Photo: From right to left, soon-to-be-ex Development Czar Pat Ford and his wife and ex-Mayoral Press Secretary Alecia Sirk enjoying a night out with yet another Lamar Advertising friend Merry Skotnicki (standing next to Sirk) at the Pittsburgh Film Office’s “Blacktie Pittsburgh” event.
Lamar Advertising has refused to stop construction of a Downtown 1200 sq ft electronic billboard even though its permit for construction has been appealed by members of City Council. City code says an appeal “shall automatically stay all actions” but Lamar has in essence said ‘Too bad. Tough luck. We’ve bought and paid for our place in this city and we’re not giving it up.”
City Council contends that Lamar’s sign is illegal because Lamar completely circumvented the legal zoning process, including ignoring a requirement for city council’s approval. (Council found out about the sign by reading about it in the newspaper!)
Lamar contends they got permission from the Ravenstahl administration and that’s all they need. Did Mayor Ravenstahl’s Development Czar, Pat Ford, have the authority to just wave his zoning wand and permit the sign? The same Pat Ford who has accepted gifts from a top Lamar executive and has subsequently taken a leave of absence while an ethics investigation ensues? Apparently the Ravenstahl administration thinks so.
See, back in 2003 Pat Ford negotiated a “swap” deal with Lamar whereby they’d be “automatically” allowed one LED sign, wherever they wanted, for every six standard signs they removed. Pittsburgh’s city solicitor opined at the time that the swap scheme was illegal because it was not codified anywhere in city law. Pat Ford and then-Mayor Murphy decided to completely ignore the law and the city solicitor’s opinion and they gave Lamar the go-ahead to make some swaps anyway.
Now fast forward to 2008: The Swap Scheme has still not been codified by law. But Pat Ford and current Mayor Luke Ravenstahl reason that the illegal practices started in 2003 should now be considered as precedent setting. Yes, that’s right. The mayor, Ford and Lamar broke the law back in 2003, were never punished for breaking the law in 2003, so they now figure they’ve set precedent to “legally” break the law in 2008!
Wow. A very fresh, progressive Luke-like approach to governance. If you break a law and get away with it, especially if you break a law repeatedly and get away with it……you’ve now set precedent to make the illegal legal! Why waste time with all that legislative process and mumbo-jumbo? Just do it the quick and easy precedent-setting way!
Well, City Council has not taken kindly to this new, progressive approach to lawmaking which not only completely usurps council’s power and authority, but also their very reason for being. No, Pittsburgh City Council kinda thinks things should be done the old-fashioned way.
Unfortunately the helter-skelter runaway train called the Lamar-Ford-Ravenstahl Development Express has already left the station with a decent head start. If council wants to recover their rightful place in city governance…… according to Lamar attorney Jonathan Kamin “they’re going to have to go to the Court of Common Pleas and they’re going to have to post bond.”
Why so? Because Lamar says so, that’s why. And Lamar has already *paid* their dues in this town so they feel it is they who have the say-so.
Is this way beyond preposterous, council? Even for Pittsburgh, isn’t this way beyond the pale?
Let’s kick some ass, council. Let’s kick some ass and let’s enjoy ourselves in the process.