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.

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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.

P-G

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?

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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.

48 thoughts on “Bill Peduto: He’s a Responsible, Compassionate, Battle-Tested and Experienced Leader

  1. BrianTH

    The relationship between Fitzgerald and Peduto is arguably the highest risk/reward proposition presented by Peduto's candidacy.

    I'm deeply concerned on the one hand because Fitzgerald has basically been the opposite of a good-government official, apparently in service of his future political ambitions, and it would be hugely disappointing if Peduto followed suit. But on the other hand, getting the sorts of smart public investments the City will need to prepare for decades of sustained improvement will likely require the County making much better use of its potential political leverage at the state and federal levels (leverage which is very high–it is not an exaggeration to say Allegheny County is the most important swing county in the state, and one of the most important in the country).

    So yeah, if you are an anti-urban, anti-youth, Tea-Party-type Republican, you should probably be nervous about the potential inherent in a Fitzgerald/Peduto combination. I just wish I could trust Fitzgerald to make good use of that potential. Bottomline, though, is we are stuck with Fitzgerald, so Peduto is likely a risk worth taking.

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  2. Anonymous

    If Wagner wins this race, it will be because the unions who have endorsed him and all their relatives come out to vote for him. He let this race get away from him when it could have been a slam dunk. He has not given the average citizen a reason to vote “for” him other than to say I am Jack Wagner and I am not Bill Peduto. I have had so many people say to me “I don't know who to vote for” – neither candidate has inspired them with vision AND maturity. This race at this point is all about turnout and watching the way the mass of undecideds go on election day. Give the Pedutoites credit – they have run a good campaign. But if Wagner loses, it will be because he ran the worst campaign of the year.

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  3. BrianTH

    By the way, I'd love to get the candidates to opine on the proposed changes to the plans for the URA-owned former-Saks site Downtown. Eliminating the residential tower from the proposed project would be a tragic misuse of this location, and the bait-and-switch RFP process plus the relationships involved seriously stinks. So, what the candidates have to say about this subject could be pretty illuminating on everything from their vision for the City to their understanding of how these processes should work to who they consider their friends and what they intend to do for those friends.

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  4. Anonymous

    Bram, the idea that you have been impartial is about as funny as the idea that Bill is still young or progressive. Sooner or later it will come out about all the arm twisting, job threatening, job promising, support and money exchanges and promises, that have gone on on a mass scale by the Fitz/Peduto team to elected officials, community leaders and ward chairs to garner support for Bill. It is massive and it is only a matter of time before the FBI or AG starts investigating. Once a young and idealist, and actually quite conservative on all things fiscal, Bill has turned into a machine politician who weighs how many supporters are on either side of an issue rather than the merits and who lines up political support with promises of future benefits. I'm sorry Bram, you may like him, and he has done some good things, but is just the reality. The cycle continues.

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  5. Bram Reichbaum

    Wow, BrianTH I know you're not a reflexive administration-basher, so that's quite something to see you writing about a bait-and-switch. I doubt we're at the point in the race though where the candidates are going to get asked anything new about anything.

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  6. Bram Reichbaum

    “Quite conservative on all things fiscal”? That's an argument I haven't heard about Bill in this 6.5 years. I suppose when the City's legacy costs are out of control as well overtime and workers' comp, even progressives “seem” conservative to some when they try to get a handle on costs.

    I would have to see some barest evidence about the mass scale atrocities you're ascribing to the “Fitz/Peduto team” before responding. On the flip side, there is a concern how things are supposed to work if the County Controller is the Mayor's niece and is likely to run against the County Executive in the election. Is that what we're angling towards with Wagner?

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  7. Bram Reichbaum

    Fitz's redeeming quality as a “good government official” has been his willingness to back down in the face of complaint, instead of dig in deeper. The idea that Peduto follows around Fitzgerald anyway is a political godsend to Peduto's opponents but not something based in any reality; I've been saying repeatedly that Bill is a lot more likely to either wear the pants in the relationship or frustrate Fitz as necessary.

    I'm just curious BrianTH so let me ask you this: who would you take, Fitz or Onorato?

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  8. Anonymous

    What in the world does the country controller being related to the Mayor have to do with how the City is run? You are out there man. You don't need to see evidence right now, it will come out later. Don't you worry.

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  9. Bram Reichbaum

    Anon 2:26, do you think that is likely to set the table for productive collaboration between Mayor and County Exec? To have the former's niece gunning for the latter's job? She's welcome to gun for whatever she wants, don't get me wrong, but that bizarre triangle would provide endless fodder for destructive nepotistic hijinks.

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  10. BrianTH

    Are those my only choices? I'd like to respond that the first candidate for County Executive to support frequent, accurate property assessments because they are progressive (in both the narrow tax sense and broader policy sense) gets my support.

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  11. BrianTH

    Probably not, but I wish this was the sort of thing the media considered scandalous enough to require last-minute responses from candidates for office.

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  12. Anonymous

    And if Peduto wins, now the niece gets the choice of going after Peduto or Fitzgerald. It will be interesting. Unfortunately for her, the Wagner brand has been badly damaged by this race. I doubt all those unions that saw this as a slam dunk for Jack Wagner won't be trotting down Wagner Lane again anytime soon. Both ways Wagner is a moniker that could also be used to describe Chelsa.

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  13. flybylight

    Personally, I have found Bill Peduto to be a very practical person fiscally. “Conservative” or “progressive” do not describe it, and they are much too charged – “practical” is much closer. Cost, value, return, future savings, current liabilities, all fall into “practical,” and as Chair of Finance on Council Bill Peduto certainly kept an eye on the practical.

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  14. Anonymous

    I love all the E. Ender's that can't stand the democratic machine and the unions and firefighters and committee people and…..until the next Presidential election when unions are terrific and the committee structure is wonderful and the backroom deals made and accepted and everyone sings a very different tune.

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  15. MH

    It's really not that hard to rank lots of different groups on varying criteria and to determine in which situations those criteria matter. Being unable to do so probably indicates some sort of problem.

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  16. Anonymous

    LIAR, LIAR ad has done it for me! I'm all in for Bill! Wagner threw in with Luke and lays down with dogs.
    I can't wait to vote for Bill on election day!

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  17. BrianTH

    I'm pretty sure it is not just “E. Ender's” who tend to draw a distinction in this way between primaries and general elections (as in, it is pretty much the same everywhere in the U.S.).

    Of course maybe you were talking about Presidential primaries–in which case, I suspect East End Democrats might well feel the same way about 2008 (based on the fact the East End was an island of Obama support).

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  18. BrianTH

    In case people have short memories: Rendell, Onorato, and Ravenstahl all endorsed Clinton, she won huge among blue collar union members, and overall won Allegheny County (and the state) pretty handily. But of course after securing the nomination, Obama was happy to have help from all those people, including Clinton herself, as he later went on to win the County and the State during the General Election.

    That, again, is just a good example of why it can be rational to have different feelings about political forces during primaries versus general elections (depending, of course, on your preferred outcome at each stage).

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  19. Anonymous

    Whichever way you lean, I encourage all to exercise their civic responsibility to go out and vote tomorrow.

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  20. Anonymous

    Two years ago we had a choice between lazy and crazy for county exec; can't decide what to name the choices this year. Like lots of people in the East End I wish that Michael Lamb was still on the ballot.

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  21. Anonymous

    If you still possess any commitment to impartiality, I strongly suggest that when a winner is projected tomorrow evening, your blog post begin with these words: “Jack Wagner defeated Bill Peduto in the mayoral primary today because his team collected endorsements from a number of important organizations and those organizations were effective in getting their members to vote. This strategy appears to have been far more effective than my own foolish notion that the issues in this election mattered. I believed that the passionate voices of progressives would rise up and defeat Mr. Wagner on Election Day. I believed that a thoughtful discussion of the issues that affect this great city and Mr. Peduto's articulate vision for a new Pittsburgh would stir enthusiasm for the candidate the way it did with me and would result in overwhelming candidate support and voter turn out sufficient to defeat Mr. Wagner. I was told that issues don't matter in local elections and I ignored repeated assertions to this effect. I also incorrectly believed that this blog reflected widespread public support for Mr. Peduto and that my writing and observations on the candidates and this campaign could influence the results. This woefully inaccurate reading of this election was due to the fact that this blog is neither pragmatic nor impartial.”

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  22. Bram Reichbaum

    How do you explain the Keystone Analytics and the Susquehanna polls?

    And if you're wrong, will you chime back in on election night to admit you were wrong, that issues matter, and that those organizations and their endorsements aren't as important as they used to be?

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  23. infinitebuffalo

    Why the Laborers specifically, as opposed to the Steelworkers, Ironworkers, Printers, or the more than half a dozen other unions that have endorsed Peduto? And why should we be more worried about Peduto owing the unions than we would worry about Wagner owing the police, firefighters, electricians or the other unions that have endorsed him?

    Similarly, why should we worry more about Peduto & Fitzgerald than the two state senators, three state representatives, three county councilmen (including Council President Martoni), three city councillors, or two school board reps (including outgoing Board President Shealey) who have endorsed him? And why should we be more worried about Peduto being beholden to them than we would be of Wagner being beholden to the elected officials who've endorsed him?

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  24. Anonymous

    Bram, here is my 2 cents, Puduto will win, Rudiak will lose, and 4 years of nothing being done due to him fighting with a council majority will open the door to O'Connor running and win.

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  25. Helen Gerhardt

    @Anon 11:35pm

    I wouldn't be betting even two cents on your predictions…don't think you've been following the numbers out there for Natalia. She's definitely earned her strong base.

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  26. MH

    Yep. The billboard people put out just enough money to piss off everybody, but not enough to hurt anyone.

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  27. Anonymous

    Someday you should make a list of the elected officials who represent Pittsburgh (Fed, State, Local) who did not endorse anyone.

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  28. Anonymous

    oconnor is a Wagner supporter. a Peduto admin will get nothing done without an accommodating council. Peduto will be more alienating than Tom Murphy. No reason to change his stripes!
    Guy costa will be deputy mayor. I guess payback still exists. But Bill don't do that! having a blog and a twitter account doesn't make you a good leader!

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  29. Anonymous

    Bumped into Guy Costa yesterday… I mentioned I thought his Guy will win. Blue Collar Worker, City of Pittsburgh, observation.

    Monk

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  30. Anonymous

    Objective or not you still kick ass Bram. Glad you didn't end up calling it quits at this thing. Hope Pedutes pulls it out in the end.

    – Schultz

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  31. Bram Reichbaum

    I still haven't seen or heard the very final ads and the “Liars, damn liars and Bill Peduto” lines yet, but knowing Pittsburgh I can see how that could have tipped a number of undecideds. I pity the fool that's trailing in the last week of a still pretty-close election.

    Reply

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