Thursday, March 20, 2008

Breaking News: City Solicitor Opinion Says It’s Illegal For Legislative Branch to Legislate

“Sometimes I feel we are living in an upside-down world,” said Councilman Bill Peduto.

It was City Solicitor George Specter’s latest wacked-out legal opinion that prompted Peduto’s comment, which would surprisingly turn out to be one of the kindest offered during the day.

Not to be outdone by URA Director Pat Ford’s assertion of last month that a 20x60 foot sign was not really a sign, Specter raised the bar a number of notches when he proclaimed that it was illegal for the city’s legislative branch to legislate.

Under pointed, sustained and fierce questioning from Councilman Patrick Dowd, Specter stubbornly maintained that legislation pertaining to the day-to-day operations of the city would only be legal if it came from the mayor’s office (the executive branch) and not city council (the legislative branch).

“A point of Basic Government 101 clarification,” a stunned Peduto lectured the city solicitor. “All legislation comes from the legislative branch. NOT the executive branch. This was one of the basics of the American Revolution.”

This day’s scuffle was centered around a bill proposed by Councilman Ricky Burgess which would cut the number of take-home city vehicles from 59 to 29. The 30 high-ranking bureaucrats slated to lose their car perks were all cozy with the mayor and all now very unhappy. City Solicitor Specter hurriedly gave his unsolicited opinion to council warning that it had no legal authority to legislate the cuts.

“If the mayor were to bring forth this same bill …. word for word … would it be legal then?” an irate Dowd asked Specter. Specter shockingly said ‘yes.’

“It’s ILLEGAL if it comes from the legislative branch,” an incredulous Dowd repeated. “All we can do is wait for the executive branch to bring things forward to us? (Long pause) That’s amazing.”

Councilman Burgess picked up the ball from Dowd and ran with it further. “I asked you (Specter) a specific question at the post agenda meeting and you gave me a specific answer. You said only recommendations which followed Act 47 were legal. You said my bill included other administrative items which made it illegal. Do you remember your answer? Do I have to play it back for you? I can. Do you want me to play it back? I specifically asked you and you specifically answered back.”

Burgess could not be stopped. “I can play your words back to you if you wish. Do you want me to do that? Because I am certain of your words. We played your words back over and over and over again. We scripted this bill to abide by your words.”

Burgess was not done yet. “This saddens me. It’s sad for our solicitor to come here on the air, in public, to change his opinion. Why don’t we just go home? Why are we here? Why should we introduce bills?”

Still more from the Reverend Burgess. “You are saying ‘If we don’t like what you do … its illegal.’ I’m offended. I’m not stupid. I don’t like to be treated like I’m stupid. How do we run a city when, if we don’t like things, at any time, we just say, ‘Let’s change the rules.’”

And then the coup de grace. “I’m tired of my colleagues being threatened, my staff being threatened.” Burgess charged.

Dowd, still reeling from the insulting foolishness which had been cavalierly lobbed his way said once again, “I want everyone to know THIS is the decision we hear from the City Solicitor. I want to re-emphasize, I want to be sure we get your statements clear. You are telling us this legislation is illegal but for the point of origin …… This is entirely suspect.”

Dowd continued, “What bothers me now …. Forget the cars, forget the day-to-day management …. You say the only way Act 47 recommendations can be acted upon is if the mayor introduces the legislation … not us. That is absolutely backwards.”

Councilman Bruce Kraus had been patiently waiting his turn. “Do you now understand why [city council] wants our own solicitor? [Council] did not ask for your opinion on this matter yet we have received a TIMELY one from you. Without asking. But we still do not have an opinion from you on the billboard situation. Why is that?”

All of this piling-on would have probably intimidated a lesser man but not City Solicitor George Specter. No, he took it all quietly, waiting instead for a passive-aggressive opportunity to get in his own digs. George politely explained to council that he never meant to infer they had little or no power. To the contrary, just because they can’t legislate like they thought they could didn’t mean they couldn’t request things from the mayor.

“You (council) are certainly entitled to this kind of dialogue. And you can request anything you want. My guess is if you did request …. The mayor would look upon you with favor.”


Isn’t that something a king does when he decides not to chop off the head of one of his subjects? Is that really a legitimate, acceptable dynamic between a mayor and a city council anywhere in the free world anytime after the Middle Ages?

It’s not an upside-down world which confounds you, Bill Peduto. It’s a parallel universe.


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Anonymous said...

The way Dowd, Burgess, and Kraus conducted themselves in this meeting was completely showmanship. They treated Specter with absolute disrespect by lecturing him and pounding the table.

The only man at the table who is a lawyer was Specter! Specter IS city council's solicitor! Council getting themselves an additional solicitor would be wasteful and completely UNprogressive.

The "progressives" on council aren't so much about any progressive ideals as they are all about showmanship and pounding they're chests.

If the progressives really wanted to enact ALL of act 47, they'd take the council pay cut... like that will ever happen.

Anonymous said...

WHAT AN IDIOT, COUNCIL DID TAKE A PAY CUT..4 years wage freeze, increased benefit costs
,,, a 30 percent cut in staff/operations.


and you complain that the Council is out of line when they react to the utter nonsense coming from the law department which is under the thumb of Zober (BY THE WAY ZOBER TELL US ALL ABOUT THE FIGHT YOU GOT INTO AT STATION SQ Saturday night. someone, a mere citizen, there had the termidity to call you on your bone headed governance.

lucky for Zober cooler heads got between the two, while i detest violence, a black eye on zober's lying mug would be a most gratifying sight.

we have something so opposite of what Bob O'Connor brought to the table. The sense of optimisim, willingness to meet people on common ground. We will never know what might have been but we know this: it would not be as it is now, Lukey and his frat boys have no sense of what it takes to govern .

they are taking care of their friends like convicted felon Edelstein in lawrenceville, SEE PG 9/30/08 Pat Ford story,

They are coopted by the multinational, predatory "charity" UPMC (their agent in place is former UPMC "community relations" flack David White who is now part of the mayor's innner circle.

They contort the law to the benefit of their patron, LAMAR sign company so that they can get Lukey free bill boards during an election cycle.

They hid from view at the last minute a deal with Landmark Properties to violate the zoning code in a proposed developemnt (illegal too) for a 4 story massive condo at Sarah & 13th street, "it is not a 4 story building - the first floor is a 'basement'"

They are attempting to create a shadow government in the URA beyond the oversight of Council by transferring the Dept of Planning there - without any consultation with Council. no thanks to Sen. Jim Ferlo who has become an apologist for the idiots at the URA.

and you have the balls to suggest that the Council is out of line?

you better get some glasses and take a look at what is going on around you.

Anonymous said...

You know what, I completely agree with you, thats exactly whats going on. It's a Ravenstahl dictatorship and everything is terrible.

Maybe you need to take off the beer goggles and realize that you are being ridiculous.

Nothing illegal is being done by the Ravenstahl administration, your a dumb fuck.

Mark Rauterkus said...

But wait. As per setting the history of this all perfectly straight.

Kraus, in the posting, said the council did not ask the city's top laywer for his opinion yet it was delivered.

D.Harris did ask the city lawyer to the table and asked him if this (the ordinance from Burgess) was 'legal.'

Council asked.

Perhaps Kraus went to sleep. But, notice, he could NOT even pile on and hit the pile.

Anonymous said...

Mark: you are blinded by your own personal bias against Krause. The Councilman was referring to the original legal opinion Specter offerred but was not requested by Counsel.

Char: Your blog posting on the sign that was not a sign and now a legislature that shouldn't legislate are excellent.

Anonymous said...

The Mayor has no direct way to submit legislation. Legislation must be referred to Council by the Mayor. A Councilperson who receives the Mayor’s suggested legislation may submit it as is, alter it and then submit it, or pocket veto it (not submitting it at all). The legislation once submitted stands on its own regardless of the author. The Solicitor’s job in the legislative process is to determine the legality of the proposed legislation. It does not matter who suggests or authors the legislation, the Solicitor must evaluate the legislation on its own. Yesterday, on the ordinance reducing the number of take home cars, Specter argued that the author of the legislation determines its legality; that the Mayor, as author, would legalize the legislation and a Councilperson, as author, would de-legalize it. That, of course, is a political decision not a legal opinion because Specter is not evaluating the legislation on its own. The truth is that the administration couldn’t defend the need of 59 take home cars, nor challenge the legislation’s appropriateness since it mirrored Act 47’s language exactly. So they made up a false legal argument. I bet in the next few months every time the Administration dislikes Council’s legislation, Specter will be trodden out to say it’s illegal; although all of us will realize the Specter is giving a political instead of a legal decision because Specter is no longer the City’s lawyer but is now the Mayor’s Lobbyist to Council.

Anonymous said...


eThe questions have been asked,
papers requested. Hoping they will be smart enough with all the legal requested items, then there is only one thing that matters.

Innocent or Guilty?

I think the latter

Mark Rauterkus said...

I have a bad attitude to Kraus (without the 'e' on the end) but, it is not 'blinded.' Rather, mine is in full vision.

Any member of council can object to the arrival of anyone else to council's table.

Council should have no use for Mr. Specter in any situation in the future.

And, Specter's opinion was solicited by D. Harris the other day. She (Harris) was doing the grunt work of the administration with her absurd question.

Trouble is, they snared each other. Gotcha x 2.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the answers to all of this goofiness is to be found in the recently released organizational Chart of the Mayor's office.

If you notice within his organization...the mayor is totally disconnected from practically all of those who actually run operations of the city.

The only people with direct access are the idiots - Zober, Ford, and Lukes best bud, UPMC shill, David White.

The only Director of an operating department with direct access to Mayor is Mr. Huss, Director of Public Safety.

The boy Mayor only knows what his select handlers want him to know.

Given that these jamokes and momalukes are doing their best imitation of Jimmy Breslin's "The Gang that Couldn't Shoot Straight", the Mayor will continue to be a lost child in the woods. The abuse of power will catch up with them and the city goes no where

Where are the big contributor string pullers on this chart?

More importantly, who are they?

Who are the influence peddlers with direct access to the Mayor?

Start digging Bob Mayo. You will find treasure.

Anonymous said...

to anon 3:06

There is an old saw that might well apply to you. "When you reach the limits of your logical argument, resort to name calling."

Why do I get the sense that this anon 3:06, who is always suggesting the Council is crazy and the mayor just a swell fella, is none other than Jimmy Motznik?

Anonymous said...


It's like you're on automatic pilot, when you read the name Kraus you cannot resist the impulse to make a snide comment.

For a while you were on a similar knee jerk 'Kick Peduto' streak.

Do us all a favor, give it a rest.

Concentrate your energies on something other than telling us how great things would be if you held office.

You've run many times, as a member of many different parties and haven't won once. It's painfully obvious that neither your life nor campaign experience have given you even a glimmer of insight into how to work within an elected body.

And now I await, as I'm sure you'll point out, even though you got a fraction of the vote against everyone of your political opponents, you DID get your votes for just a nickel or a quarter each, as opposed to the costly votes your challengers paid for.

Anonymous said...

Rauterkus does not yap about how great things would be if he was in office. He does have a good time putting light on poor times that come from those in office. Different. Stay awake.

Anonymous said...

Anon. 11:28,

I am wide awake, if you're awake too, check back thru Mark's comments on local political blogs...

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