Tuesday, November 30, 2010

On the Local Praetorian Guard

Photoshop: 2PJ's, Maria Luppinacci

*-UPDATE II, NEXT DAY: Police Chief Nate Harper informs us all at a news conference that Ravenstahl's security detail is now being reduced to just one full-time officer, "modeled after the detail used with Mayor Murphy." (Won't this suck now if the Mayor gets gacked at like 6:45 PM on the way into a Weed and Seed meeting.) OR: To hear it from other sources, it was a message with more push-back.

Original post follows:

KDKA-TV has been chewing over the cost of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's bodyguard detail like a juicy turkey leg: first an initial investigative report not online, again when Controller Michael Lamb called for "scrutiny", and again when Councilman Bill Peduto was inveighed thereon at a taping of Sunday Business Page.

*-UPDATE: And again, chatting with Dan Onorato about his two guards which don't leave the county and mostly work only official events.

If you're the Mayor, there's no right answer to these questions, but there are several ways to say "no comment":

  • A comment that's not a comment: "As Chief of Police / Director of Public Safety, it's my responsibility to provide for the security of this city's mayor in our modern environment, and will continue to do so."
  • A no comment: "We don't discuss issues relating to the Mayor's personal security."
  • A no comment with a catnip chaser: "No comment, and screw you for asking."

In the labeling of this line of reporting as "not a story" and "political", the administration remains consistent in its adherence to option 3. In adding, “I in no way use my security detail for my personal gain,” we have been put on notice that ... personal gain is on the table? I had not seen mention of nor thought about "personal gain" until this point, but now that you mention it -- yeah, I suppose I can see a personal gain angle. (Of course Griffin and Delano might have been raising personal gain allegations in their questioning, but it didn't make it into their reports.)

What to say about this. First of all, what with all the talk about massive public safety cuts and austerity measures and the saturation patrols on Carson Street being withdrawn, this is plainly a story. It's actually a good story, in terms of "provides for a variety of uses."

Secondly, the suddenly oft-compared Tom Murphy (much less Sophie Masloff) was not Luke Ravenstahl, the 80's and the 90's weren't the 00's, and the Police Chief can't and shouldn't forbid the Mayor from going anywhere but can and should provide for his safety when he does.

Thirdly -- three full time bodyguards, a part-timer, and then $200,000 worth of overtime, huh? One can only speculate as to what that means. It's difficult to imagine any 30 year-old individual being a real alert, responsible go-getter at work every day and then indulging more or less every night, except for the people I can imagine doing so and you sure wouldn't want to be imagined as one those either.

Fourthly, I wouldn't be at all surprised if we see a significant curtailment in the quantity and the cost of mayoral protection next year. I'd be shocked stupid if we saw press release heralding it (*-UPD II: Well, let's just call me shocked), but a hatchet is being taken to the budget and the police will continue to be spread thinner and thinner. Extremely attentive reporters might discover some shifting sooner rather than later.

Fifth -- well there are other considerations but let's skip to the end. This isn't the first time that the mayor's security detail popped up as an issue, and the voters have shrugged resoundingly every time so far and will have another opportunity to shrug in 2068*. Yet it bears noting that this is the kind of thing -- tiny, petty and niggling in the scheme of Pittsburgh's challenges -- that will cause watchers and potential partners to think, "That guy's a schnook, right? He wants us to do what, now? That seems like a schnook idea." That train of thought makes me uncomfortable because a dignified leader embiggens us all, so there are really no such things as small issues.

*-UPDATE: I assume this changes if he's running for county executive -- and rumors abound.


  1. I heard more people threatening to hurt Murphy in a week than I've heard threaten Ravenstahl since he started.

  2. That goes back to 2003. I was talking about last week.

  3. Won't this suck now if the Mayor gets gacked at like 6:45 PM on the way into a Weed and Seed meeting.

    Why would Rep. Costa want to hurt him?

  4. To be fair, Murphy didn't have an ex-wife.