Wednesday, January 11, 2006

A mind that is expanded, never returns to its original size

Last night at our second debate (forum) of the day, the question was put to the nine candidate from a citizen voter. She asked about the powers of a city council person. What can be done?

The others told about how Pittsburgh has a strong mayor form of government. Council writes the laws. Council can be an "advocate." They got the basics other than the missing of any mention of the constitution.

They also had the typical mentality that to serve as a good council member you need to be able to count to five. There are nine on the council, so five votes wins the day. A council member gets his or her own vote and would need four others to join to make a majority. So, to get something done, they say, you need to be with the majority.

My answer was different.

Members of council get to be at the table. Council's members get to raise issues, concerns, and put forth various perspectives. My problem with council and our city has been the fact that we'll never get excellent solutions if the best ideas are never put onto the table. The votes are often called so there is only a choice among two bad outcomes. Pittsburgh is in a rut where it seems that they always choose the idea that is just better than the worst.

To thrive again, we'll need to inject elegant solutions. The question of building a five story parking garage for PNC Firstside -- or else a four story parking garage and a T-stop too -- needs to be joined with another option. How about if we don't build one at all. How about if we take care of parking concerns within residential neighborhoods by expanding the side-lot program. Give more people a chance to buy vacant land beyond just the next-door neighbor who can choose to pass on the property.

The point of the discussion is to welcome different perspectives to the table. The old-party democrats have eight seats there already. There might be plenty of 8-1 votes in terms of their efforts to over-spend, again and again. But, we need another voice.

Furthermore, I feel strongly that the minds of council can be adjusted after new, fresh, smarter solutions are there at the table, day-in and day-out.

One's mind isn't like a latex swim cap that can be stretched four feet wide, without ripping, and then snap back to its original size.

We need a wedge on city council so that the thinking can change. We need to "THINK AGAIN." Love the song. Embrace its message.

Furthermore, each member of Pittsburgh's city council is a chair of a certain committee. I want to be the chair of the Citiparks and Youth Policy Committee. There, I will make serious strides and have plenty of victories. I'll be able to be a leader in terms of recreation, like none other on the ballot, like none other in the district, and perhaps, like none other in the city and state.

We need a coach on council to drive the agenda of fitness, fun, family activities, inter-generational experiences, and beyond.

I want to be on council to establish a YOUTH Technology Summit -- and serve the kids, volunteers, staffers, parents, seniors, and all in the neighborhoods with the chairmanship of the committee on YOUTH and Citiparks. I'll promise victories. I'll re-start the Pittsburgh Marathon, and it will be better for the city and different as well. We won't tie-up the entire city with a route that is at odds with church-goers.

And, for the cerebral folks --- I won't rest until I put forth the best possible solutions to our ills -- by going to the roots of problems, not batting at their leaves. In these efforts, I might get out voted. But, we'll have hope for an open and honest discussion that is beholden to civility and performance.

I see little value in getting a ninth member on city council who is just a get-a-long guy that works with a wink and a smile -- or just aims to red up Pittsburgh. I see little value in getting a ninth member of city council who wants to work from 8 am to 5 pm and attend every meeting from start to finish. There is no value in counting paper clips, pushing paper or waiting for the phone to ring. There is no value to a hard-working councilmember who is banking on MURPHY-economics to come and give fruit. The high-priced (so he says) firefighters already put in the long work hours. We don't need a firefighter council member to rush salt into a salt box within two hours notice, and take care of us on the spot.

We need a council that works SMARTER, not harder, not longer -- SMARTER.

The biggest problem around is the hard-working foolishness that dug us this hole that Pittsburgh finds itself within.

We got a great convention center.They worked hard on that building. A guy died as it was being constructed. It is a green LED certified building. Lots of light, blah, blah, blah. But it costs $5-million to $6-million each year to just maintain it. Those are operational expenses. The capital costs are more. The debt is huge. And, the building will NEVER be used to its capaicity. Never. We don't have the hotel space to hold a convetion of the scope and size to match the convention center.

Mayor Murphy worked HARD to get those two stadiums built. But, it was wrongheaded.

We don't need HARDER workers on city hall. We need smarter, different, purdent members of council who think about the long-term and understand technology, liberty, freedom and family life.

Murphy was a genius at crafting TIFs (Tax Incremental Finance) and corporate welfare deals. He was really good at spending taxpayer money. The tricks of the water and sewer line sell off are that of ledgend. But, it wasn't for the little guys benefit. Those moves were not for the long-term health of the region.

We need pick a ninth councilmember to be fit, sharp, bold and quick to think again. We need to have a person with a tough love approach as a coach can deliver -- or as a parent can foster.

I hope I've explained myself as to what council can do and why I need to be there to do it -- given today's challenges.

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