Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Mayor Not Satisfied With Condition Of City Government

A Look At Those Who Appear To Have Displeased Him

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl asked for the resignation of ten top city administrators, citing his dissatisfaction with “the condition of city government”. Ravenstahl has suggested that the ten re-submit their job applications for a fresh re-appraisal in order to prove they are the best person(s) for the job(s). Who are these people, what could they have possibly done to get the ax and will they ultimately remain? We take a look at these and other questions below.

Duane Ashley, Citiparks Director
Responsible for all park operations such as farmer’s markets, cinemas in the parks, festivals, walks and runs, community centers, swimming pools.
What went wrong?
Don’t know. Seems Mr. Ashley has been proactive in addressing problems. He led the selection process of hiring a firm to bring advertising dollars from city parks into city coffers. He was part of the effort to have city and county collaborate on park projects. He's a small speck of color in the mayor’s mostly white administration. And he tried valiantly to keep as many city pools open as possible in face of Act 47 cuts.
What does Ashley have to say?
He will re-apply for his job.

Guy Costa, Director of Public Works
Public Works is one of the largest city departments. It is responsible for street resurfacing, park facility and public structure maintenance and rehab, garbage collection, animal control, ice salting, flooding, landslides, and other natural disasters.
What went wrong?
Much easier to list what might have gone right. A very abbreviated, partial list of recent problems with Public Works: 1) The lapse of the city’s contract with the Animal Rescue League and Costa’s efforts to replace them with controversial Triangle Pet. 2) City Redd Up crew was caught wearing campaign T-shirts promoting Councilman Jeff Koch while working on the job. 3) Accusations that only the politically connected get their streets paved. 4) Possibly fast-tracking and therefore steering a lucrative contract to CLT Technologies whose founding investor is District Attorney Stephen Zappala’s uncle. 5) Inability to properly salt city streets during snow storms even though neighboring municipalities are successful under same conditions. 6) Playing fast and loose with pay raises not included in department budget. 7) More contract shenanigans. And the list goes on ….
What does Costa have to say?
He will re-apply for his job but has declined to discuss his relationship with Ravenstahl.

Jerry Dettore, URA Executive Director
The Urban Redevelopment Authority is “more than a redevelopment authority – it is the City of Pittsburgh’s economic development agency.” (Maybe that’s the problem right there)
What went wrong?
Again, the list is way too long going back way too far. The most recent flaps are … 1) Possible abuse of monies in the URA’s Streetface program. 2) Disregarding Hill District concerns when giving Melody Tent site development rights to the Penguins. (Even though it appeared to have been done with Luke's blessings) 3) Fifth & Forbes developer is now dawdling.
What does Dettore have to say?
Feels Ravenstahl has the right to have his own people in key spots. Has not decided if he will reapply for his job.

Ron Graziano, Bureau of Building Inspection Chief
Regulates the construction, demolition and occupancy of all buildings and structures within the City of Pittsburgh.
What went wrong?
Maybe the bureau has not been diligent enough in enforcing city anti-dumping regulations? Did Graziano originally inspect and approve the collapsed convention center beam? And then there was the horrible Hazelwood fire started in abandoned buildings that the bureau dragged their feed in demolishing.
What does Graziano have to say?

Robert McCaughan, Emergency Medical Services Chief
Heads up 175 Paramedics who provide advanced life support pre-hospital care, medically directed technical rescue from accidents and entrapments, river rescue and community safety education.
What went wrong?
It might not be a case of any wrongdoing or incompetence. After all, Ravenstahl just honored McCaughan for being the longest-serving member, with 32 years of service in the bureau. It may just be that city EMS personnel and city firefighters have duties which overlap. Since our city does not have the money to pay for many of its basic services, much less duplicative ones, these organizations will eventually have to be consolidated. Both continue to jockey for turf as each fights for survival. One will wind up losing out in the end and odds are it won’t be the firefighters. Maybe McCaughan’s resignation is Luke officially casting his lot with the firefighters.
What does McCaughan have to say?

David Onorato, Parking Authority Executive Director
The Parking Authority’s mission statement on the city’s web site touts they go “a dimension beyond the basic responsibility to provide and maintain spaces for vehicles.” Their mission also includes “supporting the efforts of City Departments and agencies to ensure the economic progress of our region.”
What went wrong?
There has been one small disagreement. The mayor and City Council wanted parking rates to be lowered in January by an amount equal to the decrease in parking tax. Rather than going “a dimension beyond” their basic responsibility by passing along the savings to the parking public, David Onorato decided that the rates would remain unchanged.
What does (either) Onorato have to say?
David was surprised by the resignation request. He said he’d talk to Ravenstahl about it.

Phillipe Petite, Equal Opportunity Review Commission Manager
The commission places subcontractors with prime contractors through a system of tracking and referral to assure inclusion actually occurs. Additionally, the commission develops opportunities for minority and women owned businesses.
What went wrong?
Not a clue.
What does Petite have to say?
“I definitely think I’m the most qualified.” He plans to reapply for his position.

George Specter, Acting City Solicitor
Specter heads the City Law Department which acts as attorney for the City of Pittsburgh and its officials.
What went wrong?
Plenty. Either Specter gave Ravenstahl bad advice which blew up in the mayor’s face or Ravenstahl disregarded Specter’s good advice and then had things blow up in his face. Either way, it appears the mayor is holding Specter personally responsible for the hits he took during the McNeilly and Regan debacles.
What does Specter have to say?
He’s probably taking the Fifth.

Howard Stern, City Information Services Director
CIS plans, acquires, installs and supports the City’s proprietary and open computing environments as well as develops software programs for Public Safety, Finance and other departmental initiatives.
What went wrong?
Not typically a high-profile position prone to controversy, the worst we can say about Stern’s approach to the information age might be that it was more “dial-up” than Comcastic. In an attempt to “professionalize” the city workforce, Stern placed time restrictions on each employee’s use of the internet. Not much thought was given to the fact that extended internet access might be necessary to perform one’s job. Worse yet, this faux pas was jumped on by Mark DeSantis. And then there was the fact that the City’s new 311 line worked very well at first except for cell phone users. But maybe the straw that broke the Ravenstahl’s back was the city’s computer-driven pavement management system which appeared to have been abandoned in favor of “eyeballing” road conditions by the likes of Motznik and other unbiased parties.
What does Stern have to say?
Not a bit nor a byte.

Greg Tutsock, Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority Executive Director
PWSA produces and supplies the water for City of Pittsburgh residents, maintains and operates the water infrastructure as well as the City of Pittsburgh sewer system.
What went wrong?
The federal government is finally getting serious on compliance with the 1970 Clean Water Act. Yes, nearly 40 years later, Pittsburgh and Allegheny County are just about to start the necessary sewer system repairs and upgrades that are needed to clean up our rivers and streams. We’ve racked up millions of dollars in fines and penalties for doing nothing about it. Literally nothing. Tutsock and company should have acted years ago. Then of course there are all the embarrassing water main breaks.
What does Tutsock have to say?
The s**t may have hit the fan.

It appears the City of Pittsburgh might be better served if many of the above administrators find employment elsewhere. The mayor is undoubtedly correct in cleaning house, but since this is do or die time for our fair city, it is crucial that each position be filled with exactly the right person for the job. Pulling this off once or twice in 90 days would be a job well done. Batting 10 out of 10? Good luck, Mr. Mayor. You will need it.


Maria said...

Wow! Someone's been busy.

Thanks for all the info.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Mr. Ashley has a new title, more responsibilities. He is director of community initiatives or some such thing. He still is in charge of Citiparks however.