Thursday, March 22, 2007

"Cojònes" No Longer

City Councilmember Bill Peduto has pulled out of the mayoral race, and democracy is effectively dead in Pittsburgh. In retrospect, we all would have been far better off if we had just let Yarone Zober have his way. If we had permitted him to bully the city into granting Luke Ravenstahl the entire remainder of Bob O'Connor's term, we simply could have skipped the disgusting fiasco that is the 2007 mayoral election coronation.

The funniest damn thing today is watching the Post-Gazette's editorial board rip Peduto a new asshole for dropping out of the race, on the same day that they also -- finally -- decide to take Master Ravenstahl to task for his latest ethical faux pas. After months and months where they never wrote a single editorial concerning these things. After they blew off the Heinz Field incident as something that was just "very Pittsburgh". After ignoring the endless foot dragging on the debates, and saying nothing at all about the overdue details of the interim mayor's tax abatement plan. After burying the few stories of Luke Ravenstahl's misteps on the Early Returns blog, where only a tiny fraction of the readership was ever likely to see them. Now, they suddenly blame Peduto for dropping out, when the fact that they had so spectacularly dropped to ball in covering these imporant issues was Mr. Peduto's primary stated reason for exiting the race at this time.

An even larger laugh-line from the Post-Gazette comes when they describe city Republicans in the following manner:

The Republicans, as hapless as ever in Pittsburgh, have no candidate for November.
While their statements are certainly fair, one has to ask just what in the hell the Post-Gazette has ever done to promote anything approaching a two-party system in Pittsburgh. In the lead-up to the last mayoral general election, they provided Bob O'Conner with at least four times -- maybe even more -- as much coverage as Joe Weinroth, who was running for the office on the Republican ticket. Part of the reason why the Republican party is so very hapless in this town is because the city's premiere newspaper simply doesn't provide any coverage of the party's candidates. Instead, the Post-Gazette falls into a circular argument, in which they don't bother to write about Republican candidates because they don't feel the candidates are viable, which simply ensures that local Republicans will remain both unknown to the public and unviable for city office..

All that would be fine. The paper is free to ignore the Republicans if they like, and to play such a big role in ensuring that no Republican ever finds his or her way into city government. But it takes some real balls, after years of doing things that way, to turn around and bitch about it now that the vaunted Democratic machine has provided us with a coronation instead of an election.

As far as Bill Peduto goes, I've had a few hours now to relax, calm down, and look at things with a more distant perspective. After deep thought and reflection, I've realized that I'm far more pissed off at him, his stupid decision, and the horse he rode in on than I was at 3:15 this afternoon. I don't forgive easily when politicians shit on me, and I will not be forgiving Bill Peduto.

In earlier posts, I had advocated an independent candidacy for Mr. Peduto. When he made his announcement pulling out of the primary, I prayed -- literally prayed -- that he would announce an independent run at the same time. We didn't get that. Nor did we get a firm denial of any effort to appear on the mayoral ballot in November. Instead, he's taking a kind of "wait and see" approach to see how things develop, and holding out the option of maybe, possibly, announcing an independent bid later on. In fact, he's keeping his campaign headquarters active. He's going forward with a previously-scheduled fund-raiser next week. Maybe he's doing all of this because he fully plans to run as an independent in November.

But if that's his plan, I'm not going along for the ride. I'm not getting screwed twice by Bill Peduto. It would be one thing if his independent candidacy had begun today. I would be down at Peduto headquarters right this second, checkbook in hand and ready to hit the bricks on his behalf. But, as noted over at The Burgh Report, a political second act might be legally impossible at this point. Even if it is permissible, Mr. Peduto can't possibly hope to regain all his supporters after he has gotten into the race, then dropped out, made it seem like everything is done, and then makes an attempt, a few months later, to resurrect things all over again.

Even if he later announces the independent candidacy that I have so longed for, I can no longer have any confidence that he will be able to stick it out to the end. I can no longer have any confidence -- despite his excellent ideas and his well-researched policy positions -- that he will have the political courage to take the steps needed win an election to any executive office. Good ideas are great. But if you can't do what it takes to transport those ideas into the mayor's office, then you really shouldn't waste everyone's time by even discussing them. You aren't going to change Pittsburgh by offering these ideas to Luke Ravenstahl. He lacks the capacity to even understand them, and will never implement anything that goes against the interests of his old-school machine.

It's one thing to stick by a pledge to hold a clean campaign. I respect that. It's fine to want to focus on issues instead of image. I really, really, really respect that. But Luke Ravenstahl is a complete and utter disaster as mayor of Pittsburgh. Our city desperately needs to see him removed from office. By getting into the race in January -- and by communicating that he would be in the race for months prior to his official announcement -- Mr. Peduto may have very well kept other worthy Democratic candidates out of the contest. To suddenly turn his back on the race on the very last day possible, ensuring that Master Ravenstahl has an all-but-clear field ahead of him, is a betrayal on many different levels.

I don't see this as a betrayal to me, personally. I never got around to endorsing his candidacy. And I had not yet decided whether I was ever going to do so. Instead, Bill Peduto betrayed what little bit of a democratic process we have left in this city. And he betrayed Pittsburgh by sticking us with a mayor that only one-ninth of us have ever voted for, and who has proven himself -- time and time again -- to be one of the worst governmental executives that I have ever seen. Some betrayals are simply unforgivable. And this is one of them.

The only good news in all of this is that the blogging will simply have to continue, stronger than ever. Despite the Post-Gazette's sudden concerns about the state of Pittsburgh's democracy, we can all rest assured that in less than a month they and the rest of the media will be back to business as usual. In fact, without a viable election to focus their attention, I would imagine that the coverage of Luke Ravenstahl's endless string of poor decisions will soon become virtually non-existent. Instead, lovely puff pieces about his hairstyle and clothing selections are likely to become the norm. But, as Maria over at 2 Political Junkies has already promised, the bloggers will always be watching.

We may be the only hope that democracy has in our city. And, collectively, we will just have to rise to the challenge.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Odd coincidence that Peduto pulls out the day that Larry "Bud" Melman dies. I'm just saying....

Skip said...

Admiral for Mayor!

EdHeath said...

Admiral, I still haven't worked out in my mind what to think about this. Peduto is, first and foremost, a democrat, and he would have to give up party affiliation to run as an independent. Now, he has to be bitter about the party endorsement business. I mean, these are the party people who should actually know something about the issues, and they rejected Peduto 8 to 1, as I remember.

Still, Pittsburgh is a democrat town, if he came right out and declared as an independent candidate, would he alienate too many birth to death democrats? All things being equal, I take your position, declare now, don’t lose any momentum, start reaching out to republicans and independents now. But maybe things aren’t equal, maybe he needs some time to start a 3rd party, a reform party.

Maybe I’m just clutching at straws.

Richmond K. Turner said...

If you take the man for his word, though, he says that he's doing this to prevent devisiveness. I can't imagine anything more devisive than switching parties, yanking his supporters out of the Democratic fold, and -- there is no way around it -- running a negative campagin against Ravenstahl from the late summer on.

I mean, if it was going to be "too divisive" to run a negative campaign within the Democratic party tent, imagine how divisive it would be to do the same thing from outside of the tent, especially after sticking his head into the tent and asking half of the people to step outside and join him.

As an independent, he will have to go even more negative than he would have for the primary, because he would have to really demonstrate to a bunch of Democratic voters why it was critical to break ranks and support him. So if he doesn't have the stomach to go negative now, I fail to see how things are going to change. How could we ever be sure that he wouldn't just back out on us again when things got tough?

As far as the idea of electing the Admiral for mayor, Skip, you are too late. Somebody else is already planning my bid for County Executive. Of course, I could just decide to "pull a Rauterkus" and run for both offices at the same time.

What the hell. A dead admiral beats Luke any day.

Anon4 said...

Democracy isn't dead! No one changed the rules. Anyone had/has the chance to run. Just because Peduto is one option, and he drops out, doesn't mean democracy is dead!

What you are probably saying is that it's a shame no other Pittsburgher is stepping up to the plate to run against Luke. That, is more an indictment on how Pittsburghers in general want their politics.

You should be scolding those who are not running, not Peduto for dropping out when the kitchen got hot.

Juno said...

In'05 Peduto jumped in late to split the progressive vote and insure Bob's victory. This year the progressives clear the field for him and he jumps out late insuring Luke's victory. What side is Bill on?

Smitty said...

"Cojònes" No Longer"
An interesting title. Earlier today 2008 Presidential candidate John Edwards held a press conference. It was initially thought that Edwards was going to suspend his campaign due to his wife’s battle with cancer. As it turns out, the press conference was about his wife’s cancer struggle, that it was back and more pernicious than before. The surprise was, however, that Mr. Edwards stated that the campaign would go forward. His wife then stated her support for that decision. Howard Fineman, a news journalist with MSNBC, and a Pittsburgh native, analogized Mrs. Edwards’ illness as a metaphor for the campaign. Translated…the show must go on.

Here in Pittsburgh, the show, the campaign should have continued. As an active supporter of Bill Peduto, I don’t agree with the perceived divisive consequences of a hard fought, assertively run campaign. The Murphy/O’Connor elections are things of legend dividing the party, families, neighbors, communities, wards, and the city. We survived those battles and the Caliguiri/Foerster, Sophie/Tom Flaherty fights. Either way the election would have turned out, we would have survived and flourished with a strong, informed opposition, a revitalized electorate and an infusion of politically active young people. The Edwards' got it right.

Smitty said...

"Cojònes" No Longer"
An interesting title. Earlier today 2008 Presidential candidate John Edwards held a press conference. It was initially thought that Edwards was going to suspend his campaign due to his wife’s battle with cancer. As it turns out, the press conference was about his wife’s cancer struggle, that it was back and more pernicious than before. The surprise was, however, that Mr. Edwards stated that the campaign would go forward. His wife then stated her support for that decision. Howard Fineman, a news journalist with MSNBC, and a Pittsburgh native, analogized Mrs. Edwards’ illness as a metaphor for the campaign. Translated…the show must go on.

Here in Pittsburgh, the show, the campaign should have continued. As an active supporter of Bill Peduto, I don’t agree with the perceived divisive consequences of a hard fought, assertively run campaign. The Murphy/O’Connor elections are things of legend dividing the party, families, neighbors, communities, wards, and the city. We survived those battles and the Caliguiri/Foerster, Sophie/Tom Flaherty fights. Either way the election would have turned out, we would have survived and flourished with a strong, informed opposition, a revitalized electorate and an infusion of politically active young people. The Edwards' got it right.

EdHeath said...

Point taken about the line about wanting to prevent divisiveness. See, taking Peduto at his word seems to be a complicated thing. I’m trying to reconcile the line about being the leader of a reform movement with the divisiveness thing. Sounds like a precursor to an ad hoc party to me, yet an independent party would be pretty divisive too, as you point out .

I found the Pittsburgh Guy’s post on this very interesting. Despite Jim Burns rantings, the Pgh Guy, who is on the democratic committee, applauded Peduto’s falling on his sword for the party. He also suggested Peduto would be rewarded in an uncertain future. Which is interesting to me (albeit not convincing).

Well, the majority of the public, who neither blogs nor reads blogs (or the newspaper, for that matter) and the majority of the voting public, who yada yada, are probably happy. The boy mayor, the only thing that has gotten the ‘burgh some national attention, is safe now. Peduto did manage to *finally* get the attention of the MSM, but it is hard to see how he get ever get it again…

So what would happen if the Mayor’s various ethical misadventures knocked him off the ballot or out of office. There’s no deputy Mayor??? Maybe Doug Shields would get the big chair …

Anonymous said...

Here's the scenario: Peduto traded off running in order to be named President of Council. When Luke is finally indicted for one of his "faux pas" (given his immaturity, cupidity, vanity and stupidity, the odds are very high that that will eventually occur) Peduto becomes mayor the same way Luke did -without a vote ever being cast for him.

There is more than one way to skin a cat - even a polecat (sic).

Anonymous said...

I'm with you Admiral. I will not be forgiving Peduto anytime soon. He's had my support and second chances before. That's it. Anyone who was paying attention got behind him and how does he repay us? By allowing a coronation of a mediocre machine cog. Not getting coverage? He should pull some stunt like camping out in front of the PG building until they hold/sponsor a debate or list the real issues in the paper. Stop calculating and show some passion! What do you have to lose, some lame ass City Council job? I'm sick of the back dealings and unqualified clowns running this fair city.

First order of business- migrate from defined benefit to defined contribution retirement plans for all city clowncilmemebers, if this is not the case already. Ok..deep breath...calm down... Nope, not working, I'm still mad.

Char said...

Well, we can stay mad at Bill for a day or forever. But that’s just wasted energy. Because the point is not Bill … the point is the big flushing sound of all of us going down the Pittsburgh toilet. We’re going down the crapper because of decades of apathy. Letting party hacks and goons hand us the slate as we march comatose into the voting booth. Nope … I’m gonna be a big man here (even though I’m female) and take some of the responsibility myself for where we are today. But not after today. Because starting today I’m gonna be painfully vocal. I’m gonna park my butt down at City Council meetings along side of the likes of Yvonne F. Brown and say my piece. I’m gonna inundate the MSM. Gonna show at every neighborhood event and “forum” held for every mediocre candidate I can’t stand. Just so I can look them straight in the eye and tell them how pathetic they are. But mostly, I’m not gonna cut my neighbor, coworker or even stranger standing in line beside me any slack when I hear them say stupid stuff like “Give the boy a chance”. Nope, I’m gonna firmly and plainly point out that they are what is killing Pittsburgh. That’s me from now on. How about the rest of you?

Richmond K. Turner said...

I'll tell you what, Char. I like your style. You rock! If I get written in as County Executive, you should get written in as Mayor!