Monday, April 14, 2008

City Council for Dummies -- or -- is it "of" ??

Hello Sir:

My name is "d" (name NUKED BY BLOGMASTER). This is rather unusual but I was wondering if you could help explain to me how our city council works.

I spend a good amount of time reading and your name seems to pop up frequently around causes I feel strongly about as well. While I am not a registered Libertarian, I do hold many of their beliefs about personal freedom and responsibility.

I guess I finally got fed up when I read the article in the PG about Councilman Burgess proposed use of discretionary funds. How can a government use public funds for something that does not benefit the entire community? From what I gather, he is going to give this foundation around $212,000. That is enough to employ four full time police officers for his district for an entire year.

This is just another example of the people making decisions in this city being poorly qualified for the position.

Last week, a house in the North Side was riddled with bullets from an assault rifle. This is the North Side, not the Gaza Strip. Also last week, task force officers were shot at during an arrest in St. Clair Village. Yet all last week, the council spent their time arguing the schematics of billboard legislation.

I know this is a big rant and your not at all responsible, but I guess I was just hoping to hear that someone else out there is fed up with status quo here and cares about this city enough to make changes.

Thank you for your time sir and I am sorry if this makes very little sense.
My reply via email:

Yes, life in Pittsburgh is fragile. We need to stay involved -- and do better in our government.

I've been ranting for years. It is good to know that some of the ranting helps -- and it is nice to know others listen from time to time.

First thing -- I'll take your rant below and turn it into a blog posting. And, I'll send you an invite to post on my blog. When you get rants like this -- we need to share them. Too many times, people don't care. So, apathy is the worst and first hurdle.

Next, if you'd want to be a Libertarian -- join us. But, that isn't necessary. I've got friends from all around the political landscape.

Call if you wish.....
My extended reply for the blog:

So, do you want to hear how city council is to work or should I explain what happens now. The way council behaves today and in the recent decades is NOT how it should happen. Hence, the city is in a terrible pickle.

Generally, council meets on Tuesdays to cast final votes. The standing committee meeting is on Wednesdays. Most of the council meetings and public hearings as well as post agendas are listed at my Google Calendar. You can subscribe to it and follow along. Feel free to go there and give them a piece of your mind as they often seem to miss place large chunks of theirs.

The meetings are to begin at 10 am -- but they never do. They are tardy and too timid to turn on the video cameras and audio before the start of the meeting. That would insure that the meetings happened on time.

On the Tuesday meetings members of city council give out a lot of proclamations. These are ways to kiss butt to mucky mucks in the community and endear votes in the future. The meetings then start 30 or 50 minutes later than the normal 20 minutes delay those days.

The purpose of city council is to pass legislation and to control the purse strings. The members of council like to play administrative roles too, and that is a big problem. Council should not be 3-1-1 operators. The role of council is to legislate. Write ordinances. And, of course, protect the public purse.

So, you are justified to be outraged with the $200K give-a-way of money by the new member on council, Rev. Ricky Burgess to a nonprofit.

City council has slush funds and other money tucked into remote parts of the city budgets, going back to 2001 era even. They spend some of that money in 2008. But, it came from 2003. Go figure.

Council members have been know to be crooked too. Twanda is in jail. Just ask some, like Tonya or Bruce about the one's that went before them.

Folly happens weekly. In most instances they run around in circles like a dog that chases its tail. The big issues of the city get little or no attention.

Perhaps it is a lack of common sense, creativity or real-world experience.

Generally, if you are good at council -- or if you are bad at council -- you get promoted to another role in government. Council is a stepping stone -- and you know who gets stepped upon -- the citizens and often public trust. But, at least there is a revolving door of sorts.

Now I'm not the smartest guy in the world either. I understand that. I've run for council twice -- both as a Libertarian. That's a sure fire way to 'not get the job' because only those of the D party win elections in Pittsburgh. But, my goals have never been to win the election as it is to fix the city. The city gets far along on the pathway to healing itself the day a "Libertarian" gets elected to public office, be it mayor, controller or member of city council.

Breaking the status quo by winning elections from outside of the D-party would be a huge break from tradition. Frankly, I don't want to walk in the legacy of what the local Ds have done to our city. I'd much rather raise a bit of dissent as best I can and avoid their slime.

But, there are many, many ways to help. Different strokes for different folks. Do what you can. And, don't burn out.

My ranting about Rev. Burgess and his give-a-way is below. Scroll down a few posts.

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