Wednesday: One Fortnight to Fortify

screen-shot-2021-05-04-at-12-57-41-amTwo weeks left until the primary election, at least four mayoral debates are on the record, and there are athousand judgesto learn about. Let’s hear some chatter out there!

In epochalnews,US Steel is partially shutting down the Clairton Coke Works, rather than investing in environmental upgrades and expansion it had promised twoyears ago. This is even better news for our lungs, but for the region’seconomy, itis a shock that portends worse and worse, with no “just transitions” on the horizon. If you thought the era of industrial abandonment was over in Pittsburgh,wake up.

In hopefulnews,Mayor Bill Peduto announced apublic-charitable partnershipthat will receive from our tax-exempt “Eds and Meds” industrialists,collectively four times as much annually as they ever donatedto the City itself. The arrangement is a load-bearing and long-awaitedpart of his OnePgh vision, which has its roots in a series of local foundation-led “P4” workshops as well as Bloomberg philanthropy “resiliency” grants.

The newarrangement sacrificesCity authority over the use such money, and accordsthe funders essential veto power. City Controller Michael Lamb notes it doesn’t do anything for the City’s operating budget, which has to operatea city whose mills have turned to nonprofit laboratories. And it can’t do anything for Clairton, the Mon Valley or anyplace outside Pittsburgh or for their school districts — in contrastto less collusive strategies.

In political news,mayoralchallenger and State Rep. Ed Gaineythinks we should just tax those nonprofits which seem not to qualify as “purely public charities” — taking what the City learned in its previous faulty challenge of their nonprofit statusand applying it to new ones, no matter the sheer number orluster of attorneysavailable to a UPMC, AGHN, or something with “Carnegie” or “Mellon” in the title. Plus he says he got tired of Peduto studying things to death, and would rather get on with pursuing equity despite some tradeoffs and risks.

But Gaineyjust gota lesson in how much homework and yard work has to be managed, to tackle that kind ofexecutive responsibility. An independentpolitical action committee with ties to himfiled finance reports with discrepancies in the six-figures, and the County Elections Departmentsped the matter along for County Police to investigate, rather than customarily request an amended filing.

Usually I worry about the money coming into a PAC: who might bebuying off the candidate? It’s mollifying howmost of thatdiscrepancy is accounted for on corresponding donors’reports bytheWestern PA Laborers union, who seem cool enough for a Democratic primary, and from Ed Gainey’s own campaign fund, and it’s niceto invest in oneself. So maybe it really is a matter of grossnegligence, at an operation from which Gainey is legally forbidden tocoordinate. It would be betterif that PAC declaredthe remainder of its inflows, though.

As to the money going out, we learned whenMayor Ravenstahl treated himself to Super Bowl tickets with campaign fundsand nothing at all happened to him, that just about anything is justifiable. Clothing, food and beverage, I mightimagine rental assistance — it’s not taxpayer money, it’s donations to your political efforts. Transparency herewould alsobe ideal, if only for the sake of the donors. Butone of thereasons for keeping what’s widely known as “street money” obfuscated is because its recipients fear the “Powers That Be” takingnoteand seeking retribution. It would be unusual to see a rash of shakedowns to verify amended declarationsof aPAC’s spending withoutsuspicion of anyparticularinjury. And if he happened towinthe nomination meanwhile, the party would rally around him.

For all we know, Peduto might have tipped the reporter afterhis own insidesleuthing. It turns out Peduto is tied to the founding of that PAC,as a vehicle for his 2013 electionand as spoils for Gainey afterword.I’m not accustomed to thinking of William as much of a puppet-master, but this maybe his bread and butter.

Peduto hasn’t yetattacked Gainey over African Americans for Good Government featuring the Western Pa Laborers union. The county policemight yetclear the case withamended disclosures.But whisper campaigns bespeaking direunstoppableconsequence to Gainey himself are underway. Andone must note with a trigger warning Peduto’s campaign ad, ED GAINEY: He’s All About Gaining For Himself.Using Ed’s vote in July for a bill that passed163-38 grantingtax credits for petrochemical developers(Pedutomight have forgotten he only came out against petrochemical expansion nine months prior) as its pretext,Gaineyis framed for all the world like the Notorious B.I.G. in some bootleg material.

Why isFuzzy BadfeetMayor Pedutogoing so hard afterthis particularchallenger? He has another to hisTrumpist right, one in outerspace, andPittsburgh mayors are legendarilyhard to oustwhen they reapply. It must bebecause so many of his frequent past supporters aremaking him feel under-appreciated. After 16 years running for mayor, takingofficebefore either Black Lives Matter or Sen. Sanders’ campaigns, andafterall thesensationally overhyped expectations (Smart Cities Challenge! Amazon!)and mixedbags of returns (a bookstorewill be coming to the historic Strip mall, joining the flower shop)it’s toughtobe seenas a vehiclefor progress that scales.

We’ve seen incumbent mayors boasting strong narrativesbefore.Yetpublic, private and politicalsentimentsall showed up withdifferentplans. There’s no stopping evolution, you can only hope to obtainit. All that’s clear two weeks out ismost Pittsburghersstillhave nobody but “Bill Prosciutto” on the brain:because if you’re a threat to the old money or UPMC, Mayor Bill willsliceyou up like prosciutto.

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