Sunday, February 25, 2007

More Mayoral Analysis

In this Sunday's paper, Tribune-Review columnist Joseph Sabino Mistick provides some early analysis of the race for Pittsburgh's Democratic mayoral nomination. In a move certain to please geeks like me, he even invokes the special qualities of one of the most beloved Star Trek characters, Mr. Spock. He looks at the two competitors in the race -- incumbent Interim Mayor Luke "Flip Flop" Ravenstahl and City Councilmember William Peduto -- and rather accurately diagnoses the pros and cons that each man brings to this election. His overall conclusion is that Pittsburgh could benefit most if the two candidates were connected to one another through a Vulcan mind meld, during which the qualities of both men could be mixed together to form the city's ideal mayor.

What an wonderful solution. I'm ashamed that I didn't think of this myself. At the same time, we could use a tractor beam to hold up the collapsing remnants of our flawed convention center, and use our region's natural abundance of dilithim crystals to build a matter/anti-matter reactor in Schenley Park, thus providing the City of Pittsburgh with an unlimited supply of clean, non-greenhouse-gas-emitting energy for at least the next millennium, if not even longer. I'll just send a quick sub-space message to Star Fleet Command, and our problems will be solved just as soon as the Enterprise can establish an orbit around our planet.

Since it seems rather unlikely that any fictional television-hero aliens will arrive to intervene in Pittsburgh's mayoral politics anytime soon, I guess we'll just have stick with our low-tech, early-21st-century ways and let the voters make this choice. But while Mr. Mistick's proposed solution may be seriously flawed, his analysis of the two candidates is pretty much on-the-money. About Luke Ravenstahl's inherent advantages, the columnist has this to say:

Ravenstahl is the darling of the media and has the great advantage of the incumbency. This comes with its fair share of sycophants but those self-interested hangers-on translate into willing contributors.

Outside money is no problem for the young mayor. And he is certainly not shy about using taxpayers' dollars to promote himself around the city on billboards and mailers. Together, his private and public funds form quite a war chest.

Ravenstahl's youthfulness and inexperience, often negatives in political campaigns, seem to be working for him this time around. "Hey, why not give the kid a chance" has become a common refrain.
It's hard to argue with the facts here, although I do wish the mainstream media could examine Master Ravenstahl's use of public funds to pay for his political campaigning with something more than an adolescent "wink-wink, nudge-nudge" grin on their faces. The article continues on to note some of the problems that the interim mayor is likely to face during this election season:
But Pittsburgh has real problems that demand serious solutions. And it is here that the young mayor stumbles. Ravenstahl may reign over the style sections of the newspaper but the cynical political reporters are a harder sell. While the mayor agilely handles the first question on any topic, the follow-up questions almost always throw him.
It's here that Mr. Mistick's column really shines. He picks up on something that I have only just begun to notice myself, but which a few other observers have already been commenting upon. Master Ravenstahl tends to descend into stammering incoherence when faced with any question for which he does not already have a pre-programmed response. This is a problem that his opponent, Mr. Peduto, certainly does not seem to suffer from. As Mr. Mistick's column continues:
And challenger Bill Peduto shines in that arena. A self-described public-policy wonk, Peduto clearly enjoys wallowing in the minutia that composes the science of government. It is likely that he never saw a blue-ribbon study on any municipal topic that he did not love.
Provided that no science fiction fanatasies intervene, the Democratic voters of Pittsburgh will be asked make a choice between these two men. On one hand, we have Luke Ravenstahl, who has almost no original ideas of his own, who remains unknowledgeable (or at least unable to appear knowledgeable) about even the largest problems facing the city, and who is far too beholden to the old-school party bosses who control his campaign's purse strings. On the other hand, there is Bill Peduto, who has so many ideas that almost everybody will disagree with a few of them, who has a predilection for convening ever more committees to produce ever more reports on the city's problems, and who is known for aggressively confronting the Democratic party's biggest power brokers, such as the leaders of the city's public employee unions. The big question here is which man the typical voter is likely to lean towards on May 15th?

I wanted to get something of a glimpse behind the curtain of an individual voter's decision-making, so I posed this question to a young lady at church this morning. I've known her for a number of years now. She's bright, soft-spoken, well-educated, and a resident of one of the city's eastern neighborhoods. In fact, she lives just down the street from where Bill Peduto announced his candidacy for mayor last month. She teaches advanced science classes at a rather well-regarded private high school, and she fully recognizes that the city is facing some enormous problems. She is, in short, the almost perfect stereotype of a Peduto supporter. Except for that fact that she's not supporting Peduto.

Instead, she really likes the idea of having Luke Ravenstahl as our city's mayor. In her own words, "I like the fact that he's young... that he can bring in new people and new ideas". She admits that she, like most of the city's voters, hasn't spent a great of time examining the interim mayor's performance or positions. Instead, she is basing her opinion of Master Ravenstahl solely on the one and only thing that nearly everyone knows about him... his youth. Due to that fact alone, she sees him as someone who simply must be a reformer. She sees him as a man who simply must have new and invigorating ideas. She sees him as someone who is very much like herself. And she clearly doesn't see Luke Ravenstahl as the champion of the old-party status quo that he most most certainly is.

Score one for the unicorn.

This is the challenge that the Peduto campaign must face as it moves toward the Democratic primary. Many city voters aren't really paying attention to the news stories that are supposed to be shaping this race. Many city voters don't know about all of Master Ravenstahl's countless mistakes and poor decisions. Many of them don't even want to know about them. They may recognize that Pittsburgh has it's problems. They may recognize that old-style, party-machine politics have served our city very poorly indeed. But, if anything, they see the older Bill Peduto as the representative of this disastrous status quo, and they see the youthful Luke Ravenstahl as the dashing young knight who will stand up and lead the fight against the old guard.

Somehow, the Peduto campaign needs to penetrate the consciousness of voters like these and let them know that they have the whole thing backwards. They must become far more muscular and move far more aggressively to label Luke Ravenstahl as the old-school party-hack disaster that he actually is. And they must do it fairly soon, before mere inertia awards Interim Mayor Ravenstahl with the reformer image that rightfully belongs to Councilmember Peduto. I just hope that they truly understand what they are up against. So far, I haven't seen much to suggest that they do.


Smitty said...

Like Mistick states,the swashbuckling afternoon matinee idol Luke Reganstahl begins to drool when asked a question that takes more than a"moving forward"as an answer. I have yet to meet one person who supports Luke who can give me a coherent answer why??He's young;he'll grow in the job.Is this what our leaderswant?And yes,i'm talking about leaders in our communities who are enamored with the image of Luke,not the dull,answerless reality of Luke.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more with the analysis in your final paragraph. Matt Preston: What are you waiting for? The endorsement vote is next week and you still haven't publicly announced Wagner's support for Peduto? The rumor is that even though Bill doesn't need the dem endorsement, Bill has a shot; This isn't the typical race, and you have to stop waiting for people to "figure it out on their own". The one thing the Luke camp is good at is recognizing how unsophisticated the voters are - they know how to be folksy and pander on a simplistic level. Bill's camp can't just throw their hand in the air and say "I can't believe people don't get it" or "people think we're picking on him" - that's why you hire managers, to come up with ways to fight w/o appearing to "pick on" Luke.

Smitty said...

Yes those Dems who are rumored to be under the radar for peduto have to come out of stealth mode and operate in front of the flak guns or party hacks.This endorsement is now at the
"tipping point".

Public statements by public officials such as Jack Wagner will add to the tipping. As many believe,the winner of this election will be in office a minimum of 10 years.Luke on training wheeels for the first two years just doesn't cut it.The Democratic Party here in Pittsburgh needs to shed that blue collar label that dumbs down the perception of the Party and our City.The City of Pittsburgh is a research,medical,and educational Mecca not an industrial powerhouse.Its time our politics and our leadership reflects our realities.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Howash from a prior post looks like this, "As many believe, the winner of this election will be in office a minimum of 10 years."

Give us a break from your know-it-all future telling.

First of all, the winner of the D's endorsement gets to be in the general election in November. PERIOD.

And, the winner of the 2007 general race gets to take the oath of office in January 2008. Period TWO.

Smitty, as proof, could you show us the archives on the web that prove to us all how YOU predicted the death of Bob O'Connor???? After we see that, then I'll feel an ounce of confidence in your statement is anything but hogwash and a 10-year done deal mind sink.

Then anonymous asked of Matt Preston and Bill Peduto, "What are you waiting for?"


They are waiting for 2009.

Chill. Be cool. Going hyper and off the handle could be the death of Peduoto's long-term career and long-term campaign(s).

No doubt, Peduto and us all have to work on statements, messages, leadership and relationships. But life takes many turns.

One needs faith.

Maria said...

"Then anonymous asked of Matt Preston and Bill Peduto, "What are you waiting for?"


They are waiting for 2009."

I'm sorry, Mark, but where's your proof on this?

Reading minds now?

You've dreamed this scenario up out of NOTHING.

Your post is so much "howash" and hogwash.

EdHeath said...

If the mayor (I can never get the spelling of his name right) and Peduto debate, I can't wait for Peduto's audible sighs and his wagging finger - talking about those wealthiest one percent of non profits. All right, so I’m stretching the metaphor, but who knows, maybe we will see hanging chads on the Sou’ Side slopes.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Want proof.

In the 2005 campaign for mayor, Bill Peduto has a fist full of position papers. The were taken off the web after the election then. They have not yet been rolled out into this election.

Bill is sitting on content and solution ideas that have not yet been re-revealed.

To sustain the discussion, re-tool and re-post without removing. Just replace.

Bill isn't going to go for the throat. He should not, and he has not.

The proof of guarded action is above in the thread from anonymous who asked, "what are you waiting for?"

Maria, perhaps you or others might offer to help Bill freshen and re-release his 2005 position papers. I don't even think that they need to be 'freshened.'

I can't prove to you that 2009 is going to arrive. For that, you'll need faith.

PS: Smitty, sorry about the typo. :/