Burgess, Ferlo Opt Not to Respect


And then reared this:

It is protocol, Peduto said, for board members to resign out of respect to a new mayoral administration. But at least two — a city councilman and a state senator who serve on two of the most powerful Authorities in Pittsburgh — have said they’re not stepping down. (Trib, Melissa Daniels)

Alack, it would take a miracle to reduce gross friction.

MORE / THE SKINNY:  P-G in 2009

39 thoughts on “Burgess, Ferlo Opt Not to Respect

  1. Shawn Carter

    Councilmembers don't typically resign their Authority Board appointments.

    I don't remember Councilman Peduto resigning his Stadium Authority Board appointment in 2006 when Mayor O'Connor asked for the resignations of most other people on most Authority Boards.

    Come to think of it, neither did any other Councilmember.

    Councilmembers are appointed ex-officio.

  2. Bram Reichbaum

    Did Mayor O'Connor ask Peduto to resign or no? That would be the question. Mayor Peduto is asking for resignations and reapplications comprehensively.

    I assume Mayor will have to (ought to be able to) play musical chairs amongst the Council members on the Authorities, owing to the Code requirement of one on each.

  3. Shawn Carter


    First, the Code makes no requirement that a member of Council be appointed to the Board of an Authority.

    The Home Rule Charter does that.

    All things being equal, I would start by agreeing in part that the Mayor asking Authority Board members to resign is a “request” he certainly is entitled to make.

    In part, I will lodge my disagreement because with the exception of the municipal authorities whose Boards a Mayor is empowered, by statute, at will, to replace (i.e., Stadium Authority, Sports and Exhibition Authority, Parking Authority and the Boards of all City-created Boards and Commissions), he is prohibited by statute from replacing the Boards of the remaining municipal authorities on a whim.

    I have to assume the General Assembly, in enacting the statutes that enable the remainder of the municipal authorities, obviously felt that no Mayor should be able to simply “remove at will” the members of the Board.

    Now for the instant question: You premise Senator Ferlo and Reverend Burgess' choice to not resign as some showing of disrespect.

    I would premise a Mayor asking a sitting Member of Council or a sitting state Representative or Senator whom he cannot remove as a sign of disrespect.

    More to the point, the only two African-American members of Council just happen to currently hold appointments to the two Authorities that have the largest impact on the African-American community.

    There is likely a reason that, historically, the African-American members of Council are typically appointed to the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the Housing Authority.

    Do you believe that these two appointments should go to one of the other 7 members of Council? If so, which two, and on what basis?

    State redevelopment law grants to the URA rather broad powers of land control, reuse, and the City's powers of eminent domain operate through the URA. With the exception of the Strip District and a few brownfield sites throughout the City, the majority of the “redevelopment areas” are in poor neighborhoods.

    The majority of the land the URA owns or controls is in poor neighborhoods.

    The majority of the residents served by the Housing Authority are in poor neighborhoods, or are some combination of elderly, minor child, single mother and overwhelmingly African-American.

    Since Council is geographically predisposed, by design, to send two African-American representatives to City Hall, and since they collectively represent, between them, the bulk of the African-American community, does it not simply make sense that they represent both Council AND their residents on the Boards of the two Authorities that have the single largest impact on their lives?

    To suggest something different defies common sense.

    And, clearly, since a swap between Councilmen Lavelle and Reverend Burgess' Board appointments is ridiculously unlikely (as I highly doubt Mayor Peduto would EVER appoint Reverend Burgess to the URA even if he would be amenable to appointing Councilman Lavelle to the Housing Authority), and since he cannot forcibly remove them, I have a hard time honestly believing he ever intended for Councilmen Lavelle or Burgess to abandon their posts.

  4. Shawn Carter

    Anon 12:12 –

    If I had to choose between recommending “gracious” and the vigilant defense of the poor, downtrodden and often ignored, I will always, always recommend the latter.

  5. Bram Reichbaum

    Firstly this isn't on a whim, this is on the occasion of a leadership transition, a comprehensive change of direction and vision, and an attempt to restore confidence. With the exception of PWSA, the URA and HACP are also the two Authorities most in need of renewed confidence. Although we shouldn't be too hard on them because so is City government.

    Second, it's not my place to prejudge what is to be a pretty extensive process, but I'm already on record as saying Councilwoman Kail-Smith of the poor AND ignored District 2 would make a jolly good choice for the URA.

    I'm not sure what else would happen to board seats, but Mr. Lavelle and Mr. Burgess are not the only African-Americans capable of serving on boards and representing the interests of the poor in Pittsburgh. Heck, there might even be people in PIttsburgh that would be better at it, and just as willing to serve.

    Finally, let's not ignore the practical point that neither Burgess nor Ferlo will be able to be *effective* on any board on which they are outnumbered 4-1 by Peduto administration appointments and where they are not particularly appreciated and vice-versa. They won't be able to have an impact beyond making critical and incendiary trolling remarks at meetings and to the press about whatever is happening. And of course collect campaign contributions. That is their technical right, but it certainly doesn't do anything for the poor. Focusing on District 9 might do a lot more for the poor.

  6. Anonymous

    I am a Peduto fan…this city is better under his leadership. Change is needed, but we're going to see a lot of change for change's sake along with the good decisions. Removing Ferlo and Lavelle would be setting the USA back considerably, even were their replacements good ones. I think that if anyone defies Bill's request, the administration should be prepared to step back gracefully. There are bigger, more directly situated fish to fry. Focus on police…change in the Bureau is badly needed, and it's going to take a ton of hard work.

  7. Anonymous

    Shawn: Burgess is not African American, he was not born in Africa. My ancestors are from Scotland but I don't consider myself Scottish American.

  8. Bram Reichbaum

    The term refers to ancestry, Anon 9:37. Americans of Scottish descent are free to refer to themselves as Scottish Americans should they find it relevant and reflective, and having done so, it'd be rude for anyone else to horn in to correct them.

    Random surprising history on that page: the first Black state governor was not elected until 1989. Seems late. I was like, in high school already.

  9. Bram Reichbaum

    PWSA come to think of it at least has taken some proactive measures to restore public confidence (eg retaining outside management ie Veolia). If the URA or HACP have undertaken any measures to restore public confidence or to acknowledge the existence or importance of public confidence issues, I have missed it.

  10. Bram Reichbaum

    You know, a case can be made that since the URA and HACP assiduously ignored long-developing crisises of public confidence — “It's all political, don't concede any error or fault by offering reforms” — then it fell eventually to the public advocate in the US Attorney's office to restore confidence by exploring all such controversies quite publicly and at a time of maximum public attention and import.

    Is that irony? Or is it only irony if it happens again?

  11. Anonymous

    Peduto really needs to step up and make a change at the police bureau. This, not public works, should have been his first priority.

    The FOP, regardless of its motivation, brought out significant concerns about the acting chief that have been known by many to include the new mayor. Add on to that the fact the acting chief has maintained a two decade plus relationship with a known felon, and the situation
    Fairly screams for action fron the mayor.

    Failure to act on his part now will soon eliminate any claims he can hope to fall back on that he inherited the problem.

    Yes, he inherited it but he has now had two weeks to make changes in the bureau that has brought the most shame to this city.

    No amount of coffee or doughnuts will solve this problem—only leadership will.

  12. Bram Reichbaum

    Well Mark, non-D's must come up with a platform that appeals to urban-dwellers en masse. We've stress tested the “One party rule is bad!” argument many times and it always fails to make a dent.

  13. Jerry

    > neither Burgess nor Ferlo will be able to be *effective* on any board on which they are outnumbered 4-1 by Peduto administration appointments and where they are not particularly appreciated and vice-versa

    So you're saying that Peduto plans to pack the board with people who are likely to agree with him the vast majority of the time.

    This is not something that I would call surprising or even inappropriate; it's just that, in these days of excitement over the New Pittsburgh, I don't hear a lot of people admitting to even the possibility that Peduto will behave like every other politician in the world.

  14. Bram Reichbaum

    Authorities are a little different, by virtue of how they're appointed. The deliberations are sort of technical “how are we responsibly going to get over there?” rather than a “where should we go?”, because they need to coordinate with the City and all the other authorities. I hope he appoints thoughtful folks with a diverse array of knowledges and expertises, but yes, who share the core vision.

  15. BrianTH

    I'd just note there's a very big difference between appointing people who might broadly share a certain perspective, worldview, ideology, etc., and appointing people who are expected to serve certain business interests.

  16. BrianTH

    Political parties are tools through which people can accomplish more in the political process collectively than they could as unassociated individuals. So why should an individual primarily interested in outcomes in a particular locality join a political party that has no apparent interest in participating meaningfully in the political process in that locality?

  17. Anonymous

    An external and externally funded hiring process is good. Apparently plenty of interest and applicants have been generated. Nonetheless the real problem has been the at-will hirings, we will see if the new ones have been handled correctly by how those folks perform. Also…new managers and leaders who are not familiar with city operations, constraints, and the general landscape are going to have to understand those things, as some of them are immovable. Flipping the cart is going to prove to be more difficult, and it needs to be done carefully and correctly if past transition mistakes are to be avoided.

  18. BrianTH

    Obviously the Peduto Administration needs to be able to operate on multiple tracks at the same time, like any executive administration of a large, complex government with a lot of things going on. The police issues are indeed very important and pressing, but there is also a lot of important business being conducted before agencies like the URA right now, and that flow of important work won't stop as various projects continue to advance.

  19. Anonymous

    There is indeed a cost associated with the integration of an outside hiring process, however laudable it is. Hopefully what comes of it are new city managers and workers who take pride in helping to improve the city, and who act every day towards that goal. These new folks will have to revert to the existing hiring system that the city uses after this initial wave, so let us hope that they work to improve that system.

  20. Bram Reichbaum

    Anon 1:18, on the Bureau – I would not presume in all instances, great urgency necessitates great haste. But in my own personal reckoning, if some visible confidence-enhancing moves aren't made inside about two months, I will begin sounding a good bit more like you.

    Another thing we have to deal with is the Mayor's prior determination — one he still seems intent to pursue — to take a good, long time (was it 9 months?) identifying and hiring a new permanent Chief of Police, utilizing a painstaking community engagement process to help make the selection.

    Dag Peduto is unusual.

    This complicates the process of taking swift and true confidence-building measures, but like I said it's not impossible. Maintaining a legally cautious but hard line with the FOP in regards to moonlighting is a decent first indicator.

  21. Anonymous

    This post completely exemplifies everything that is wrong with the Peduto administration. It is not “respectful” or “disrespectful” to keep an appointed position. People are appointed to staggered terms for a reason. The law mandates staggered terms for a reason. It is absolutely astonishing that an alleged good government so called progressive would ask for the law and foundations of independent boards be respected. Seriously, Bill has lost all respect on this move. If you don't like the law – then change it.

  22. Bram Reichbaum

    Disagree, 8:25. One can obey the law all day long, and not once be particularly respectful.

    (Some days, that's basically my MO.)

    City leadership is trying to refocus priorities and restore confidence. Mr.'s Ferlo and Burgess will not lack for power and influence on and in the City by virtue of their elected positions and related pedigrees. More people need to be let in, and more openness need to be provided than legacy leadership has shown apt to provide. Pittsburgh's heart shall go on if it must this way, but it's not particularly optimal or efficient. The Senator and the Councilman I imagine would be able to collaborate much better with City leadership on a host of issues, if they're not resisting his game plan for resetting priorities and restoring confidence. In fact, they might even have been reappointed if they reapplied. Doing so at Housing could sure save some headaches.

  23. Tom

    I wrote this back in November on another blog:

    There is a reason that there is overlap from administration to administration on board appointments. It gives the boards some independence so that the entire board doesn’t just do whatever the mayor asks them to do. Peduto said it himself in 2006:

    “There are at least a few board members who are being replaced that have had alternative opinions than the administration on development,” said Councilman Bill Peduto. “Last year I was removed from the Stadium Authority for that reason. I think it’s a loss for Pittsburgh that professionals like Alice, David Toal and Debbie Lestitian are being removed; their independence was one of their greatest strengths.”

    In 2009 he said this when Ms. Lestitian wasn’t re-appointed to the a board appointment:

    “Debbie was a voice for the people,” Peduto said. “They’ve now effectively taken the two people off of the board that asked questions. Apparently you’re not allowed to ask questions on the Stadium Authority board.”

    So now Peduto is going to get rid of anyone that doesn’t agree with him politically even if they still have time on their term. This isn’t a dictatorship.

    For the record, I voted for Peduto and was leaning his way before Ravenstahl dropped out. I just think he is acting a bit like Rich Fitzgerald (who I also voted for) and thinks he can now push everyone around with his new title.

  24. Tom

    Kevin Acklin in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2009:

    Another political rival assailed the administration's personnel moves yesterday. Kevin Acklin, an independent candidate for mayor, decried Ms. Lestitian's ouster. In a press conference in the shadow of Heinz Field, Mr. Acklin said that all city board appointments and removals should be subject to City Council approval. He also said that, if elected, he would create a nonpartisan commission to evaluate candidates for the city panels.

    “The mayor should value the independence of these public servants who serve on organizations whose very purpose is to conduct the city's business insulated from the whims and influences of politics,” Mr. Acklin said.


  25. Anonymous

    I get your point but I don't think it is fair to criticize Rich Fitzgerald for pushing people around. Some people need a push and Rich has been the only leader with any guts to do it. He is the elected leader of this county. Bill Peduto is the mayor of one of 131 municipalities. Bill and the media need to figure that out.

  26. Tom

    Anon 11:12 – You have a valid point.

    For me is the way Fitzgerald handles himself. He doesn't try to work with people, he tells them how he is right and they are wrong. It isn't a good attitude in my opinion.

    I don't think that type of attitude leads to good policy. I think it leads to creating political factions that end up undermining the effectiveness of government. I just am starting to get the feeling that all Fitzgerald cares about is getting rid of anyone he doesn’t agree with instead of trying to work with other government officials/board appointees.

    I guess I believed that the people that talked the progressive talk that I like to hear would actually try to work with other politicians that they have disagreed with in the past for the good of the city/government/Democratic Party. When Peduto and Fitzgerald start to create factions with other elected officials they are creating the same party hierarchy that they have complained about for so many years.

  27. Bram Reichbaum

    It is a puzzle, what is to be done with prior appointees who don't agree with you because they strongly agree with the likes of Luke Ravenstahl or Dan Onorato.

    It sounds like Peduto was / is trying to engender an enthusiasm for turning the page on the types of things that had been transpiring. Most voters share that enthusiasm, and will lack it for anybody that is no longer accountable to anybody, and whose tenure the last time they were accountable was problematic in the ways that Ravenstahl and Onorato were problematic. But it is a puzzle. Perhaps they have a notion about how effective their attempts at obstruction are going to be. Peduto may not be mayor for another four terms or even another two, but if we do change our minds about him, it won't be because we're going backwards again.

  28. BrianTH

    I think ideally the concept of current board members being able to reapply through the Talent City process would be taken very seriously, with credit being given for the resulting experience and expertise. That way current members who deserved to stay on could be reappointed in a way that would potentially “launder” away their association with the prior administration.


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