Monday, January 1, 2007

Ravenstahl-Polloza Arrives!

I've returned from my epic minivan trip with my wife and two small children. I'm delighted to be home. I was less than delighted, however, to see what had arrived in the mail during my absence.

In last month's post about Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's taxpayer-financed campaign literature masquerading as a garbage collection notice, I made the following prediction:

Anyone want to bet that [the City's collection schedule] caledars, when they finally arrive, also feature the Ravenstahl "REDD UP" graphic, so that his image will be magnetically affixed to every refrigerator in the city for the entire year? That would be, of course, the entire election year.
The actual calendar, which I was delivered while I was on the road, is even worse than I could have ever imagined.

First of all, it's not just the usual 8.5-by-inch cardstock calendar that we have received in previous years. The calendar itself makes up just one-third of the entire document, and is perforated so that it can be easily removed from the rest of mailing. As I had expected, Master Ravenstahl did indeed take the opportunity to affix his "Redd Up" banner, complete with his smiling, take-charge, "I stick my hands in my pants" image, on the front side of the calendar. So his face will indeed be "magnetically affixed" to my refrigerator (as well as nearly every other city resident's refrigerator) for the entirety of 2007. At least on my refrigerator, however, his picture will be sporting a Snidely Whiplash mustache, an Evil Spock goatee, and a set of devil horns. I figure that, since I paid for it, I should at least be allowed to have some fun with it.

As much as the calendar itself bothers me, I never expected what appears in the rest of this mailing. The top one-third of the first page is a simply enormous version of the now-nauseatingly-familiar Redd Up graphic. Master Raventahl's full-color picture, just in this one graphic alone, is a staggering 3.25 inches in height.

The bottom half of the last page, meanwhile, is simply a reprint of the infamous 311 Response Line card that was sent to all city residents in early December. We already got this mailing once. Why did we need to receive it yet again, with Master Raventstahl's big 4.25-inch-high picture glaring out at us for a second time? Not to mention the enormous proclamation that this is not simply a new phone number, but is really "MAYOR LUKE RAVENSTAHL'S RESPONSE LINE".

These two enormous graphics would be more than enough to make this mailing an obvious piece of campaign literature. But, if anything, the smaller print is even worse.

For one thing, we are informed that this mailing is not simply this year's garbage-collection schedule. Instead, it is a "bi-annual newsletter" that is being funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Since this is now a "bi-annual newsletter", that means that we will be receiving another one later in the year. Why do I strongly suspect that the next installment of this newsletter will arrive sometime in early May, immediately before the Democratic primary?

Then there are the articles in this newsletter. The lead front page article is headlined "Mayor Encourages Residents to Get Involved", and is basically an open letter from Master Ravenstahl himself to all city residents. It comes (of course) complete with a picture of our Mayor, standing with a group orange-vested citizens who are obviously involved in picking up litter in their neighborhood. While the citizens are working, Mayor Ravenstahl -- who is not dressed in an orange vest -- apparently is not.

He makes up for this oversight on the third page of the newsletter, where he appears in all of his receding hairline glory, complete with orange vest and pristine white gloves, apparently lending a hand and doing the hard work at one of these community cleanups. Strangely enough, there doesn't seem to be any particular reason for this picture to appear here. None of the articles which surround the photograph deal with these kinds of volunteer cleanup events. Instead they focus on recycling drop-off locations and the kinds of materials that will and will not be accepted for recycling. So basically, this picture's only purpose is to provide yet another image of Mayor Ravenstahl in action, this time with two enormously cute African-American children.

The second page is similarly filled with Master Ravenstah's name and likeness. In one article, the name "Mayor Ravenstahl" is sprawled across the headline. In another, the very first words of the article are "Mayor Ravenstahl". And of course, there is the mandatory picture of our Mayor at work, looking somewhat constipated as he prepares to toss a bag of Wilkinsburg trash into the back of a city garbage truck.

The Wilkinsburg connection is also interesting here. Earllier this year, the City's Public Works department was awarded the contract to collect garbage within the Borough of Wilkinsburg. So this mailing was also presumably sent to all Wilkinsburg residents as well, since they will also need a calendar to keep all of the collection dates straight. The fact that the newsletter is being sent to non-city residents no doubt provides some political cover for Master Ravenstahl and his apoligists to use in claiming that this mailing is not merely campaign literature. But, then, where are all of the pictures of Wilkinsburg officials? Why aren't their names and images plastered over every last page of the mailing? Can Wilikinsburg residents even use the 311 response line to report problems with their garbage pickup? If not, why do they need to receive an announcement about it?

This newsletter is a political mailing, plain and simple. And it goes far beyond leveraging the power of incumbency to the Mayor's advantage. It's just plain disgusting.


Anonymous said...

You are right on the money. I can't recall a crew more focused on self-preservation as compared to actual governing (i.e. meaningful decision-making). The Wilkinsburg deal is interesting. Although the mainstream did their usual promotional pieces (thanks Rich Lord), someone should actually look into the specifics. For example, there has been no discussion about the hiring of additional workers due to increased workload, worker's compensation costs, health care, pension, etc. Welcome back!

Maria said...

I haven't received mine yet, dammit.

Thanks for providing the review!

Gloria said...

Curiously, I haven't received mine yet, either...

Richmond K. Turner said...

Well, Maria, I guess Luke must simply love me more than he loves you! Or it could be a neighborhood thing. I live in Peduto's district. Maybe we got it earlier than everywhere else, so that they can more easily justify sending out the second bi-annual "edition" of this "newsletter" in May.

Or, to put away my tinfoil hat for a second, maybe it's because Wilkinsburg is included in my area's calendar. Since Wilkinsburg is a paying customer of the city this year, they were probably required by the contract to get these calendars out by the start of the new year. Otherwise, Wilkinsburg residents -- who have never had to deal with the City's garbage collection routine before -- could have been massively confused about when their garbage pickups were going to take place.

The rest of the city will probably get their calendars, as usual, in mid-February.

Anonymous said...

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

O said...

Ravenstahl-apalooza is too cumbersome. "Lukapalooza" is a bit easier on the lips.