I’ll preface my comments by saying I donated a small sum of money to the Mark DeSantis campaign a few weeks ago. I was actually even going to match my earlier donation by the end of this week, but then DeSantis pandered to the Special Interest Group that is Pittsburgh’s Fraternal Order of Police union.
Believe it or not, with interim Mayor Luke Ravenstahl floundering in the leadership category and lacking the humility to admit the misappropriation of a federally-funded, Homeland Security vehicle for a tailgate party, there was an argument to be made that he was vulnerable in next Tuesday’s election.
Mark DeSantis’ arrival onto the local political scene has been nothing short of remarkable. The longtime backseat politico wasn’t even on the ballot in the spring. He arrived on the ballot with a splash. Assuredly, the Democratic machine would have pulled some levers to put Ravenstahl on both ballots had it known that the current placeholder would be sputtering and spitting all the way to the finish line.
Ravenstahl holds the post well, sometimes channeling the city’s most dismal leader in 50 years, Tom Murphy. Ravenstahl chuckles off charges that he broke a law by firing up a charcoal grill in the aforementioned SUV. Needless to say, no media outlet has actively kept an eye on the vehicle. Out of sight, out of mind for the most part is the philosophy of television news directors. There isn’t a radio news director in town aggressive or even interesting enough to follow it either, and in 2007 the print media doesn’t provide the immediacy necessary to make a dent.
Meanwhile, DeSantis has largely said the right thing.
Then he nicked the Holy Grail.
Pandering to Pittsburgh’s employee unions is generally reserved for the incumbent Democrat for any race in the city. Rarely, if ever, does anyone do anything other than coddle the special interest groups that wield otherwise other-worldly influence and king-making power.
Heaven, or hell, only knows the real power the public sector royalty has, but the perceived weight of a couple thousand voters keeps tens of thousands of naïve ballot pushers and the downright disenfranchised away each and every election.
Lavishing public employees with contracts that become sweeter year in and year out is one of the primary reasons why Pittsburgh is in a tremendous and crippling financial situation.
Now the most compelling Republican candidate in decades has all but destroyed any chance he had by promising the most coveted of perks: permission to move out of the city that’s been decimated by generous handouts to the unions and other spending gaffs.
Mass desertion would ensue as police officers and their families would abandon Pittsburgh and its school district in overwhelming numbers. Who knows where they will go, other than outlying counties in which property taxes are lower. These magical lands feature movie theaters, five-star restaurants and kiddie playgrounds completely free of criminals they may have busted. It certainly won’t be to Millvale, Wilkins or Moon, as police officers will tell you that they rarely enjoy a moment’s peace, what with city criminals at every doorstep. Those neighboring communities less than five miles away couldn’t possibly include criminals. Tisk Tisk for imagining such a thing.
Much has been made about Pittsburgh being the only city with residency requirements. What’s wrong with residency requirements in a public position? Doesn’t the Mayor have to live within the city? Will he be allowed to move out? If residency requirements don’t matter, I want to run for the Mayor of Dravosburg, a dinky little town across the river from McKeesport. I betcha the monthly stipend there would cover most of my monthly city of Pittsburgh home mortgage, plus if Dravosburg is anything like nearby Brentwood Borough, I might be able to purchase untold boxer briefs with taxpayer monies before anyone’s the wiser.
Luke Ravenstahl touts a “Record of Success” that consists of virtually nothing tried, true and uniquely his. During a recent televised debate, he crowed about his relationship within the African-American community. The very next day, the city’s African-American newspaper “The Courier” joined Pittsburgh’s other print outlets in endorsing DeSantis.
City workers, the police in particular, absolutely, positively need to maintain a stake in the communities in which they serve. That should actually be required anywhere, but that cat’s already out of the bag. A vast majority of officers will simply sell their city homes and move presumably far away while still collecting paychecks that are massive in comparison to their average city neighbor.
Quite a few city neighborhoods (mine included) are able to boast high concentrations of city workers as proof that it’s safe and desirable. Urban Republicans understand this phenomenon, just like their Union spoiling Democrat counterparts.
It’s an honor to serve as a police officer anywhere and a privilege to work for a wonderfully diverse and eclectic populace as Pittsburgh has to offer. The rewards are high and for the most part, the workload is routine. It became big news a few years ago when the SWAT team was called out. I was in attendance when Chris Rock’s brother Tony launched into a hysterical routine about the cops realizing there was a SWAT team amongst its ranks when he performed at the Improv some time ago. That was a few days after the infamous Pigeon Shooter became folklore. Then newly-installed Mayor Bob O’Connor raced around downtown, looking like a less-criminal Robert Blake.
DeSantis claims that the city is missing out on a plethora of good cops who are too afraid or hesitant to move within city limits for a plum job. Truth of the matter is, if they were that good and desirable, the good suburban cops would land the job, move into a nice, affordable neighborhood and send their children to a posh private school.
From time to time, suburban Republicans like state Senator Jane Orie scare the population into thinking that the residency requirement will be lifted any day. These lawmakers simply don’t understand what it’s like to live in a typical city of Pittsburgh neighborhood where low rents and hand-me-down properties often produce a cacophony of calamity that’s unfathomable to the elites, liberal or conservative alike, in their gated communities, security-protected apartments, or sprawling estates of somewhere other than Pittsburgh’s 88 neighborhoods.
It’s simply un-Republican for DeSantis to cower to the special interest groups.
I’ll still vote for DeSantis on Tuesday as something new and revolutionary has got to happen. Perhaps I’ll be wrong and thousands of new real estate listings won’t pop up overnight if he wins.
Fact is, DeSantis had a really had a good, improbable, some might say miraculous chance to unseat a totally unqualified accidental placeholder. Ravenstahl’s claim that DeSantis sold the city off to placate the union is not that far off, and just enough to derail DeSantis’ chances.