Photo: One down, two to go.
It’s official. By way of what Councilman Ricky Burgess characterized as “an instrument of brutality”, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl declared war on City Council today when he lobbed the first public salvo: Brutal instrument and weapon-of-mass-destruction missile Jim Motznik blasted council by introducing two last minute resolutions. Both were crafted to punish council for cutting take-home vehicle perks from many of the mayor’s top administrator buddies. Both would strip council of $149,000 of budgeted staff salaries and other administrative tools which appear to exceed what is prescribed by the city’s Act 47 long range plan.
Why is Motznik, of all people, suddenly obsessed with strict adherence to every blessed budget line in the Act 47 (Distressed City) Cooperation Agreement? Motznik who has been a rabid-dog opponent of our distressed city status from before day one?
Because council had justified their car-cutting legislation by referring to vehicle levels stated in the Act 47 plan. So to punish council for having the nerve to take away the mayor’s toys, Motznik and the mayor thought it would be ironic, clever and very tit-for-tat to use the very same Act 47 plan to blow up council’s toys. The good welfare and betterment of the City of Pittsburgh be damned.
Motznik must have felt very smug, pleased and honored to be able to deliver what he thought was the coup de grace. The retaliatory nuke which would forevermore prove his unrelenting loyalty to the Boy Mayor and the dark Machine he fronts.
Except …… they miscalculated. Rotznik and Machine robotically drafted battle plans for an enemy they were accustomed to fighting, using maneuvers from a playbook handed down by generations of Machineheads. They failed to consider they might be dealing with principled human beings who entered politics solely to serve the city they love. That their normal dirty tricks and dirty threats may not work against an adversary who’s primary directive was not one of self-serving, self-promotion and self-advancement. In short, they forgot to consider that the Good Guys on council might fight back. And maybe even win in the end.
God bless the Reverend (and Councilman) Ricky Burgess who fired the first retaliatory shot: “I’d like to apologize to council and its majority for the action I brought to take away perks from the highest-paid administrators which has resulted in a firestorm of retaliation and retribution to this body.” Ricky went on to say he was simultaneously proud, however, that he and other councilmen had not buckled to threats warning what they’d suffer if they dared cut the Administration’s perks.
“I’m a grown man,” Burgess continued. “If you want to punish me for taking the cars away …. I say bring it on. Punish me. But do not punish the rest of council, or our city clerk, or the people of my district. Punish me.”
“But you won’t,” Burgess said looking over at Motznik. “You are not man enough to punish me. That would take an act of masculinity. Shame on you.”
Motznik protested that his resolution was not an act of retaliation and that he had acted alone in drafting it. Then Jim made his fatal error, blustering on, overplaying his hand. Just like Senator Gary Hart of the famed Monkey Business of long ago who dared the press to catch him in an affair he knew he was having but adamantly denied ……. Motznik called out in the same taunting, reckless manner. He (Jim) was tired of hearing about unspecified threats coming from unnamed sources. If anyone had threatened Ricky, then Ricky should either name the name or shut up about it.
God bless Councilman Kraus who broke the most sacred rule of dirty politics: Thou shalt not name names, especially in public.
“All right. I can’t sit here quietly any longer,” Kraus declared as he sat right next to Motznik. “I am the person who was threatened that Councilman Burgess has been speaking about. I was threatened directly by the mayor that he would come after us if we cut the cars. From the mayor’s lips to my ears, he threatened this would happen.”
KABLAM!!! KAPOW!! CHECKMATE!! Motznik was frozen with his mouth open and his pants down.
Does it really matter what anyone said after that point? Or before that point? Or at any other point? Hadn’t the space-time continuum of Pittsburgh politics been sufficiently ripped so as to render all else irrelevant? At a bare minimum, a moment or two of silence was needed to pay sufficient respect to the neutrino bomb Kraus had just set off.
But after that respectful silence had passed, remembering some of the other quotes of the day only helped add texture and body to my recollection of what had just occurred.
“Jimmy cracked corn and I don’t care.”
Bill Peduto, on an early retaliation attempt by the Dark Forces which would exempt council from auto mileage reimbursement.
“I’m kinda awestruck. It’s clear to me it is not illegal despite what the city solicitor says.”
Patrick Dowd, on City Solicitor George Specter’s legal opinion that council’s car-cutting legislation was illegal because only the executive branch (the mayor) has the authority to legislate such things, not the legislative branch (city council).
“If you want to be the apologist for the mayor, go right ahead.”
Doug Shields, after he had been glaring at Motznik for the entire council session.
“Can I speak now?”
Tonya Payne, after being told multiple times that she was speaking out of order, out of turn and not on the topic at hand.
“This is all just child’s play.”
Darlene Harris, on the day’s events. Her mid-table seating position put her squarely in the middle of the food fight zone and may have heavily colored her perspective.
“You owe an apology to no one. I’m proud to stand by you, shoulder to shoulder. I also appreciate that Jim has finally come around to support Act 47. We need to get the Redd-Up crew where it can do some good …. On the 5th Floor.”
Bill Peduto to Ricky Burgess, on why he didn’t need to apologize for bringing on the mayor’s retaliation attack.
“Jim Motznik is an instrument of brutality.”
Ricky Burgess, simply stating a cosmic truth.
More gory details from the PG and the Trib.