Thursday, February 22, 2007

Fecal Matter Advances Ever Closer Toward The Rotating Air Movement Device

Questions are getting asked. And that's the important thing. Panic... well, not panic, really, but certainly a fair bit of concern is beginning to set in within the upper reaches of city government. That's the interesting thing. The cost recovery program has been hauled out of the morgue and hooked up to a respirator. It may or may not be brought back to life, but there is at least a concerted attempt to make it look nice for the folks who are, in ever increasing numbers, asking to see the body. And that, my friends, is the inspiring thing. You can say all the negative things you want about the city's current mayoral administration, but you have to admit that they are quite adept at reacting to issues once others do the hard work of bringing them to the public's attention.

A few weeks ago, I posted a three-part series of articles concerning the Pittsburgh Police Department's policy on secondary employment by its sworn police officers. For a while, there didn't seem to be any reaction whatsoever, despite all of that effort on my part. And that was more or less fine with me. I was satisfied with accomplishing a job well done, and was content to leave it at that.

But then I began to hear rumblings about the whole thing. It appears that I, in a blog whose readership extends to maybe a few hundred people, might have kicked over a bit of an anthill in the City-County Building. First, I began to receive a few comments from anonymous readers who suggested that the cost recovery program was merely "suspended", and not eliminated altogether. I found that to be enormously interesting, since it was abundantly clear to me that the program had been entirely eradicated by Interim Mayor Luke "Handcuffs" Ravenstahl during a 21 November 2006 meeting with the Fraternal Order of Police leadership. Admittedly, the language used in announcing this decision did indeed portray the program as "suspended". But that suspension was also described being "indefinite" in nature. In other words, there was no plan in place and no moves afoot to implement any sort of cost recovery program in either the near or distant future.

Today, all that seems to have changed. An article in this morning's Post-Gazette by Rich Lord reveals that, for some reason, there is a bit of a rush to get the cost recovery plan back in place:

The multimillion-dollar business of side jobs for police is still part law and order and part Wild West, but the city of Pittsburgh hopes to rein it in before the April 9 Pirates home opener.

Centralizing the system under which officers get after-hours assignments for private pay was supposed to be done last year but has taken longer than expected. Sports facilities, bars, banks and utility companies still use a mix of the bureau's system and police-run private security networks, said Police Chief Nate Harper yesterday.

"They're a hybrid of both [private and public systems] right now, and we're trying to get it under one umbrella," he said. "We're looking at revamping it, hopefully before the opening of baseball season."
Some members of the burghosphere have expressed disappointment in the article's lack of penetrating analysis. However, I personally see it as a critical step in letting the Ravenstahl administration know that we, the public, are watching this issue. There are certain constraints upon a real-world journalist that I, as a blogger, am not faced with. I've written about the cost recovery plan myself, and I know how difficult it is to describe this issue without resorting to long-winded explanations. The Post-Gazette does not have an unlimited amount of column-inches to devote to this or any other story, and its writers have to juggle multiple projects at once while working under very tight deadlines. And besides, the penetrating analysis part of the story is already done, posted, and publicly accessible right here at The People's Republic.

The key thing, to me, is that this morning's article could never have been written at all without someone buttonholing Police Chief Nate Harper and asking a few questions about the secondary employment program. Indirect questions posed in the blog of some anonymous author are one thing, but questions posed directly by a member of the mainstream press are quite another. And from what I've been told, the Post-Gazette is not the only outlet asking these kinds of questions of the Ravenstahl administration. I wouldn't go so far as to describe this as holding our city government's feet to the fire, but the people in the city hall now know, at the very least, that things are starting to get a bit warmer than usual.

That may be the reason why, just yesterday, Interim Mayor Ravenstahl's Chief of Staff, Yarone Zober, held what one correspondent described as an "emergency" meeting with Police Chief Harper. Apparently, Mr. Zober directed that "... 'some' aspect of the cost recovery program must be implemented 'immediately'". Does anyone really believe that there would be such urgency in reversing Master Ravenstahl's horrendous decision to eliminate the program if it weren't for these questions being posed by the mainstream press? Or, for that matter, if the issue had not been discussed in depth here at The People's Republic?

All of this looks like yet another example of a new medical condition that is rapidly infecting our city's government. For lack of a better term, we can call it the "Ravenstahl Regurgitating Reflectionless Rapid Rectal Reversal Reaction", or 7Rs for short. The symptoms of this disease are a sudden and unexpected reversal of Master Ravenstahl's earlier entrenched positions, made only as a reaction to outside pressures, often by regurgitating the exact same viewpoints voiced by his critics, made without any deep thought or reflection, and usually occurring in a manner which illustrates quite convincingly that our interim mayor has his head up his ass. There is apparently no cure, and no treatment which can reduce the severity of symptoms. The disease also seems to be a degenerative condition which only worsens as time goes on.

This patient's only hope is an extended period of time out of the political limelight, where he can rest and gain the maturity he needs to make proper decisions the first time around. Luckily for him, there's an election just around the corner that might give him precisely the vacation he needs.

The critical thing at this juncture is to keep our eye on Interim Mayor Ravenstahl and the rest of his administration. They may be desperate to react in some way to head off this story. They may anxious to roll out some kind of cost recovery scheme to make it appear like they are onboard with this much-needed reform. But they aren't stupid. And they aren't about to throw away all of the FOP votes that they purchased -- with our money -- back in November.

Just what kind of a cost recovery program are they going to implement? Are they going to accept the incredibly weak version that the FOP first proposed months ago, which amounts to an almost meaningless charge of just $2 per hour to cover the taxpayer's costs? Or will Luke Ravenstahl finally grow a pair and stand up for the taxpayers by matching the far-more-appropriate cost recovery fee of 22% that is charged by most other jurisdictions in the county?

And even more importantly, how does the Ravenstahl plan, whatever it may be, compare to what City Councilmember William Peduto will do if he becomes our mayor next year? If there was one question missing from the Post-Gazette's article this morning, that was probably the one that I most wanted the answer to. But fear not, brave citizen. Lots of people are asking questions now. And I'm sure that we will soon have some more answers.


Smitty said...

Rich Lord has been totally co-opted by the Reganstahl Administration.It is amazing what access to power does to someone judgment.I remember the good work he did at the City Paper when he had integrity, courage,and professional standards.Now he is merely another outlet for the Skrinjar spewing machine.

Anonymous said...

I'm not at all impressed with the Reganstahl administration's MO of only doing the right thing after the MSM brings something to their attention, and even when they do the right thing, they only do so in the manner of a begrudging brat. Admiral, you are right to insist that we "stand watch" to make sure that Reganstahl follows through on the representations contained in today's article. No doubt, without oversight, the final product will be a 1/2-measure at best. We will fall victim to the same gamesmanship that we did during Regan's resignation farce - Regan still works for Luke on his campaign, and watch, without oversight, Sgt. Fisher will still be collecting a scheduling fee AND will be promoted to commander after the primary is over as his reward for keeping his minions quiet about the Heinz Field affair. Or, perhaps, the plan is to delay the cost recovery program until after Fisher's May 16 promotion...yeah, the $20,000 pay raise will offset the loss of his 10% scheduling fee he receives from the Pirates and Steelers...

Anonymous said...

What a circle jerk...

the comet said...

To answer your quetion, Admiral, you would probably be one of the Cat People, possibly in the royal family.

Richmond K. Turner said...

I'm not so sure that that's a good thing, Bram. According to the Wikipedia entry,

Oddly enough, Battle Cat was given a love interest. The cat people princess took a shine to him from the start. It seems rather odd, since it is very uncommon to see any sort of an attraction in cartoons between humanoids and animals.

What exactly do I need to do with Rich Lord if I'm in the Cat People's royal family?

Anonymous said...

Ravenstahl has no intention of implementing the program. Once again, he threw a decoy out, Rich Lord fell for it. He'll implement some weak variation on the plan in the coming months and then abandon it after the primary.

bram said...

Um ... I was thinking like an uncle-in-law to the princess ... like the king's younger brother ... might be like an ambassador, viceroy, or general.

Why, what were you thinking?

Grant W. Stapleton said...

The "emergency" may be that I have finished reviewing police department records that I obtained in conjunction with my investigation into the operations of this matter, and I have put the department on notice that legal action will be filed quite soon against them in this matter. No doubt the Sheriff's office, currently operated by police "John Doe conspirator # 5" AKA William Mullen will also face legal action as Sheriff, since he also allows off duty deputy officers to provide uniformed guard service illegally. Great job Admiral .. keep it up

Grant W. Stapleton said...

Reading Smitty and anon, above, it may be of interest that Dick Skrinjar was made aware of the upcoming legal battle several weeks ago, personally by myself. Rich Lord was made aware of this upcoming action yesterday (Thursday). Since I have given the administration AND the media plenty of advance warning and copies of the law, my guess is that the spoon fed media is assisting the "brass" to divert attention to their illegal actions, and later claim they "had no idea" that their actions were illegal, and that they had been "trying hard" to "do their best" to make this off duty extortion work as well as they could. Of course they will continue to call extortion by the other name "off-duty detail work"

Watch over the next year, as the department eventually blames all of this on prior FOP pressure on their "innocent selves" and the "selfish" muckraising motivations of ONE private detective (yours truly)