Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Another major Bruce mistake, but this from Krane, from last night. Part 2 from City Theater

Bruce Krane, an opponent in the race for city council, made one silly mistake in his initial introduction and then fixed it at the end of the night in his closing statement. He said, "I've been a Democrat all my life. I'll continue to being a Democarat." Yet, Krane isn't even a Democrat now.

That's the way the night started. Krane gave the first introduction. Meanwhile, the real Democrat who had the endorsement and who was still a Democrate wasn't yet on stage. He was a late to the event.

Krane fixed his self-description in his closing statement. It is always a plus when those "I am..." statements ring true.

The story behind the story deals with the answers provided from Krane in the question about the police.

Krane didn't say "PASS" like he did last week when there was a question about the parks put to him. But Krane should have passed because he got it wrong, in my humble opinion.

Throughout the night there were questions put to us all that every candidate got to answer. Then there were other times when a question was put to just one candidate in a "rapid fire round." So, Krane got the question about the police, by luck of the draw. He got to answer, and I didn't. Thank goodness for blogs.

QUESTION: It seems that the word-of-mouth crime reports are more accurate than the published crime reports. How can we correct this?

Bruce Krane's answer, in full, retyped from transcript:

I don't know what the justifications are to say that rumors are more accurate than the police report, first of all. Could you please read the question again? That just struck me right away.

... Q again ...

Well that is assuming that the police crime reports are inaccurate, I have a hard time accepting that.

But obviously, anybody that lives here, there has been an increase of crime that people talk about. I think that there has been an increase in some violent crimes. I think it is very frustrating that there does not seem to be picked up by the media and the truth should be told. But, when I look at the statistics, and I'm as concerned as any resident is about crime, particularlly violent crime, but it hasn't been proven to me that the numbers did increase.

There have been some very colorful crimes. There have been some aweful crimes. There have been some crimes of violence that we haven't seen before. But I would still have to go with the police reports as opposed to rumor reports on the streets. That's my answer.

This is from the Sunday newspaper. It was from the day prior. And, the news of this article came out in council's chambers, mostly, in the prior week.
Peduto sells out Until a few years ago, the Pittsburgh police, as did police forces in other city's worthy of major status, made their reports available. They are now kept from public inspection. As a result, reporters and the public are told to wait for a 'news release' that might or might not answer all questions.

Anyone who reads the newspaper could have hit a homerun with this question. Someone from out of state could have done a better job with that answer by knowing what Dennis Roddy wrote about.

My answer would have been much different.

We have a serious problem with the reporting of crime. We have a serious problem with the PA Amber Alert program too. We don't have the horsepower to make a very effective and super efficient NAN (neighborhood awareness network). Volunteers, given the size and scope of this district, can't do all the heavy lifting. These great volunteers should be running their businesses.

And, the police reports are wanting. They are lacking. The details and the real fiber of the happenings are being sheltered from the citizens who live, work, and invest here -- for no good reason.

I don't want business owners to get one type of police report while residents get another type of report -- as is the case with our situation as of a few months ago. The police did not want to give the residents the same info that they gave to the business owners. That makes the network -- not work. Nodes in the network need to be filled by residents.

Pittsburgh is a great word-of-mouth town. And, this landscape is a frustration to the power-brokers. But, it is our hope. It is how we cope and win on many instances.

This word of mouth network that outs falsehoods is how I win the election on March 14, by the way.

The rumor generation machine that is our network of word-of-mouth, is a big frustration to Mark Roosevelt, new superintendent of Pittsburgh Public Schools. He has come to learn that in Pittsburgh he can't just close 20 schools and not pick the right ones. We understand and know what schools should be closed. We know what principals are really doing a great job and who is not.

The police need to be more transparent in certain aspects. And, this is a top-down policy struggle with them that can be fixed in the weeks to come. I hope we are turning a new leaf, as one is needed to be turned.

Furthermore, Peduto was wrong in his scolding of various parties in this flap with the approval of the new police chief. I wrote about this last week, as Roddy did. My comment went upon the Platform.For-Pgh.org wiki. The root of this issue is whistleblowing. A touch of it comes to the 4th estate -- that's media talk for watchdog journalism.

In the instance with the standoff of the past, the message isn't about the messenger. It is about the message. We can't give threats from council's table to the city's attorney to call the district attorney because an important secret is seeing the light of day. The backlashes for a whistleblower around here stinks. That is a sure-fire way to halt reform. That is a sure-fire way to end freedoms and liberty. That is a sure-fire way to breed more corruption.

The power brokers need to know that they can't hide anything. As things are hidden, as events are shielded, as the public and press is locked out, Pittsburgh becomes more and more of a "smokey city." We've had enough of the legacy of the back-room deals being cut.

I don't want a candidate that can't name names. I don't want a candidate who can't see what is really going on around here.

All the king's horses and all the king's men can not put Humpty together again. Humpty took a great fall, and so has the City of Pittsburgh. To fix Pittsburgh, we need everyone's input and help. This is a major networking problem and all the strength of the network is only as great as its nodes.

Last week I spoke at City Council on the day that new police chief Dom Costa got interviewed by City Council and got a vote of approval, 8-0. My words on the matter were in complete support of what Luke Revenstahl said. Luke is City Council President. He said that the greatest asset for the police are the residents of the city. The people are the source of the power of the police. Without the people, and that relationship among people and police, we are in big trouble.

The relationship is what matters most. And, that is what is lost upon the rest of the field. Talk all you want about the police station, the parking problems where firefighters get tickets from police officers and how enforcement is lame because the police have a locker in an antiquated station house.

The point is being missed. And, this question last night covers that point so well.

The police reports stink. We can fix that. Bob needs to fix it. But the trust and relationship among citizens and police and the system we live under is frail. We need to mend relationships. We need to get to the roots of the problems -- so that there is JUSTICE FOR ALL, not just for your buddies or for the buddies that know how to stroke some politician.

I did have a public safety question put to me and one of the first things that needs to be done as a city council member is to make sure that the city council appoints its full share of members to the citizens police review board. City council has been in a fumble mode for more than a year on making its appointments. Gene Ricciardi and the Grant Street Cronies screwed up the ability of the citizens police review board from doing its job by not filling the seats of the board. The board could not meet for months as there were dead-wood members who were never going to show up for a meeting -- by design and intent. And, open seats were left open -- because city council wasn't doing the job it was intended to do. Council was doing the wrong jobs.

These are recent facts.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Roddy's article from Sunday P-G.

Peduto sells out
Sunday, January 29, 2006

By Dennis Roddy

City Councilman Bill Peduto graciously provided a reminder last week that a "reform politician" is, nonetheless, a politician.

Faced with a leaked report about a near-disaster when the city's police command system broke down during a standoff, details of which remained under lock and key for nearly four years, Mr. Peduto was outraged, not at the incompetence it detailed, but that the details got out.

The history is this:

On Feb. 20, 2002, city police converged on 7200 Hermitage St. in Homewood to arrest Cecil Brookins. Mr. Brookins grabbed a pistol, fled through a window, leapt onto a nearby roof and so began a day-long standoff.

Dom Costa, a police commander, was off-duty, but heard of the standoff, arrived on the scene and, according to the report, wrested control of the situation from RaShall Brackney, the commander on the scene.

The report suggests that Mr. Costa overstepped his own authority, tried to talk Mr. Brookins into surrendering and, ended the day with Mr. Brookins opening fire on him and another city police officer. Possibly the most interesting observation in the report is the fact that police overlooked the fact that one of their submachine guns had been left lying about. Officers later recounted that Mr. Brookins observed, "Wow, you got a lot of stuff here."

Luckily, Mr. Brookins did not make a run for that stuff. The internal report makes clear a desperate fugitive with a submachine gun is no recipe for happy endings.

In all, the report suggested a suspension for Mr. Costa, who instead left the force with a bullet still lodged in his head from that day. Some reforms apparently were suggested, though it's hard to know just how effectively they are being implemented. Police kept everything secret and so it remained until PG reporter Jon Silver revealed its details.

There is much to be outraged about here, but Mr. Peduto, who campaigned for mayor last year as the exemplar of progress and openness, is mostly outraged that people now know its details. Members of City Council gathered last week to confirm Mr. Costa as the city's new police chief. They had no questions to ask about the events on Hermitage Street, possibly because there is nothing else left to learn. Someone needs to begin asking questions not about how the report got out, but how and why a report that tells the public when something is amiss or running badly in the police force would be a secret document.

"It is wrong for somebody to illegally steal a report," Mr. Peduto said when I called to press him on this issue. As he sees it, someone might -- the word here is might -- have leaked a personnel report. Frankly, we can't tell just how to classify this report other than to say it sheds light on something wrong, making it more plausible that it will be set arights.

The investigation into the Hermitage Street standoff could have been done as a personnel report or as a public safety report. It was, in fact, done as a secret report and what seems to bother Mr. Peduto is that it got out.

"If we allow this to happen, it will happen continuously," Mr. Peduto said.

Uh, Bill, it should happen continuously. It is called public disclosure. It is called the public's need to know when things are not going well. It is based on a question as old as Plato: "Who Shall Guard the Guardians?"

Susan Malie, the city solicitor who succeeds a regime equally undistinguished in its grasp of the public's need to know how its city is run, split things both ways. It is clear, she told council, "there may be a breach of city of Pittsburgh policy," though this is not necessarily a crime. That is because city policy, when it comes to matters of policing, has become such a disreputable exercise in closed-circuitry that it is now possible to shoot two people to death and keep your name out of the news.

On May 5 of last year, a private security guard, hired to tamp down trouble at a problem bar in Lawrenceville, got caught up in a fracas. His pistol sent bullets through both an uninvolved bystander in a back room, and the owner who hired him. To date, his name remains secret.

Presumably, a grand jury is looking into the matter now, but we know this much: Until a few years ago, the Pittsburgh police, as did police forces in other city's worthy of major status, made their reports available. They are now kept from public inspection. As a result, reporters and the public are told to wait for a "news release" that might or might not answer all questions.

The carefully controlled police statements of the day of the standoff, praising heroism, then the subsequent teeth-pulling, promising a hard look, must be dispensed in equal doses if either is to have any benefit. Mr. Peduto's outrage is more than misplaced -- it is pious rubbish. After learning the real details of Feb. 20, 2002, sensible people can only wonder what else the police hold back from us and, for that matter, from rank-and-file officers. The real question Bill Peduto ought to be asking is why such a report needed to be secret, why so much else is kept locked in the dark as well.

(Dennis Roddy can be reached at droddy@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1965.)