Quickly, on Kevin Acklin and Right Hands

Game of Thrones funny scene

An increasingly critical responsibility, in this complex work-a-day world.

Acklin will hold the top administrative position in Peduto’s office and essentially function as the mayor’s gatekeeper. (Trib, Team Editorial)

PROTIP: If you cannot make it through Acklin, try an end-around using Twitter. It is this Mayor’s wheelhouse.

He also will oversee development bodies such as the Pittsburgh Planning Commission, Urban Redevelopment Authority, Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, Sports & Exhibition Authority and Stadium Authority. (Tribid)

The Planning Commission, too? No, no, no. See? Now already we have problems. Do a search on the Comet for “many-hatism” or “many hats” disease. We can address this detail down this road however, it is of no immediate concern.

Panning back:

Over the decades Pittsburgh mayors have grown more and more dependent on their aides to get things done. While the support staff’s influence often didn’t become apparent until after the mayor left office, their impact on the direction and health of the city is undeniable. (Christopher Zurawsky in 2009, P-G)

Quite the trip down memory lane, what with a note about “twisting arms” and “killing” therein. The incumbent, outgoing and affectionately monikered Hand of Dread is profiled here and here. No word on the specific nature of Mr. Acklin’s fearsome visage, but the standard City uniform is spiked plate mail.

This is why fish fries are important.

14 thoughts on “Quickly, on Kevin Acklin and Right Hands

  1. Anonymous

    Interesting that the whole shakeup of O'Connor's staff was never really investigated. Appointing a person to a director's level position that existed on paper only (budget documents) and then quickly bringing that person back to the mayor's office when the new mayor came in demonstrated publicly the duplicity that was going on behind the scenes.

    Luke got exactly what he wanted when he kept Zober on his staff and elevated him to the position of greatest influence on his personal staff.

    With all of the hope that Pittsburghers had for Ravenstahl when he came into office and him (being in council) having seen the shenanigans going on, he made three critical mistakes upon assuming the office of the mayor:

    1) not cleaning out the whole mayor's office and getting rid of the people that engaged in these games
    2) not getting a trusted adviser to keep him in check — someone not afraid to tell him no
    3) losing contact with the public that he serves

    Kevin will be a refreshing change to the operating style of Yarone.

    It was interesting to note in the profile you linked to Bill P.'s seeming admiration of Zober. Would be more interesting to get an update of that opinion.

  2. Shawn Carter


    With respect to “many hat-ism”, especially where it expressly implicates the “land-use” control, as you know, this is the single most important power any Mayor can wield.

    The Trib, I believe, generalized the functions of these bodies for the sake of its readers.

    We can birth more children, eventually build more schools, find a way to create more jobs and the like. The one thing we cannot do is grow more land. State law makes annexation difficult.

    And the land rests in the hands of the ownership class. They tend to need very few things from the City, generally, except land-use approvals.

    So the only tool a Mayor has to deal on anything resembling an equal playing field with some of the wealthiest and powerful interests in the region is the power to say “NO! You can't build that there!”

    There are plenty of reasons to justify placing a single head in an oversight capacity over these entities. Eliminating red tape is chief among them. Forcing these entities to collaborate more efficiently can only benefit the taxpayers.

    You can even be certain that our Mayor-elect will promptly appoint three attorneys who share his vision and political agenda to member the Zoning Board of Adjustment, because doesn't every Mayor?

    No Mayor can afford to give away (or not maximize) his or her control over the land-use function. And I doubt any Mayor would suggest to you that the Urban Redevelopment Authority, PWSA, SEA, Stadium Authority and the Planning Commission should be independent arms of the City.

    A wise Mayor would tell the public that these bodies corporate and politic (except the Planning Commission, of course) were only made “arms-length” to provide “accounting deniability”, not corporate independence of the municipal corporation.

    As for the Planning Commission, what Mayor would want the principal instrument of their land-use control rendered uncontrollable by them? That could end badly.

    I agree, however, that the Zoning Board should be appointed with the understanding that its members form a quasi-judicial body and their sole focus is to decide when a proposal, despite its noncomformity with the Zoning Code, deserves exception or when the law requires an exception.

    Your discomfort with this, however, likely stems from a different source, one which I'll be sure to exploit (explain) in the months and years to come.

  3. Anonymous

    I am normally not a big believer in having too much control under any one person; but, I believe the new Chief of Staff will put neighborhood interests first. The consolidation of functions can be positively utilized to open up opportunities to the citizens that have so far been restricted to those with the $$$$$.

    Hope the new administration does something to streamline the process of buying properties from the City. It takes close to a year to get those properties off of the City's rolls and back into private hands. Tax monies being lost and properties continuing to deteriorate.

  4. Shawn Carter

    Anon 12:19

    The delay in getting properties from the City is due to contraints placed upon the City by state law, and that the City must quiet titles before conveying properties.

    It pains me endlessly, but the law is the law.

  5. Bram Reichbaum

    Shawn, I'm rooting that the editorial did generalize. Considering that the Mayor and his URA and SEA all have their own (hopefully sound) strategic agendas, it is the role of the Planning Commission in some respects to referee the playing field respecting all parties' input. The Mayor should desire the principle instrument of land-use control rendered “controllable” only by order, popular sentiment and his own political mandate, not by an overabundance of operational advantages on top of it.

    If Planning received direction under the auspices of Urban Affairs or Neighborhood Reinvestment, that could be sweet. Both entail economic development but neither begs questions of priorities nor greases the skids for back room collusion. '08 took its toll.

  6. Shawn Carter

    The role of the Planning Commission, aside from the subdivision and consolidation of lots, is to administer the Zoning Code.

    I believe the current Mayor's chief of staff also oversaw the City's land-use functions as did the #2's of every previous Mayor going back to Cornelius, so this doesn't jump off the page to me.

    Actual independence from the executive would inevitably, undoubtedly, lead to chaos at inopportune moments.

    Accountability is the key here, and that is a role set aside for the governing body.

  7. Bram Reichbaum

    It's still ultimately going to be under the Mayor, it's just will it also go under the URA SEA and SA. Sounds like Cornelius really screwed everything up.

    But we can agree: minutia.

  8. Anonymous

    With the Talent City website and the incoming Mayor's desire to keep everything open and out of the realm of politics, will the transition team post the names of everyone that applied for the positions listed so the public can be kept fully informed?

    Also, did the Talent City approach follow all applicable Civil Service rules, regulations and ordinances? Have not seen anything in any printed news media specific to the individual jobs being posted — just the listings at Talent City. Does this count towards the civil service requirements since not everyone has access to the internet?

  9. Bram Reichbaum

    I don't think it's sound personnel policy to release the names of everyone applying for jobs. There's transparency and then there's privacy. The applicants aren't even employees yet. But I don't know, maybe #'s of applicants can be released? Or demographics? Interesting.

    My impression is the Talent City process just screens applicants for talent and key attributes and competencies. I assume the City opts voluntarily to take seriously their suggestions while applying all their own rules of who to hire and how, but I don't know.

    Does anyone want to open a discussion on Talent City and any tendencies towards classism or ideological skew? I keep hearing concerns out there, and the concerns aren't fully expressed so it's more like grumbling. That's a good recipe for drama down the road.

    There has been a particular concern that the explicit reminder that college degrees are NOT absolutely necessary, was not adequately emphasized for the current positions. Iin light that degrees were listed under the recommended examples qualifications, that's probably causing undue gateway intimidation.

  10. infinitebuffalo

    The jobs posted at TC are department directors, managers, and the like. If I understand correctly, such positions are exempt from civil service rules…

    Also, TC aren't doing the hiring. “A screening committee will review resumes and conduct background checks before sending lists of three to five candidates for each job to Peduto, who makes hiring decisions.” (Trib, “More than 1,500 apply for 32 spots in Peduto's administration”, http://triblive.com/news/adminpage/5270343-74/pittsburgh-jobs-applied, which also variously describes the jobs in question as “high-level” and “high-ranking”…)

  11. Anonymous

    A huge mistake that many make in government is to forgive structural deficiencies on the belief that a particular politician is better than another. Everything in good government depends first on structure. The most important aspect of structure is that boards and commissions be independent. Appoint people that share a vision and values – that is appropriate, but then they need to be independent in carrying out their duties. Anything less is quite simply, less. It is a bad government and bad policy. If the Mayor (whoever it might be) has a particular agenda items that he/she cares deeply about then let that person show up and plead their case.

  12. Anonymous

    TC has at very least been successful in actually drumming up nationwide enthusiasm for these positions. You always hear mayors talk about conducting national searches, but this time it's really taking place. The distinct likelihood that new leadership blood will be involved with the city very soon is very exciting. Having a legit choice between qualified applicants, rather than pressure to bequeath positions to family or political patrons…an unprecedented luxury for a Pittsburgh mayor.

  13. Anonymous

    Not exactly unprecedented — Mayor Murphy did several nationwide searches for several positions and actually let department directors and chiefs make the selection in the positions that affected their operations.

    Don't believe it was to the scale that we have seen with TC; but, he did use a nationwide search to include his selection of police (when he actually used the Police Executive Research Forum [a well regarded law enforcement support agency] to conduct the search and make recommendations.


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