Friday, May 17, 2013

Bill Peduto: He's a Responsible, Compassionate, Battle-Tested and Experienced Leader

Social Currents; Rick DLoss

The Pittsburgh Comet is proud to join storied community media such as the South Pittsburgh Reporter, the New Pittsburgh Courier, and the Pitt News in endorsing Bill Peduto, this guy in a suit I met in a coffee shop while I was blogging.

He came up to me that day shortly after he withdrew from the 2007 primary (happens to the best of us!) and joked that he liked the "Peduto for Pittsburgh" sticker I had on my laptop, but that he wasn't as sure about the "I Like Luke" sticker on the opposite side. I shook his hand, thanked him for introducing himself, and informed him that impartial analysis and political objectivity are very important to my blog.

Seems like a lifetime ago, to have been so prim and stodgy.

After small-talk I asked for and received an interview arrangement, and I was fairly impressed. With my own work of course.

But you can look through my archives (I just have) and in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 were there were no long paeans or even short clear arguments for the awesomeness and splendor which which I have lately been describing Councilman Bill Peduto.

Go ahead and look.

I agreed with him on a growing number of issues over the years (the frictions with our medical nonprofits, modernization of operations, the fact of corruption, prevailing wage, ethics reform, the need for a pension funding compromise, CBA's...) but this blogger would never just stop and say, "What a wonderful leader."

Because what a naive thing to say! About any politician. Especially someone logging more and more years in City Hall.

Because he just wants to be top dog like everybody else. Right?

What I want to see is my hometown thriving. Growing. Not leveling off, but booming. Successful, brimming with opportunity and at peace throughout. The politicians are a means to an end.


From the South Pittsburgh Reporter:

The best candidate for the job is Bill Peduto.

Considering his experience with the revitalization work in his City Council district, Mr. Peduto is ideally prepared to contribute to ongoing revitalization efforts now going on in neighborhoods like Allentown, Beltzhoover and Carrick. With his vision, the commercial corridors of Brownsville Road and Warrington Avenue could see their own renaissance.

Mr. Peduto has also been a supporter of Councilman Bruce Kraus’ work in South Side with the RHI and understands a balance is necessary between the wants of a thriving commercial corridor and busy nightlife and the needs of a neighborhood.

With his experience in city government and the support he has received, Mr. Peduto has demonstrated he will be able to work with county and state elected officials to bring about the changes that will benefit the City of Pittsburgh as a whole.

Peduto's interest and experience in helping to foster jobs and development is so unimpeachable, he sometimes takes flak from his left for having opened the door to too much gentrification in East Liberty, or exploring turning the devastatingly shuttered Schenley Highschool into a profitable and vibrant community asset once again, even as apartments or condominiums.

But I want to tie SoPghRep immediately to what the New Pittsburgh Courier had to say:

Even though we have some serious concerns about Peduto’s commitment to the Black community, and his ability to work with Black elected officials, he has accumulated an impressive variety of Black elected support led by such names as Bill Robinson, Ed Gainey, and Valerie McDonald Roberts. This is not just support on paper, they have been willing to come out in support of him at various public functions, which means if elected he will owe a lot to the Black community and Black leaders. This will be a starting point in getting some of the many devastating problems solved in the Black communities throughout this city, because these are not just token leaders supporting him, many are the backbone of our community.

We are not saying Wagner would not make a good mayor, and that the city will be devastated if he wins. We are saying that among three good men, Peduto is our choice because we haven’t heard anything from Wagner to say he’s a better choice, and we don’t see high profile Black leaders in support of him.

Let us first say that the skepticism, for any white candidate representing a mainly more affluent district, is understandable. But we hasten to add the support of School Board president Sharene Shealey and School Board Representative Mark Brentley Sr. to that list of strong Black endorsers, as well as a highly esteemed presence from the community on his political campaign.

Bill Peduto cannot win without significant black support. He has been hard at work trying to garner black support. For some time, actually. Years.

But at the intersection of development and community is a lot of stuff I was rambling about the other day regarding community processes.

And I finally remembered my point!

Downtown development is great. There is a lot of focus on it, but it is supposed to be a central business district. And it does need work, to be inviting to the world.

Have you ever noticed the rest of our developments are kind of weird islands? "The North Shore", with it's 12 identical upmarket sports bars and no place to grab a slice of pizza or buy gum? Bakery Square, which hosts great events and upped the stature of Google from when they dwelt at CMU, but is just a bizarre little shopping cube unto itself that few actually frequent or even much enjoy? Even the South Side Works looks a little otherworldly, and has had some serious struggles.

How about the conversation in the Lower Hill -- are we expanding Downtown up to Freedom Corner or building the Hill District to Downtown? Where is the opportunity for surrounding communities to share in this vibrancy and affluence?

The barriers to entry to invest are immense. Toby Keith will profit from it. We can be his waitstaff, which is probably a poor a job for a family provider, as are many of these housekeeping jobs. Unless workers are pro-actively protected with unions. But like as not these days, the developers win every last concession for the tenants in a hand-shake on the front end. Concessions from the labor, from community-oriented planning, and from taxpayers already baked in.

Richmond Neighborhood Coordinating Council
Bill Peduto has been about union protections and better wages for subsidized developments, for Community Benefits Agreements near the North Shore and elsewhere, for community "top-down" "flip-the-paradigm" public investment for ages. And ages and ages. It is cliche already.

Outside of his own district, Peduto's vision on this has been checked and opposed at every turn under Ravenstahl. As Mayor himself...

He is the only one on the campaign trail talking about it. Incessantly. The others will not deign to address this major Peduto campaign theme one way or the other. It's actually getting weird.

So much public money pours into the City for economic development! How much better to let your son open an auto body shop, let your daughter open a restaurant with it? Repair and restore business districts, enhance troubled street corners, repair sagging houses and transform problem corridors one lot at a time? Or simply keep kids off the street, or to prepare younger ones and their guardians for life in the School District?

Have you ever noticed Pittsburgh in the vast bulk of its neighborhoods is crumbling? Our accolades are well-deserved and our charm is inarguable, but other people notice this. They are mesmerized by our resilience, but many don't want to live in a City that forgot how to keep it together.

With all the subsidized towering sandstone and cathedrals of glass we build in our Potemkin villages, how many real business districts could we revive or create? To do what neighborhoods come together and decide they want to do with it?

We go now to the excellent The Pitt News endorsement:

But the most intriguing aspect of Peduto’s campaign is the sheer amount of policy proposals he has submitted that deal directly with modernization, many of which benefit college students and graduates. One of these proposals details “innovation incubators,” which can serve as transitional space for startup companies within the city.

He claims that the city needs policies that emphasize modernity in order to capitalize on the growing economy — a claim that’s certainly relevant considering Pittsburgh’s aging infrastructure and underdeveloped services.

More importantly, many of Peduto’s policy proposals focus on combating unemployment and poverty at their roots by improving early childhood education programs and preventing the closing of neighborhood schools.

Compare this with his primary opponent, former City Councilman and State Auditor Jack Wagner. While Wagner certainly has an edge in experience over Peduto, he hasn’t communicated a policy agenda, nor has he relayed how he plans to modernize the city of Pittsburgh.

It was circulated widely that Jack Wagner left the Auditor General's office with a backlog. Less widely noticed but far more alarming was the state of technology after eight years of Wagner. Lotus Notes, a lack of mobile technology for an extremely field-work intensive job, the list goes on. Eight years, no improvement.

It is hard to credibly claim to be a government "modernizer" with this record, as he does.

Wagner's large office of 200+ performed some admirable audits, their central job. Lord knows there is enough to criticize. Is state government, as he claims, "substantially better" now? I leave that to greater experts, but can note only that "Auditor General" is one of those perches that requires no votes or executive actions. You can pick and choose on what you want to chime in. You don't have to put yourself out there all the time, you don't have to climb down from sitting on any fences.

Wagner is a skilled politician, and by all accounts a dedicated public servant. He is however carrying the banner of some interests that are privileged and some interests that have failed. It is the monopoly of those interests that has allowed City government to calcify, to remain stuck in the patronage past, dodge accountability, have to learn the same lessons over and over.

Wagner is boasting of his leadership but he is not illustrating it. He has not offered Pittsburgh a vision beyond an oil painting of himself on a horse against a sunset.

Meanwhile, on Financial Recovery, Peduto was leading.

On utilizing green infrastructure to change the paradigm from giant underground septic tanks to distributed parks and gardens projects, Peduto was leading.

On succeeding under pressure to solve the state pensions takeover crisis -- which by the way saved all those police and firefighters' butts from Chairman Ravenstahl's hostage-taking to get his parking lease enacted -- Peduto was leading.

But will Mayor Peduto be any better than the rest of them, in the end? Once he's in charge, won't he adopt the old ways like everyone else?


I was at a campaign event recently where Bill said, into a microphone, "I guess I just don't like greedy people." And he shrugged.

Be honest, Pittsburgh Comet readers. Aside from his wonkishness, don't you find something a little other-than-usual about this guy? Something unlike most politicians? The capacity to get frustrated? The empathy to be sincerely offended? A stubbornness to not go along just to get along?

Some people look at governments as things to make money off of. To milk. To woo, to pitch and to take maximum advantage of. Sometimes they leave a gratuity.

The Councilman had more than enough opportunity to acquiesce to "the way things have always worked." To relax and settle in. But he hasn't. Awkward though it can come across as anyone matures, he remains fiercely young and idealistic heart.

I don't want to be naive. I'll lose you, if I get too naive.

Pittsburgh History Journal
I can tell you exactly what will be the problems with a Peduto administration: instead of an absentee mayor with no vision beyond pleasing his allies and letting his administration blow in the wind, it may feel like we have a micro-managing mayor wedded to his own personal vision and looking down on people he considers "old guard."

Like President Obama, he will be accused of being a cold fish. Of not glad-handing sufficiently, of disrespecting people he thinks are being unfair to what he perceives as the consensus approach, of not making enough of an effort to be generous with collegial affection. Not enough golf and racquetball.
What can I say? We might... or it might not be that bad! Maybe we have our own responsibility to hold our mayor's feet to the fire no matter who she or he is. Yet with a policy-driven, reform-minded administration, the City should at least get to encounter better, higher-order problems and opportunities alike, than to be stuck in first gear and not realizing our greater potentials.

Comet Senior Political Analyst Morton Reichbaum credited Mayor Luke Ravenstahl for "changing the face of Pittsburgh" -- for revealing the great things we have going on with our eds and meds, for earning the world's attention, for bringing back our confidence. An 80 year-old man, he was excited about youthful, vibrant leadership.

Bill Peduto represents the capacity for that kind of vibrant leadership, for forward-thinking leadership, for responsible leadership and for ethical leadership. For leadership that will garner national and international attention for trying new things and attracting new constituencies. Yes, Mr. Peduto has been in his share of fights with Chairman Ravenstahl. But to his credit, he's been on the right side of almost all of them, and has gained allies steadily along the way.

If this blogger were to politically pontificate and psychoanalyze that over the past six years Mr. Peduto has been further honed and sharpened by his experiences dealing with our present mayor -- committing to firm principles, forging alliances accordingly, reaching out to communities -- can I get away with not having to write something like, "He's a new kind of leader?" "He's the kind of leader Pittsburgh needs?" "He is a politician that I believe in?" "A politician who cares about regular people?"

No, I could never get away with being that besotted. You would lose all respect for me as the cynical, world-weary political expert that I am. Let's just say Bill Peduto is clearly Pittsburgh's best option among the available candidates, and leave it at that.

By the way, do you think Pennsylvania's Republicans are looking forward to the prospect of unified, progressive executive leadership in the drivers' seat in Southwestern Pennsyltucky -- performing community-positive accomplishments through government innovation, providing new regional models? Do you think that will be good for statewide GOP candidates and GOP interests, to have #NewPittsburgh blowing up? I think the Elephants in the room must be desperately concerned.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Restoring Police trust and morale the "New Pittsburgh" way


Boom. Read it all, but just to emphasize:

I will not take this selection process lightly and refuse to limit my search to only a handful of individuals in the Police Bureau. As mayor I will ensure the community has a strong voice and critical part in this process. You will be at the table from day one playing a role in helping myself and other professionals define the criteria for the selection process and ensuring we consider the best talent available. Minneapolis, Minnesota used this same approach... (People for Peduto)

I want a mayor who thinks like this.

I want a Mayor who draws lines like these in the sand.

Councilman Peduto isn't saying he has all the answers, he's saying we all can arrive at them but only once we're willing to peer beyond the nearest ridges and hills. Steel City? They invented steel in Turkey, Africa, Sparta and China. But once Pittsburgh embraced it, nobody could make it better.

Part of esprit de corps is welcoming new mates and new tools into your foxhole, adapting as an organization and overcoming challenges. It's the mission we rally around, not internal politics and routine.

The Race, the Hill, the Process and Development

Add caption

Justin Laing at Hillombo, a blog of the Hill District and of the African-American experience in Pittsburgh, says he is voting for Bill Peduto -- not as any sort of fanatic, but rather as his best option available.

You can read the whole post, but in my opinion the real gift of his most recent offering is contained in this paragraph:

But the $64,000 question is does the Wheatley Campaign or Mr. Udin, as the convener of the PBPC, have their own Hill dog in the Peduto v. Wagner fight we are seeing play out everyday?  I would think so.  As anyone participating in or watching Hill District civic life knows, Wheatley and City Councilman Daniel Lavelle are  allies. Both worked for former Councilman Udin, both serve on the  Greater Hill District Development Growth Fund, and both are active supporters of the Hill District Community Development Corp of which Mr. Udin is a longstanding board member. Add to this that Peduto and Daniel Lavelle are known not to be supportive of one another or even on speaking terms and a Peduto win could well diminish Lavelle’s current authority and capacity to impact the Hill District through support of the Hill District CDC since, as Mayor, Peduto would be unlikely to keep Lavelle as Vice-Chair of the Urban Redevelopment Authority.  This is turn would affect the plans for the Lower Hill’s 28 acres; a process being led by Lavelle and the Hill CDC. This potential creates its own separate set of political incentives. (Hillombo)

He said a mouthful!

Although it's debatable how icy and intractable any feud between Councilmen Lavelle and Peduto really is -- I suspect Mr. Lavelle does not, as a matter of his own political strategy, wish to get along with Mr. Peduto, but that might easily change if Mr. Peduto became Mayor -- what strikes me here is Mr. Laing's implicit conclusion that what's bad for the Hil CDC's current process of planning in the Lower Hill is not necessarily bad for the Lower Hill.

A quick recent history lesson: after Mayor Ravenstahl fought against employing concrete terms in any community benefits agreement connected with Consol Center and Civic Arena footprint development, and fought funding for initiatives originating in the neighborhood, popular opinion finally won out. However, in the agreement that was eventually signed, the Hill House / Hill CDC was put on the spot due to its "stature in the community" to guide many of the processes, including the master planning process and the development interests.

This really set up a lot of bad things, in my opinion. First of all, it empowers and puts pressure on that one group's officers and interested parties in a way no community group has the capacity to sustain. No one community group ought to have responsibility, or the right, to represent "the whole community." All over the City, when groups claim to do this, other groups spring up in response, which are derided as "illegitimate." In the Hill District there have certainly been factions, and singling out any exclusive group to work with the Mayor's office as "the community" is not helpful.

Secondly, putting a group in charge in this way defers accountability - to that group. If things delay or sour, if the direction becomes unpopular, members of the community turn on the empowered group.

When Candidate Peduto talks and writes about community consensus development and development roundtables, or "turning the paradigm upside down," it can easily sound like so much rhetoric. But to me what it really means is accepting responsibility for leadership, for bringing community concerns to the table on an equal footing, and for progressing via consensus. Not for setting up processes which obscure leadership and pressure chosen community interests to sell the City's or a developer's point of view, that reward those interests for their loyalty and seek to exploit those partnerships for political gain.

Ben Rouse's Brewers Mission

Mayor Peduto would be putting himself on the spot, and the only way he would gain is if the community is happy with the plans they have consensed upon and if successful developments emerge on what seems like a reasonable schedule. That's not only accountability, that's a fair and open process that doesn't turn frustrated and opportunity-starved communities against themselves.

UPDATE / POSTSCRIPT: No more deferring blame; no more playing games. No more picking favorites and pitching political deals involving political commitments. No more wrapping what are essentially "Downtown," executive-suite plans all in community gift-wrapping, tied together with promises that our long history shows are too often deferred and abandoned. Jobs, development and opportunity will be sought furiously -- but will be built on a solid foundation of neighborhood consensus and pride. The CDCs and the nonprofit and private interests that are involved will be better off as respected, organized advocates and accomplished experts eager to participate within their neighborhoods, but not as "owning" the process. Let's do public business in the public sphere, where the weighty decisions are ultimately made, where transparency is possible, where accountability is clear and where any Mayor can be made to listen. Only one candidate emphasizes listening to the community.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Peduto leads by Two Scores at 1-Week Warning


That's the news:

Peduto took 39% to former Auditor General Jack Wagner’s 32%. 8% go for state Rep. Jake Wheatley, 1% for activist AJ Wheatley, and 18% of voters remain undecided. (PoliticsPA, Keegan Gibson)

Seven points; that's a start. It represents a 15 pt. swing in Peduto's direction over the past 6 weeks.

However, the Keystone Analytics poll seems to under-represent 18-34 year old voters compared to both 2009 and 2005, assumes relatively more equal participation among each Council district than has been the norm, and is backed by a Realtors association that is campaigning for Jack Wagner. All three possible sources of bias would argue for perhaps an even greater Peduto lead.

So Bill's apparent 7-point lead could easily be 9 or more.

And as long as we're reading PoliticsPA:

[Wagner is] also the clear choice of Republican interests in the race. State Sen. Don White (R-Indiana) gave him $5,000 and the pro-life group Family PAC gave him $2,500. Range Resources chipped in, too. (KG, II)

Emphasis ours, but why not? It's a fact.

BONUS / UPDATE: Some people on Twitter are having fun with the incessant Wagner and Ravenstahl attacks on the front runner.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A quick message to the forces of justice

A Wiki of Ice & Fire

To our friends on the Potomac,

Press accounts suggest that Federal law enforcement authorities are in the midst of a "wide-ranging" investigation into City of Pittsburgh operations or into City dealings. We thank you for your efforts in pursuing public corruption as a high priority.

Before this round of investigations "winds down," I see it as my duty to forward to you a concern that has arisen among Pittsburgh's online community. This blogger reserves judgment on the theory's veracity and will claim no smoking gun, but finds it indeed suspicious.

It all started (as these things tend) with an anonymous alarm:

I relayed that concern to the Comet Thousand-Strong, and responses began arriving:

Six persons to my knowledge claim they have received this e-mail unsolicited and without provocation from Friends of Jack Wagner, all on the same date.

Some say they have never subscribed to any political candidates' email list, ever.

Each of them further alleges that they had in fact subscribed to one or more City of Pittsburgh e-services: either a Dept. of Public Safety newsletter promoted in 2010 and/or one or more officeholder's City newsletters. Additionally, some of them suspect the "Mayor's" 311 help line.

None of these respondents can recall -- and I personally cannot recall -- ever having received political candidate mass-emails out of the blue. Although the experience is commonplace for direct mail, and more rare but not unheard of via telephone, those I have spoken with simply do not have the experience of receiving surprise candidate e-mails.

I inquired to Wagner campaign spokesperson J.J. Abbott how they might have received these e-mail addresses. After "checking around" he "confirmed" that e-mail addresses were purchased from "national email list firms," selected by zip code; or else handed over from candidates' campaigns publicly endorsing Mr. Wagner. He denied that any could have originated from City records.

That provides a solid explanation for what seemed like the odd 7th-complainant out:

Coucilwoman Rudiak alone among our respondents received a different, later Friends of Jack Wagner e-mail than the others. Abbott was able to quickly confirm that Rudiak came to be on Wagner's list for having subscribed to Chelsa Wagner's campaign for Controller. Wagner is publicly supporting Wagner.

No similarly specific explanations were available from the Wagner campaign for the other six, aside from reference to "national e-mail list firms."

People for Peduto is also running what is by all accounts a modern and well-funded campaign, but no allegations have arisen about unsolicited People for Peduto e-mails. Again, to my knowledge, nobody yet claims to have received unsolicited campaign e-mails from any other candidate, ever.

Given the record of illegal and unethical actions and dismissive attitude of a City leadership which has forfeited accountability, and given its aggressive disposition towards this election and away from governing, I trust you understand our reasons for raising the specter of government resources being utilized to aid a political campaign. We are all confident you have the resources and interest to dispose of this concern.

Valar Morghulis,