Friday, March 03, 2006

Another candidate night -- another pound of flesh.

Tonight we held another candidate night. That might be the last one of the season for the special election race for city council. The election is just around the corner -- on PI Day, March 14, 2006.

There were some big time moments in the evening. Some made me mad. Others made me laugh.

To the credit of some of the other candidates, I am hearing some changes to their routines. On many instances, what was said by them a month ago has "evolved" into something more pleasing to my principles. Some, not much, but some. And, there are other areas where there are still serious blind spots and trouble areas.

First the heat.... to the very end of the night, the last question was raised. "Would you do the job and serve as city councilman if the job paid NOTHING. Would you do it for free???

My answer started with a policy statement I made months ago. Presently we have two oversight bodies -- dual overlords. And, we have city council. So, there are THREE agencies where there used to be one. I've suggested that every elected official in city government (mayor, controller and council members) and everyone working as Act 47 Overlords and ICA Overlords be paid HALF of what they are being paid now. Then the other half would go into escrow and finally be paid out in two stages, as a bonus, AFTER the city ends its OVERLORD period and then the other payment three years later to insure that the city doesn't slide back into bankrupcy.

Basic feeling here is to reward these folks for doing the job -- at the end of the job. They have little incentive to do a good job with the programs that they put in place and they have little incentive to get the job finished.

As to me working for no pay -- first off, I would NOT even run for public office if times were good. Because we have a crisis, I feel the need to enter the life as a candidate and hope to win the seat on council. Without the crisis, I'm doing other things with my life.

And, because of this 'crisis' where real solutions and sustainable changes in direction are needed, I WOULD be willing to serve on City Council for no pay.

As it is now, with the pay, our family is going to take a financial hit. I'll be getting the job and the pay check, and I think there is a big chance that we'll make less money than if I didn't have the job. (We can talk more on the math of that deal later, if asked, or if interested.)
Then came the REPUBLICAN's remark, out of turn, starting with, "No offense to Mark, but he doesn't have a job now. Right?" (Exact quote, from the transcripts.) "Are you not a stay-at-home dad?"

That was the opportunity to mention a quote from a recent, glowing endorsement from another blogger and jump to a modern day Ben Franklin come-back. But, I didn't have her exact quote in my pocket, were it should have been.

I said, "Yeah, there is an offense there."
N.A., "You don't have an income."
I said, "I do have an income. That is a bold face lie, Neil. I am a swimming coach."
N.A. "Okay you're a swimming coach. It's part time."
I said,"Okay. Park's guy, (that's to Neal directly, a guy who worked for seven years at Citiparks) you are going to knock on a swimming coach?"
N.A. "Is it part time, isn't it Mark?"

N.A. isn't going to give it a rest, as he was way off target and grasping at things he didn't know or understand. The moderator is speaking from the back of the room. "He answered the question."

I said, "Do I have a job or not?"
N.A. "You're not honest. Your not making a tremendous financial sacrafice...."

I said, "I am honset."

N.A. got in another jab, "I'm just saying you are not making a financial sacrafice."

Moderator: "The question was posed, 'would you do it for free?' That is all we are asking. Yes or no. You're turn (to J.P.).

The meeting came to a close shortly after that with two more saying their answer to the question.

I think the offending miss-information won't be blurted out again -- in front of a public audience, as the Republican came to see my points after the meeting closed.

Two other times in the evening the divide between hilltopers and the fortunate in the flats came to a head -- when I felt that I was put on the wrong side of the fence. I see the trend in Pittsburgh where the rich get richer and the poor poorer. This is more than perception and bad PR -- it is too often our public policy.

So, there was a time when a woman said that the kids of Beltzhoover were NOT welcomed when they went to other other swim pools. We used to have 32 outdoor swim pools and the one at Warrington closed a couple of years ago. The kids have a hike to go elsewhere to swim -- such as South Side Flats Ormsby's pool.

Not being welcomed at a park facility within the city is real and it is not to be ignored.

I too have had that same experience, but from the other end of the spectrum. I too have been hurt by it. I too hate that feeling. I too won't want it to happen to others. I too want to fix it.

My story goes back to 1999 and 2000. I worked with others (mostly Hosea Holder) to save the swim team that had used the Oliver Bath House for decades. The team's board was pulling the plug and going to close the team. Hosea and I stood up and re-grouped the swimmers and their families. We worked a year without pay (same theme enters again). The team had its lease pulled by the city and was able to re-position at Schenley High School. Now the team is at Kingsley.

Well in the summer of 2000, I wanted to be a volunteer swim coach at Ormsby and put my kid on the swim team there. Practices in the summers are from 11:00 to 11:45 am. My oldest was a good swimmer, but very young. I had been a NCAA Division I coach for six years, had all my certifications, clearances, etc.

The city's officials told me that I was not welcome. I could not be a volunteer swim coach. I was more qualified than anyone in the city -- but prohibited.

This story is part of a KDKA news profile from Ken Rice, that is on my CD, by the way. I was so mad, I announced in public I would run for Mayor, starting in August 2000, for the primary that was in May, 2001.

I was also denied the opportunity, along with PIIN (Pgh Interfaith Impact Network) to install computer labs into eight Rec Centers in 2002. That video is about go live on the web site in the AM.

Good night for now...... Housekeeping: original post was 8:45 pm on March 2) (updated with exact quotes on March 3 at 10 am.

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