Saturday, March 29, 2008

City Council Launches Multi-Pronged Attack, Mayor Takes Another Hit


City Councilman Patrick Dowd will introduce legislation on Tuesday to give council and the city controller seats on the city’s pension fund board. And that’s just the start of things to come. Seems there are other boards with either no council representation or where a council member was chosen by the mayor instead of council’s president. Dowd thinks a change is in order.

“Historically, for some number of years, the powers of council have sort of atrophied. Council has not necessarily exercised its authority the way it should in order to maintain the proper checks and balances in the system,” said Mr. Dowd.

Boy, Mayor Lukie is going to be pissed. Who knows who he’ll threaten this time.

The all-out war which has erupted between council and the mayor came on quickly. In fact it was just Valentine’s Day when all parties came together, kissed and hugged, traded compliments and literally signed a peace pact. The document they signed was spearheaded by newly-elected Dowd who thought it might be a good idea to start off the new session with a written list of common goals and agendas, a pledge to work together and play nice.

I guess you can’t blame Dowd for trying, even though we in the blogosphere did so harshly and often. We told him his olive branch was a waste of time. We harped that the mayor and his cronies were a scourge upon the land, not to be trusted. But in retrospect, I suppose having the record show council did make an effort was not such a bad move after all.

As it turned out, the fragile truce was shorter-lived than even the cynical blogosphere prophesized. Its first crack appeared on Feb 15th, only one day after its signing. Heavy snows blanketed the area and Councilman Bruce Kraus found himself and his district to be the object of childish political payback. Kraus had just won his council seat from mayoral buddy Jeff Koch. The mayor had taken pity on jobless Koch and hired him as Super-Duper Street Cleaning & Snow Plowing Consultant Guy. When the big snow hit, Koch coincidentally redirected salt/plow trucks away from Kraus’ district and over to areas where his own friends lived.

Then, only 3 days later, council learned the mayor and URA Development Czar Pat Ford had silently approved a 1200 sq ft LED billboard for a Downtown garage, completely circumventing lawful zoning process, completely ignoring the public’s right to a hearing, just plowing ahead (no pun intended) without one word of any kind to council, the parking authority or anyone else.

On February 26th, another newly-elected councilman who ran on a reform platform, took his first shot at trimming excess from the city budget. Rev. Ricky Burgess thought he was doing his job and fulfilling promises to his constituents when he offered legislation to cut 30+ city take-home cars assigned to folks who really didn’t need them. Even though the mayor’s city vehicle was not on the cut list, many assigned to his political posse were. So the Lukester dispatched the city solicitor to inform council it would be illegal for them, as legislators, to legislate any car cuts. And just to be sure he had their undivided attention, the mayor then threatened to nuke council’s department budgets in case they hadn’t listened good enough.

Meanwhile, Councilman Dowd had been trying unsuccessfully to review copies of budgets from other departments and authorities. The Urban Redevelopment Authority’s budget, in particular, had eluded Dowd until mid-March when he found at that time they didn’t have an approved 2008 budget to give him.

Something did finally come from the URA and Dowd’s preliminary review found a number of troubling items…… not the least of which was a $2.8 million development loan repayment which should have been paid to the city but was diverted to the URA instead. “My money, your money ….. what’s the big deal?” was all URA Exec Director and Head Mayoral Henchman Pat Ford had to say of the brazen money grab.

As if council wasn’t freaked enough by Administration antics by this time, an organizational chart surfaced showing an illegal reporting structure among the mayor’s top directors. Followed by rumors of (more) bizarre behavior by the mayor on St. Patrick’s Day. Luke supposedly walked the parade route a second time because he didn’t get enough attention on the first go-round. And after the celebration, our Commander-In-Chief purportedly got into a bit of a tiff with police (not his first) who tried to ticket his illegally parked car in front of North Side bar.

So …….. It seems council has decided enough is enough. They gave peace a chance and it bombed. It’s now time for war.

Patrick Dowd will lead the charge to expose our woefully underfunded pension and our out-of-control, under-no-one’s-authority authorities to the light of day.

Ricky Burgess’ attack on take-home vehicles is just one small salvo lobbed at the tip of an ugly iceberg. Elimination of institutional nepotism, political patronage, disproportionate allocation of city resources and finances is the good reverend’s real calling.

Bruce Kraus is the point man on the battle over a sign that is not a sign. Which is really a battle to insure we are governed by the rule of law. Not by the changing whims of a Boy King. Or by the threats and coercions of mob-like forces among us.

As Finance & Law Committee Chair, and with his many years of experience dealing with the inner-workings of Pittsburgh’s dysfunctional government, Bill Peduto is well-positioned to serve as intelligence officer and tactician.

Scrappy Council President Doug Shields has toughened and grown into a formidable general. So far this year he’s made good calls on when to hold, when to fold, when to bluff and when to simply tell them all to go to hell.

These are some decent advances made by a new council majority, in just the first quarter of 2008, which is hopefully the next-to-the-last year we’ll have to endure Ravenstahl and Company.

Go Team!

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

oh jeez, I wonder what luke is gonna have the hammer do next

Anonymous said...

I agree that there have been some decent advances made by the new council but most of it is turning out to be a waste of councils time cleaning up the boys messes.

Personally I can only see one thing happening that could turn this entire mess around. Though Councilman Dowd is correct to introduce his own legislation, I was hoping for a more politically savvy politician. One that understands the power of 5. A solid coalition of SMART men that can crush the despicable Ravenstahl regime. Deasy whimped out, (I really thought the guy had a little integrity) not any more. He won't be getting my vote for siding with the enemy. Harris....she is doing absolutely nothing. She could be queen but has no guts. She fears Luke and should wise up and know that soon anyone tied to his puppet strings will be lucky to ever get re elected to anything again. She isn't smart enough to stick close to the winners. Fickle , fickle.

So Councilman Dowd.....are you smart enough to know how to play with the big guys or will you continue to stand there in the middle, kinda like in junior high?

Hoping for a solid five,
Hazel

Mark Rauterkus said...

Hi,

I do NOT think you have the story right -- when it comes to Kraus and Koch.

Worse, I don't know if you care to get it right or not.

The Bag of Health and Politics said...

Redirecting snow plows for political reasons is stupid. Another idiotic move by the Ravenstahl administration. They're damn lucky nobody died on those roads--if they did a mega lawsuit would follow.

I think Luke's days as Mayor are numbered. I think Shields or Peduto is going to run next year, and I think either of them would win. I like them both, so I don't care who runs. I imagine they'll talk with each other and come up with a plan...

Anonymous said...

Dear Friends.

While we muddle trhough the day to day of the business of the city, please don't forget the big picture. Our State Senate Judiciary Committee has voted to suspend the Constitution with the latest so called "Defense of Marriage Act." It essentially strips constitutional protections from members of GLBT Community.
Please call your State Senators and tell them to please vote NO to this lunacy.

Feel free to read the amendments contained in the Bill of Rights in Honor of Blog For Equality Day. http://www.constitutionfacts.com/index.cfm

Here are a few of my favorites.

Amendment I: Freedom of religion, speech, and the press; rights of assembly and petition
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment IX: Rights retained by the people
The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people

(means States can't infringe upon your rights either)
Some jurists have asserted that the Ninth Amendment is relevant to interpretation of the Fourteenth Amendment. Justice Arthur Goldberg (joined by Chief Justice Warren and Justice Brennan) expressed this view in a concurring opinion in the case of Griswold v. Connecticut (1965):

[T]he Framers did not intend that the first eight amendments be construed to exhaust the basic and fundamental rights.... I do not mean to imply that the .... Ninth Amendment constitutes an independent source of rights protected from infringement by either the States or the Federal Government....While the Ninth Amendment - and indeed the entire Bill of Rights - originally concerned restrictions upon federal power, the subsequently enacted Fourteenth Amendment prohibits the States as well from abridging fundamental personal liberties. And, the Ninth Amendment, in indicating that not all such liberties are specifically mentioned in the first eight amendments, is surely relevant in showing the existence of other fundamental personal rights, now protected from state, as well as federal, infringement.


Amendment XIV: Civil rights
The Fourteenth Amendment was proposed on June 13, 1866 and ratified on July 9, 1868.

Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Section 2. Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed. But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

Section 3. No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.

Section 4. The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law, including debts incurred for payment of pensions and bounties for services in suppressing insurrection or rebellion, shall not be questioned. But neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void.
Section 5. The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Amendment XIII: Abolition of slavery
The Thirteenth Amendment was proposed on January 31, 1865, and ratified on December 6, 1865.

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.


Amendment XIX: Woman suffrage
The Nineteenth Amendment was proposed on June 4, 1919, and ratified on August 18,1920.

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Perhaps, someday, we can all enjoy their mighty benefit.
Happy Blog for Equality Day! Here are a few of my favorites.

Peace,
Douglas Shields
President, Pittsburgh City Council

Gloria said...

Char,

I agree, Council is doing its work for the first time in a long time.

Unfortunately much of it involves cleaning up messes that were ignored for too long.

I can't stress this enough: if you believe that council's doing a good job, whether on a particular issue or in general, let them KNOW it.

Encouragement & support go a long way. And feel free to contact council members from other districts too, by being on a citywide body, they ALL represent ALL of us.

Anonymous said...

Thank god we have a strong Council to clean of the messes made by the boy Mayor and his gownup manipulating henchmen. It is not a waste. Thank god we have people on Council to check the excesses of the Ravenstahl regime.

But the fact that they have to get into it with the Mayor means lost opportunities for the good.

Anonymous said...

A Message From the President of City Council, Doug Shields

We need the blogging communities help! The Council of the City of Pittsburgh believe mandatory reporting of lost or stolen handguns to the police is a common sense reform whose time has come in Pennsylvania.

Law enforcement and police across Pennsylvania strongly support a lost or stolen handgun reporting law as a key tool to help police crack down on straw buyers of illegal handguns.

The bill in question is an amendment to HB1845, and the amendment is sponsored by Rep. David Levdansky, D-Allegheny County. It simply, requires people who buy a handgun to report the handgun if lost or stolen to the police within three days of discovering the loss or theft. Violating this law brings penalties ranging from a summary offense for a first violation to a felony for repeat violators.

It will be voted on Monday,March 31, 2008 in the House.Opponents in the House, led by the NRA, are raising a host of procedural objections.

We need Allegheny County residents, to call their local state representatives and urge them to do the following when the House returns next week:
Vote YES on the Levdansky Amendment (A0617 to H.B. 1845. This amendment is the lost or stolen handgun reporting law at issue.

Phone calls to House members NOW can absolutely make a difference.
DEMOCRATS

Rep. Sean Ramaley, Leaning yes. D-16th, Allegheny/Beaver. 724-266-7774.

Don Walko, D-20th. Undecided. PLEASE CALL. 412-321-5523

Lisa Bennington, D-21st. Leaning yes. Call anyway. 412-361-2040.

Joe Preston, D-24th. Yes. Call anyway.

Joe Markosek, D-25th. Allegheny/Westmoreland. Undecided. "Interested but noncommital." 412-856-8284.

Tom Petrone, D-27th. Leaning yes. Give a quick call. 412-928-9514

Frank Dermody, D-33rd. Leaning No. PLEASE CALL. 724-274-4770.

Marc Gergely, D-35th. Undecided/leaning No. 412-754-3500.

Harry Readshaw, D-36th. Undecided/Leaning No. PLEASE CALL 412-881-4208

Bill Kortz, D-38th. Leaning No. "Opposes gun control." 412-466-1940.

Dave Levdansky, D-39th. Yes. Rep. Levdansky is the prime sponsor of the Amendment. Call him and thank him for his leadership on this important issue. 412-384-2258

Matt Smith, D-42nd. Undecided. 412-571-2169.

Nick Kotik, D-45th. Leaning Yes. Please call. 412-264-4260.

Jesse White, D-46th. Alleghny/Beaver/Washington. Undecided. 724-746-3677

John Pallone, D-54th. Allghny/Armstrong/Westmoreland. Undecided. 724-339-1990

REPUBLICANS

Mike Turzai, R-28th. Undecided/Leaning No. PLEASE CALL 412-369-2230

Randy Vulakovich, R-30th. Undecided. 412-487-6600

John Maher, R-40th. Leaning Yes. CALL HIM. 412-831-8080

Mark Mustio, R-44th. Undecided. 412-262-3780

8:24 PM
Douglas Shields | 03.30.08 - 8:35 pm | #

Anonymous said...

That's why it's important for Council to be unified.Burgess, Kraus, Peduto,Shields. Finally some pretty savvy smart guys. Dowd has stalled too many issues with his vision of Self.

Well,
as so many have said before me...It's a job for the Fab 5.

Dowd, get it together man. Stress to these kids that they can't play any more. It's time to take charge......as a BODY OF 5. Unbeatable.

You learn how to do that, (work as a coalition to help us taxpayers) you will have the city running again.
PLEASE try to contain your ego and vote with the body as a whole. Don't hold out. It will back fire on you. You Councilmen must take charge NOW.

Harris, too slow, Deasey sold out, Payne too far gone into the grips of the enemy.

Motznick, even if he wasn't a good ol friend of the boy, his word still wouldn't mean a thing. He's a body of one. One lunitick that no one really cares what he has to say anyway.

Lucky for us, we finally have some pretty smart guys in there now. Too bad Harris can't bring herself to "Just do the right thing.
JUST DO IT !!!!!!!!!!

Or Deasey, show us your not as bad as your choices have been lately and rejoin the group.

BURGAS, KRAUSS, PEDUTO, SHIELDS, we are grateful for the four of you and the way you have been unified.

Can't any of you knock any sense into Dowd?

"CALLING ALL COUNCIL"

Im ranting again....It's just such a no brainer. Wake up Patrick!

EdHeath said...

Good summary, Char. I have to say I think any one issue could morph into something that might get the attention of Mary Beth Buchanan, but on the whole I don't see the Mayor's days as particularly numbered. Or rather, bloggers have been predicting the administration's demise for some time, and they are still around. But April looks like a busy month. I still think the Act 47 hearing is the sleeper, but so much is happening, and things seem like they wil be real different by the end of the month.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Councilman Shields:

This is the first time a gun bill has even made it to the floor in years and there are Dems And Reps. alike not willing to support this bill. It could very well slow down the sale of illegal hand guns and these guys aren't even concerned.
If you can call tomorrow morning. It's just an aid that answers but all the pressure they get can help sway them to vote yes on the Lendansy Amendment"report lost and stolen Hand guns to the police "

Please help us if you can. Just go down the list and give them all a call. It takes less than a minute per call.
There is a letter to the Editor in PG today.
Something has to be done about the sale of these hand guns. The shootings are increasing everyday here in Pittsburgh.

The vote is tomorrow sometime so if anyone wants to call, call early........And often !

Bram Reichbaum said...

Yup, there are multiple prongs alright.

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