Monday, September 04, 2006

Mayor's Election Must Take Place In 2007

by Tom Leturgey

Soon the city of Pittsburgh will be back to normal on Grant Street. The tragic death of Bob O'Connor will continue to cast a shadow over our city for some time; however, we must move forward.

New interim Mayor Luke Ravenstahl is a "transitional" leader: a compromise canidate from Pittsburgh City Council, undoubtedly scared out of his wits. He's probably a good guy, but no 26-year-old on the planet can successfully run a major metropolitan city with no experience.

When he was appointed city council President, the city was being led by a healthy, robust Mayor who was easily expected to serve two terms.

Bill Peduto should have been council president, but he ran against O'Connor and the "powers that be" weren't going to allow him to be in the city's second-most-valuable position.

Jim Motznik thought the position was going to be his, but the Overbrook resident's only claim to governmental claim is publicly running away from a television news reporter. He's now President of City Council.

Tawanda Carlisle reportedly wanted the city council president post at the beginning of the year. Can you imagine if she had been the original "compromise" canidate? She grabbed headlines earlier this year for allocating untold thousands of public dollars to personal friends, stating the money was paid for "reports" or "studies." Turns out the funds were transfered to pay for nearly-plagerized works.

Bob O'Connor's former chief of staff, now councilman Doug Shields, reportedly also wanted the city council presidency, but he didn't have the votes.

That allowed Ravenstahl, a former college placekicker and council's only four-year college graduate, to be given what was perceived to be a largely ceremonious tip of the hat.

There is already differences of opinion how long Ravenstahl can serve as interim Mayor. Common sense says that a special election will be held next year; however, there is arcane verbiage in the city charter that states a city controller and Mayor's race cannot be held in the same year. And you guessed it, that row office election is in 2007.

Ravenstahl has just started to represent his north side constituency; only those with a pure personal agenda can believe that the interim Mayor can serve until 2009, which is the next year of municipal elections.

Ravenstahl has not been elected Mayor. He was not even a decisive choice as city council President, as O'Connor had been years ago. It can be argued that Ravenstahl shouldn't be an interim Mayor at all.

IF the smartest and most civic-minded heads prevail, there will be a special election for Pittsburgh's 60th Mayor in 2007. Don't count on it, however, as this issue will surely bog down our system for some time to come.


Jonathan Potts said...

The city charter's language is indeed ambigious, but its interpretation shouldn't be based on the new mayor's age or experience. And how can it be argued that Ravenstahl shouldn't be mayor? He was the duly elected city council president when the mayor died. The fact that he was the compromise candidate is now irrelevant.

Thomas Leturgey said...

Irrelevant? A compromise candidate does not make a qualified city council president. No one was going to get enough votes to win and we all know Bill Peduto should have been city council president. It was all petty politics.

You have to have some experience, other than having influential parents, to be a successful mayor of a major metropolitan city.

We're not talking about the mayor of some little podunk town in Beaver County. We're talking about being the mayor of the city that stirs this region's drink.

Let Ravenstahl run next year. If he's voted in by the populace; all bets are off. He's qualified. Until then, no way.

Jonathan Potts said...

It's irrelevant to whether we have the election next year or in 2009. The interpretation of the charter should be independent of the person who becomes mayor. That's what the rule of law is all about.

Thomas Leturgey said...

We'll have to agree to disagree. You can't often get two political junkie/journalists to agree on something like this.

Cope said...

Sure, I think a lot of people would like to see Peduto as mayor, but you're dismissing Ravenstahl less than three full days into his new job solely because of his age. Some could easily argue that Sophie Masloff never should have served because of her age.

And more than that, I think we would have all liked to see the city adopt clear-cut language before it needed to rely on the charter (I wonder if there would be this much ambiguity surrounding the charter if Peduto had indeed been city council president).

Compromise candidate? No one intended him to be mayor because O'Connor was healthy and robust? That's the whole reason a succession system is in place. If people had known O'Connor was going to die in office, they wouldn't have voted for him.

I guess what irks me most about your post is you want to bend the rules in your favor simply because you don't like the current mayor. You get the government you deserve and if this is really that troubling to you, where were you when the charter was drafted to include this problematic language?

Compromise candidate or not, and whether he serves to 2009 or not, it seems like Pittsburgh would be better off -- at least for the moment -- if people could get past politics for five minutes and support the current mayor.

Mark Rauterkus said...

In political systems, unlike that in baseball and football, you can't 'draft' a hot bat from the farm systems. Nor can Pittsburgh can't pick-up a 'blue-chip prospect' from a mid-sized Michigan or Ohio city.

We need to 'grow our own' political leaders.

I think Luke will be a good mayor. I have no problem with a 26 year old mayor. His age isn't something to scare me.

I also think that Luke is the best person on City Council to lead the city as its mayor.

Thomas Leturgey said...

Cope and others, your just not reading the whole thing.

Yes, someone out of college a handful of years is NOT experienced enough to run a major metropolitan city.

EXPERIENCE is the key.

I'm not bending a thing. There are three options to vote in the next of which is to let an inexperience neophyte run our city without allowing the constituency to vote for three years. If we the people could vote for a city council president, ala vice president, that would be different.

A youthful age is not the lynchpin here. Inexperience is.

Thomas Leturgey said...

One more thing...the issue of compromise candidate. My front page story in the Front Weekly from earlier this week details the ins-and-outs of the "race" for city council president. One in which just about every member of council thought they had the votes for city council presidency...just like the one that took place today. Since Motznik, Peduto, Shields nor Carlisle could get enough votes from their colleagues, Ravenstahl was tapped.

Cope said...

I am reading the whole thing, and my point now is it's too late to complain about who is the mayor. In an ideal world, O'Connor would have filled out his term and continued the momentum that seemed to fill the first six months of his administration.

But you're purely picking on a guy because he is 26 and only because he is 26. He may lack the political experience, but some who have studied the decline of Pittsburgh over the past 50 years of political experience would argue that his inexperience could be a boon for the city.

Thomas Leturgey said...

You want a boon to the city from an inexperienced political figure? Elect a Republican!

Judge Rufus Peckham said...

Sorry, Cope, I wouldn't retain a 26 year old attorney to do virtually anything; no large parish in the Diocese of Pittsburgh has a 26-year old pastor; and very few large organizations have a CEO that age. It is generally too young, but this young man may prove me wrong. What I fear most is who's "advising" him from behind the scenes, and how much influence they have.

Jonathan Potts said...

If it's too young, than perhaps that should have been written into the charter. Perhaps people should push to have a referendum on the subject.

My reading of the charter tends to favor the intepretation that the election should take place in 2007. But I don't like that people seem to basing their opinions on the mayor's age and experience. That is not relevant to the issue.

Mark Rauterkus said...

What became of the "no discrimination" clause -- or law -- or ordinance -- or charter amendment???

I ask as I don't remember.

We say the President of the US must be 35.

But, we'll draft a 20-year old kid who can't even speak English and give him millions to play hockey.

Was Big Ben old enough to be QB for the Steelers?

Well, perhaps the better Q should be -- is Big Ben old enough to coach the Steelers?

In the end, it is going to come down to skills. Does Luke have the skills for the job or not? Time will tell. And, if anything, time is on Luke's side.

Frankly, I think that there are many things and challenges in life that are more demanding of experience and age rather than being mayor.

Anonymous said...

Shields came out a rose, and Motznik a toad.

Luke is a guess, but, why regress.

Let's hire the lawyers, for a charter debate. You know the D's hire first rate.

Time will tell, that is for sure, as Luke will find out, his lawyers will detest.

AT the end of the day, a war chest will prevail, and a major task at hand, to rescue Pittsburgh out of the D's debt parade!

Serious, who ever ends up Mayor, needs to get us in the black soon, reduce the size of government, and increase the effectiveness and efficiencies of all involved!

Thomas Leturgey said...

Experience not relevant to the issue? The mayor of the second biggest city in the state? WOW!

Interesting side note...Rich Fitzgerald's name has been floated around as a possible candidate for Mayor. Especially if the Democratic committee nominates their candidate...and NOT your friendly neighborhood Democrat next door who vote...then Union-friendly, left-leaning Rich Fitzgerald IMMEDIATELY becomes the front runner.

The Committee will be hard pressed to nominate Peduto...he doesn't roll over for the unions, in fact Bill focuses on the fact that the city unions...that RUN THE DEMOCRATIC MACHINE IN THE CITY...are only 1-2% of the entire workforce, but wield an excessively important role in any election.

If memory serves, Fitzgerald was one of the crafters and primary supporters of the job-killing, potentially-disasterous "Living Wage" fiasco.

You read it here first...if Fitzgerald, who has earned some name recognition as president of county council, runs for Mayor, we'd have a whole new ballgame.

Judge Rufus Peckham said...

Mr. Potts is wholly correct that age and experience have absolutely no relevance to the issue of when the election should occur. The timing of the election is governed solely by the charter and pertinent caselaw interpreting and applying it. I've not looked into it. Mr. Leturgey, Mr. Potts did not say that experience isn't a relevant consideration in selecting a mayor or in predicting his or her performance. That's an entirely different question, but let's put that question to rest: Is experience a relevant factor in predicting one's performance in practically ANY job, much less mayor of a large city? The question scarcely survives its statement. But that's not what Mr. Potts was talking about. I suspect that the timing issue will quickly find its way up to the Commonwealth and then the Supreme Courts, without the delays so often attendant to cases lacking the political explosiveness of this one.

PittsburghJack said...

If it were the intent of the city charter that the president of council serve out the complete remainder of the term of the mayor, there would be no mention at all of an election -- it would simply say 'remainder of the mayor's term' or something to that effect.

I do believe that the language in the charter is very ambiguous nad can't help but think that it was intended to be that way and that it was designed to be unclear.

Just another example of the backwardness of this city and why it seems we'll never advance.

Jonathan Potts said...

Thanks, Judge.

Thomas Leturgey said...

I don't think the small comment I wrote yesterday was posted.

I never steered the debate away from the fact that I argued that Mr. Ravenstahl was too inexperienced to be a successful mayor. Somewhere that was steered away from my debate.

PtBreeze said...

Fitzgerald? Shields? Peduto?
If all these Squirell Hill guys run you can bet that the race will be between Ravenstal and Lamb. (and Lamb will be our next mayor.)

Thomas Leturgey said...

Us in the South Hills won't vote for any of them!