|P-G, Grace Patuwo|
In March of 2007, a rather young mayor of only several months’ experience was thrust into high-stakes negotiations on behalf of the City with Rendell, Onorato, Lemieux and the Penguins, and the NHL. A deal emerged, a hockey team was saved, and Mayor Ravenstahl earned ‘attaboys in the afterglow of the exhilarating first sensation of getting “it” done.
Yet even now, central business district development is going like gangbusters: chic wellness villages, a dining and entertainment complex, something distantly involving both Toby Keith and the Steelers, and a proliferation of Point Park University theater options. The Skinny Building will provide the fruit, flowers and seasonal favorites in a fit of dering-do. The National Institutes of Health can’t get enough UPMC.
The Police Bureau situation continues to be what it is. There is strong evidence of at least one as-yet unknown co-conspirator in the theft conspiracy. Within and around a determined department, a decisive shift towards openness and transparency is sought desperately and with conviction.
Controller Michael Lamb‘s candidacy is in serious danger of getting strangled by the fraud revelations, despite the fact that the Police Bureau and credit union wrongdoers, the Public Safety director, the Finance director and his Treasurer in charge of receipts all got access through this data beforehand, and despite the fact that questions about and auditing of those accounts neatly preceded the federal activity. Nobody wants to hear that in-depth audits are not a routine Controller’s office function for the entirety of government, that in-depth audits including several within public safety have been numerous and bold, and that the Controller’s office budget for staff is what it is since Act 47.
Lamb fights for fairness in tax exemptions now towards the head of a large crowd. He once fought for honesty in investment accounting with less visible support, against pension spiking with none to speak of, and for comprehensive sex education and youth reproductive health services without uncouth sensationalism. Arrogance, elitism, intemperance and shadowy political patrons are all relative strangers to him, yet his profile and record both seem hostage to the criminals that eluded him.
Bill Peduto was the chair of City Council’s Finance Committee for two two-year terms, from 2008 through 2011. Previous to that he was among the Council that overlooked certain police fee formalities, but somehow he has not been driven against the wall by general skepticism. His formal campaign marches confidently with bands of placard-waving supporters.
Peduto’s last few daily rations of wonk-bait have included collaboratively leveraging innovative tools to fix blight, centralizing and streamlining new business development with collaboration, and curtailing some job development incentives to preserve natural areas and limit sprawl, but not without regional tax sharing. With ever more traditional support accruing behind the early front runner, his detractors are left grumbling darkly about political deal making and another machine.
Jack Wagner alone among top-tier contenders needs plea to no conceivable culpability in the Police Bureau scandal — but apparently had only a small-time and negligible effect on the breadth of the Pa Turnpike Commission scandal: a lavish, longtime, notorious pay-to-play pipeline. Although Wagner has for some time been addressing ruinous bond swaps deals by boosting transparency and more recently recommended terminating Turnpike bond swaps, we await eagerly any similar advice on our ongoing Water authority swaptions.
Though his campaign has operated a bit under my own personal radar thus far, some of his supporters are enthused to highlight Wagner’s 1993 advocacy for an assault weapons ban as a member of Pittsburgh City Council, and his expansion of hate crimes law as State Senator to include sexual orientation. Having been dogged a bit in the past by segments of the Democratic constituency on “social issues,” Jack Wagner volunteered to the Comet by telephone that “I didn’t do everything correctly, we all learn a lot in our lifetimes.” While he is fiercely proud to support and advocate for “gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender adoption” privileges, his opposition to gay marriage hinges on a concern for churches, and his position if any on civil unions is undefined. Efforts by the Comet to pin Wagner down neatly on questions of abortion rights were met with similar disinterested parrying; he preferred to redirect the conversation toward equality in promotions and quality public education.
Although we all knew Joe Brimmieir was neck-deep in the Pa Turnpike noise, John L. Tague Jr. seems to be a breath of fresh air from the policy and advocacy community; whereas the visibly shaken, whole-town indicting Jack Brooks is a retired Carpenter’s Union official appointed by Dan Onorato around the same time the North Shore Connector morphed from a bridge into a tunnel.
While the Post-Gazette is tracking down the details of a nearby fracking settlement, Pat Ford is bringing millions in international investment to Cleveburgh to manufacture natural gas extraction and storage valves and fixtures.
If the Race for Pittsburgh is like every other big political race, expect some nasty twists and surprises very soon. These candidates are all burdened with informing us specifically why they are better than each of the other alternatives — and without mincing words, sparing feelings, or sweating details. Before long some of them will actually wind up believing their own stories! Just keep your laughter, kindness and honesty dialed up. This has been Your Guide to ‘Burgh Drama, Episode 3: The Hon. Mayor Waters.
MORE: Pittsburgh City Paper.