Monday, January 8, 2007

I'm Not Bitter... and Neither Are Most of Ravenstahl's Critics

I had waited for so very long. I knew my time was coming, but it seemed like it was always the rest of the Burghosphere which kept getting them. And then, at long last, I finally received my first comment from that famed commenter (anonymous in my case), who said what he (or she) has said in numerous other comments in about eight or nine other blogs. In response to my latest post about Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's use of taxpayer dollars to fund the printing and distribution of his own campaign liteature (Ravenstahl-Pollooza Arrives!), Anonymous wrote the following comment:

Why are you people so bitter? It's unhealthy, really.

You can find similar comments attached to recent posts in The Burgh Report ("give the guy a break...", "I agree. This post is complete rubbish.", "Some of you people have totally lost your minds. You are obsessed with trying to bring down the Ravenstahl administration."), 2PJs ("You people over here are so damn obsessed.", "I can see all of Bill Peduto's lemmings are on here ripping Mayor Luke.", "It's really a non-issue but since this blog is obsessed with Mayor Luke it's an issue here."), along with a number of other Burgh-based blogs.

I am honored to see that I am -- finally -- in such good company. But still, some kind of clarification on my part becomes necessary at this point.

I could, of course, attempt to refute these kinds of comments on their merits. But the thing is that these kinds of comments, as posted both here and elsewhere, seldom make any attempt to argue the merits of the pro-Ravenstahl position. They are rarely more than a sentence or two in length, and usually amount to nothing more substantive than a plea to give the young man a "fair go" (as they would say in Australia).

So the only thing that I can say is that I am not bitter. I don't hate Luke Ravenstahl. I feel that, during the past six months, I gave him far more than a "fair go". From the very moment that former Mayor Bob O'Connor got sick and Master Ravenstahl's elevation to mayor became a real possibility, I was honestly excited by the prospect. I was enormously hopeful that this young mayor could provide the much-needed kick in the pants that could propel our city into at least the 20th century, if not the 21st.

To really understand the story of my feelings about Mayor Ravenstahl, I probably need to take you all the way back to the 2001 mayoral election. I was disgusted with Tom Murphy's tactics in that election, especially his outright bribing of the firefighter's union to win the primary by a whisker. Like hordes of other people, I was not pleased.

But at the same time, I did develop an appreciation for Mayor Murphy -- especially once he decided not to seek another term in office -- because he was clearly separated from the disastrous Democratic party machine that has done so much harm around here. I know that there are many who would argue that he wasn't all that separate from the party machine, and I will agree that he wasn't totally disconnected from it. But at the same time, he allowed himself to say and do things that he believed were in the city's best interests, even if they conflicted with the best interest of the party's political elite.

Despite some degree of grudging admiration for Mayor Murphy, I was happy to see him go. I was happy to see Bob O'Connor take office. I was a tiny bit skeptical, since Mayor O'Connor had been so thoroughly invested in local party politics for so long, but I thought he would bring a breath of fresh air into things.

My happiness did not last long. In fact, the appointment of Dominic Costa as police chief completely erased any goodwill that I had towards the O'Connor administration. After seeing Pittsburgh get largely bypassed by the nationwide reduction in crime which took place in the 1990s, I had truly hoped that we could bring in a chief from elsewhere who would employ some of the tactics that had been so useful in other cities across the nation. By looking no further than Penn Hills, Mayor O'Connor instantly showed that things weren't going to change with him at the helm.

So when Mayor Ravenstahl took the oath of office, I was just so enormously hopeful. Even though his father held a relatively minor public office, I believed that nobody in their mid-20's could be all that invested in local Democratic party machine politics. How many political debts could he have possibly accrued such a short career in office? Perhaps, as a young person like myself, he could see the city's problems in a new light, without continual harping about the way things used to be.

What is truly astonishing is that Mayor Ravenstahl has been able, in just five or six short months, to eat through all of my initial goodwill and turn me into a fierce antagonist. I kept my mind open through the Regan appointment. I began to lose some faith, but was still hopeful when the Mayor's bogus investigation found no wrongdoing on Regan's part. At least Regan was gone from city government, and that was good enough for me.

Luke Ravenstahl could have kept me in his corner, at least for a little while longer, if he had just granted whistle-blower status to Catherine McNeilly. As soon as Ms. McNeilly was punished, however, I was done. Regardless of her family's ties to Tom Murphy, and regardless of her own political motivations for attacking the Ravenstahl administration, the simply reality is that she had (and still has) the facts on her side. She herself seems to be willing admit that she broke some internal regulations in sending some of these facts to City Council. But these facts needed to get out, and not a single one of these facts seem to be in dispute by anyone at all.

Dennis Regan never had any business whatsoever being involved in City government. Bob O'Connor made an enormous mistake by employing him in that manner. Luke Ravenstahl made it worse by latching onto Mr. Regan and attempting to increase Mr. Regan's power even further. But in the end, Catherine McNeilly showed everyone -- apparently including Mr. Ravenstahl -- that Mr. Regan was an inappropriate choice to work in city hall. Any rational politician could have seen that granting her whistle-blower status in the wake of Mr. Regan's resignation would have made the story go away, minimized the political damage of the whole situation, and led to best result for everyone concerned.

Why Mr. Ravenstahl jumped the wrong way on this one is beyond me. He clearly used very bad judgement. Either he honestly believes the preposterous notion that Ms. McNeilly's actions are somehow worse than those of Dennis Regan, or he has erred in listening to other people who have their own reasons for seeing Ms. McNeilly and her family punished. Either way, it's bad judgement.

I'm not the only one to sour on Mr. Ravenstahl in the last month or so. While one could easily anticipate attacks on his adminstration from the Tribune-Review, we are also beginning to see some signs of concern being expressed by the Post-Gazette, which had been doing little more than reprinting Mr. Ravenstahl's press releases while throwing in a bit of supportive fluff to buttress him even further.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. If Luke Ravenstahl wants to win me -- and other voters like me -- back into his fold, then he needs to be his own man. He needs to shed his office of all of the hangers-on from the O'Connor administration. He needs to come up with his own plans and original ideas, instead of just rehashing things that the previous adminstration had already accomplished.

It would be nice to be able to examine Mr. Ravenstahl's ideas and policies. It would be nice to be able to decide whether I agree with his vision on the future of our city. But at the moment, neither I nor anybody else seems to have any idea of what this vision really entails. Like those who leave comments in support of his administration, he seems to be saying nothing more than, "support me just 'cause...". Most of us need a better reason than that, especially after seeing such an amazing sequence of bad decisions in the past few months.


Anonymous said...

The Jedi council hasn't make Master Luke a Jedi yet....

Anonymous said...

The standard for running for mayor isn't "innocent until proven guilty"; we're not playing the Dating Game or coaching little league; someone who wishes to assume such a position has the responsibility of proving themselves worthy of your trust -

Anonymous said...

Another Pgh blogger obsessed with bringing down Luke & company.

What is so wrong about the hang ons from the O'Connor administration?

1. Marlene Cassidy- secretary, I'll leave it at that.

2. Yarone Zober- who did a nice job as deputy mayor and you never see his name in a negative light.

3. Dick Skrinjar- spokesperson, I'll leave it at that.

4. Bernie Lynch- Grants---has been one of the most solid hires in the office.

That's really all you have left.

All I read on these blogs is blah blah blah

Anonymous said...

A little more information, please:

Cassidy - a complete waste of $70k; can't speak, probably can't write; the sister of one of the worst police officers of all time.

Zober - lied to the public and the media about the general services position (he was supposed to close it out in about a month - still waiting); is erratic and prone to retaliate.

Skrinjar - has not spoken a word of truth in a long, long time. A man known for his lack of integrity who pretends at times to be someone else.

B. Lynch - have you checked the level of grants lately (when compared to prior years).

Enough said.

Richmond K. Turner said...

What is so wrong about the hang ons from the O'Connor administration?

What was so wrong with Warren Christopher as U.S. Secretary of State? Well, nothing, really. But when Bill Clinton started his second term, Mr. Christopher left the administration and was replaced by Madeline Albright. And that was with the exact same chief executive in power.

When a new executive is sworn in, he or she is expected to bring in new people. Bob O'Connor did not rely upon Tom Murphy's old appointees. They all had to go and find new jobs, and Mayor O'Connor selected his own staff (including such stellar choices as Dennis Regan and Dom Costa).

Does this mean that all of the O'Connor people are "bad"? Not at all. Nobody says that Warren Christopher was a bad man. But his time was done and a change was made.

There are a multitude of reasons why Luke should clean house and find his own staff. First of all, it might bring in some people with a fresh perspective, although that wouldn't be the case if he hired from the same lot of old party hacks that O'Connor chose from. Secondly, it would demonstrate that he is his own man. Thirdly, it would allow him to set an agenda of his own, so that he looks more like a mayor and less like a custodian marking time until an adult arrives to take responsibility again. And finally, the simple fact is that Mayor O'Connor's leftovers have been extremely bad news for Luke Ravenstahl. The Regan matter made him look like a first-class butt nugget, and revealed some real questions about his decision-making. Cleaning house would not only make him look decisive; it would also rid him of a bunch of skeletons that are just waiting to jump out of the closet and blindside him.

New mayor, new staff. That's the way it's supposed to work.

Anonymous said...

Cassidy "just a secretary"? Explain her $70k/year salary? And she lives with Denny Regan - need we say more???

Zober - the guy who was nobody until he & Regan knocked off Leber/Malie/Legger? The guy who was Chief of Staff during the decision to demote the police commander. Zober, Regan's lapdog -need we say more???

Skrinjar - 3rd rate PR guy, 1st rate liar

Lynch - Yeah, where is all that grant $ she's been blathering about? Maybe she spent it on all that new furniture? Memo to Mike Lamb: Audit the grants program after you become controller.

PittsburghJack said...

I am fed up with hearing about how Paul Leger was wronged by being terminated. It's obvious to me that those who make commments about him being 'professional' versus being a political hack clearly do not know what they're talking about, nor do they know Leger. He has been feeding at the public trough for years and is a political hack of the worst kind --one who demonstrates no loyalty, has no virtue or honor.

Anonymous said...

Ah, Marlene Cassidy. Let's not forget that, a few months ago, her twenty-something son & daughter were hired by 2 of our city's Authorities. The kids got these jobs within a week of each other.

These jobs pay well. These jobs aren't easy to get. Dennis Regan told the media that he had nothing to do with these hirings...

Please join me in welcoming the young Cassidys - 2 new hangers-on from the O'Connor administration.

Bram Reichbaum said...

My own theory is that "Matt H" went anonymous after he was called out in PittGirl's neck of the woods.

I think some of the vitriol against Ravenstahl can be attributed to "haters": persons who wish they had thought to run for City Council when they were 23. But I'm in broad agreement with you; Team Luke has to be able to defend its record more substantively.

My fear is that Peduto won't go for the jugular like he really ought to, because he's running for leadership of the same machine. As liberal as I am, we are really hurting for a lack of party politics in this city.

Anonymous said...

PghJack - There's a HUGE difference between someone who has dedicated himself to public service and a hack. The former is Paul Leger, the latter, by a long-shot, is Denny Regan. Using your definition, every police officer, paramedic, firefighter and refuse worker is a hack by virtue of longevity. As for the current regime's definition of loyalty, save it for the mob movies - if loyalty means blind adherence to whatever Denny Regan, Zober or Luke want, you're right, Leger isn't loyal, nor is any self-respecting person.

Matt H said...

Actually I'm right here. I don't post under anonymous. No need to.

Cassidy can't speak? Did you see her at Bob's funeral under those circumstances? Wow. You must be deaf.

Do you also realize that CDBG money has been cut back and we won't get the same amount of monies we have in the past?

I have worked with Bernie Lynch on the Weed & Seed Task Force for my area of town and she has done nothing but wonderful things for our end of town.

Leger & crew were rightfully terminated.

Anonymous said...

Matt H - although I hesitate to talk about a funeral, I thought her comments were embarassing and inappropriate. I'm glad that you like B. Lynch although it doesn't sound like you know much about the status of most grants. By the way, what's the status of the Dept of General Services?

Dean said...

I agree that Cassidy's eulogy was embarassing and inappropriate. I thought she was eulogizing herself, going on and on about how she was the 2nd woman in Bob's life and how she knew when he needed a shove. She spent 20 years at that man's side, and the best she could come up with were stories about making coffee and throwing pencils?

And Matt, your comments about the cut in CDBG funding illustrates how little you know about the inner workings of city government and the administration you blindly support. Lynch has nothing to do with getting CDBG funds. It's doled out by the federal government and whatever they give you is what you get. And it's managed by the city's planning department, not Lynch. Weed & Seed is not CDBG. Lynch blathered on and on how she was going to bring in $20 or $30 million dollars, she hired a staff of 100 interns and never delivered. If she wasn't chummy with Ferlo, she wouldn't be there.

Anonymous said...

Leger wasn't being compared to Regan. But he certainly is a hack. Longevity as a dedicated punlic servant is one thing -- and feeding orff the public trough is quite another. Leger is not in any one position for any great length of time He tends to move (or be moved) because there is a trust issue with him. And I don't mean by Regan -- this has absiolutely nothing to do with him. I mean by various high ranking persons in most of the administrations in which he worked. I have been around a long time and know this. I am not basing my writings on absolutely no basis in fact and what I read in the papers. It is evident by what is written as to whether the author actually knows or is at least somewhat familiar with Leger's history. End of story.

Anonymous said...

Anon: Never heard a single disparaging comment about Leger - may be why he was the pres. & CEO of CORO, deputy Allegheny County Manager, city employee for 18 years - quote from Trib article: "He is an accomplished municipal finance guy," said Joseph Sabino Mistick, Masloff's executive secretary. "He'll provide a steady hand on the public treasury." I don't know Leger well, but Mistick apparently does, and Mistick isn't one to suffer fools.

Matt: Stay on the porch w/your BFF Yarone and the other pupplies.

Dean said...

I've never heard a bad word said about Leger. He was a much needed addition to that crew. He was the only one who knew how city government worked, both operations and politics.

Anonymous said...

bernie lynch may be able to throw around a few good phrases to make people think she knows what she's doing, but talk to city department directors and staff who have dealt with her and they will tell you in private that they can't stand her, and that she's more style over substance. of course, they know her ties to ferlo, they they aren't about to speak ill of her for fear of their jobs.

Anonymous said...

If city department directors could talk publicly, oh the comments you would hear about Lynch, Zober, Cassidy & Skrinjar - they usually start with phrases like, "I'm going to strangle..." and "I wish I had enough time in for my pension to vest..." It's appalling that this band of hacks is holding an entire city hostage & may actually continue to do so after May because they will stoop to any level for purposes of self-preservation.

Anonymous said...

Ask Glenn Cabnnon (another overrated hack, in my opinion) in private what he thought of his Assistant County Manager Paul Leger and you will get another side of the story. Truth be told, Leger has a history of going over the heads of his bosses. This included various Mayors, County Commissioners and Cannon. In the past, he wasn't terminated -- which is the reason much wasn't made public. He was shuffled and tranmsferred over the years, however. It wasn't until Mayor O'Connor took action after Leger once again was making independent decisions which were adverse to his boss that the public even became aware of who Leger was. And as far as the comments that were quoted from Mistick: What do you expect him to say publicly when asked by a newspaper reporter? If you search, you will also find a comment that could be construed as an endorsement by Cannon when Leger was appointed by O'Connor. Believe me -- what you read in the paper and what is actually believed and said by those who worked with Leger over the years are night and day.

Anonymous said...

And while we're on the subject, I also believe that O'Connnor mad a huge mistake in even bringing Yarone Zober to the table, and Ravenstahl is making an even bigger one by keeping him in the post of Deputy Mayor. So please don't dillute my absolutely accurate commentary about Leger with accusations of being pro-Zober. I don't even know Zober.

Anonymous said...

I don't know Paul Leger either, but people's past experience with him misses a key point about what happended to Leger, Leber, and Malie back in July. Given how quickly Mayor O'Connor got sick and passed away and given that the public didn't hear from/see him after he was admitted, I think it's appropriate to question whether he was actually well enough to know what he was doing when the three were allegedly fired. Skrinjar made it seem like the Mayor called into his weekly Director's meeting and fired the three of them on the spot, but I've talked to people present at the meeting and heard a different story about how things went down and how sickly the Mayor sounded when they put him on the phone --- AFTER Denny announced the firings to the attendees.

PittsburghJack said...

See Here

Anonymous said...

Looks like Lynch did pull in the $10 million plus from the state and another $12 million for the solar city grant. One more is coming in for $8 million. Maybe she did know what she was talking about.

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