Monday, February 3, 2014

It'd Be a Shame if City doesn't get Lourdes


*-UPDATE: Council confirms Sanchez-Ridge 8-0-1, and the Trib apparently owns the image to the right by Stephanie Strasburg.

On the latest Castle Greyskull brouhaha…

Pittsburgh City Councilman Ricky Burgess is asking Mayor Bill Peduto to withdraw his nomination for solicitor, raising questions about whether the nominee, Lourdes Sanchez-Ridge, satisfies the city's requirement that employees live within its limits. (P-G, Moriah Balingit)

If Council wants to go through the process of getting outside legal counsel, it should always be welcome. Pittsburgh City Council is often surprised by what its consultants and experts have to tell it.

The administration appears to feel it is on solid footing regarding residency, and that they will remain on such footing. She is the Mayor's nominee before Council and acting Solicitor designee, and she is Lourdes Sanchez-Ridge.

The Comet is a big fan of the Patrick Dowd method of solving problems. That is, an entity with standing to complain about something does so in the proper arena to figure it out.

Now, let me address my bias…

On the transition teams, I actually got to work with Lourdes. We bonded (I felt). I feel this way because we did not just grin and backslap, "Hooray, Peduto!" but we actually fought for a while. Dramatically, thrillingly. For at least :30 minutes in a 2 hour meeting, and by "we" I mean we including all you-know-who-you-weres on the subcommittee. Summarily on at least one and a half topics or occasions she and we duked it out cordially before we all heard and understood each other and saw agreement.

And then we forged more productive agreements. Afterwords we were satisfied with the net outcome, mutually enthusiastic and puckishly merry. And so that was substantive bonding, at least on my end. The Comet can harbor no qualms about professionalism, conviction and insight, or an ability to flex in a manner appropriate to a public Solicitor.

Back to the analysis...

The Murmursphere is already offering elaborate though reasonable suggestions on how we ought to determine the real truth of legal residency. Ordinarily fact-gathering would fall under the realm of Office of Municipal Investigations or OMI. It seems reasonable to assert that at the appropriate point in time (and there is a sidebar disagreement about when meaningful enforcement upon brand new employees actually goes into effect) that OMI might need to secure outside investigatory services in what ought to be a routine fashion in all credible instances of perceived conflict with OMI itself.

Underlying some of the reaction to issues of residency (beneath the practicalities of policing it) is a sentiment concerning whether or not City employees at all times and from the root and stem ought to have been longtime, dedicated City of Pittsburghererers, and the nearer suburbs be buggered. This longtime section of the City Code was elevated further by voters to the Charter in a recent ballot measure, powered largely on the subject of police officers.

Regardless of the law's wisdom or genesis, it must be enforced in due process. To argue merely that municipal labor arbitration panels might not look kindly upon it, is to ignore that we already accuse those panels of tremendous bias against the City.

It would be process-oriented of City Council to judge the ability, quality and capacity of the nominee, with expressed reservations and advisories pertaining to Compliance. Eventually all attorneys must duel in terms of "burdens of proof". The political arena has with grave regularity been a poor place to prosecute such questions.

As clear, law-based and consistent administrative policies are enforced, again, Council should if it feels compelled seek outside opinion and at last flex its attorney muscle. And justice under law shall reign.


  1. Council Chambers is not the place to raise or questions related to residency.

    There are there purely to judge the qualifications for the position the candidate is being nominated for. That is a simple vote.

    If the Council votes to confirm the nominee and the nominee accepts the position, it is then up to Personnel & Civil Service and the Office of Municipal Investigations to determine if the residency requirements have been met.

    Let's call for what it is. Burgess and Harris are simply grandstanding for their block of supporters and attempting at all turns to embarrass the new mayor and hinder his efforts at implementing his agenda.

    I give Harris the credit for standing by her convictions --- if she does not believe in something, she does not vote for it.

    Burgess, on the other hand, grandstands at every opportunity, complaints about everything that is going on and then caveats it by saying .... I will vote for this, but....

    At times, he has even resorted to public political arm twisting (trying to use nice terms here) especially in regards to the severance pay ordinance. I will vote for this; but, since we are opening the budget, I fully expect everyone here to vote in the affirmative when I ask for a $1 million for youth summer jobs.

    Just keep pouring through the money. After all, it was not political maneuvering like this that got Pittsburgh in the position we are today.

    When are these folks going to grow up and put the serious business of running this City first and their hurt political feelings last?

    I agree with you and hope that we do not lose a talent like Lourdes.

    Pathetic behavior by council!!!!!!!!!

    1. Where do you people get that Lordes is a talent? Seriously, what is that based on? Does she have municipal experience? No, she doesn't. Does she have contracts experience? No, she doesn't. Was she even a partner at her firm? no, she wasn't. Seriously, why in the world are we so compelled as a City with lots of competent lawyers to out to USC and find a republican who has zero experience for the job. Anyone?

  2. I disagree that "Council Chambers is not the place to raise questions related to residency."
    Who we hire to make choices that affect our budget is an important discussion to have, as well as how we keep the money generated by Pittsburgh's economic strength kept here in Pittsburgh.
    Many modern cities struggle with keeping taxes and other revenues within the city limits, and Pittsburgh is no different. The working population is double the actual population, but only the folks who live here pay for the roads and pipes people use all day while making their 'daily bread'. Those folks pay tax to the outlying townships and counties. We have these residency requirement laws for a reason. I don't know the details of Lourdes Sanchez-Ridge's qualifications, but if this nominee is the best person for the job, so be it, make the hire. But if this is a case of someone paying a few grand for a short term lease on an apartment and side-stepping the law, while other qualified long term Pittsburghers are vying for the position, then I want every aspect of that process to be investigated. Let me be clear, I am not suggesting that is what is happening here, only that it seems Council's inquiries don't seem as political grandstanding as much as day to day political process. If vetting employees given the reigns to any aspect of our government is not the function of Council, Then I'm not sure what they are doing up there.
    Look, I don't argue that political games happen, nor do I object to the Mayor's nomination. I just disagree that this is automatically an attack on the new administration. If I'm wrong in the end, I owe you a beer, Anonymous person on the Internet.

  3. You're protesting too much Bram. The ice is cracked and Bill shouldn't walk on it.

    1. I'm protesting exactly the right amount.

      Regardless of our take on the terrain, the Mayor is headed this way, and there's a right way and an inexpert way to address the concern. We prefer process and facts to witch trials and partially-informed discord. When future happens and there's something actually to know about Lourdes' state of residence as a newish employee, then we'll know it. Pittsburgh gets to recruit some people, and these folks get to move here methodically.

    2. No they don't get to move here methodically. The law says they have to be resident when they take the employment. I guess the Peduto administration is all about skirt the law, support political allies and bend the truth. Getting pretty sticky up there on the 5th floor.

  4. And where is the work product of those transition teams now?

    1. On Acklin's desk, is my understanding -- and the goal being to have it all online by the end of February.

  5. "...a sentiment concerning whether or not City employees at all times and from the root and stem ought to have been longtime, dedicated City of Pittsburghererers, and the nearer suburbs be buggered"
    Sentiment or not, the rules state only fire have to be "Pittsburghers" prior to hiring. However, (political grandstanding aside) from the article I read Lourdes had purchased a condo in the city. After spending evenings in the suburbs she would return to sleep in the city on certain days. If she were purposely bending(and possibly breaking, depending on the prior mentioned "domicile" argument) the rule that Burgess just took to a public vote, then he has a legitimate complaint.
    Further, Peduto's knowledge and opinion on this situation will certainly be important in the coming negotiations with Police.
    Any previous year and this is probably a non-issue. This year residency is front and center. If Peduto wants police to stay, he'll have to demand full compliance from his on staff.

  6. The bottom line is this, many a person have lost their city job in the past getting caught doing what she is doing. The test is this, ask yourself if Luke was the Mayor would you still be defending this????

    1. If LR were doing it, I'd say personnel and OMI would have to do their due diligence at the due time, using due procedures. If I were asking asking anything else of City Council at this stage I'd have been wrong.

      By the way, if other employees would like to try to exploit any ALLEGED inconsistency to try to blow up residency for them all, I'd cheer it on. I don't care how many voters voted for it, if its that delicate and prone to interpretation and enforcement problems, maybe that should tell us something. After today's festivities, might as well add a post-it to every "nationwide search", You Are Not Welcome Here.

  7. So, Rev. Burgess votes to approve the new solicitor. I have a feeling that he got something for his vote. A little horse trading Bram?
    Anything insider that you can share?

    1. It's no secret there's now going to be a blue ribbon commission on optimizing the Sumer Youth Employment program. A good approach, by the way, and timely. And then Council members accepted City law dept. staff reasoning on burdens of proof without anybody extending their disagreement on grounds of perceived conflict. Lincoln wouldn't blanche.

  8. This speaks volumes about our schools. She won't move to the city because the kid has a great school at Upper St. Clair.

    Now, hopes of getting another high-powered parent (or set of parents) really worried about our schools, and in a place of power and leadership in city hall is lost.

    Our schools need a lot of help and attention. Oh well. The outward migration is confirmed.