Thursday, April 12, 2007

Another Bipolar Day At the Post-Gazette Editorial Board

Today's editorials in Post-Gazette illustrate much of what is genuinely bad about local Pittsburgh politics. In one case, the newspaper's editorial board comes down, far more solidly than I had anticipated, on the correct side of the issue. In another, they tacitly endorse -- almost without even realizing that they are doing so -- one of the primary reasons why our city and region continue to stagnate and remain unable to provide voters with any real choices for progress. Indeed, the Post-Gazette comes out swinging in support of the very same situation that they chastised City Councilmember Bill Peduto for creating when he dropped out of Democratic mayoral primary last month.

The newspaper's lead editorial today rather boldly calls for the resignation of another City Councilmember, Twanda Carlisle. Ms. Carlisle, as discussed here in an earlier post, was formally charged with a number of crimes yesterday. Her conduct has been so egregious and unsupportable that it would be impossible for any rational body, even the Post-Gazette editorial board, to argue in Ms. Carlisle's favor. But instead of merely censuring her for engaging in this illegal conduct, or even pushing for voters in next month's primary election to vote Ms. Carlisle out of office, the editorial goes the extra yards to demand that she resign her seat on city council:

It is too late to remove Ms. Carlisle's name from the May 15 primary ballot, where she faces seven Democratic challengers for the party nomination for the District 9 seat. Given the seriousness of the charges, it would be an affront to the voters if she went forward with her candidacy. It would be worse if she continued to pose as a City Council member serving the public.

Right now the people Ms. Carlisle should be most concerned about are those who will sit in judgment during her trial. If she has any regard for the people of District 9, she will gracefully step aside.
Those are pretty bold words from the Post-Gazette. I'm somewhat impressed, even though I don't really see how Ms. Carlisle's resignation would end up doing much good for the people of the 9th "Councilmatic" District. If she resigned at this point, it would still be too late to make any changes to the May 15th primary ballot. Even if it were possible to rapidly set up a May 15th special election that would pick a temporary successor for Ms. Carlisle's seat -- and I'm not convinced that it could be done -- the voting process would be enormously confusing. Voters would be asked, in one part of the ballot, to pick someone to fill the remainder of Ms. Carlisle's term. Then they would also be asked to cast their primary election votes for the Democratic party, choosing between eight different candidates, including (since it's too late to take her off the ballot) Ms. Carlisle herself.

Rather than leaving the residents of District 9 with no representative on city council for the next eight months, it's probably a better idea -- however distasteful this may be -- to allow Ms. Carlisle to fill this role in a lame duck status.

The Post-Gazette's second editorial is a seemingly pure-vanilla endorsement of incumbent Pittsburgh Public School Boardmember Dan Romaniello. I have no personal beef with Mr. Rominello, and I can't complain about the editorial board's endorsement of his candidacy. But instead of merely endorsing him to win the Democratic party nomination in the primary, the Post-Gazette goes on to suggest that he should also be the victor in the Republican primary as well:
Since he and his two challengers, Sherry Hazuda of Beechview and Amy Barrett Montgomery of Brookline, are cross-filed on the Democratic and Republican ballots, it's conceivable that one candidate will win one party nomination in the May 15 primary while a different candidate receives the other. With Mr. Romaniello, 52, on the job, though, we see no need for the parties to differ on who is best. [snip...]

The incumbent has been part of the board's new stability and its ability to reshape the district. Clearly, he gets it. For that reason, Daniel Romaniello Sr. deserves both party nominations and another term on the city school board.
For starters, the entire practice of candidates cross-filing nominating petitions under multiple political parties is disgustingly vile. Pennsylvania law actually bans cross-filing in most elections, but allows it -- for reasons that I can't begin to understand -- for "... judicial elections in the court of common pleas, Philadelphia municipal and traffic courts, justices of the peace, and school directors (where elected)". Why is this practice, which allows candidates to appear on the general election ballot more than once for any given office, permitted for some elected offices and not others? It has never made any sense to me. If anyone can enlighten me, I would be deeply grateful.

Whether this practice is legally permissible or not, the Post-Gazette makes a mistake in treating it as acceptable. And the editorial board makes an even bigger mistake in in recommending that the exact same candidate be chosen by the voters of both major political parties. The result, should the paper's endorsements be adhered to by the voters, is that Mr. Romaniello will be the only available option on the November general election ballot, appearing on both the Democratic and Republican tickets.

When Bill Peduto dropped out of the race for Democratic mayoral nomination, the Post-Gazette had the following to say about his decision:
Barring some later entry from an independent or a write-in candidate, Pittsburgh is left with no mayoral race at all. The Republicans, as hapless as ever in Pittsburgh, have no candidate for November. As far as Pittsburgh's most important office goes, democracy has been effectively suspended.
By recommending that Republican voters nominate a Democrat to appear on their ticket for School Board, the Post-Gazette is effectively doing the same thing here. As today's editorial makes clear, there is a bona-fide registered Republican, Amy Barrett Montgomery, running against Mr. Romaniello in this election. But instead of endorsing her for the Republican nomination, and allowing the voters to have some choices before them in November, the Post-Gazette would rather see voters left with no options at all.

One reason why Pittsburgh Republicans are, to use the Post-Gazette's own words, so "hapless", is that they are given little coverage or opportunity to develop by the city's mainstream press outlets. Ms. Montgomery would probably have little chance running as a Republican against a Democratic incumbent, but the race would give her some experience and allow her to evolve, perhaps, into a more viable candidate in the future.

At one point last month, the Post-Gazette thought that Bill Peduto should have been honor-bound to continue his doomed campaign, if for no other reason than to provide the "youthful" Luke Ravenstahl with the chance to "... temper his political steel in the cauldron of experience". It's a shame that they don't attach the same degree of importance to providing this kind of opportunity to young candidates from the Republican party. Maybe that's one of the reasons why local Republicans are so hapless.

5 comments:

Char said...

Great observation, Admiral.

Shawn said...

Admiral,

Were she to resign, the City would have 67 days to hold the special election.

I believe it is already too late to add anymore races to the Primary Ballot, as I believe there exists a blackout period of x number of days preceding said primary.

If the City Code were available electronically at the moment (municode.com's Pittsburgh library is down temporarily -- they may be updating it) I'd get you an answer on that.

Anyway, I am sure that in the event of a resignation, the Council President has 5 or 7 days to instruct the City Clerk to transmit to the Board of Elections a Writ of Election, then the County must hold said election in 60 days

Matt H said...

I don't see her quitting now.

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