Dave Fawcett is too suburban and conservative to manage all the dynamism of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. John Weinstein is just too hollow and unwholesome. Sara Innamorato still has unlimited potential, but her significant inexperience has revealed alarming vulnerabilities in her readiness for executive responsibility.
Michael Lamb is the total package except in how he straddles rifts between the center and the left, which is rude because that suggests neither is always entirely righteous and correct, and that’s boring — he’s boring, when he’s not occasionally saving pension funds (2010) or helping take down corrupt administrations (2013, 2021.) It’d be impossible politics without an excellent reputation cultivated over 20 years calling out waste, fraud and abuse, getting results through 3 mayoral administrations with favor towards none. A “good reputation” was not enough to earn him million-dollar backing from one of the two political-labor complexes with a stranglehold on our politics and who demand utter servitude, but it’s been enough to earn the respect of both and, as it turns out, to compete with them.
Lamb acquired a far better reputation than the one Weinstein’s accumulated over the same time, which is why Weinstein’s campaign cratered. As if what’s widely reported and beheld now isn’t putting off most voters already, the civil racketeering suit against his intimate friend has illuminated her strange claims of income and support, outstanding debts owed for school tuition, and even suggestions the Treasurer attempted to influence the sale to the public of one of her properties despite specific reservations. The whole campaign was likely being kept afloat through intimidation, but it hasn’t held up as credibly backed. Those who fear a far-left Innamorato administration past the point of reason are reckoning with that stench and are arriving at a sensible alternative for them, even if they also have to hold their noses a little from Lamb’s own progressive agenda.
Lamb is a progressive. He wants campaign finance limits and wants to bar contributions from interested parties to directors of authorities with whom they work, the whole business model of politics, and none in government wield a broom harder to tend that mess. He’s offering free community college. He wants to fund the food action plan based around community gardens and groceries. He describes the status quo as “pay to pollute” and wants to raise fines and remediate at the source. He was a vocal proponent of same-sex marriage in early 2005, three years earlier than I was, and is fluent with intersectional analysis like a genuinely interested adherent. What Lamb is not is a “leftist:” he won’t promise to outright ban fracking when state law can preempt it and precedent dictates it can only be regulated in time, place and manner; and he won’t promise to start spending UPMC money to launch eighty utopian projects it easily could take ten years and at least as much money in legal fees to ever wrest from the nonprofit.
Lamb and Innamorato were both pressed to provide short answers whether they’d commit to a countywide property reassessment. Lamb said no, he couldn’t do that until longtime owner-occupants could be protected. Innamorato said yes, and she would protect longtime owner-occupants — something only the state can do. It sounded like admirable confidence until she as easily said she’d leverage her relationship with state leaders to pass comprehensive gun legislation for the whole commonwealth, making it sound more like the 4-year state rep has never been held accountable for any promises before.
Nor have all Innamorato’s ideas been reality checked: she didn’t quite make clear she’d do away with detaining children accused of adult crimes altogether, though how she’d provide for their own and their community’s safety is unclear. And she’s promised to address serious problems at the adult jail by “reimagining” it without any more specificity. Plus she’s promising to creatively exert the powers of the county’s Heath Dept. to police disparities in outcomes at local hospitals, though attributing socially mediated disparities to end-point service providers can be questionable science (just ask the teachers offered merit pay) and though tightening the screws on UPMC is conspicuously convenient for her political backers’ clumsy attempts to extort them without regard to costs, missed opportunity, or how that might look in court.
It’s as though the prior thoughtful Sara of yesteryear has during this campaign been assimilated by a imperiously fatuous hive mind amalgam comprised also of Summer, Ed, Silas Russell and whoever from that quadrant is so excellent at parrying critique with bluster but unbothered by governing.
Most progressives see Innamorato is asking us to store infinite faith in absolute aspirations without a shred of regard for obstacles, complications, serious plans, the risks in so much quixotic crusading, or the stifling effects of too much lockstep “political alignment”. Because it makes us feel good to cheer every validating decree, and more secure in not being called out for insufficient caring. Committed “leftists” will never care about overdosing on idealism — to them “rocking the boat” by setting impossible goals and blaming scapegoats for not achieving them is both always necessary and wholly abstract in consequence; the more aggravating stalemate the better for one day discrediting and dismantling “the system” or “the status quo”. Nor should they, for if it weren’t for some leftist resistance, progress would never be viable. But to the mass of progressives touching grass, whenever infrastructure, social service delivery or pension funds are imperiled by strife, that’s mainly a bad day.
The alternative to an imperfect left-winger is often a conservative or corrupt dinosaur, but fortunately in this election nobody has to determine for all time whether the Left is actually good or bad. Lamb is not only creditably progressive, he has what it takes to make the Pittsburgh Left more effective. Populists don’t need monopoly power, they need respect, representation, partnership and the occasional check. So do “moderates” from radicals. If the polls are right, 2/3 of Allegheny County Democrats are actually “fairly” progressive. Let’s just govern that way, synthesize all our best attributes and inclinations: dreams the way we planned them, if we work in tandem. Let’s run with the most qualified candidate who’s most widely admired, and return our prodigal young firebrand to her important post a little wiser. Let’s capitalize on the miracle of a nice “boring” pubic servant who has constructively studied, critiqued, reformed and occasionally saved our City for the last 20 years, not let two big money political complexes box him out in his prime, nor intimidate or shame us from heeding our common sense. Let’s work smart as we work passionately. Democrats, let’s give ourselves the best chance to work together.
Even Lamb, who has fought for several progressive causes over the years, appears to have conceded the progressive mantle to Innamorato in the race.
“The progressive movement has chosen their champion and unfortunately that isn’t us,” said Lamb campaign manager Jindale Suh.Trib, Ryan Deto
No, Lamb campaign, you don’t get to decide that. There are oceans of Shy You voters out here. This thing isn’t over until we say it is.