Mayor Rewards Good Service… Like a Boss

Last night on network television, our own “office-type” Mayor donned a wig and camouflage to show off the progress of our City, cavort with some of his employees, almost saw off his fingers, deliver a few Aesops and make a few dreams come true, Hollywood style, to much rejoicing.

Who could possibly find fault with that?

The show typically includes the boss helping out his employees in need when he reveals himself or herself, though Peduto noted he didn’t have the personal resources of a corporate CEO.

Instead, money to help the four came from donations by private companies and individuals, said city spokesman Tim McNulty.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority was authorized to handle and disburse up to $155,000 for the employees. Peduto, using donors’ money, pledged to help Nasiadka go back to school and make up for his lost overtime; get Allen a promotion, a scholarship for her son and money for law school and a house; help with Amend’s animal shelter, caring for his mother and his mortgage; and provide money so Smith could start his dream of becoming a minister, along with help for his foster kids and a program in which he would teach young Housing Authority residents carpentry.

“We said from the beginning, we wouldn’t spend one dollar of city money,” Peduto said after entering Cappy’s to cheers and applause. (Trib, Matthew Santoni)

See? Cheers and applause.

But wait a minute… so he or his own representatives worked the phones to solicit the Undercover Boss prize kitty, from “private companies and individuals?” Kind of like an inaugural ball?

Prizes that were given “by” Mayor Peduto during this nationally televised tear-jerker? Which, while great for the City, comes with a rather noticeable political benefit?

Should we… um… should we get to know who were the donors? Is it possible those phone calls ended in the standard, “Thank you, this won’t be forgotten”?

Oh, see look, now that’s just unfortunate and awful! Now some blogger is online drawing wild assumptions about which connected developers may have helped raise Peduto’s $155,000 “Hero Money,” and wondering if anything was or will be given in return.

So, is this an issue? I really don’t think so… but who am I? I’m gaga for this Mayor, and you all know it. Once again, if only we had access to some reasonably independent panel of experts on this subject matter…

Heh heh. Boring schtick. Hopefully, if someone has a quibble with anything like this, we’ll have help soon. The Mayor in his freshly signed 2015 budget included an $80,000 line item for the Ethics Board where there was zilch before, which may mean Pittsburgh will again be witness to a City Ethics Hearing Board where there has been none in a few years. There was a little activity on this including the old Transition Team back in September of this year, and I have no idea if what we came up with makes sense, or is practicable, or made things harder. But having something is better than nothing, and we’re all looking forward to 80 large worth of something in the year ahead.

MORE / NOT MORE: P-G, Chris Potter

MORE: Peduto tweets that the names will come once donations are in.

72 thoughts on “Mayor Rewards Good Service… Like a Boss

  1. Gabe

    I’m with you on this one. No big deal. But I’d still like to know who contributed and how much. I am sure, for the sake of transparency, that will be forthcoming.

    Reply
      1. Anonymous

        If are Marin of pittsburg got donation for his show yet is she so up in the air about because she didn’t get ant of the money

    1. Anonymous

      Imagine for a moment how this television appearance would have played if Luke had done it. I think we’d be hearing a lot more questions about transparency and influence-peddling…and such questions would be legit. They are no less legit now.

      Yes, Luke was a disinterested frat boy…but it must be remarked that the FBI took a long, hard look at him, and found nothing untoward. For a few months, we had reporters chasing him around, asking questions about his love life, about contractors doing stuff at his house, about every possible angle…and really all that their best efforts yielded was the stunning revelation that Luke just preferred to be left alone. Luke definitely isn’t a hipster, beating on him is still pretty cool, apparently. I think we can confidently add the line “Better than Luke” to the Peduto shrine at Cappy’s. Is it wrong to wonder what else will be added to that legacy, at whose behest, and on what timeline?

      I’m not complaining about this sort of scrutiny…yeah, let’s have a close look at our public leaders. Let’s look a little more closely at how Fitz works. Let’s get a little more info on the Foundations that have a renewed interest and focus on funding government operations. Let’s examine how it is that the city is steering away from challenging UPMC and other corporations that masquerade as non-profits. Let’s do better than answering questions about transparency and influence with the rejoinder “BUT LUKE WAS SUCH A DERP”.

      Reply
    2. bramr101 Post author

      “the FBI took a long, hard look at him, and found nothing untoward” that was a slam dunk by the extremely high burdens for proof in public corruption cases, EXCEPT for leaving the barn door gaping wide for theft at the PD which was well-established, and besides which, the issues could be taken care of at far less taxpayer expense by prevailing upon him to accept some kind of deal, obviously, for his own good.

      Now, on the other topic, of course it’s not wrong to wonder. But I’d really like to explore why some are so suspicious of the foundation partnerships. Yes, we should do due diligence scrutiny, as we should for anyone with money — but I don’t see any reason we should panic right now. My prejudice is, maybe this is just another function of Councilwoman Harris’s xenophobic politicizations about whether “white collars” or “blue collars” are in vogue.

      Reply
      1. Anonymous

        We would do well to examine ALL partnerships with private entities. Not sure why that is a hard sell all of a sudden. We shouldn’t sideline inquiry because our friend got elected mayor, or for any other reason Seeking to understand these relationships should not be categorized as “panic”. Due diligence is more than a catchphrase, or it should be. As for Darlene Harris and her ramblings…yeah, she’s out there. Can’t see why anyone takes her or Doug Shields for anything more than moments of comedic interlude.

      2. bramr101 Post author

        Well when there’s something to examine, let’s examine it, but right now it seems like there’s a lot of ominous consternation without any specific concerns.

        EDIT: Upon further review, I’ll grant you it sure pays to look twice at real estate concerns for example, like the Cultural Trust.

      3. Anonymous

        OK, I am neither a xenophobe nor a fan of Darlene Harris, but I have questions:

        1) Was Bill Peduto compensated for his participation on Undercover Boss? If so, how much?

        2) Who provided (will provide?) the money that was given (will be given?) to the workers as depicted on the show? How much did (or will) each give?

        3) What role, specifically, did the URA play in the transactions?

        4) Did no one on the 5th floor say, “there will be questions about these gifts, you know, we should be well-prepared with answers and provide them readily”?

  2. Gabe

    Wait a minute. Yesterday they were praising Acklin for the reaching the fundraising goal. Today, attempting to stall the disclosure, they say there is still more fundraising to do.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      So…they have to do fundraising still? Does that mean the URA covered the cost of the gifts, and Kevin Acklin spent his holidays on the phone trying to line up folks to cover the costs? Did they have the money (and when you have the money, you then automatically have the names of the benefactors) at the time that the show was taped? Interesting…

      Reply
  3. Waldo

    If the PG/Peduto “Where’s the Mayor?” tracker app failed to disclose his CBS work, then there’s your transparency scandal right there.

    Reply
  4. Brian Tucker-Hill

    This is such a unique situation that it seems fine for them to take a little while to figure out the requirements. But off hand, it does seem like disclosure of the donors’ identities would be a good idea.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      Most people including the PG are missing the point on the disclosure. The Mayor went on tv and earned himself a lot of praise. Take note of this blog as case in point. Some of that praise was warranted. The City was certainly cast in a good light. But….he went on and earned HIMSELF a lot of good will as well. The center of that praise was the fact that he handed out hundreds of thousands of dollars to elicit tears and hopefully life changing experiences. But that wasn’t his money. Other people put up the money so that the Mayor could look good on National TV (i’m not saying that was the donor’s central goal, but there is a point to be made there). All in all this was a publicity event for the Mayor. Yes, it had good qualities and is better than waiving a terrible towel at the 50 yard line, but a publicity event nonetheless.

      So here is the point everyone is missing. I want to know who the Mayor solicited – not just who donated. For example, I think even the Mayor’s biggest apologists on this blog would agree that if the Mayor and Acklin took the City vendor list and called them up and said “the mayor would like you to make a donation…” that there is something unsavory about that. This is not just about people making donations to gain favor and call in those favors later, it is also about the Mayor potentially using the power of his office to put pressure on vendors to pony up. Who could refuse that call? Is that good government? Hardly. Thus, I think we should get disclosure about who all they called, not just who donated. This is the real scandal that they probably want to hide.

      Reply
      1. Brian Tucker-Hill

        If you are concerned about people feeling pressured to contribute to things like this, I would think the last thing you would want is a requirement to identify everyone who is asked to make a donation but says no.

      2. Anonymous

        Very short sighted BTH. They way you make people not feel pressured is but cleaning up the system. This is not that different from campaigning. Do you want people to feel pressured that they have to donate to a campaign or they won’t get City business? I hardly expect you to say then that the way to clean that up is to not disclose who donates to a campaign. And by the way, I’m not saying to publish the email address of everyone that got a request to donate for Boss, but I am suggesting that someone take a look and see if that list is strangely similar to the City vendor list. If so, we have a problem Houston and the defunct ethics board should be called in to investigate. Why are you resisting that so much?

        PS – anyone else notice that every big development project has thus far gone to Peduto donors? Hmm…….

      3. Anonymous

        This is an excellent point. Yes, it’s great that a handful of City employees were given sizable gifts…but this is happening, don’t forget, amid a salary freeze and a climate of “let’s do more with less”…which really means we’re going to ask hard-working employees to do more and not replace bought-out and retiring workers while they insert a new 6 figure cabinet layer into the budget and outfit them with swag. Benefiting a handful of workers for the cameras so the Mayor can be nationally recognized for his largesse doesn’t seem overall like an effective use of Peduto’s fundraising engine…it points to misplaced priorities. Didn’t the Transition Team give them enough to work on? Aren’t there better uses of time and money than setting the Mayor up to look good while handing out checks like some kind of proxy tycoon?

      4. Brian Tucker-Hill

        I’m not aware of any requirement to disclose who is merely asked to contribute to political campaigns either (versus who actually contributes). That legal structure is all about preventing donors from having unknown influence on politicians, not protecting people from confidential cold calls and emails asking for contributions. And of course I do think if you are talking about charitable rather than political campaigns, the public scrutiny of potential donors would be higher in cases they chose to say no.

        Anyway, personally, I’m not really concerned about people just being asked. My understanding is that typically lots and lots of people on call lists–even what are considered good lists–and such feel free to say no on any given occasion they are asked for money. And that means there is typically going to be safety in numbers–there is no way politicians could effectively retaliate against all the people who politely decline to help out after a given fundraising effort.

        In short, this feels to me like a solution in search of a problem. But I suppose we can start with the donor list and see if it raises concerns. For example, I suspect it will not in fact look like it was drawn just from a list of city vendors, but if I am wrong then maybe we can revisit that concern.

  5. Anonymous

    Did I just see the Mayor of Pittsburgh…on national TV…come to the “rescue” of a worker by picking up a private school tab? I need to tell you in uncertain terms…that is an insult to the public school system. It’s an insult to PPS (regardless of them sending Ebony Pugh out to shrug her shoulders), it’s an insult to the students and the parents and teachers who work hard every day to improve things, it’s an insult to the taxpayers whose dollars are at play.

    The whole tone of this was just wrong. “My friends want to help you out” has such a backroom stench on it. Yes, it’s great they helped out a couple of workers with piles of money, but this is the leader of the City, charged with improving the well-being of all 310k residents, not Santa Claus or a Rockefeller. As noted above, this was primarily a PR vehicle for him to appear the benevolent savior to the overwhelmingly suburban crowd whose eyes are glued to reality TV, and while that is OK for the City’s stature, it won’t help him for a NY minute when he has to work on a difficult issue like increasing revenue to address infrastructure or debt. It isn’t the posture we expect from a reformer or a progressive…it’s something done by a man who is becoming a little tipsy on the attention his position has afforded him.

    As for the URA and Acklin…high time for more scrutiny on how they operate. Rudiak recently has claimed that this will be a priority for her in ’15, but I have to chuckle at the idea that she’d make things difficult for her friend Bill.

    Reply
    1. Brian Tucker-Hill

      I agree it is no substitute for good employment policies, but supposedly the department heads helped identify worthy employees with financial needs. I imagine, without knowing, that the show producers may have had some say about who made the show as well. Ultimately then, the question is whether the Mayor should take this opportunity to help out a few City employees outside the normal policiy framework. I don’t really see much harm in doing so.

      Reply
      1. Anonymous

        The harm in doing so is that employees are shown that the mayor will reward good service if and when a national TV audience is there to see him doing so, not before. It underscores that there is no native mechanism in place to reward or even recognize employees who are performing at a high level. For that matter, there is also no way to address employees that are not working hard or achieving very much. The only step taken towards the latter was the buyout program, which essentially rewarded people who should have been fired years ago. I imagine at one time civil service protection was a positive that protected deserving employees, but these days it’s a weight on the neck of the organization that keeps underperformers in place and causes self-motivated, productive individuals to look elsewhere. This is not a criticism of the Peduto administration per se, but it would be great to see them try to address it.

  6. Anonymous

    One more thing…it’s time to shelve the digs at Luke Ravenstahl. No one is claiming that Luke was a good mayor – the way he closed out was downright embarrassing – but for goodness sake, MOVE ON. We need to see more evidence of this Mayor’s visions coming to fruition…less talk, less “I am the Man and my Rich Friends will fix everything” posturing. Dwelling on the shortcomings of the previous guy is not moving us ahead, in fact it is starting to sound rather petty. Doing this to a national audience made him look bad, not Luke. Time to move away from that silliness, unless it truly has become a crutch for him.

    Reply
    1. bramr101 Post author

      I’ll let everything else go, but they asked him, “How did you become Mayor?” You don’t ask George Washington, “How did you become President of the United States?” and then complain, “Why do you have to keep picking on the British, it’s so petty.”

      That is our history. I don’t want us to forget it. I want it to be on everyone’s minds, there should be a holiday, and songs, and public art, about the kind of mayor Luke was and where that got him, so nobody is ever that cavalier with the office again. Those who do not learn from history and so forth.

      Reply
      1. Anonymous

        The problem is this…ultimately, Peduto became mayor because Luke quit his job. Warts, police scandal and all, Luke would have been reelected had he not ducked out. Even with compelling reasons existing to bounce him out, the small amount of eligible voters who always decide Pittsburgh elections were lined up behind him, and it would have happened.

        I am not prepared to give up on Peduto just yet, I think he’s going to be great for the City in the long run…but I and many others who are not in his cheering section really hope to see more results. We don’t need to compare/contrast him with Luke…Bill has won that battle. Bill loves being mayor a lot more than Luke did…point forever conceded.

        But now…what sort of mayor is Bill? So far, he’s a mayor who appears to be very reliant on the financial intercession of his rich foundation friends. Let’s see how far that can take us. I have a feeling that this particular big money crowd will tire of being sourced for funds unless we see some results…or if their beneficence has no limits, then who is really running this city? For whom are policies being crafted?

        All in all…the reality TV thing had some PR benefits, and it’s nice a couple of folks got their hands on cash money to be saved from evils like PPS…but the whole thing really leaves a bitter taste when you really look at it. Let’s see how rapidly Acklin ponies up with the names of their benefactors…then we’ll better be able to assess where public money ties in to all of this, not before.

      2. Anonymous

        I am with you on history, but the rest of your answer is a great example of why Bill is no leader and his supporters are not progressives. Bill’s comments on TV and your here are filled with hate and animus. They are not the words of statesmen and leadership.

        Besides, there are some cold hard facts everyone has to live with, despite your best attempts to deflect. The City did marvelously well under Ravenstahl. One could argue the City did the best in its entire history. Ravenstahl himself did some foolish things and probably was a little too carefree, but the City did great. Despite all of the efforts of this Blog and Peduto, Ravenstahl was relieved of any and all alleged crimes by the grand jury. So all of the garbage coming out of the mouths of his detractors about corruption and crime was flat out wrong. The City did great and he was absolved. Deal with it.

        Whatever happens in the City 5-7 years from today will be on Bill – whether it is good or bad (we all hope good for all of our sake). But everything that is happening good today in the City is more a reflection of Luke than it is Bill. To say otherwise is just silly and takes away from the credibility of the author.

        What got me more than anything about Bill’s comments on national tv was to say that Ravenstahl supporters and Peduto supporters are like “Hatfield and McCoy.” That is an extremely cynical and divisive view of large groups of citizens and explains why he governs with such petty politics. The vast, and i mean vast, majority of people could careless about alliances on that level. Most people who have any interaction with the City support the incumbent. To believe that there are large swaths of people that get up in the morning and align themselves with either Luke or Bill like a Hatfield or McCoy is ludicrous. There is not eternal war between these fictional Pittsburgh sides. The mean spirited hate needs to end and someone needs to start the healing and act like a leader.

      3. bramr101 Post author

        For any who are interested, here is a good thorough summary of why Pittsburgh did so well from the late 90’s through today.

        I must have missed the press conference absolving him. I caught the one where he mysteriously stepped aside in the middle of his reelection drive, and an investigation.

        I don’t know, I don’t feel like there’s anything that needs healed. Within City Hall there is always a partisan dynamic. Outside, people acknowledge it but I don’t think anyone cries over the competition. The “Peduto is petty” argument was turned way up to sonic weapon level during the primary, and he just kept polling better and better.

      4. Anonymous

        It truly is better for all involved and for the City of Pittsburgh if the Luke/Peduto conflict is allowed to rest. Those who care for the City must place current events and challenges to the forefront. All issues and all accomplishments have their roots in previous administrations, no matter what. The Mayor should not reference a past political squabble when he is representing the City in a high profile situation, unless he has a good reason for doing so. Luke was not a great mayor, but the City saw some real improvements during his tenure due to the hard work of his staff and others. That happened in spite of Luke’s foibles, and it’s important to recognize that. Peduto’s situation is a product of good and bad things that happened in the past, as well as his own actions as a long-time Councilman. It would be nice to see that Bill has his eyes focused on the future, rather than downcast to the past. His comments in this show and elsewhere show that he’s got some work to do in this regard. If he’s up to any of the challenges the City faces, he certainly should be up to this one.

      5. bramr101 Post author

        We could do worse than teach the Ravenstahl vs. Peduto (and let’s give credit, Council) conflict in all public schools. Not just here but nationwide. And not just in high school but starting in elementary school, with puppets and singalongs. I believe the children are our future — teach them well, and let them lead the way! Give them a sense of pride; remind them how things used to be.

      6. Brian Tucker-Hill

        I believe Peduto’s line was “In Pittsburgh politics, the Hatfields and the Mccoys are my administration and the previous administration.”

        Is this discussion supposed to be persuading me there is no truth to that? Because it is having the opposite effect.

        Generally, I can’t recall any occasion in which an executive from one party or faction took over from an executive from another party or faction and there was not a bunch of sniping back and forth over who deserves the credit for good things, the blame for bad things, who ran a cleaner/dirtier administration, and so on–for at least a full first term, and often longer. I think sometimes that dynamic can be helpful in advancing policy discussions, and other times not so much, but regardless asking for it not to happen at all seems futile.

  7. Anonymous

    There is no mystery as to why Luke quit his job in the middle of what looked to be a winning campaign. He was tired of being mayor, tired of being in the spotlight. For months and months he had been shirking his Mayoral duties, let’s be honest. He wanted to live a more private life. He was always uncomfortable speaking for the City as a whole, and it showed more and more. he didn’t quit because he feared investigation, or because he had skeletons in the closet. These would have been found if they were there, I think we all can agree that there was intense scrutiny and examination, and they would have rapidly been made public. Let’s not forget that when Peduto moved into the Mayoral suite, a lot of noise was made about a missing clock which was subsequently found on the same floor. Any speck of dirt on Luke went right to the many reporters who were eagerly awaiting it. Every effort to cast Luke as some evil corrupt network pol pretty much failed. This was a guy who just wanted to check his fantasy football accounts, not attend meetings or shake hands or make deals. He wanted to keep living like a college kid, so he did. All of the attention on him wore on his family, as you could see in the press conference. No mystery why he quit, no big dark secret forced him out…he just didn’t want to be mayor any more.

    Reply
    1. bramr101 Post author

      If privacy was really the case, why did he spearhead the negative TV ads and social media hits from the sidelines so proudly? I mean, this is all really off-topic, but this insistence on a revisionist history including “absolution” is provocative.

      Reply
      1. Anonymous

        Luke didn’t want Bill to win the election. He spent his campaign money on political attack ads. This was universally received with derision…absolutely a childish act…but was it a crime? It wasn’t. Does Luke acquit himself well when he takes to Twitter for shots at Bill? No, he doesn’t. Does any of this change why he quit his job? No…he quit because he couldn’t handle it. Perhaps he is an unwise young man…but is he a criminal? No, he is not.

        Peduto and his people hang on to the Luke narrative, it appears, because they feel cheated of a bigger scandal. Luke didn’t blossom into the scapegoat they thought he could be. They assumed he’d be led off in chains, but that just didn’t happen. If that did happen, it would speak for itself…but because it just sort of petered out, they keep flogging it for more. They want a bigger mess to position themselves against, because the problems of revenue, infrastructure, and safety just aren’t sexy enough…they are too difficult to address with both hands.

      2. bramr101 Post author

        If anything, problems of revenue, infrastructure, policing strategy and “resilience” are pinup material for the hipstocracy. They’ve been criticized for being too cerebral and policy-driven before; I think that’s part of what underlies the collar-coded resentment. Anyway, the prior administration’s legal scandals (as opposed to those of poor management) ended inconclusively, with many unanswered questions, and that’s fine by me. It’s only the proposition that he was “absolved” that merits pushback.

  8. Anonymous

    At the end of the day, what do most people in Pittsburgh care about most? Potholes and snowplows. The simple fact is that no mayor in Pittsburgh has enough resources to fix those things for good. There are too many miles of roads for our budget to handle, even if we abandoned all other efforts entirely. All Mayors and their Agendas, good and bad, will surrender to the monster of asphalt when those structural shortcomings are made apparent by natural events. Maybe Peduto will be in Europe for a bike conference instead of in Seven Springs when the monster comes calling, the result will be the same.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      I don’t expect to persuade bram or BTh of anything. They are both squarely in the PR team for Peduto and his regular apologists on this blog. So no, none of this discussion is supposed to persuade either of you. It is, however, supposed to continue to point our your hypocrisy for anyone else who might stumble upon this blog. Bram especially just can’t accept the fact that Luke was absolved of any and all criminal activity. He keeps saying there are unanswered “questions” like any good political operative who has zero facts to back up his defamatory statements. That hypocrisy is exposed when he won’t even say that there are “unanswered questions” about how and when and why Bill got lots of wealthy “friends” to help him pull off a publicity stunt on national TV. You see, the Hatfield and McCoy standoff boils down to this. If you are a firefighter or police officer or just a regular joe on the street you are the enemy of the Peduto administration and his apologists. When Bill said on National TV about Marty “that because I am not helping him I am hurting him,” he aimed that solely at regular people. When Bill wants to help architects/supporters from the East End get in on major development projects even though they finished last in the competition, everything is ok and for the public good. When he wants to help unions that campaign for him and give him money to get summer jobs or legislation that helps their cause, it is for the public good. When he directs development projects to contributors, again, for the public good. Interesting how that works out.

      Reply
      1. Brian Tucker-Hill

        Speaking just for myself, I have been a adamant critic of Peduto when I think he deserves serious criticism. For example, I think his interference in the August Wilson Center issue was completely unwarranted, and in fact I frequently argued as much here.

        But I call them like I see them, and other than agreeing that the donors should be disclosed, this just doesn’t strike me as a serious issue. And if you are trying to raise concerns about Peduto among those who are not already predisposed to agree with you, then you might want to focus on the substantial issues, and not just chase after every ball that bounces past you. Because in the end, nitpicking stuff like this is more likely than not going to strike most normal people as petty, such that they are just going to tune you out entirely.

        However, picking your moments seems like a lost art in modern, internet-based political discourse. So I don’t expect this advice to resonate.

      2. bramr101 Post author

        Weird that this (Anon 9:12) arises underneath a post wherein I took Mayor Peduto to task, before anyone else in town did, for a lack of transparency here and for dragging his heels on getting an Ethics panel going. Did I not raise the exact questions you say I’m ignoring? Or does it not count unless I throw in some bush-league noise about attacks on “regular people”?

        Unanswered question: why did a high-ranking official who resigned blasting Ravenstahl’s administration for “deception and corruption” receive a six month’s salary bonus in addition to his prescribed full year’s salary “no fault” severance, in exchange for a legal agreement never to talk about the administration again?

  9. Anonymous

    Boy, the Dark Lord Darth Acklin sure is taking his sweet time getting his story straight in naming these donors! At least the hard-hitting bloggers are holding his feet to the fire! Or not….

    Reply
      1. Anonymous

        Yes, because it takes so much time to put a list of 25 people on an email and hit send. The money was clearly raised prior to the show or the Mayor wouldn’t not have had the number to award. What are they hiding? This is really starting to stink.

      2. bramr101 Post author

        If that is the worst stink the Peduto administration has produced in its first year, you have to admit, it’s been surpassingly tame.

        That should be self-evident, but New Years is a time to reflect. Let’s compare to provide a sense of scale. I know discussing the Ravenstahl administration is unfortunate and wrong, but by their own one-year mark, our prior City administration:

        1. Issued an unsigned legal opinion incorrectly stating that Luke did not have to run in a Special Election
        2. Lied to reporters about having in the recent past been in an altercation with an officer at Heinz Field at which he was seized, cuffed and detained
        3. Empowered a political “fixer” with zero public safety experience to make decisions within the police department, later nominated to be his Director of Public Safety
        4. Demoted a police commander for blowing whistles about said failed nominee; a federal judge issued an injunction reinstating her, and the City settled the case
        5. Dismantled the Murphy-O’Connor cost recovery fee program for police secondary employment; in response to outcry it was later reinstated, but (apparently!) with very weak controls
        6. Sent out bids for a lucrative energy consulting contract mere days before Christmas, giving firms only two weeks to respond; of only two bids submitted, the award went to a local and politically connected firm
        7. Missed a major community meeting on Hill District development to celebrate with Penguins’ owners in New York City, and then lied about it
        8. Members of the City’s “Redd Up” crew caught wearing campaign gear while working out in the neighborhoods, and the head of that crew being given Election Day off to electioneer
        9. Presided over a URA “Streetface” program which repeatedly granted no-payback loans to a particular developer convicted of fraud, and allowed him to grossly underreport the cost of improvements to BBI.
        10. Got upbraided by the Justice Department for shoddy administration of the Weed & Seed program
        11. Promoted three officers with histories of domestic abuse allegations, some of whom leapfrogged rank past colleagues
        12. Accepted a $9,000 charity golf outing from UPMC — the optics of which were made even worse by playing on the day of a massive public hearing on domestic violence policy spurred by the above — though his office initially said he was in Harrisburg
        13. Botched the rollout of the Pittsburgh Promise by pledging tax breaks to UPMC in exchange for its donations, underestimated the annual sum necessary to cover the program by almost half, and taking nine months to sit the first meeting of its steering committee.
        14. Demanded that every single departmental director officially “resign,” yet stay on in an “acting” capacity — well past the 90-day limit.
        15. Missed a public meeting on the North Side to which he had invited residents to meet him, then got caught lying about instead being at a ballgame in Boston

        Peduto showed poor instincts in initially wanting to keep the Undercover Boss prize contributors anonymous. How does that one “stink” of 2014 compare with any one of the 15 doozies listed above — let alone all 15 from Sept. ’06 to Sept. ’07?

        Now to reflect on all that: It’s not Luke I can’t let go of; he was thrust into that role before he could handle it, ill-suited, and was prevailed upon to stay longer than he wanted. It’s not anybody on a middling rung in City government that I have it in for; a noble calling which sometimes means working under all manner of boobs. No, it’s ALL those people just outside City Hall, in the business community, on the Committee or in higher positions at the County or State — all those who purport to love Pittsburgh so much, knew what was happening, and for their own reasons supported it, cheered it on, dragged it out, didn’t lift a finger to reverse it. That’s what I can’t let go of. I don’t see how they can walk around today, shrug off those seven years as a kooky happenstance, and still yammer about “the good of the city” like it means something to them.

      3. Anonymous

        Bram, here is what you just simply don’t get. There are lots of people out there, this Anon for one, that completely agrees with your last salient point about all these people who pretended to care about Pittsburgh when bad things were happening. I may take issue as to whether some of the doozies you point out are actually doozies, but bad things happened nonetheless. But the point you are missing is that the exact same thing is going on right now. The “Ravenstahl is my guy” crowd did nothing about his indiscretions and you and the “Peduto is my guy” crowd, including lots of other public officials that talk so much about loving Pgh, are turning a blind eye and covering for this administration. In the first year alone he hired people that weren’t qualified or even complied with state law for directorships, used Talent City as a subterfuge to hire friends and political allies, went to the exact same donor list and squeezed tens of thousands of dollars out of well connected developers and others with City work, used tax payer dollars to force out employees hired by former administrations so he could bring in his friends, publicly threatened people who disagreed with him, refusing to let the SEA be audited, covering up major scandals on the Fifth floor of City Hall and now refusing to release the names of donors who put up tens of thousands to help him go on national TV and award favors to City employees, not on merit, but because they were randomly selected by a reality tv crew. Why the names weren’t released on day one is appalling. Stop covering up for these guys. The City and its citizens deserve better. Did we deserve better than Luke, yes of course we did. But this guy isn’t it.

      4. bramr101 Post author

        As far as Directorships, you’re talking only about BBI or now DPLI, right? That’s one (1), and the assertion that she’s “not qualified” is highly debatable — she had an extremely similar job in Philadelphia and passed her state certification. Peduto didn’t “force” anyone out, those buyouts were optional and perfectly legal, approved in due process by Council I believe 8-1 not to mention by the ICA. It’s a matter of opinion whether it was a good idea, but executives get to pick their top staff within reason, the process was far “more open” as promised, not “pure as the driven snow”. Was it a scandal when Obama replaced most of Bush’s cabinet heads? When Corbett replaced most of Rendell’s? No, they just won, and created an office to suit their agenda. At least Bill matched his supporters to positions for which they generally are actually qualified, which always takes a heck of a lot of the sting out of any patronage. On the SEA audit, I happen to agree with you, but the law is on their side (though I think we might win that one in the fullness of time, lots of ballgame left.) Basically your list is nonspecific, based on almost nothing that can be cited, demonstrates no crossing of clear red lines, and likens ice cubes to glaciers.

        But what do I know? If you feel that strongly, build these cases publicly, with specifics, hammer them home, put your name behind it (or not, but at least give yourself a persona people can hold accountable) and give the Mayor what for. Don’t complain that I’m subjugating you. If you really have the goods, take it from me it should be easy and fun.

      5. Anonymous

        I’m not so sure they had the money in hand for the Undercover Boss gifts when they taped the show. Didn’t Acklin essentially say as much when he said there was still some fundraising to do? It appears they got a specific number from the URA coffers and they are working the phones to cover it after the fact. I don’t think there would be any other reason for not having the donor list available right away. It’s just not complete yet…and I would guess that they’re having trouble getting calls back from the Friends over the holidays, they are all in Aspen or similar spots. It also probably a difficult sell: “hey Friend, we’re in a bind here. We need to cover these gifts, and once you say yes, we’ll have to put your name, number, and date of gift on a list that will be scrutinized widely”. Sounds a tad awkward.

  10. Anonymous

    If you want to clean house, just do it. Why wait an entire year before firing Dick Skrinjar and putting your buddy into his chair? Why create a buyout program to reward dead weight that is close to retirement anyway? New administrations are going to go in new directions, that is understood and time-honored. Please spare us the charade that you’re behaving any differently than your predecessors…it’s just an insulting waste of time.

    One name stands alone to serve as an immediate, pithy self-rebuttal to the NEXTPittsburgh concept: Guy Costa. The man simply embodies PREVIOUSPittsburgh…and there he was, pulled in from the minute go.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      Bram, part of the reason people are anon is because the Peduto team is so vindictive. That is just a reality. I am astonished by McNulty’s comments in the Trib regarding Skrinjar. Skrinjar didn’t even say anything bad about the administration and McNulty took shots at him. Look, whatever else people want to believe and say, the simple fact is that Bill and his administration are not above it all, they are no different than most past administrations and not leaders. They are petty children that take shots and try and hurt anyone that criticizes them. I think many of us had high hopes that just didn’t materialize with these guys. Man do most of wish someone could just rise above. Bill squandered that. I’m sorry, but he did. We all deserve better.

      Reply
    2. bramr101 Post author

      Anon 11:22, in regards to the timing on parting ways with Skrinjar, I think it made sense to first get a new Director of Parks & Rec situated and acclimated.

      Reply
  11. Anonymous

    Dick Skrinjar can be difficult and abrasive, but when that happens, it happens right to your face, and it ends right there, like a boxing match, and the participants shake hands and move on. There is quite a lot to like about that approach…and it’s easy to see why the Peduto administration would take issue, preferring a more subterranean style of conflict. Nonetheless Dick will land on his feet…but the seniors of Pittsburgh will really miss him. He did an excellent job in that capacity, and will be impossible to replace. One might contend they saved on salary, but the 20k they saved on his replacement (plus a lot more) went into the new assistant director position they created in Citiparks. There was also mention of Dick’s double size office, but he had already moved out of that office into the Hazelwood senior center…that detail didn’t make it into the article. There really is no good way to rinse this one off…100% OldBurgh politics from top to bottom.

    Reply
  12. Rhett Oracle

    Why does the Trib have such a detailed, informative report on Skrinjar’s firing, but the PG hasn’t touched it?

    Reply
    1. bramr101 Post author

      I don’t know. Maybe the source for the story (its subject?) gave the Trib the exclusive. The Administration seemed mildly unprepared to discuss it. The Trib opines on it a lot, too. To my way of thinking, they have a point about the cheap shot, although we cannot tell if it was more like a counteroffensive. As to the personnel move, I’d say it’s acceptable for an at-will position that an O’Connor product make way for a Peduto product. Dick seems like the type to scrabble to his feet, anyway. Even if he doesn’t run, he could try and play Councilormaker in D7.

      Reply
    2. BP

      I doubt Skrinjar was the source for that story, there are no quotes from him and many details he would have filled in are lacking. The Trib could be less beholden to or aligned with McNulty than the PG, for obvious reasons.

      Reply
    3. BP

      This has been an interesting discussion, to say the least. Where are we on these 3 questions from above:

      1) Was Bill Peduto compensated for his participation on Undercover Boss? If so, how much?

      2) Who provided (will provide?) the money that was given (will be given?) to the workers as depicted on the show? How much did (or will) each give?

      3) What role, specifically, did the URA play in the transactions?

      Reply
      1. bramr101 Post author

        We are at, “I don’t know.” But I’ll take some guesses: 1) Probably not, 2) Kickstarter? and 3) It sounds like it either fronted the money or cosigned / collateralized the pledge. For which an economic development argument might be or even has been made.

        Reality television suggests lines and edits things, but it was eerie how the Mayor kept repeating “I have some friends who…” Peduto would know how that would sound. He doesn’t know chainsaws, but he knows political talking. So weird! EDIT: Never mind, he was always kind of blunt.

      2. Anonymous

        This story is much deeper than anyone in the Peduto camp or press wants to admit right now. the URA angle is actually turning out to be the most interesting aspect of this story. If the URA as an entity was used, then who did they call for donations? Was it a bunch of developers and engineers and architects? Sounds very sleazy if that is the case. Someone needs to do an audit of this entire process.

  13. Helen Gerhardt

    We need an independent, diverse, community-based Ethics Board, which, if not appointed by the officials that it would oversee, would not only help substantiate Street Sweeper promises of systemic squeaky-cleaness, but might also serve to sweep away specious, angsty allegations and whisper campaigns that present no credible evidence to back up their spitballing.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      Peduto is actually doing more damage to clean government and transparency than perhaps any Mayor in history. Why you might ask? Because of Helen’s comment and what it stands for. The Mayor hands out hundreds of thousand of dollars from undisclosed friends and the people calling for transparency are accused of whisper campaigns and spitballing. It should literally be on the finger tips of of an email to hit send and disclose the list. The Mayor’s office used his URA staff to solicit donations and is now stonewalling transparency, but someone, in a bizzaro world, the fact that he won’t release information becomes the problem of those asking for the information.

      next, Peduto has done NOTHING to jump start a good solid and independent ethics board and has done NOTHING to clean up campaign finance reform. In fact, after the rules were thrown out he has taken the opportunity to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, sometimes at chunks of tens of thousands of dollars, from city vendors and developers. But…in the bizzaro world of transparency of Helen and this blog, those asking for the Mayor to actually live up to these ideals are the mudslingers and whisper campaigners.

      The reality is that this type of behavior and cover up is almost justifying his actions and starts to solidify a process by which a candidate can skirt disclosure and transparency and ethics reform solely because we like him better. Having a nation based on men, rather than laws, is death to good government and transparency. It is actually a huge shame that Bill didn’t take the opportunity to make real change and an even bigger shame that people are letting him get away with it.

      Reply
      1. bramr101 Post author

        You mention many things we’ve helped you with. The only thing we didn’t get to personally is Campaign Finance Reform, and I’m literally now listening to ultraprog reporter Chris Potter take Peduto to task for that, too. So in a way, we appreciate all the encouragement we’re receiving to continue helping Peduto skeptics with their arguments.

        Now, often enough in anonymous comments cataloguing Peduto’s crimes, we read that he is rewarding his friends and donors with contracts. Time for that one to get more specific. We’ll take it as public knowledge that Pittsburgh radical preservationist Rob Pfaffman was made junior partner by the URA in a collaboration on the Produce Terminal. And McLay selected a specialty vendor from back in Wisconsin on a crime data proposal. Anything else, over 2014? Help us help you.

      2. Anonymous

        I have no desire to engage in the help us or help you. I’m not playing the my team vs. yours politics. I want someone to finally rise above it all. bill could have and should have, but didn’t.

        Help yourself and the citizens of Pgh and just look and verify that every single developer awarded a project by the URA thus far has been a Peduto contributor. Virtually every City contract awarded also fits that bill.

      3. bramr101 Post author

        I’m sure such an accounting is on its way. But are there any developers in Pittsburgh who are not making campaign contributions to incumbents? Serious question. Obviously said influence needs to be exposed and checked, and $50,000 per cycle should be viewed a little differently than $500, but at the very least we’ll also have to check if failed bidders also made contributions. A daunting task I’ll leave to people getting paid for it.

  14. Gabe

    This back and forth has been entertaining and informative. I still find it very odd that Bill has not released the names of the contributors. This program was taped months ago. They had to know that someone would ask.

    Also, I have no problem with terminating Skrinjar or with replacing him with a friend of Bill’s. But I do have a problem with the fact that his replacement is completely unqualified.

    Reply
  15. Gabe

    *Revised Employment Announcement for the position of: SENIOR PROGRAM MANAGER

    Applications will be accepted online from 04/07/14 through the filing deadline of *04/14/14

    APPLICANT REQUIREMENTS

    I. General Application Requirements:
    You must submit or show proof of all of the following at the time of filing your application (unless otherwise indicated below) or your application will be disqualified. Disqualifications based on any of these General Application Requirements are not subject to a Civil Service appeal.
    · A completed online City of Pittsburgh Employment Application, including your online Employment Profile Data. (Education and Work Experience).
    · Completed online City of Pittsburgh Supplemental Form questions for this position.
    · A resume, to be submitted online.
    · Applicants are required to be City of Pittsburgh residents at the time of submitting the application and remain a resident at all times, up to and including throughout employment with the City of Pittsburgh. Your City of Pittsburgh residency will be verified.
    · Pennsylvania Act 33/34 Clearance prior to appointment.
    · Applicants must obtain a CPR, First Aid Certification within six (6) months of hire date and maintain throughout employment
    · A current, valid Class C Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Operator’s License at the time of filing application or prior to appointment, which must be maintained throughout employment. Written requests for a special accommodation on the basis of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 and the Americans with Disabilities Act will be considered by the Department of Personnel and Civil Service Commission on an individual basis.

    NOTE: The City of Pittsburgh, as a matter of policy, conducts pre-employment and promotional background investigations on all candidates being considered for positions. The background investigation includes but is not limited to criminal background, driver’s license and City of Pittsburgh real estate tax payments. Candidates may be disqualified from consideration from employment based on the results of their background investigation (as it relates to the job for which the applicant is being considered).

    NOTE: Candidates being considered for employment will be required to submit official transcripts to verify of their post-secondary education (college/university, trade school, etc.) prior to being hired by the City of Pittsburgh. Transcripts must be submitted at the time of any/each job interview you have with the City of Pittsburgh.

    II. Qualifying Requirements:
    Your City of Pittsburgh application will be reviewed and your work experience and education/training will be evaluated to determine if you meet the qualifying eligibility requirements listed below for this position. You will be sent an eligibility letter regarding your eligible/ineligible status.
    · WORK EXPERIENCE: The application must clearly show two (2) years of full-time experience in planning, organizing and overseeing programs. The application must also show some experience in managing/supervising employees. (Full-time is defined as 32 hours or more per week. Less than full-time experience will be calculated on a pro-rated basis.)
    · EDUCATION/TRAINING: The application must clearly show a Bachelor’s Degree from a fully accredited institution in Public Administration, Business Administration, Parks & Recreation or a related field. (See NOTE under the General Application Requirements Section above regarding the verification of education/training).
    · EQUIVALENCY: Education/training and/or work experience may be substituted on a year for year basis if the application clearly shows the required number of years to meet the Total Qualifying Requirement for this position (based on the sum of work experience and education/training listed above). The Total Qualifying Requirement is six (6) years. (See NOTE under the General Application Requirements Section above regarding the verification of education/training).

    III. Civil Service Examination(s):
    If you meet the qualifying requirements listed above, you will be sent a letter of admission (when applicable) for the following examination(s). You must pass the written and/or performance examination(s) in order to have your name placed on the official Civil Service eligibility list for this position. Candidates who receive job offers must pass a medical examination (when applicable) prior to start date.
    · Written: None required for this position.
    · Performance: None required for this position.
    · Medical: None required for this position.

    Reply
    1. bramr101 Post author

      I guess the next question is, are you familiar with Mr. DePasquale’s resume? Two years experience in “planning, organizing and overseeing programs” is pretty fudge-able, and the BA in “Public Administration, Business Administration, Parks & Recreation or a related field” is pretty vague. What I really was getting at is, what does a Senior Program Manager at Parks & Rec do on a daily basis.

      Reply
      1. Anonymous

        How about looking at Peduto’s pick for public works director. I think that job requires a college degree and the Peduto pick doesn’t have one. If advertised and he didn’t comply that violates civil service laws. I suggest verifying.

    1. Anonymous

      More correctly, we know that said vendors didn’t agree to contribute. Meanwhile, the notion that no public money was involved has very definitely proven unfounded. They had to turn to VP for 50k, an organization that operates largely (and completely opaquely) on taxpayer dollars, and on whose board Peduto sits. Yes, that’s right, he’ll be voting on the decision to contribute.

      Reply
      1. Brian Tucker-Hill

        By unfounded I mean there is no foundation for the notion other than idle speculation. And if in fact Peduto tried to coerce the City’s vendors to contribute and they all systematically refused, it was a rather unsuccessful effort and that would itself be indicative that there is not much reason for concern about that sort of thing.

        Visit Pittsburgh is in fact a non-profit, not a public agency, although it does get a very large portion of its funding from public grants. They also have a website where you can get a lot of information about them (click the “About Us” button near the top).

        Peduto (and Fitzgerald, and James Gill, who I believe is Executive Director at PIT) are in fact listed as “honorary” members of the Board. I don’t know if that means he actually has a vote–I believe usually “honorary” board members in a non-profit context are non-voting, but you would have to look at their bylaws to know for sure.

        Their website also has annual reports (2003 through 2013 are available online). They are pretty interesting if you are actually interested in what Visit Pittsburgh has been doing. “Communications” and “Marketing” in particular are regular major sections of the reports, and if you look through those sections it is pretty easy to understand how the Undercover Boss episode counted as quite the coup for them.

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