I think I might have reached an epiphany of sorts (better look it up …yeah, that’s it). There was always a disconnect between Bill Peduto’s default position as designated reformer and his actions. When he talked on the KD/PG Sunday morning show, he described the race as about leadership, though he only offered a few tantalizing crumbs about how that should be defined (remember, at this point he had quit the race, and seemed to be waiting for the rebellion to pull him back in, to cry out how we had misunderstood him and truly needed him – draft Bill to run – a true Teddy Kennedy moment). No words about his plans for reform I heard (though I missed some moments). In the City Paper interview, he said, as I remember, that he was relying on the reform plans he had posted on the web in ’05, but maybe he should have reposted them or put some new ideas out …
So today I was in the process of replying, on the Burgh Report, as it happens, to a comment from Char (is that pronounced Burr Repore?) and as I formulated my reply something finally dawned on me. Bill Peduto wants to be mayor more than he wants to implement reform. That’s why he is staying with the democratic party, that’s why he is waiting to run. Yes, he can introduce reform in city council, but as one member among nine, he won’t be blamed if nothing is accomplished and the city goes further down the tubes.
I have an absolute blind spot, I assume that self-designated reformers share my interest in policy for policies’ sake (policy for policy’s sake?). Don’t get me wrong, I have my tin-plated swaggering dictatorial moments (I *like* to be in charge), but I also enjoy it when a plan comes together (in the immortal words of Hannibal wossiname). I like following the logic, identifying the effect of tax policy on tuition (a reform as one of several factors contributing to a negative trend) or using the tuition and fees deduction to bring down AGI and increase the Earned Income Credit (the only real tax trick I know … shhhhh, don’t tell anyone). But my blind spot is limited only to candidates whom I assume are naïve, I have learned that office holders who want to run again quickly learn lessons, and ambitious office holders have to make deals with people real reformers would only want to lecture to.
So, forgive me for being so blind. Peduto didn’t put reform material on the web because it didn’t work in the last primary. Luke was stealing ideas and the press was chuckling affectionately (“awww, isn’t he cute”). But Bill can see the shine will wear off our shiny mayor and Luke will be exposed as a clumsy politician. There is a distinct possibility that Doug Shields will become our mayor before ’09, but in any event the words “Grand Jury Investigation” are fast becoming all but inevitable. So Bill can wait.
But if Bill cared more about the city than his career (I know, so silly for me to suggest that)… I always have a special disdain for politicians who believe that their “leadership” skills are so valuable that it doesn’t really matter whether reform in enacted or not, the city (or whatever governmental unit) will benefit more from just being led by them.
And, you know, reformers aren’t, after any time in office. This appears to be the story of Jim Ferlo, who still speaks with reformer zeal about the convention center, but appears to have caved to the various machines on public transit and his old council seat race.
And that’s the thing, politician’s are like that now, always having to run and raise money and curry favor. Still, if they enact reform early, or even late when forced, it can live on. Luke could appoint that fifth member of the ethics board (at the end of his term, maybe) and it could start to shine light on government. Pat Dowd could get his transparency in city government and then break all his promises and run for mayor (arguably … never mind). The point would be that the policies would live on, no matter how good or bad the politician.
But Bill hadn’t even made any proposals. He judged it tactically useful not to bring up reform, and I fear a Peduto Mayorship might not have had much reform in it either. You have to go with the evidence and behavior at hand.