Thursday, March 8, 2007

Former Mayor Casts Blame on Current One for Penguins Mess

KDKA's Jon Delano sat down with former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy to talk about the city's crisis du jour. And Mr. Murphy -- never one to hold back, even when he probably should -- had quite a bit to say about Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato, and current Interim Mayor Luke "Flip Flop" Ravenstahl. The former mayor made it clear that the current political leadership in the city and county have dropped the ball on this one, and -- what a suprise -- their mistakes are likely end up costing us a bit more tax money.

To begin with, Mr. Murphy makes a point that I have often made myself. If the taxpayers are going to be asked to fund a sporting venue, we are better off doing so with an arena than with a football or baseball stadium:

"Of the three facilities, the baseball park, the football stadium, and the arena, the arena is the no-brainer because it can be used 250 times a year," said Murphy. "We've all gone to the arena for things other than the hockey."
To this, I would add that an arena also takes up less space, requires fewer parking spaces, and causes fewer traffic problems than these larger outdoor venues.

The former mayor then goes on to describe the key mistake that Mr. Onorato and Master Ravenstahl have made in these negotiations, why things have moved so slowly, why tonight represents the first face-to-face meeting between the principals since mid-January, and why personality problems are so prominent at this sensitive time:
Former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy says there is no doubt, mistakes have been made.

"The key to it all is to have somebody who is every day focused on mediating the numbers and the disagreements and the issues of personality that will inevitably be in this," said Murphy.

He believes the lack of that point person is hurting Pittsburgh.

"Seems to me, really in more recent days even more so, seems to be missing in these conversations that there's no one person that all the parties respect that is able to pull them back together and keep them moving forward and mediating their disagreements," Murphy added.

Murphy says the Penguins are different from the teams he negotiated with.

"I have to say when we were negotiating with the Pirates and the Steelers, there were tense moments, but I think all recognized that we were partners in this together and we were trying to get to a common solution," said Murphy. "I don't see that camaraderie in these discussions."
Perhaps Dan Onorato and Luke Ravenstahl failed to appoint a dedicated mediator because they were so willing to acquiesce leadership on this issue to the Governor. If so, then Mr. Murphy points out that this was yet another mistake on their part:
So was it a mistake for Dan Onorato and Luke Ravenstahl to let Governor Rendell take the lead?

"I think it is," said Murphy. "Fundamentally, this is a local issue. I do believe that the local officials ought to be driving this. In some ways, they have a lot more at stake here."
Perhaps the funniest part of the story comes when Tom Murphy tries to restrain himself, and then finds that he just can't help but be anyone but Tom Murphy. For example, he hedges a bit and makes the appropriate linguistic gestures by saying:
"I don't want to second-guess Mayor Luke or Dan on this," [Murphy] said.
But then he plows right on and does it anyway:
"I'd be working at it night and day. It's certainly not something that I would let linger, and this seems... It seems like every few weeks they're meeting. If you remember what we were doing, we were pretty much meeting every day. This is a deal that is very, very doable if someone would pay attention to it more than every couple weeks."
Whether you like Tom Murphy or not -- and I don't -- you've got to admit that our current situation supports his argument. The arena talks with the Penguins have gone on and on and on, and have lasted far longer than any of us ever thought they would when they began at the start of the year. Meetings have been held on only an irregular and infrequent basis, which has seemed more and more strange as time has gone on. This delay has done nothing except allow the Penguins to build into a bit of an understandable rage, and to carry on their discussions with other cities. Now that Kansas City officials have sweetened their offer to the team, it seems likely that this delay will require our state and local leaders to either offer even more to the Penguins, or run the risk of allowing the team to relocate.

Maybe we'll know more about where things stand later on tonight. But things never should have been allowed to reach this point, and the negotiations should never have been allowed to drag on so long. It puts our city in a very weak negotiating position, and has put the Penguins in the driver's seat. The only question at this point is whether they will end up behind the wheel of a Zamboni or a U-Haul. Either way, it's going to be a costly outcome for Pittsburgh.


Anonymous said...

Running a city is difficult enough without the handicaps of immaturity, indecisiveness and lack of a moral compass. Pittsburgh has no seat at the negotiating table because the interim mayor boasts all three handicaps. The fate of the Penguins and our arena are in the hands of a foreigner, Philadelphian Fast Eddie. Tom Murphy, whether you're a fan or not, has none of the above handicaps. Our "Murphy" issues centered on how he executed his plan, not on whether he even has a plan to begin with. As accurately related in previous bloggings by the Admiral, people who gave due attention to Fluke's behavior from day one (within days of Bob O'Connor's hospitalization) recognized him for the fraud he is long before this latest situation. Did we really think that a kid whose judgment is so impaired as evidenced by his propensity for lying, blaming dead mayors for his mistakes, failing to discern the "good guys" from the "bad guys", retaliating against those who point out his mistakes, promoting those who have no business in the office in the first place, pretending to distance himself from public menace Denny Regan (the real face of the Luke administration), attempting to steal the mayor's office via he and Zoober's attempt to obtain an invalid opinion from the law department, using taxpayer $ to mail campaign literature...could amount to anything more than a punk in sheep's clothing?

The Burgher said...

All true.

Not that Murphy criticisms hurt. (Unfair, but true).

Smitty said...

never a Murphy suppporter..never voted for him..he was right on this time...I remember his first couple years in office..he did nothing but work to keep the Pirates in he said day and night...of course at the expense of downtown which is just beginning to redevelop

Maria said...

Maybe one of the reasons that they meet so infrequently is because they have to go out to Philly or Harrisburg or wherever to accommodate the Governor's schedule.

That's part of the problem of not having this negotiated LOCALLY -- you know, as in Pittsburgh, as in "Pittsburgh Penguins."

EdHeath said...

You know, I have to say Pittsburgh is a fundamentally different city than it was when Murphy took over as Mayor. Maybe some of that is his fault, or Sophie’s, or Caliguiri’s or Flaherty’s or whoever’s. But now we are a city teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, with a huge debt burden, perhaps the largest in the country. So I think there is a very good reason why Rendell is involved in, basically dominating the negotiations. He’s the only one who can actually be trusted to deliver. No one has talked about the Act 47 implications of building a new arena; it seems to me if you can’t pay your credit card bills, no contractor is going to build you an addition to your house unless a friendly bank guarentees your credit (tortured analogy). The city and the county have nothing. In fact, if the city or the county offer the Pens something, the legislature probably wants Rendell there to bless it.

Smitty said...

Rendell's aide said its easier to do it that way without the public looking over your shoulder..less pressure.. exactly why they should be holding negotiations in the Arena.

Anonymous said...

No doubt, Rendell needs to be there, but the frustration that everyone is exhibiting is that Luke has failed to even be a good cheerleader for the City. He's consistently behind the 8-ball, only reacting on so many major issues because he lacks the judgment to do the right thing in the first place. He seems to have thrown his hands in the air and resigned himself to a backseat role - sure there has to be a primary negotiator, but that doesn't mean that the guy who has the most to lose just go along for the ride.

Anonymous said...

Murphy was tweaking everyone. He knows full well his stadium deal was completely different then the current Pens deal.

One last time everyone: the money is coming from state and casino revenues. Local taxes/monies are not being used. Rendell is the driver, not Onorato/Ravenstahl.

Mark Rauterkus said...

The no-brainer fits with Tom Murphy and his public policies.

Get to the root of the problems here. The new arena is needed by the Pens for corporate boxes. The civic arena was built in a time when there were not corporate boxes. That time is going to return by the way. The corporate tax breaks for things like corporate boxes are a thing of the past. But, be that as it may...

The arena is used 200+ times a year. And, only those 40 games with the NHL do you want and need a corporate box. When grandma goes to Monsters Inc on Ice or a Monster Truck Pull -- the corporate box isn't in high demand. Nor for a circus nor for a high school graduation nor scholastic basketball game.

This is whey we NEED a low-cost venue -- and if the Pens need another one with the box seats and lounges -- do it elsewhere.

Taxpayers are not better off with a new venue when the old one works fine for the low cost events.

The Pens have a right to do new and plush on its own without the destruction of something that works well for civic events.

We can and should be able to go to the arena for things other than hockey in the future. Go elsewhere for NHL hockey.

Mark Rauterkus said...

In Murphy's world, he always had a mediator because he was so abrasive. Murphy was driven from office because he couldn't even stand in the neighborhoods. He always had a wall around him because he was clueless with the people. He'd say things that were stupid and he'd offend. Naysayers and in turn EVERYONE (except Jon Delano it seems) had enough.

Murphy needed others because Murphy himself was so ineffective. Murphy would assign others to the job.

This was the clear contrast to what we LOVED about O'Connor's eventual arrival. Bob did his own dirty work. Bob did the heavy lifting himself. Bob didn't need an army of go-betweens. Bob was Bob. What you see is what you go.

Meanwhile, the public Tom Murphy, mayor, was a snake.

Murphy was the worst in negotiations. He gave away as much as he could. Then he gave away more, as much as he could hide. He has "partners" in the pro teams, as they both were spinning for the same things. The people got screwed.

There is some care on the locals this time to NOT give away everything. But this restraint is because blood doesn't flow from a rock. They would give it away if they could. But the treasury is empty -- thanks to Murphy and Onorato and Roddey and Peduto. Their past sins have made these guys penny-less and poor negotiators.

Murphy worries about there not being a 'point person.' I worry that there is no point in talking to Murphy, except to learn HOW not to do a deal. He is a great living example of how not to proceed.

Murphy doesn't see camaraderie. Great. Murphy's camaraderie was always with the receivers of the corporate welfare deals.

There is great camaraderie with the working group that designed the big plan with Peduto to create downtown abatement. They all noodle on plans and ideas for stealing taxes.

The negotiations lingered because Dan Onorato jumped right into bed, ready to negotiate, before he established a philosophy, values, principles, and open ways. Premature.... Remorse....

Mark Rauterkus said...

Some faceless blog posting above read:

"One last time everyone: the money is coming from state and casino revenues. Local taxes/monies are not being used."

The bulk of the casino revenues are windfalls from the low bid license, $50-million, that should have fetched $300-M. That's money that is (was) taxpayer's money too -- as it isn't going elsewhere (like to roads, transit, property tax reduction, schools, infrastructure, health insurance, etc.)

Furthermore, state money is my (and your) money too. Lots of local tax money is being used.

Plus, Altoona got a new ball park because of Tom Murphy's. As did others from throughout the state.

jroddy said...

I agree with just about everything Murphy said.

So, given that he's the one who promised Lemieux a new arena, why didn't he do anything between 1999 and 2005, even when the team took agressive first steps of purchasing property and attempting to establish a dialogue in the early going?