Ceoffe seizes Initiative in Election about Nothing

No Maas

… not that there’s anything wrong with that!

In the Special Election for City Council District 7, Tony Ceoffe Jr., who waged a provocative but unsuccessful legal challenge of opponent Deb Gross’s election as the Democratic Party nominee, has gone on to organize the first candidates forum.

A release in mid-August announcing its date and location stated that his forum “tentatively” would be moderated by Charlie Deitch of the Pittsburgh City Paper. A gruesome-sounding leg injury soon sidelined the reporter, but also got the alternative newsweekly out of a sticky situation.

“We were very clear with them from the beginning that if the candidates couldn’t get together, we wouldn’t be interested,” said Chris Potter, editor of the City Paper. “We didn’t want to be put in a position where we could be used as a cudgel by one candidate against another.”

As it happens Gross was not interested in attending a debate organized by one of her opponents, alleging these should be hosted by community groups and follow certain mutually agreed-upon guidelines. Yet the Ceoffe camp soldiered on, stating the forum would be held “Town Hall style,” by which they meant no moderators but rather microphones set up for the audience to ask questions. The other three candidates agreed to attend, glad for the exposure on Ceoffe’s dime.

Last week a replacement as moderator was secured: Nancy Hart, of the excellent independent online Urban Media Today. So this first debate will proceed, and probably without its front runner to the delight of the rest of the field.


Tony Ceoffe Jr. until this race was the Democratic chairperson of the City’s 6th Ward, and vice-president of the community group Lawrenceville United. His father, District Magistrate Tony Ceoffe, was the prior chairperson of that ward and was L.U.’s Director from ’05 to ’09.

A message from Ceoffe’s campaign chair confronts the resulting impression on head-on:

The day I met Tony, I was volunteering at the polls for Bill Peduto in the mayoral primary. Before meeting him that day, I had only known Tony as the son of a district magistrate of the same name who lived across the street from my good friend in Lawrenceville. To me, at that time, Tony was just your standard local politician, part of the nepotistic democratic machine in Pittsburgh. What I soon realized was that I couldn’t have been more wrong. (Neighbors for TC)

Ceoffe was working the polls that day for Peduto rival Jack Wagner. He explains that Wagner reached out to him after Michel Lamb dropped out of the race and remained more accessible to him throughout, and that most other committee members in his ward supported Wagner in that contest. In prior contests, all indications are that the Ceoffe clan actively backed Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

Yet indeed there is much to suggest Ceoffe is not a garden-variety “old school” Pittsburgh pol, or maybe that he represents the first of a promising “Old School 2.0”.

He calls himself a “progressive” and has made opposition to fracking, support of making UPMC pay its fair share, and an “Open Data Policy” centerpieces of his agenda. He worries about gentrification putting out seniors and low-income residents in his rapidly changing district. He says that Peduto has proposed some “great initiatives” and that “we can’t elect somebody that’s just going to stick it to Bill”. He has made extensive and effective use of social media. He pro-actively engages with bloggers such as yours truly, despite what are our plain political leanings and in one notable past instance a familial dust-up.

And he is impossible not to like.

Truly, we tried. We chased down people after events for follow-ups and even held our own focus groups. People appreciate his enthusiasm, are impressed with his intelligence, think he’s a “good guy” and would like to see him do well. Most importantly, people feel as though if elected it would be easy for them to productively interact with him in office.

On the flip side, when pressed for details they call him “a politician” in that he did not offer many decisive answers, that he either talked circles around topics or replied that he would “have to study that at the Council table,” and that it was hard afterwords to remember what it was he said exactly. Yet they were willing to cut him that slack. They like that he is good at “that game” and seems to relish it.

Weber 1300

His is a fascinating personality contrast with Deb Gross (the results of our interview are contained here). Gross is more likely to pause to think before beginning an answer, speak deliberately, and even use silence to convey more than Ceoffe might in a more rambling response. In answer to a question about Lawrenceville United’s contributions to public safety in the neighborhood, for example, she raised an eyebrow and asked in return, “Have they?”

After a few beats she went on, “One thing L.U. has done well is provide a valuable community table. That is certainly one thing they do of enormous value.” Her slight sighs also seemed to suggest an opinion that there was something less-than-praiseworthy in some of the staunchest opposition to a prior Baum-Liberty development proposal, as well as to expansion of the Thunderbird Cafe — that nonetheless were tough to capture in an interview write-up.

It can be challenging to elicit even these sorts of vague hints about hot-button issues from Ceoffe. His responses to the Butler St. club expansion and his posture towards the Buncher Company’s sprawling development plans seem to carefully straddle each fence.

An answer to a question about the City’s staying in or departing Act 47 Financial Distressed Status, for example — a question calculated to assess his willingness to upset the City workers which comprise some of his support — was that he would have to study the matter further at the Council table.

However, in answer to another such question about using GPS units in City snowplows and other public works vehicles, Ceoffe remarked he would support that “wonderful idea”, as it fits into his Open Data Policy.

His boldest stances seem to fall along politically convenient lines.

“I’m completely opposed to fracking in the City,” he says, and is therefore wary of Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald’s proposal “to have the County taking over our public parks. Is that going to impact the City parks?”

I pointed out that this proposal was merely for shared management of the parks, not an ownership transfer, and that besides which the City parks would still be located decidedly in the City which has a drilling ban that all Council members supported.

Ceoffe replied that the City’s drilling ban is legally problematic — “just like campaign finance,” another Peduto initiative. “It all gets back to the same thing.” Yet Ceoffe offered no remedies to strengthen either the drilling ban or campaign finance reform.


When I referred to this as an “election about nothing,” that is not meant to imply there are not serious issues facing District 7 neighborhoods, nor that the identity and talents of its next Council member will not be important.

But so far the issues in this election have been all about process, or optics, or the relative traction of each major candidate’s negative caricatures of the others’ personality — neither of which bears much resemblance to reality by the way. In an election held in a weird interlude during which a new in-crowd buoyed by optimism has yet to be able notch any successes or commit any mistakes, it is particularly hard to drill down to substance.

When I look at the choices available in this election, I seek out the choices these candidates made in the past. Being on one “side” or the other has not been a matter of joining Team Red or Team Blue to me — it means, did you stand up to a politically skilled but myopic, obtuse, politically hackneyed and incompetent regime when there was little to gain? Were you willing to take stands that involved relinquishing certain job opportunities or other opportunities for political advancement? For example when I learned that Gross was involved with Ground Zero, a now-storied affiliation of individuals plotting the seeds of institutional change in Pittsburgh way before this blogger arrived, that signaled much to me. Despite the fact that the tables have very recently turned, I haven’t seen anything from other candidates which demonstrates an insistence on speaking truth to power when it is inconvenient or unhealthy.

That’s just me. And I am as entitled to my own opinion as you are to reject it.

In truth, Gross’s campaign seems from this vantage to be just as light on substantive specifics as her opponent, and a little flat besides. Not to mention a bit overly-reliant on her vast cornucopia of political endorsements — so it is natural for Ceoffe to try to “judo” that strength into a liability.

He is doing his best. You have to admire the chutzpah. But the choices he has made in the past probably merit a little more time spent in the political wilderness, and he probably will get it. The next election in District 7 is only nineteen months away, wherein both can run as Democrats.

Tony’s Ceoffe’s campaign slogan, “Policy and Passion over Politics” is fundamentally divisive. One can strike Policy out of the equation outright since his enumerated policy statements are general or non-controversial, and one can just as easily cut out the allusion to Politics since failure to wind up on the winning side is not the same thing as having eschewed political games on principle.

Elections are rarely won on the basis of mathematical precision, but if he wants to give it a shot he might reduce the whole formula to one word: PASSION.

58 thoughts on “Ceoffe seizes Initiative in Election about Nothing

  1. Mark Rauterkus

    Giving props to Ground Zero actions, …. Wow.

    That can net me your endorsement in 2015 too?

    This election is about red light cameras.

    But, to turn a phrase or concept, … Privacy is about NOTmHING too.

    And finally, the Libertarian in the race, Dave Powell, is one who has and can speak truth to power when it is unhealthy.

  2. Anonymous

    Red light cameras may be on the edges of this election

    What it is really about is the old guard of the democratic party v. the new guard.

    The old guard, who have essentially led this City for about 4 decades, have done more to hurt the city and give out political favors.

    This is a real shame in a city that used to be known for planning extensive real public projects such as public buildings, tunnels, bridges, infrastructure and transportation networks.

    Now, we get a city that does not adequately plan or finance to maintain what is in place nor plan to replace aging. We merge engineering/architecture and general services into public works and all of the sudden, the city's facility maintenance budget is cut by about 80%. It is easy to check, budget are posted on line. We can find the money and the approval to pave an alley/back road that only leads to one house that happens to belong to a city employee; but, we can't find the money to do basic maintenance throughout the city.

    The old guard, still in place, will say wait and see, things don't change regardless of who is in charge. That is baloney. Things can only get better when government leaders actually put the public's interests ahead of their own personal interests or those of their political party and don't use the power and authority that the citizens have lent them to give out favors. Then, we all share in the success of the city rather a just the chosen few.

  3. BrianTH

    He sounds like a potentially talented politician in need of an opportunity where a talented politician is actually required (e.g., a contest with a viable Republican candidate).

  4. Anonymous

    I also wish I could hear more specifics and more daring from Ceoffe, but more than that, I wish I could hear ANYTHING from Gross. Aside from the endorsements, I haven't seen her give any reasons I should vote for her. All these endorsements without public positions make me wonder exactly what she's promising in private to get them.

  5. BrianTH

    I agree as a matter of effective campaigning she should probably add something like an Issues section to her website and start laying out some policy positions.

    That said, I think it would be perfectly rational for voters to select someone basically because they expect that person would be a reliable vote for Peduto's policies (at least absent a very clear contradictory interest in her district). It would probably be a bad idea to actually state that explicitly as part of a campaign, but the public will likely be best served by giving Peduto a chance to implement his ideas, with clear accountability to follow when those ideas succeed or fail.

    In other words, in situations like this a more or less parliamentary approach to governance is likely best.

  6. Anonymous

    The merger of engineering/general services etc is a relatively recent event, the plan of Mayor O'Connor. At the time it had the complete and strong support of future Mayor Peduto as did that 80% budget cut. So meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

  7. Anonymous

    Bram, I live in that district and you are right. Ceoffe has shown way more passion for this campaign than Gross. She seems so hesitant to engage. Almost affraid to tell people who she is or why she's running. I know the stars are aligned for her but he is a good candidate.

  8. Anonymous

    Lawrenceville experienced a 60 % decrease in crime over the last 10 years. This was in part due to a federally funded initiative that brought in extra resources, to the developers investing in dilapidated buildings, but also to LU who has worked closely with public safety agencies to implement public safety programming and strategies. Deb Gross was at LUs National Night Out and says she believed that community policing is important. I hope that she will learn a bit more about what LU does, and what many of the organizations are doing in the community.

  9. Anonymous

    Wow. Just one of the many, many ways Deb Gross proves herself to be completely out of touch with what goes on in our district and the history behind where we are today. If she missed one of the largest neighborhood transformations in the history of Pittsburgh, where was she? Her ignorance to Lawrenceville United's enormous contribution to public safety is beyond absurd.

    “'Have they?'”, she asks (about halfway through the article, next to the colorful inserted art). Oh yes, my dear, they have. It was a public safety proposal by LU that brought in the MetLife and Weed and Seed funding! But what's a million dollars in federal funding to a woman who hasn't had to work for a living? And I guess she just simply can't let herself imagine that 6 or 7 years ago, prostitutes walked the same streets where she is now privileged to shop and dine. Her casual brush off is an absolute insult to the hard-working volunteers who have literally risked their own lives to clean up the streets of Lawrenceville over the past 10+ years.

    Bram, thank you for bringing this to the public eye, but it is beyond generous to mistake her dumbfounded silence for thoughtfulness.

    And, as for speaking truth to power and doing away with the old guard? If that involves bringing a county executive with you to a labor endorsement interview, staging fake photo shoots at neighborhood events you attend for 10 minutes, and unleashing thugs like Ronald Deutsch to promise/threaten jobs in exchange for votes for you, then I'm truly confused.

    People, do not have your vote taken for granted by an entitled candidate who clearly has no intention of being an independent voice on council. All of the other candidates have expressed a willingness to work with Bill Peduto in office. They are not going to block his initiatives, but simply give legislation the thought and consideration it deserves. If you're still undecided, come to the candidate forum tonight:

  10. SCM

    I don't know anything about Gross and while in an ordinary circumstance this should lead a person to suspend judgment, in a campaign it is very worrying. The implication is that she doesn't have any ideas or that her ideas are unpalatable. After all, isn't the point of a campaign to get voters familiar with who you are and what you think about the issues?

    I was surprised that Bram's description made her sound so catty- was that intentional? – of course Lawrenceville United made things safer. They chased drug dealers out of the neighborhood for years and years. Actually they were too aggressive if anything!

    I notice, for instance, that Gross just doesn't answer perfectly reasonable, i.e. non trolling, questions on her campaign FB page. Or if she does reply, she says little of substance. Of course, Ceoffe doesn't allow comments and questions to be publicly posted so neither seems to be making policy specifics a priority. But at least he does release a position from time to time.

    I'm not sure it is reasonable to vote for someone just because they appear to be a reliable Peduto ally. I mean we already have one Kail-Smith on council and I'm sure no one thinks she is able to provide meaningful oversight or leadership in the role she plays. While I think Peduto is a much better guy than the Boy mayor, it doesn't do him any favors to have sycophants on council who cannot properly vett his ideas and restrain his enthusiasm and he has both in abundance.

    I also don't agree that the election is just about red light cameras. It is also about Bureau reform, the Strip District, ending state oversight, and, perhaps, presiding over a real increase in population, money, and youth for the first time since the 70's.

    While it is true that most of Ceoffe's policy points are quite safe, that is not universally true. I see him giving a seat at the table to the CPRB and Pittinger, which Gross just won't be able to do if she courts the FOP in the same way Dowd did. Indeed, it would be nice to see someone start to undo the damage Dowd did to that institution in his effort to isolate it.

    While neither of the candidates are too exciting I think Ceoffe is the one who is the better choice. I say this really for no other reason than the devil you know is better than the one you don't. But also because I can't see how you could reward a candidate and set a precedent for winning elections when she simply has no ideas she is willing to put forth. Dowd often struck me as too circumspect, but at least he was a free thinker. With Gross I think we simply get a shill for Peduto and I think Peduto is plenty able to bring even dissenting views over to his line of thought all on his own.

  11. Bram Reichbaum

    I'll reply to a bunch of these comments towards the end of the day (thanks, all) but just want to remind ourselves the election is only a hair's breadth under two months away. Awesome that the wired set is growing and still voraciously demanding substance, but there is a lot of time for these candidates to fill in blanks. Traditionally the organization-building phase would just be wrapping up.

  12. Dara

    As Tony Ceoffe's campaign chair, I just wanted to quickly clarify something. If you refer to his Facebook page, there are actually several comments and questions by residents, to which Tony always replies promptly and courteously. There is also the option of private messaging available. Not only that, but the campaign email address and Tony's private cell phone number are posted with his contact information on both the Facebook page and the website, and Tony routinely jots down his cell number on campaign literature when door knocking. We welcome the engagement of community members. I'm not sure how Tony could possibly be any more accessible than he already is. Please do let us know if you are having any trouble participating in discussions on the page ( or reaching the campaign.
    (Sorry – didn't know how to edit my original post!)

  13. SCM

    Sorry I didn't mean that there was no chance to post questions, just that a person could not initiate a post on Tony's page as they can on Gross's.

  14. BrianTH

    So things like “meaningful oversight”, “vetting”, and “restraint” can easily turn into things like gridlock, political gamesmanship, finger-pointing, and in general a lack of accountability. Of course in the United States we are schooled to understand and support the virtues of a government with a strong separation of powers, but in fact from a wider perspective there is an awful lot to say against such systems and in favor of more unified sorts of representative democracy.

    And regardless of what you might feel about those issues as a general proposition, there is a particularly strong case to be made in favor of them in city governments, and an even stronger case when a new, ambitious, and reform-minded administration is taking over, and an even stronger stronger case when you are a progressive-minded person who believes government can actually do helpful things.

    Again, in the U.S. we are used to transitions of power in such circumstances being very slow with lots of policy continuity being enforced by lots of institutional friction, all of which was driven by the fundamentally small-c conservative, and consciously anti-populist, political theories dominant in the late 18th Century. Other places, though, enjoy systems in which a new administration actually gets to do what it wants to do pretty much right away. And then if you don't like the outcome, you know exactly who to blame.

    And it is far from clear that we the people of the United States have gotten the better deal when it comes to governance. Again, though, I admit none of this makes for a good political campaign in this country. But I really do think it is reasonable to believe that packing the Council with Peduto “sycophants” and then letting him sink or swim based on the outcomes he can achieve is not at all a bad idea.

  15. Anonymous

    It seems to me Deb Gross only states who she knows now what she knows. It bothers me why she NEVER states what her intentions would be if she has won. I have reached out to her numerous times on her face book page and have been IGNORED every time. If it is this hard to get a response back when she is running, I can only imagine how it will be if she did win. Ceoffe is young but has shown more passion and dedication to this city they I have seen in YEARS. Even after being defeated by Dowd in the past election he continued to volunteer for this community over and over again with NO recognition. Gross appears to be peduto’s puppet and If elected I cant imagine her being a voice for our community. The city of Pittsburgh has been my home for the last 29 years and it is defiantly time for a change and CEOFFE is defiantly the man to elected.

  16. Anonymous

    I received literature from James Wudarczyk the other day and I believe he is the best candidate. He actually works for a living, which says something about him.

  17. SCM

    So I think you are reading my comments more strongly than intended. Certainty I don't mean to imply that there is no case for something like the parliamentary style approach you suggest. But here are a few data points that support the counter-argument.

    1. I don't expect Ceoffe to be obstructionist or finger-pointing and I do expect Gross to be somewhat sycophantic. While I think Peduto is a good guy whose heart is generally in the right place, the actions of any powerful person do deserve scrutiny. It seems like Ceoffe would be better poised to provide that.

    2. Allowing them all to sink or swim puts the citizenry in the position of having to throw out all the bums at once and that will be difficult with staggered terms. It also assumes that the relevant party won't screw the city as a whole while delivering goods to key constituents. This, I would argue, is exactly what makes Kail-smith's tenure so repugnant. She is head of the Public Safety Committee at a time when morale and trust in the Bureau has positively bottomed out. She spent the last few years screaming 'politics' when ever anyone insinuated that reform was desirable, even when rumors were flying about slush funds, preferential treatment and cover-ups of outright injustice. That shit is absolutely unforgivable in my eyes – it is to totally abdicate any leadership and oversight. But is she punished in the polls? No, because she delivers dollars and jobs to key constituents and the URA gave her a grocery store.

    3. Peduto himself appears likely to extend an olive branch. Oversight tends to result in stall when the administration closes ranks and digs in its heels. Ravenstahl's refusal to compromise on parking leases is a case in point. If that isn't Peduto's style of engagement, and I don't think it is, then he will be less in need of sycophants and can still work with those will question and modify his proposals.

  18. Anonymous

    “Time to Fill in the Blanks”!! Most of these issues are ones that stances should not be just forming. If a candidates has been engaged and active in our district MOST issues and stances should already be a part of their everyday ruitine!

  19. Anonymous

    James wudarczyk is truly an independent candidate who believes in fiscal transparency and responsibility. He wants to pressure the city and hold them accountable for fixing parks they have neglected and our pothole ridden streets. After speaking with James, it is clear that he would be the voice the people need on council. He would take his job seriously and advocate for the people. What impressed me about this candidate was he said that the city develops or initiates projects in communities and never asks the neighbors and he said he would work to make sure everyone had a voice, not just the elite.

  20. Anonymous

    While the parliamentary approach might be an improvement in the abstract, it's pretty much indistinguishable from cronyism in this instance.

  21. Anonymous

    Deb gross is Peduto's puppet on a string. When you hear her speak, that's if you hear her speak, you hear the voice of Bill Peduto. Why won't Deb Gross show up for the debate that the other 4 candidates are attending? It's because she has nothing inteligent to say. Her literature states she's the only democrat on the ballot. Who cares? This isn't high school student council. We don't need the mayors friend on council just doing whatever he wants We need someone who can speak for themselves. Oh and the greater Pittsburgh Arts Alliance is nonexistant. What a waste of taxpayer money. What Pittsburgh needs is for Deb Gross to get 2 votes, hers and her husbands. We need a real council person who can take a stand on the issues and who cares about the community because they have lived in Pittsburgh their whole life. And Mr. Peduto, stop referring to yourself as the next mayor and ms gross as the next councilwoman— if you haven't checked your calendar, it's not November 5th yet and the votes haven't been counted.

  22. Anonymous

    Mr. Braum: as a concerned resident of district 7, I wanted to know if you would be doing a piece on all of the candidates. I know there are 5 and I want to make sure I pick the best one when I vote.

  23. Anonymous

    I saw Deb Gross during Bloomfield's Little Italy Days. That's it-I saw her! She was on Fitzgerald's side, being introduced to the Business Owners(who by the way, most DO NOT live or can Vote in the City) during the Chaos of the Event, she nodded like a child whose Father was telling her to say Hello to a friend. She politely smiled as she walked by the Voters, that Do Live in District 7. She Spoke to No One at all. I find that a bit strange. Then yesterday, I received a live phone call from her camp asking if I was going to vote for her. I replied No and then was asked why. My answer was she was rude when I saw her and I felt that with her NO VIEWS about Anything Policy, I could not feel comfortable, having her represent me, when she seemed totally Clueless at a public function. His response was, she will have her platform on line in a few weeks! Are you serious!?! Too close to the Election for me! I've already formed my opinion and seems she is not willing to try to change it! As a Political Candidate she should know, Close only works in Horse Shoes!

  24. Bram Reichbaum

    SCM – If I made her sound at all “catty,” I definitely went overboard in trying to stir the pot. The most solid from that interview is in the second section here. Clearly today I tried to infer a lot based on nonverbal cues, but in for a penny in for a pound: her tone was measured and respectful, especially considering I sort-of laid a trap by asking a leading question about her opponent's community group / claim to fame.

  25. Bram Reichbaum

    I don't have any personal experience with L.U., but it seems to be unusually polarizing for a neighborhood group; lots of strong positive and negative impressions. I've been trying to understand the negative impressions that I pick up on the street (not from politicos) about both L.U. and Ceoffe Sr., and I've concluded it has something to with in the past having crossed the line at times from “providing leadership” and “watching out for public safety” to “being bullying and intrusive” and “hassling the youngs.”

    I definitely received no impression that DG was unaware of Lawrenceville's transformation at all, simply that she attributed it to a broader set of factors.

  26. Anonymous

    This isn't the race about nothing but more the “FrontRunner's” campaign about nothing!! It was ridiculous a month ago when she wouldn't speak up on issues but now it is a joke!!

  27. SueC

    I Googled Deb Gross & found nothing about her other than her being endorsed by groups who not only don’t live in her District or even in Pittsburgh. Is she getting her ducks in a row to run for a higher Public Office or why the need for such heavy hitters who cannot help her at all in this election. No political comments, No input of what she sees happening in our neighborhoods, good or the bad. I thought the idea was to move people Back to the City from the Suburbs? Maybe she needs to spend some time in morning rush hour traffic to see the thousands coming into the city to work and at 4 to 6pm to see the Mass Exodus out of the city. Then she needs to ride around the city at night time in the neighborhoods that once flourished and see the run down areas that once had kids going to hoop courts and after school activities when our neighborhoods were alive. Now those neighborhoods are full of people who just live to work here & shop and play in the Suburbs. Then maybe she will have something to say other than what Peduto and Fitzgerald tell her to say! She should also have something of substance as a tag line on her Twitter other than mom, wife, community activist, foodie etc. Social Media is the way life and politics are now, she needs to move into the 21st century.

  28. Anonymous

    As a Lawrencevillian who actively promoted and supported Banahasky against Ceoffe pere for the DJ seat, and due to my general annoyance with the family dynasty BS that gave us Mayor Juicebox in the first place, I have to admit that Ceoffe's earned my attention by a) talking about L'ville, and b) making regular statements that appear to reflect actual positions on actual issues that Bill and Council will be facing in the coming years. I'm still skeptical, if only because I'd like more a more seasoned council in general, but if you'd asked me a month or so ago for whom I'd vote, I'd have told you Gross, simply because many of the politically involved friends I've worked with, and whose opinions I respect, have piled on their support.

    Thing is, I doubt either Ceoffe or Gross will confound Bill much, if at all, which I am pleased about. It makes me feel less apprehensive about my votes and the result. But I'll be damned if I can divine that conclusion from what Gross has said, or — above LU non-comments aside — or divine that she even knows where Lawrenceville is. I know a lot of Lawrencevillians don't want another Highland Park candidate, and given the way Gross has campaigned, I can't blame them; increasingly, I feel the same way. I see her showing up and saying, you know, words in Morningside and Stanton Heights and HP and the Strip. But I'll be damned if I've been conscious of her concerning herself with Larryville even once.

  29. Anonymous

    The Weed and Seed program was just a way for Tony Ceoffe Sr. to hand out overtime to police officers. Pittsburgh Police Zone 2 Cmdr. George Trosky said “We got a lot of overtime hours [paid for], two to four officers daily beyond the regular officers.” That is a lot of freakin overtime over the 5 years of the Weed and Seed grant… why not just hire new officers?

  30. Anonymous

    I heard all of the candidates debate today minus Deb gross. All of the candidates made valid points. The one that impressed me the most was Jim and I'm not sure the spelling of his last name but it started with a w. he is obviously well versed on the issues, demonstrated a concern for all the people of pgh, and was definitely not afraid to speak his mind. Pgh needs this guy!

  31. SueC

    I'm glad I went to the forum debate tonight & it was great hearing from the candidates on the real issues of the residents that live here! It's a shame Deb did not join & hear that there are more important issues than, Bike Safety & the Arts that need addressed to keep Pittsburghers in Pittsburgh! Tony seemed the most energetic & informed of our needs & everyone I talk to about him seems to know 1st hand from Tony himself! He is & will continue to be everywhere & I like that in a Representative in Council! I also feel this will carry over once he is in office & we need a young neighborhood Guy to keep Our Neighborhoods Alive, Safe & Thriving! Out with the Old & In with the New!
    (to Anonymous posting above me: Jim seemed like a Smart no nonsense guy, who would serve the City best as a Specialist in many departments the city has, like: Accountant-Auditor-Controller or Public Works Dept-he was on point on all his issues-but to keep up in the neighborhoods that need life pumped back into them on City Council, I think his time has passed! If I owned a Company, I would hands down hire him to do my budget & keep my books!)

  32. Anonymous

    This is what I have observed from ms. Gross:
    1) I was at the Heth's Run Bridge meeting. Senator Ferlo introduced each candidate. Ms. Gross was no where to be found. Her campaign manager tried to get up and introduce herself. Ms. Gross appeared for her usual 10 minutes, sat in the back and played on her phone. I guess she has no respect for our state senator since he didnt endorse her.
    2) I went to the gross Facebook page to see where the candidate stood on issues. It was a log list of her endorsements. I'm not impressed by a candidate who is endorsed by rich he raised out taxes Fitzgerald, other council members and elected officials. While there I stumbled across a picture of deb door knocking. It was staged. Deb doesn't door knock, she has pedutos people do it for her. She had on platform sandals, which if she had really been pounding the pavement she would have worn sneakers or more sensible shoes.
    3) pedutos people call people asking for votes for her. It's insulting that she cannot take the time to formulate her own campaign positions and staff.
    If deb gross wins this election, Pittsburgh is in trouble. Thank god well only have her for 19 months

  33. BrianTH

    (1) I think the risk is that Ceoffe does end up being a representative of a rival political faction with ambitions for the future who obstructs Peduto when it might further such ambitions. There is no way of really knowing at this juncture how all this will play out, but why take the risk?

    (2) I'd actually suggest you are underlining precisely the accountability problem with divided governments.

    (3) I'd suggest it was actually Council that refused to compromise on the parking lease–the winning bidder kept trying to come back to Council to address their concerns and was rebuffed–and that happened in large part because Council was playing politics with the issue. Not that Ravenstahl was a master diplomat, but I think that key members on Council decided very early to demagogue the issue and after that there was nothing Ravenstahl could do to save the process.

    None of this is to deny there are not points each way in terms of possible risks. I just think this is a situation where the parliamentarian approach likely has more points in its favor, and certainly Ceoffe presents at least the risk of a return to an unproductive factionalism on Council.

  34. Anonymous

    I think like Bram (a clear Peduto proponent) does here, we should cut Deb a break for having no policy statements yet and avoiding discussing issues or putting herself in front of voters for anything other than photo ops.

    I'm guessing she just hasn't gotten on Peduto's meeting agenda yet so he can fill her in on what “her” policies and positions are. I'm sure once that meeting happens all will become clear from her campaign.

    P.S. The notion that we should vote for someone to who will rubber-stamp the positions of the new mayor “to give him a chance” is ludicrous… let's abandon checks and balances all together! It seems to me that Ceoffe's positions (at least we know what some of them are) will for the most part coincide with the probable Mayor, but he might actually think for himself.

  35. Anonymous

    One comment I have heard from many, many people, aside from the lack of knowing where she stands on the issues: she shows up for a lot of photo ops to have her pic taken, then disappears. She's not talking about the issues, but then has the nerve to show up to something like the Morningside Mile and get her pic taken with the runners and disappear. We're not hiring a spokesmodel, we need to have someone do the work. I know how much Ceoffe volunteers, lifts heavy things, and is out in the community WORKING. On my only personal encounter with Gross, she showed up to a park planting we were doing and said she was there because she wanted “to run for Dowd's seat” and figured she needed to “get out in the community and do some community work”. I was stunned. Not an especially thoughtful thing to say, but maybe more truthful than she'd planned. Maybe it was because Ceoffe was there, sweating his tail off, getting his hands dirty, doing the planting and that threw her (though they were perfectly nice to each other). I would like to see Peduto succeed and revitalize the city. I don't think that someone who can't or won't do her own public speaking at this point in the election, has no posted platform, etc is the right candidate. I know a lot of people had problems with Ceoffe Sr., but LU has been run by Lauren Byrne since 2010. She's done an amazing job and is way ahead on the issues facing our neighborhood, not the least of which is a model program to address responsible hospitality (bars/restaurants) and the public safety concerns that accompany a neighborhood becoming popular for those kinds of businesses. Lawrenceville is one of the largest neighborhoods in the City- if Ms Gross chooses to be unaware of what is going on in this neighborhood, how can we possibly expect her to give a damn about us if she's elected? Ceoffe is out working not only in Lawrenceville, but Morningside, Bloomfield and Polish Hill (that I am personally aware of). That work ethic speaks volumes.

  36. BrianTH

    As I pointed out above, the system you describe as “ludicrous” is the system used by many representative democracies around the world, and there are several reasons to believe it works better than our system of “checks and balances,” at least in many situations, including situations such as a new reform-minded and/or progressive administration taking over.

    It is too bad that there is no Schoolhouse Rock song about the parliamentary system.

  37. Bram Reichbaum

    “Partisan”? No, Anon 11:26, upon further review I'm going to have to object to that. A partisan wouldn't have been as honest as I was here. And just wait until the BRT / LRT post that is brewing for about another week.

    BrianTH, I see what you're getting at, but it's not destined to be a popular point. I'm an American and I like my representatives independent-minded. I just think Peduto's progressive vision and approach are sensible and necessary enough that it deserves advocates in Council with a posture and a track record of getting it. And again I think these ferocious negative opinions signal that political silly-season has arrived. How deep these impressions really go is anyone's guess… loads of football left to play, and the whole ground game left to wage.

  38. BrianTH

    No doubt a political operative would be committing malpractice by explicitly suggesting this point in public, and I agree it is as un-American as apple strudel and universal healthcare. And yet on some intuitive level, I think a lot of people get the idea of executive officials and legislative officials having an agreement in principle to work together–indeed, that is an essential backdrop to the very notion of political parties in the American sense.

  39. Frank Yehlan

    Earlier in this comment thread, Deb Gross was commended for at least allowing the public to post and comment on her Facebook page. Well, no longer! She has now completely white washed her Facebook page to only include comments and posts supporting her false perceptions. Many posts by several different individuals have been removed. Luckily, I had the foresight to save some of the most comprehensive conversations as an image file. To see a piece of truth that was rescued, go to my Facebook page: and see the top post. You may need to view it as fullscreen to read it.

  40. Anonymous

    Seriously, that poster is a knock out. Raises the bar for council campaigns to come. Interestingly, it mirrors the larger-than-life Teddy Roosevelt painting hanging in Kevin Acklin's front room. If I ever run for office, I'm thinking about doing a Picasso kind of thing.

  41. Anonymous

    The hiring of new officers would also bring legacy costs that couldn't have been supported through this funding. The group was doing what they could with what they had when they really needed it. It also funded youth programs, community gardens, and provided the seed funding for the now Tree Park.

  42. Anonymous

    We are 1 Debate and 1 Forum into the campaign and your “FrontRunner” still is silent……..(except for who she knows)

    Maybe just being “GRRRRREAAAAT””!!!! Will be enough for Tony the Tiger but not for Gross!

  43. SCM

    It is worse than that!

    She has selectively censored her feed so that only certain people can like a status.

    Note that new posts can still get likes – its just that not everyone has the option to do so.

  44. SueC

    So sad That Deb's PR people are blocking people & comments from her page. Also her people are answering comments for her and not directly answering questions, just praising her of what she believes in & the past, which I take she was a part of Group Efforts, not her Own individual thoughts & deeds or we would have heard of her before now! Funny she is camera ready in the last few weeks, but must have been camera shy when she did all the things they write about! She was never seen or heard of before this. So the FBI is cleaning up the City as we speak-if she is elected, does that mean they will be back in a few years? Makes you wonder!

  45. Anonymous

    Deb Gross did NOT invent the Drunk Bus in Oakland for Pitt Students to get around. It has been transporting students since the early '90's. Also she lived off of Penn Ave, that is a Bloomfield Zipcode, but NOT Bloomfield area. That area is Garfield. Friendship Ave from Friendship Park to Negley Ave, the Left is Garfield-the Right side is Bloomfield & now Yuppies call that area Friendship! OMG-what Map is That On???

  46. Anonymous

    Hmm. I just discovered that The Pittsburgh Comet also has a Facebook page. Was browsing through previous posts, and found this comment made by the blogger himself in a discussion of local judges running in the May primary: “I don't know much about the judgeship races. I'm voting for [candidate] because I ran into him, he seemed nice very involved with the community, other seem to like him and he's NOT endorsed by the Committee.” How quickly things change, huh, Bram? Going right along with the committee nowadays! It almost sounds like you're describing Tony Ceoffe. How funny that this prior candidate for judge is now one of Ceoffe's supporters?

  47. Bram Reichbaum

    The difference being I knew not one single iota about *any* of those dozen or so judicial candidates, and frankly wasn't going to try and research them. And besides, that was the Committee before Peduto broke them in by winning the City without them. Also that was obviously least half to 2/3 a joke. But aside from that you really got me.

  48. Anonymous

    No mayoral candidate was endorsed by the Democratic committee on Election Day of the May primary, Bram. Check your facts.

  49. Bram Reichbaum

    True, but I meant that before the primary more of the committee seemed to be more supportive of BP's rivals. After the primary, a very rational “If you can't beat 'em, join 'em!” attitude settled in, as befits a party.

  50. Anonymous

    Found a clarification for Jim Wudarczyk from the events at the Stanton Heights Neighborhood Association's meeting from the events detailed in Gross' story on her website:


    All candidates call on past experiences of community involvement in District 7 neighborhoods

    Pittsburgh, PA-

    On September 18, 2013, the Stanton Heights Neighborhood Association afforded each of the five candidates for the November City Council District 7 special election the opportunity to state their case. Apparently, clarification is necessary because of misleading statements and unfounded assertions made by the Democratic nominee. Ms. Gross contended that beyond a shadow of a doubt she proved that she was the most qualified candidate for the position of City Council Representative of Pittsburgh’s District 7.

    After an examination of her press release, James Wudarczyk wondered if he had been at the same meeting as Ms. Gross. Each candidate presented their qualifications and for any one candidate to hold herself superior to the others reflects an overly-bloated ego. There is no doubt that Ms. Gross effectively stated her biography in the allotted time. However, every candidate clearly demonstrated his or her competency for the job.

    Tony Ceoffe showed that he has a long record of community activism and commitment to a number of worthwhile organizations.

    Tom Fallon illustrated that he is a man who could bring to the job solid business principles, an understanding of people skills, and past experience in public service.

    David Powell is equally qualified in that he possesses an understanding of systems analysis, land tax laws, and a passion for Libertarian politics.

    James Wudarczyk stated his case by presenting to the audience his business credentials, a love of Pittsburgh history, and the hard work and dedication it takes to research and write five books and approximately 300 articles.

    Had Ms. Gross paid more attention to the other candidates and less time on her mobile device, she would have walked away with a greater appreciation for the dedication to public service of her rivals.

  51. Anonymous

    nstead of giving an accurate and unbiased report, which acknowledged the contributions of the other candidates, the Gross campaign elected instead to twist the events to showcase Ms. Gross. While Mr. Powell was polite and complimentary, Ms. Gross mistakenly identified his gentlemanly conduct for an endorsement of her. She seemed to have missed his next statement: “While raising grant funds is great, I don't think that begging money from Harrisburg and Washington D.C. is a viable business model for our area.”

    As for Mr. Wudarczyk, he acknowledged the safety value of a bus system. His picture of the bus system was in sharp contrast with Ms. Gross’ notion that everyone takes a happy bus ride because they live in isolated communities and are totally unaware of the existence of other areas of Pittsburgh.

    Considering the fact that Mr. Wudarczyk’s short speech was interrupted several times by the applause of the majority of the attendees, it illustrated that he could make the assertion that he was best qualified. However, for him to do so would be a slap in the face to the other candidates running.

    Another fallacy in the Gross rendition of last night’s event accused Mr. Ceoffe of inappropriately clapping at a remark made by Mr. Wudarczyk. Ms. Gross must have eyes in the back of her head because she was facing the speaker in the front of the room, while Mr. Ceoffe was seated far behind her. At no time, did Ms. Gross or her supporters turn around and look at Tony Ceoffe during the applause. Therefore, an apology is owed to Mr. Ceoffe.

    Ms. Gross never mentioned any of the major issues. To the contrary, the other candidates were eager to discuss their views on specific issues.

    It was unfortunate that very few Stanton Heights residents were in attendance. Most of the audience was comprised of Gross or Ceoffe supporters. When one of the true residents of Stanton Heights posed a specific question to Ms. Gross regarding the neighborhood, Ms. Gross completely sidestepped the issue.

    Ms. Gross claims that she has a great love of communication. Sadly, she is missing objectivity in her latest release.

  52. Anonymous

    Bram was against the committee before he was for the committee. The “committee seemed to be more supportive of BP's rivals?” Where do you get your facts? That is hardly the case.

  53. Bram Reichbaum

    It's very fair to say that when I agree with the Committee I'm for it, and when I disagree with it I'm against it. Its major public benefit consists in recruiting immigrants and people who do not speak English to the political process, as a bulwark against the influence of the Fire-Eaters and Bourbon Democrats of the 19th century — although today its blessing remains of more practical value to those running for office than its opposition. As proof of my consistency, you will not find me to be among those now insisting Tony is “not a Democrat” or demanding that non-endorsed Democrats decline to run for election against endorsed ones.

    I get my facts from systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses. And Wikipedia.


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