Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Clarke Thomas: The elections aren't over yet

Clarke Thomas: The elections aren't over yet Clarke Thomas: The elections aren't over yet
Even without a race for mayor, hot issues remain in the local May primaries
UNREAL. The elections are NOT over yet. Pinch me. Is he really talking about 2007 or does he mean 2009? I got to meet this guy. Why is he a "senior editor" at the P-G and has a email address? Perhaps he hacked the P-G site?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Clarke Thomas: The elections aren't over yet
Even without a race for mayor, hot issues remain in the local May primaries

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

The May primary elections aren't over yet. Even though Bill Peduto dropped out of the Pittsburgh mayoral race, important issues for the city, county and Pittsburgh school board haven't gone away.

Clarke Thomas is a Post-Gazette senior editor (

Indeed, with no challengers to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, there is more need than ever for these issues to be kept alive in other races and debated by citizens. It will be up to the media to outline the troublesome matters facing our governing bodies and for citizens to pay attention. Challengers should seek public debates, incumbents should agree, and the political parties, media, neighborhood groups and organizations such as the League of Women Voters should stage such forums.

The makeup of both County Council and City Council will be more crucial than ever in acting as a counterbalance to executive power. And the school board races will be critical in determining whether the board returns to the fractionized bickering of the early years of this decade or continues on the smoother path established by Superintendent Mark Roosevelt.

The future welfare of the city, not to mention the pocketbooks of taxpayers, depends upon electing people who will face today's issues rather than coast along with the status quo. This is especially true in dealing with the non-sexy issues that cloud the horizon -- particularly the "legacy" costs for pensions and retiree health care facing government as well as business these days.

So I would suggest that voters press candidates with these questions:

The county

What is your position on real estate tax assessments? Should the county stick with the current "base-year" system or update assessments on a more regular basis? (Questions can become more pointed after Judge Stanton Wettick rules in the ongoing challenge to the base-year approach.)

What about the various municipal authorities in the county, the so-called "invisible governments" whose members never stand for election? Would you favor state legislation to change the system? If so, how?

The city

(Full disclosure: These questions were gleaned from a list drafted by Patrick Dowd in his race for the District 7 seat on City Council.)

What are your views on the city budget and what will Pittsburgh's debt service look like in five years? The city has committed millions of dollars to secure the retirements of its employees. Many fear that the money to pay these pensions won't be available. As of the latest reports, from 2005, the city has only $373.6 million in the bank against an $843.3 million liability for present and future pensioners. Are city employees in for a rude awakening? And the taxpayers?

What specific ideas do you have to improve housing other than tearing down vacant buildings?

Many housing experts have criticized groups like Lawrenceville United for drawing a one-dimensional correlation between race, crime and low-income housing. What do you think are the major contributors to crime in your district? And what would you do about them?

Many voters complain that the Democratic Party endorsement process (including committee elections) is too secretive. Committee meetings are not open to the public, and many wards do not schedule forums for committee members to meet candidates seeking their endorsement. What would you do to make the Democratic Party more democratic?

Are there parts of city government you consider particularly prone to corruption? What are they and how would you improve them?

If you could do one thing to make the City Council more effective what would it be?

The school board

Many citizens are worried about a return to the quarrelsome, faction-ridden board of four years ago. Does that concern you and, if so, what do you plan to do to ensure effective relationships among board members?

The board has just approved a three-year extension to Superintendent Roosevelt's contract. How would you have voted?

Whether or not you support the superintendent, presumably you would see your job as holding him accountable for his work. How do you plan to do that without risking the micro-managing that has created problems in the past?

What is your opinion of the Accelerated Learning Academies aimed at raising the academic performance of lagging students? They have evoked criticism from various quarters. If remedies are needed, which would you pursue?

What's your opinion of the federal No Child Left Behind Act and the way it is being implemented in the Pittsburgh district?

Dear voters: Regardless of who is in or out of these races, these are questions that the remaining candidates should be pressed to answer. And the time to press them is now, when it still counts.