Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Your Guide to 'Burgh Drama: Democracy is Coming! New Season starts 5/21.


Mayor Tom Murphy, whom some call "the Mad Mayor," ruled Pittsburgh for twelve years -- until he became so unpopular he could not run again.

Mayor Bob O'Connor succeeded him with fresh energy and optimism, but ran the City just half a year before abruptly terminating a City Hall power arrangement from what would become his deathbed. Pittsburgh took this maneuver, and a seeming embrace of Council President Ravenstahl, to signify Mayor O'Connor's dying wishes for a term of office under served... and Luke Ravenstahl assumed the Mayoralty of that government.

Mayor Ravenstahl, buoyed by accolades and civic investment, is fighting to win his second full term and is calling attention to the South Side Market House and Phase 2 of its renovations. On What's the 412? and elsewhere, we are assured that the deal the City is getting with Buncher Co. in the Strip District will lead to thriving growth and comply with the letter and the arc of the Allegheny Riverfront Vision Plan almost 100%. Prestige and distinction are once again heaped on that Jewel of Larimer, Bakery Square -- but the talent show at Google's offices had to make do without the guest of honor. It has been a little while since Mayor Ravenstahl hit us over the head with the Promise.

Police Chief Nate Harper has been shown the door by the Mayor for setting up the framework of a business with his subordinates, for allowing money to be misappropriated, and for whatever Ravenstahl learned after two hours of questioning by federal authorities.

It is revealed that debit cards were linked to misappropriated funds, and that some of these were given to the Mayor's security but allegedly without the Mayor's knowledge. An ex-bodyguard publicly accuses the Mayor of being in on the impropriety, and gets smeared. In a discussion of the cost of overtime pay for bodyguards, a sensational photo is aired. Although the Mayor uses his own legitimate and accounted-for City card for travel and special expenses, it is revealed he routinely uses it to pay for others even though he was strictly instructed against it. Many crave more supervision to increase police performance.

The Pgh Channel, NBC
Controller and mayoral contender Michael Lamb is fresh off a field day. He suggested that the intermingling of city receipts and private side-job compensation created the potential for fraud and laid the blame with "the Finance Department" and the "Office of Management and Budget" for passing along budgets stuffed for pilferage. The wear of criticism for his own negligence has if anything spurred him to create an anonymous city "Fraud Hotline": 412-255-4777. He has demanded of the Mayor answers to a series of succinct questions, and stuck a political flag solidly in Greenfield.

P-G, PublicSource
In the East we hear calls to enforce the city's lost and stolen gun ordinance and concerns that compliance with oversight extend fully to campaign finance law. Councilman and mayoral contender Bill Peduto wants to put GPS chips in snowplows to step up the War on Snow, and communicators in traffic lights to reduce travel time, fuel emissions, and worker hours spent at traffic lights.

People for Peduto tweeted out a headline and a link to a story favorable to the Controller's press conference. He is on record as having recommended early on that Chief Harper take a leave of absence, and connecting metaphorical Ravenstahl dots at Public Safety, at the URA and at PWSA to illustrate a pattern.

Peduto and Lamb both ran for mayor in 2005. Lamb drew some of his support from Mayor Murphy's cadre. Peduto finished in second place to O'Connor. Peduto considered running against Ravenstahl in the special election held in 2007 but withdrew, drawing public fire. Lamb opted to run instead for City Controller in '07. Both men yielded to other Democratic challengers in 2009.

Has anyone noticed all these closed schools? Not just Reizenstein making way for Bakery Square 2.0, and not just Schenley with its spirit and legacy, but everywhere -- really everywhere. What to do with all the buildings? And people seem miffed about public transportation, badly enough to oust a Port Authority CEO. There will be incentives for regional transit consolidation at play, whatever crises or opportunity that may present. Alcosan has urged the EPA to give us an extension to begin considering source-control or "green" wet weather infrastructure.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh is famous in Marcellus Country for having instituted a ban on natural gas drilling which its mayor does not like. Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald signed on to a $500 million, 20 year deal with Consol Energy to drill for fossil fuel from Pittsburgh International Airport. A coal burning power plant in Muskingum River Ohio is converting to natural gas at the EPA's blessing. And in Chester WV, former local URA Director Pat Ford is touting on behalf of a regional economic development corporation the "campus setting" of a purchased, demolished and environmentally remediated pottery plant site for lease to prospects in the oil & gas industry. All while advancing projects from Weirton to Beech Bottom.

The strategy is the strategy. Nothing important has changed. The night is dark, and full of terrors. Election Day is May 21st. Click the video above and review this post from top to bottom. Here is the elections calendar.


  1. As fine a status report as could be written, very nicely done.

  2. And still, the City is stuck with the Trosky's, McDonald's and Holmes in the police department.

    Trosky with his history of domestic abuse and mistreatment of arrested people.

    McDonald who continues to this day to associate with a convicted former law maker.

    And superman Holmes who could work 2 40 hour a week jobs along with the associated travel time and job preparation (personal hygiene) time.

  3. Oh yeah! Good old Bob put those folks in place. And didn't he give Yarone a nice boost too? Whatever happened to that O'Connor statue in Schenley Park? It would be a nice complement to the O'Connor Golf Course, O'Connor Playground (behind Colfax School), and O'Connor Corner (coming soon to Murray and Phillips).

  4. Rev Ricky is taking this occasion to muscle in with his passive-agressive bully style.
    Bram, why not blog on the smarmy going ons in Council. These weasles don't know whether to wind their watch or scratch their ass with all of the alligiences in disarray.I hope Lukie takes down Ricky with him!

  5. Anon 10:27 - What's smarmy in Council these days? The day I learned to attribute most of my problems with members to my problems with this mayor, I started saving a lot of time. Council mostly seems attentive and on-task, just clamorously dichotomous and with far too many tasks -- always keeping up with [ahem] the news of the day.

  6. Wonder if Dick Skringer is happy with the new direction the city took the police department after firing a good chief so they could "take the department in another direction"

  7. As I sit here warm and safe in the 'burbs eating my popcorn, all I can think of is "I gotta get a lot more popcorn!"

  8. Anon 2:06 - Our Assistant Director of Parks & Recreation is describing the story of opportunities available in the City on Street Beat Pittsburgh, City Channel. "A wealth of information" coos Diane Richard, Police Bureau, longtime host.

    Love this channel.

  9. Who is Diane Richard related to? I hear she has family connections in high places, hence her position.

  10. Maurita Bryant is her sister.

  11. The prospect of Luke dropping out of the race is a super bad prospect for Peduto. Luke supporters are much, much more likely to switch to Lamb. Could Luke even endorse Lamb, as a final FU to Peduto and Fitz?

  12. I disagree MG. Peduto has far more money and name recognition than Lamb and he is at least partially to blame for the scandal, if only because he didn't put better accounting procedures in place. There is some evidence that this has been known about on Grant St for some time now and so his failure to react more quickly looks like a liability to me.

  13. The proverbial Shiite hitting the fan...could see a withdrawal from campaign as early asnthisnafternoon....and pols in the know believe Luke will support Lamb as will Luke supporters...remember Peduto has positioned himself as the outsider..even sympathetic committee members are miffed by that

  14. Two modern-day Pgh mayors--Flaherty and Caligiuri--won as outsiders without the committee endorsement. Murphy also came very close to losing the committee endorsement on his way to a third term.

  15. Was there a racial element with all of the people involved? Did he do the math and figure that he's lost the black vote?
    Just asking.

  16. Regarding "outsiders" many outsiders are actually registered to vote in this Democratic Primary? You have to wonder.

  17. Someone misunderstands the Caligiuri precedent. Remember he had even been the endorsed ACDC candidate for mayor when Pete Flaherty ran as an incumbent in 1973. Not sure the analogy works the way some think it does. Caliguiri won in the general which is a very different race than the spring.

  18. In 1977 Caligiuri was the incumbent Democratic mayor but Foerster got the party endorsement. Caligiuri subsequently chose to run as an independent in the general election and beat Foerster. Different, yes, but not very.,_1977

  19. I said you need to look at 1973. That year Caligiuri had such party support that he beat out the incumbent mayor for the party endorsement. So to ignore that much party support in the 1977 race pretty much misses the whole dynamic. It was not 'some outsider'. Also in 1977 Caligiuri was himself the incumbent yes. Most analogies to any possible current machinations just ignore all that context.

  20. When you're right you're right, CB.