For months, many members of the burghosphere have been noting that the mainstream media wasn't giving the administration of Pittsburgh Interim Mayor Luke "The Debate Chicken" Ravenstahl a hard enough look. They seemed to be ignoring all of the obvious problems. They seemed to be rolling over and accepting all the lies. But today, at least some of them seem to be really pissed off at our young interim mayor. And at least one of them, WTAE reporter Andrew Stockley, is going so far as speak the obvious and call Master Ravenstahl an outright liar. In his blog on the WTAE website, Mr. Stockley offers the following observations:
So what's the story here? The mayor's decision to accept Burkle's invitation to spend the night in the Big Apple? The mayor having dinner with the co-owner of the city's hockey team after closing a $290M arena deal? The mayor missing a meeting the following morning and having someone else fill in for him? Nope. The real story here is that the mayor lied.I would dispute Mr. Stockley's assertion that Luke Ravenstahl is somehow "... symbolic of a change of political course in this city". Instead, I think the evidence clearly shows that the interim mayor is no exemplar of change at all. Far from moving us forward, he appears dedicated to keeping Pittsburgh political life firmly anchored to the old-style patronage system that dominated most of the last century. To Luke Ravenstahl's mind, the past is just around the corner.
He was asked by the Trib earlier in the day if he had traveled to New York. He said no initially, before later changing his story. He says he went on the trip because he wanted to discuss "campaign philosophy" with Burkle -- a well-known supporter of fellow democrats Bill and Hillary Clinton. He later said he couldn't even remember when they went to dinner.
The mayor's decision to accept Burkle's generosity was not wrong. It did not cost the taxpayers money and while he did miss a meeting the following day, he had someone to cover for him. Also, as long as he reports it to the proper officials, I'm sure it's not a violation of any campaign rules. Where the mayor messed up was not being up front when asked the about the trip initially. Now, he's talking about actually reimbursing Burkle for the cost of a flight.
I'm not saying mayor Ravenstahl is alone in his choice not to come forward and be honest. There seems to be something in public office that causes many leaders to flat out lie to people - and I'm not sure what it is. I would just hope that this young mayor - who has become symbolic of a change of political course in this city - would set an example for a new generation of office seekers and not play the game of so-many of his predecessors in public life.
Perhaps Mayor Luke will prove me wrong. I hope he does. He has already made this mistake once before - when he first denied he had been arrested at Heinz Field two years earlier. Mayor, the truth is is a wonderful thing. Please use it. You will find it takes a lot less work to be honest than to lie.
But at least Mr. Stockley recognizes that Master Ravenstahl is a liar. That's enough, with any luck, to at least cast some doubt on his qualifications to lead our city government, even in the mind of a mainstream reporter. Lying is a bad thing for any politician, but lying to the press can quickly sour an office-holder's most necessary and symbiotic relationship. Now, maybe the press will finally start asking some of the more skeptical questions that have been haunting the burghosphere for months.