Monthly Archives: June 2007

Luke Ravenstahl G.P.A. = 2.78

The Post-Gazette has issued letter grades to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

We do not know whether the grades were issued by the Editorial Board, or the Political Desk, or the Committee of Reporters Hanging Out at the Market Street Ale House Last Friday.

According to the Comet’s calculations, the full 38-category report card yields a grade-point average of 2.78, or a B-/C+.

The headline for the accompanying Rich Lord article reads, Report card on Pittsburgh’s mayor: Not bad.

We wish we had the P-G for parents in high school. When we came home with grades like this, it was difficult to get our hands on the car keys over the next quarter. A more accurate headline might have read Report card on Pittsburgh’s mayor: B-/C+, or to be more descriptive, Report card on Pittsburgh’s mayor: Meh.

We also wonder whether or not the P-G graded him on a curve, established by 24 semesters of Tom Murphy.

It should be repeated that these grades evaluate Luke’s progress on his own agenda. So this is a key graph:

Whether that agenda is aggressive enough, and whether it’s being achieved, is likely to be an issue in the race with Republican mayoral candidate Mark DeSantis.

(We expect this issue to rise in a roughly parallel trajectory to the issue of the politicization of Public Works.)

Since a normal college course-load is five (5) classes, the Comet has taken the liberty of selecting what we believe are the five most important items on the P-G report card. In making our selections, we honestly attempted to turn a blind eye toward the marks he actually received.

Negotiate agreement on Hill District community involvement: C
Improve racial diversity in public safety bureau hiring: D
Maintain integrity: C
Unite state mayors to fix unfunded pension liability: B
Create effective “anti-crime cabinet”: C

City Development: The Executive Game

The P-G’s Ann Belser reports: The Steelers and the Pirates have been skipping the Pittsburgh Gaming Task Force subcommittee meetings on traffic and transportation.

But she buried the lede:

Two residents, along with Mr. Fatla and Jim Wallace from Allegheny West, were even more exasperated when they learned that Mayor Luke Ravenstahl had reinstituted the North Shore Executive Committee, made up of representatives of the two teams, Continental Development, which is developing the land around the stadiums, and the Carnegie Science Center, but not any representatives of residents.

Mr. Ravenstahl’s interim spokeswoman, Joanna Doven, said she didn’t know why residents weren’t included in the mayor’s committee.

Rough day for Joanna.

Even North Side Councilwoman Darlene Harris is grumbling about being excluded, but:

City transportation planner Sidney Kaikai replied that the task force has to do its work regardless of whom is in the room.

“We have to move forward,” he said.

The Comet looks forward to the extended dance remix of this line of argument as applied to the new Penguins facility.

It would really be something if the Northside Leadership Conference and the One Hill Coalition could somehow arrange to get each other’s backs. Seriously.

Women Respond to Police Promotions

A couple of women’s organizations came out to provide cover for the controversial police promotions. From the P-G’s Rich Lord:

“The Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh has always had a very positive relationship with the city of Pittsburgh police,” said Janet Scott, associate executive director of the haven for victims of abuse. The shelter helps train city police to respond to domestic calls.

From the Trib’s Mike Cronin:

Ellen Adler, director of the legal department at the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence in Harrisburg, agreed with (Deputy Police Chief) Donaldson.

“With no formal findings in court, no adjudication, on any of these officers, it’s difficult to argue that they wouldn’t be entitled to promotions,” Adler said.

However, another Trib story by Mikes Cronin & Wereschagin features a whole slew of women-on-the-street who are unhappy about the promotions, including:

That police are usually the first responders is what concerns Cynthia Busis, executive director of the National Council of Jewish Women’s Pittsburgh chapter in Squirrel Hill.

“These are the people that women call that are in domestic abuse situations,” Busis said. “It does present a problem if those people have (domestic abuse) in their background.”

And finally, this gem:

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, who approved the promotions, could not be reached for comment. His spokeswoman, Joanna Doven, said the mayor would not discuss the promotions or their effects on women.

“He’s not going to talk about that,” Doven said.

Thursday Discussion Questions

Mark Belko, P-G: How bad must the situation be for the Science Center to spend its money on litigation, and to risk incurring the wrath of gamers and budget hawks?

Paula Reed Ward, P-G: How badly must things be going for Mary Beth Buchanon to “back off” of something?

Rich Lord, P-G: How much political capital does Mayor Ravenstahl gain if he pulls off this state-wide pension fix?

Rich Lord, P-G: How dumb would you have to be to “express umbrage” at the Mayor’s request, to Rich Lord of all people?

Don Hopey, P-G: Since when does Pittsburgh have more combined sewer overflows than any other U.S. city? How happy are we that someone else has the stomach to cover these sewer stories?

Frank Craig, Trib
: How salty must the city desk feel to have been goose-egged for the past two days?

“Don’t Worry Your Pretty Little Head”

That is essentially the response of the Police Department, to concerns about promoting three officers who stand accused, or have stood accused, of domestic abuses.

The P-G’s Jonathan D. Silver asked questions, and here are the responses he received:

“The only commonality with these three is the fact that they’re just recently promoted. Would the community ask that they not be promoted?”

“It doesn’t have to tell the public anything. You know what the problem is with police officers? What we make of them. They’re human beings, and just like other human beings, they have problems. It doesn’t mean they’re not good police officers.”

“I just want to kind of keep this to myself. It’s a family issue that’s blown out of proportion”

“I have no further comment on that. It’s a private issue. My family’s aware of what happened. If that’s all the press has to do is look into my private life then it must be a slow news day.”

WPXI’s Rick Earle gets a big “No comment” from the department.

WTAE’s Bob Mayo has police union president Jim Malloy reminding us that all families occasionally need the police and the courts to get involved in domestic disputes, don’t they?

We were told recently that domestic abuse by police is “not an uncommon situation.” How not uncommon are we talking? Is this something we just have to accept, considering the thin blue line?


City Council President Doug Shields said the promotions raised questions, especially in light of a 1997 federal consent decree the Pittsburgh Police Bureau signed after the U.S. Justice Department said it could prove a “pattern and practice” of police misconduct. The decree has since been lifted.

“It’s very important that, in my opinion, you would not want to reopen and revisit the door by bringing these promotions forward at this time,” Mr. Shields said.

“Hopefully, they distinguish themselves. Hopefully, they are the best police officers in the world,” he continued. “But the unfortunate thing is that the public isn’t going to view it that way, and it’s going to raise eyebrows, and it begins to question the integrity of what we’re trying to do here as a city.”

Mr. Shields said he hoped Mayor Luke Ravenstahl “would more fully vet the candidate, or more fully discuss, or give a good reason as to why this would happen. It’s one more thing for this administration to have to answer to.” (P-G: Silver and Rich Lord)

We have been struggling with how to approach this, but Doug Shields nailed it already.

The Comet can not possibly sit in judgement of these three officers. We don’t know the truth of the allegations, and we never will.

We can say with utter certainty, however, that it is our business to express some misgivings, and to ask questions. In fact, it is central to a lot of what is going on right now in this city.

Let’s not kid each other — the police are already under a cloud or two. Accusations of cronyism and self-saving cover-ups are commonplace. Their reputation in some minority districts is even worse, hampering our ability to clean up these neighborhoods.

To respond to these legitimate questions with such high-handed imperiousness — “It must be a slow news day” — is to feed our very worst perceptions. To have triggered such concerns in the first place, by making these controversial promotions, could have been a real mistake.

Last Chance City Paper

Charlie Deitch reports that 726 young people applied for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s summer jobs program — which was set up to hire just 114. A wonderful development, but a confounding dilemma.

If the purpose of this program is to keep at-risk youth off the streets, how do we weigh the applicants? Do we hire only the least skilled, most hopeless, and most dangerous-seeming candidates?

Melissa Meinzer examines the dust-up between Councilman Peduto and the Pittsburgh Organizing Group over accusations of vandalism.

Despite the fact that Peduto’s charges are technically, well, wild and unsubstantiated, no one has considered the political angle yet. By calling out POG, not only does Peduto get to curb his image as Pittsburgh’s resident moonbat, but more importantly, he is coaxing the secretive radicals out into the open, which is both good for them, and for the anti-war movement.

Violet Law reports on the clearly defined, smoothly progressing, being-sarcastic-here process of securing a Community Benefits Agreement from the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Bill Robinson, the Allegheny County councilman who represents the Hill, says he’s told coalition members that they need to make their case soon. “Each passing day works against the community organization,” says Robinson. “The concrete has been poured. They will find themselves stepping on soft concrete which is going to harden very quickly.”

Also from Violet Law — we have been meaning to mention this forever — a May 24th cover story on the prevalence of “straw purchases” of handguns, i.e., getting someone with a clean criminal background to buy your gun for you. We knew there was a correlation between drug trafficking and gun violence, but we did not know how many guns were purchased by junkies in exchange for their drugs. Prohibition continues to look dumber every day.

More (Hopefully the Last) on Trosky

Two pull quotes, with editorial commentary, from the Rich Lord‘s P-G article on new Police Cmdr. Trosky:

Domestic abuse by police is “not an uncommon situation,” said Judy Yupcavage, communications director for the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

That is deeply depressing in and of itself.

Tony Ceoffe, executive director of community group Lawrenceville United, said he has heard that the new commander is “a people-oriented person who takes care of his officers.”

Mr. Ceoffe probably did not expect questions, so what came out was a little vague and a little bland.

Yet given the history of allegations surrounding Cmdr. Trosky, “takes care of his officers” sounds uncomfortably like “understands how the game is played.”

Guilt-Free Monday

“There are good times in careers, and there are bad times in careers,” says Mayor Ravenstahl, on his decision to promote Detective George T. Trosky to Police Commander in the Hill District.

The bad times? See Trib: Jeremy Boren and P-G: Rich Lord.

Joseph Sabino Mistick: You want George Trosky on that wall. You need George Trosky on that wall!

H/T PittGirl for that last item, who also (having eaten a big bowl of Lewis Black Breakfast Cereal this morning) sounds off on an issue we were discussing with Sue aka PghLesbian mere posts ago.

Finally, the Courier’s Deborah M. Todd previews a film screening called Mirrors of Privilege — Making Whiteness Visible presented by the White Privilege Anti-Racist Organizing and Discussion Group.

The group states it is, “not an exercise in wallowing in white guilt or being good white people,” but an attempt to encourage discussion of the ideas of racial injustice, cultural appropriation, classism, racism, and anti-racist social justice movements among white people.

Thanks, Oberlin!

The Friday Firings

Just the facts, as lifted from KDKA:

In a press release, the mayor asks for letters of resignation from the departmental directors in the city along with the board chairs of the Pennsylvania Water and Sewer Authority, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the Pittsburgh Parking Authority.

Ravenstahl said in a statement that he was “not satisfied with the condition of city government” and that he was not satisfied with the quality of service in some areas (P-G, Team Effort). The mayor also invited these employees to reapply for their jobs, as part of a nationwide search.

Bill Green wondered aloud on OffQ why Mayor Ravenstahl decided to make this move so publicly.

Blurghosphere speculation ranges from a desire to divert attention from the Oakmont story, to a need to cleanse his administration of disloyalty prior to the general election, to a compulsion borne from insecurity to underscore the fact that he really is the Mayor, and ought to be treated as such.

Pittsburgh Comet senior political analyst Morton Reichbaum says that the motivations behind this shakeup are probably more nuanced, and indeed much closer to the Mayor’s stated purposes.

Ravenstahl, basically, he wanted to do it for a better Pittsburgh … for a more, you know, aggressive Pittsburgh.”

Broad issues of professional culture and management style likely played a strong role.

“I don’t think he really liked a lot of the holdovers. I think it’s a generational thing.”

URA Declines to Allocate Land for Hill Benefit

The Trib’s Bonnie Pfister has Hill District leaders shouting in anger, while URA board chair (and Ravenstahl chief of staff) Yarone Zober banged a gavel to maintain order.

The P-G’s Mark Belko has State Rep. Jake Wheatley calling the Board’s decision to move forward a “slap in the face.”

The Penguins won the right to develop 28 acres of land adjacent to the Hill District and the new arena, without yet having accepted a Community Benefits Agreement. The Penguins argue that the 28 acres was a central tenet to their decision to stay in Pittsburgh, and any delay could foul up their bond issue.

This argument was not convincing to Wheatley, who called it “totally bogus,” nor to One Hill CBA Coalition spokesman Carl Redwood, who claims the Penguins have been “twisting the arms” of the city and county to get an optimium deal for themselves.

Zober said that such an agreement with the community can be revisited at the City Planning stages of the process, and circulated a letter from Ravenstahl, Onorato, and the Penguins recommitting themselves to such an agreement.

Tonya Payne seemed to be in a difficult spot — representing the Hill District as a city councilperson, but as a URA board member, supporting Penguins claims to these development rights without yet having negotiated a CBA.

Someone explain to us this quote, which seems fraught with meaning:

“If the community wants me to go to the Penguins to ask them for a CBA, I will do that,” Payne said. “But I will ask them to support only the One Hill coalition — no other terms, no other conditions.”