whom I still feel a certain loyalty and affection. Although she never once suggested I quit or change the way that I write, I did "tone down the politics" for a bit so I could explore whether life inside City government was right for me, and do a better job while I was there. I learned a lot during that experience and gained a great deal of respect for many City workers and department heads -- but I ultimately returned to blogging as a confirmed outsider, and I returned largely to the same political positions I had held from 2007-2010: that of being a critic of this mayor. Only now I hope with much better education and understanding.
Aside from noting the attendance of a couple of prominent Pittsburgh United organizers at Ravenstahl's event, that is about all I can report. But their presence struck me as strange, since so much of what Bill Peduto has fought for and been able to accomplish over the last several years has been at the behest of or with the cooperation of that coalition led by the SEIU and others -- and over the ferocious opposition of Luke Ravenstahl and Yarone Zober to boot. Laborers need to save their solidarity for other laborers, so I'm not sure that solidarity with politicians is ever really to be expected. But this was startling. I can speculate that Ravenstahl acquiesced to eventually pressure UPMC on payments-in-lieu-of-taxes only if he receives electoral support from certain segments of the SEIU. I also believe the argument that "Ravenstahl is an unstoppable juggernaut," together with "especially in a three-person race," must be carrying the day with them.
|Original snark by Eric Hagarty|
Michael Lamb's event was another kettle of fish. I entered his Greenfield field office and was impressed by the number of fans and onlookers in attendance for the kickoff event (100+ on a snowy, blustery night) and was received warmly by campaign staff even after informing them that I am a blogger.
Most of the rhetoric I received in answer to my questions however was boilerplate -- they are focusing on reaching out to voters now, no they have not conducted any internal polling which I might see a sanitized preview of, yes they are confident Ravenstahl is in so much trouble they can succeed in the three person race anyway, yes there were Democratic committee members here but we cannot find them just now.
Their skill at deflecting my pointed, unanswerable questions while giving me something else to chew over was not nearly as well-honed as that of Mr. McKrell from the city, of Ravenstahl campaign staffer Dietrich Kelley, or of friend-to-the-Comet and Councilman Burgess staffer Shawn Carter. Although I don't mean to sound ageist (WARNING: ageism ahead) I did not notice anyone among the campaign staff introduced by Mr. Lamb who would qualify as a "veteran" or a highly accomplished professional such as either Guy Costa or Sonya Toler of Peduto's staff.
Nonetheless, Controller Lamb called his team "the best campaign staff ever, in the history of the city." He critiqued Mayor Ravenstahl for having missed opportunities and for making people forget what good government even looks like. Later on, Lamb assured the Comet that from what he hears on the street, the mayor "is in a lot of trouble" and professed that if I don't believe the Mayor can be unseated in a three-person race, that I "must be talking to the wrong people."