Board Membership: A Better Democracy, Please!

Happy Presidents Day. Texas Liberal.

Here’s one fantastic idea:

Most members of boards and commissions are nominated and appointed by the Mayor and City Council. We must open up the nomination process and allow citizens of the city to submit their own choices to fill open seats on these boards and commissions. We need fewer connected insiders doing this work and more community leaders, professionals, and concerned citizens. (People for Peduto, daily ideas rap sheet #94)

Above emphasis mine. We need many and more community leaders and relevant professionals, not to mention a greater diversity of concern among all those concerned citizens on our crucial municipal authorities and boards. Well, less many if we can meaningfully consolidate the periphery boards. It’s all part of a gravely important and timely doctrine. Pittsburgh needs to get its authorities and commissions working better for the people. For example, most of these important bodies have their own dedicated solicitors already. So why appoint so many attorneys? Nominate people with policy-relevant skill sets.

The proposal Councilman Bill Peduto is putting forward defines him slightly differently from not only Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, but from that lumbering lumberjack chief Executive of Allegheny County, Rich Fitzgerald — who happens along with many others to support Peduto’s mayoral campaign. Too much of any good thing, after all, would clearly be way too much.

48 thoughts on “Board Membership: A Better Democracy, Please!

  1. Bram Reichbaum

    The parking authority, PPA. The sanitary authority, ALCOSAN. The redevelopment authority, URA. The water authority, PWSA. Okay, the Planning Commission has one or two community group leaders in amongst the industry reps and cagey attorneys. And the Housing Authority, HACP, has a slightly different strategy. But still few or none in “loyal opposition” to the prevailing direction anywhere and at any time.

  2. Bram Reichbaum

    Off topic, if anyone is curious: after a cursory review, the involvement of Steven Topriani in a study of police issues seems fine. But we urgently deserve at least a couple more cauterizing reforms while that ponderous study is cooking.

  3. Anonymous

    Not only is Ricky Burgsess on the Board of the Housing Authority but he is the head of the board. This is a political pay-back from Luke for his loyalty and votes. Ricky Burgess has 3 full time jobs.

  4. Bram Reichbaum

    It is a pattern in Ravenstahlism to wind up with people wearing many hats. Authority board chair in the absence of a permanent executive director, while Councilman, while czar of the east end land bank sounds like a lot for one Rev.

  5. Anonymous

    No professionally certified/registered Architects or Planners on the planning commission or zoning board for years…

  6. MG Guy

    Off topic, but does anyone see the door opening for an independent mayoral candidate like, say, Kevin Acklin? The police stuff won't reach the mayor's office fast enough to injure Luke in the primary, where Bill and Mike will knock each other out. (Why oh why is Mike running? Can someone please ask him tonight at his campaign office opening in Greenfield?) Acklin's everybody's buddy at this point–he's given the limit to Peduto, lives on Rich Fitzgerald's street, does tons of volunteer work in Lamb's southern neighborhoods, used to be Republican but is now a Democratic committeeman. (Or does that Democratic affiliation disqualify him from running as an Independent?) And we might be treated to court testimony through the summer as the feds take down one low level police functionary after another, on their way to the big prize.

  7. Helen Gerhardt

    @Mysterious Greenfield Guy

    I think the Harper Bad-Apple-Bizness might well affect the mayoral race. Did you see this paragraph in last evening's news?

    FBI agents are also looking into allegations that money was improperly used to pay for condos for high ranking city leaders to use during the G-20 summit, including Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, and Chief Harper.

  8. Anonymous

    Something tells me Lamb knew this was coming. He's running to capitalize on Luke's fall. Luke supporters from his strongholds are more likely to go to Lamb than Peduto. I never thought it before but I think Lamb might be in position to win this thing.

  9. Helen Gerhardt

    @Anon 9:48 am

    I don't know – this account has been up and running for years now. I generally respect what I know of how Lamb has done his job – but I don't think that this under-the-table bizness redounds to his credit as Controller. Not a smear, just no score, at least in my book.

  10. MH

    WPXI's front web page has a poll about the election. The choices are Ravenstahl, Peduto, Undecided, Don't live in Pittsburgh, Not a registered Dem. Did Lamb piss off somebody at the station or are there other polls that showed him completely out of the running?

  11. SCM

    It is hard to see how Lamb could be called a credible controller when he is so late to the party. I have heard councilmembers openly claim that the Ravenstahl administration was 'burying' money in the police bureau to use as a slush fund as early as 2010. The time to audit was probably back then, not after the FBI has carried all of the pertinent documents across the river.

  12. Bram Reichbaum

    I love Michael Lamb but all this talk of odds being in his favor is ridiculous. Lamb actually CAN drop out, help overthrow Luke, retain his important job as Controller and be known by all Pedtoites as a mensch. Peduto is giving up his Council seat to run for this, and has an extensive network of die hard loyalists who if Lamb fails in a three way race to Win, will remember him always as the obstinant so and so we have to thank for cheesy empty developments and horrific lingering scandals.

  13. Bram Reichbaum

    And you're right, SCM , he's reactive too often. Given there is a lot to react to these days, but the Scathing fire adept udit was his first scalding initiative and it happened to come out just before his campaign. The LIBOR scandal didn't check out.

  14. Bram Reichbaum

    Computers in storage lockers, yes that's the kind of solid Controller work we need. He's good where he is. It will come in handy that he doesn't always get on with Mayor Peduto. Later, Senator, lieutenant governor… if Pgh succeeds the world's his oyster.

  15. MG Guy

    Peduto should encourage his ACDC committee supporters to endorse Luke on March 10. The weaker Lamb looks among party faithful, the more likely it will be that he will come to his senses and drop out.

  16. Anonymous

    It would be great to get some eyes and ears at Lamb's office opening tonight and do a side-by-side comparison with Peduto's office opening on Thursday–how many showed, who was there among politicos, what was said. I don't think that Lamb's small bore (no pun intended), neighborhood-y, down home schtick has legs. It was cute once, but it will look weak in the long run.

  17. MH

    Peduto's office is on the same block as ribs and brisket. Everybody is going to be in a pork-induced coma and provide an opening for Lamb.

  18. Helen Gerhardt

    After reading this article, my concerns about Lamb's lack of knowledge and action regarding these long-standing slush account(s!)have been raised

    But I really need to better understand what range and limitations of power of investigation and influence Lamb might have exercised as Controller – honestly I'd be very glad to hear why I should not begin to recharacterize what I've seen as Lamb's “politeness” as “convenient blindness”, “self-protective inaction,” or even as “negligence.” Please do weigh in as your expertise or information allows.

  19. Bram Reichbaum

    Helen – All I know is, the Controller can decide to audit certain bodies and accounts under city jurisdiction, can accept the prompting of Council or the Mayor to do so, and has many more routine oversight duties and responsibilities. I for one am stuck on how the police credit union is in Elliot.

  20. H. Hanna

    Elliot is a beautiful marriage of city location, proximity to police HQ, and easy airport access for quick getaways.

  21. MG Guy

    Heard an interesting perspective on the Harper controversy on Chris Moore's show Sunday night. Former school board member Mark Brentley called in and spooled through a litany of perceived racially motivated takedowns of Pittsburgh political figures through the years, ending with Chief Harper. Moore concurred by and large and they both agreed that the mayor is Doing the Right Thing(TM) in sticking by the chief until proven guilty. Could it be a diabolical campaign tactic by Lord Zober to solidify black support and drive turnout? I don't think so, but it's obviously playing out that way in some precincts.

  22. Bram Reichbaum

    Anon 3:06 – No, see, that's it. Peduto's been there and done that. Paid his dues. There's no shame in mustering and receding.

    MGguy 3:06 – I felt that line of thinking must be partially responsible. It's unfortunate. If Ravenstahl was mayor enough to take a hit, he'd save Harper from wilting under this spotlight by offering paid leave pending methodical investigations. But with politics, pride and prejudice getting in the way — we have some precedent that this pressure cooker may be explode with Chief Harper stomping away from city hall with a host of counter-insinuations and attorneys.

  23. flybylight

    As to the original article, yes – many citizens appearing at zoning, planning, and Council meetings (city and county) have been heard to say, “Why aren't there any ordinary citizens on these boards?”

    The inbred atmosphere of the mayor's administration – in which members of the staff of his office also serve as directors and sometimes chairs of various boards, in which the public safety director and the PR person might as well be the same individual, in which the finance director could have signed for three sides of the agreement for the bad parking deal of a couple years ago, in which Mr. Ravenstahl does not “boss” well in knowing what is going on among his employees (police), but then becomes the model boss in supporting his underlings (police chief), etc. – well, it's enough already.

    We could have Mr. Lamb as controller and Mr. Peduto as mayor and clean up the whole mess. And we ought to decide to do that early on, or we are just going to have more of the same as now.

  24. Anonymous

    Gotta luv the liberals on this. In the same comments they want to take down the only black police chief of Pittsburgh before he is proven to have done anything wrong, make ridiculous comments like put “regular” people on boards and commissions without any support for what makes someone a “regular” citizen and somehow believe the Peduto is entitled to be Mayor and a true Pittsburgher like Lamb should just drop out because the E End elitists deem his candidacy unworthy of their support.

  25. flybylight

    Some of us liberals are not unthinking persons.

    A common citizen who might be considered for service on public boards would be, say, a computer science professor who dabbles in oboe playing, astronomy, and raising three children in a home with an experimental green roof.

    The test would be whether she does not own or have relatives who own numerous pieces of property in the area, has never run for office, is not a Committee person, is not related to anyone who ever held office, is not friendly with anyone who held office, is not a developer, is not a lawyer who represents developers or other interested parties, does not deal in political favors nor ask any, would never be in a position to seek a TIF or other tax deal, is not employed in the mayor's or other executive's office, did not give large contributions to the campaign of anyone currently in local office, and is not related to anyone with any of the above negative qualifications.

    I really like Michael Lamb. And I believe he is doing an incredible job as Controller. With Peduto as Mayor, what a team that could be. As for Chief Harper, as with any such issue the gaze goes straight to the top, to the Public Safety Director and the Mayor.

  26. Anonymous

    I don't get why anyone thinks Bill Peduto would be a good Mayor. I live in Mount Washington and I am voting for Mike Lamb. I know him and his wife from our church and think he is the most qualified candidate. Why isn't that a good enough reason?

    When it comes to who could actually do the job of mayor, I don't think it is even close.

  27. Bram Reichbaum

    Anon 11:30 – Not to get into an argument if you like Michael more and have your opinion, but Bill has dealt with a wider range of issues during the same time period, and has been stress-tested by tough votes so we can be assured where he stands on all of them. I don't see the evidence for “more experienced”. I asked Michael last night about 3-way race dynamics and how a challenger could ever hope to win one of those, and he attributed my concern to 'who I'm talking to'. But nobody has to talk to anybody to be concerned about the math of a split field of challengers and an incumbent who, though not overwhelmingly popular, is undeniably powerful. Even low-info voters sound like Larry Sabato on this point. I guess, Anon 11:30, the question I'd pose is what would you rather do more: support the guy you honestly prefer in your ideal world, or contribute to making real historic change for the better in the in which you live.

  28. flybylight

    What would keep us – as the duly qualified electors in this City – from deciding that we want Mr. Peduto as Mayor now, and Mr. Lamb as Mayor later? They are both young. Mr. Lamb has a current position in which he is valuable.

    This is not the same idiotic “give the kid a chance” attitude as when Mr. Ravenstahl was running. This is a candidate with a vision and momentum, and I know I like that vision.

    We need a leader with vision, we do not need another person simply to steer the city along while the winds of whims constantly alter the course. As we look at other cities, we can see where we should go and where we should not.

    Look at a website such as, or other similar, and consider which candidate could bring us closer to that sort of vision.

    It isn't liberal, it's practical and also visionary. It's turning the muck of heavy-handed government into fertile ground.

  29. MG Guy

    Anon 8:10 – For various reasons–familiarity breeds contempt, to name one–loads of East End “elites” are backing Lamb, as they did when Peduto and Lamb ran against O'Connor for mayor. I talked with some of them last night at Lamb's Greenfield office opening. That Lamb support in what should be a Peduto stronghold distressing for us easterners is a big reason that the 3-person-race math is so favorable to Ravenstahl. It's not a simple east versus south versus north equation.

    BTW, what do we call Greenfield and Hazelwood? It's not East End, but it's not south of the river either, although economically and politically they have more in common with Brookline than Point Breeze. Maybe SoPa–south of the Parkway.

  30. Bram Reichbaum

    MGguy – Were you there when the candidate asked, hyping the crowd towards the end, “Where are my Greenfield supporters at?” The response was … perhaps Michael Lamb's field supporters are a reserved bunch, or sensibly stocking up on bread and toilet paper at the Giant Eagle at Forward and Loretta.

  31. flybylight

    I think the electrified parking space at our Giant Eagle puts Greenfield solidly into the East End, which is as it turns out a proudly homogeneous area, and not all “elite.”

    And where – if Bram's quote is correct – the candidate would presume to use bad grammar with us, well… there it is.

  32. Anonymous

    That was a typo. Lamb said “n'at”. So grammatically correct by local convention. Anyway, judging by the Facebook photo of the event that he posted, he didn't have to look too far.

  33. Anonymous

    The Greenfield Giant Eagle is located on Murray Ave, not Forward.

    One a side note, yesterday evening I received calls from two separate polling firms seeking my opinion on the three mayoral candidates. Anybody have any ideas on which entities commissioned these polls?

  34. Anonymous

    Mg..greenfield is far from a Peduto stronghold…you need to do your homework …and certainly greenfield is east end…anything between the rivers is pittsburgh proper..the rest are add ons..Birmingham allegheny


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.