Saturday, April 14, 2007

They won all the battles but we had all the good songs

I'm thinking Tom Leher said that somewhere in the album "That was the year that was". Maybe.

The way my brain works… I have been thinking all day long that Pat Dowd needs a song. Since he has advocated for a council statement on the Port Authority situation, I’m thinking someone should update MTA. You know, Kingston Trio, “He’s the man who never returned”.

The funny thing is, it could be a hit. My wife reminded me that the song gets airtime on WJAS. I think young people in the district would be tickled to death to hear a protest song in this day and age. Maybe Agent Ska could produce it. But she would need a banjo player, or maybe just to sample the original …

The song starts (as copied from

Let me tell you the story
Of a man named Charlie
On a tragic and fateful day
He put ten cents in his pocket,
Kissed his wife and family
Went to ride on the MTA

Charlie handed in his dime
At the Kendall Square Station
And he changed for Jamaica Plain
When he got there the conductor told him,
"One more nickel."
Charlie could not get off that train.
Well, the ten cents part and the train change wouldn’t work, but I can see the conductor telling him “One more quarter”.


Did he ever return,
No he never returned
And his fate is still unlearn'd
He may ride forever
'neath the streets of Boston
He's the man who never returned.

Now all night long
Charlie rides through the tunnels
Saying, "What will become of me?
How can I afford
to see My sister in Chelsea
Or my cousin in Roxbury?"

I can see changing lyrics to “My sister in Baldwin” and “the Pirates in PNC”. And skipping ahead a bit, the relevant lines would be:

Now you citizens of Boston,
Don't you think it's a scandal
That the people have to pay and pay
Vote for Walter A. O'Brien
And fight the fare increase
Get poor Charlie off the MTA.

Changed to:

Now you citizens of Pittsburgh,
Don’t you think it is a scandal
That the people have to pay and pay,
Vote for Patrick Dowd
And fight the fare increase,
Get poor Charlie off the LRT.

Well, I wanted to get that out of my head (and perhaps into yours). I hope I haven’t plagiarized the poor Kingston Trio. I hope they would approve of the re-imagining of the song they popularized.

He's the man who never returned.
He's the man who never returned.


Mark Rauterkus said...

Hi, Thanks for the link on the blog roll.

My transit song is simply, "row, row, row your boat." -- There won't be any transit other than a canoe or two on the rivers -- after Dan Onorato has his way.

Anonymous said...

After the Highland Park coalition and Patrick Dowd branded Darlene Harris a racist for disagreeing with Dr. Thompson, a mere five months later this happened, why?

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

During the emotional, racially charged debate over buying out the contract of Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent John W. Thompson, the superintendent's allies referred to the decision as "ethnic cleansing" and "a modern-day lynching."
School board member Patrick Dowd, a former Thompson supporter whose vote created the majority needed to oust Thompson nearly five months early, was called "a hooded Klansman."

Got a catchy jingle for us to remember this little tidbit?

EdHeath said...

Brenda Lee’s “I’m Sorry”? Some song from Disney’s “Song of the South”?

Reading the whole of the ’05 article you referenced paints a somewhat more complex picture. Still, it would be fine with me for Dr Dowd to respond to it. I don’t know if he ever has, and I don’t feel like searching his campaign website for it. Dowd doesn’t seem like the kind to sit on his hands if he has an idea or feeling, so he may well have made himself a special target by leading the charge against Dr Thompson. He was one of five votes involved; evidently he became disenchanted with Dr Thompson’s performance during his tenure here. The school board obviously has gone through huge ups and downs in the past ten years. Right now the foundations seems to like them, although not enough to fund Pittsburgh Promise, but that is a vote of confidence they didn’t have before Dr Dowd was elected to the school board (and the leadership changed).

I mean, it is worth bringing that article up, and I appreciate the comment. There are a couple of things that could well be asked of Pat Dowd. He has made a suggestion too for reinvesting in rather than tearing down abandoned houses. That is clearly a good long term strategy, but I wonder about funding it. I gather Mr. Bodack would rather tear those houses down. That is likely to be more cost effective, certainly in the short run, although long term it might hurt our tax base if new homes aren’t built.

Or course, Mr. Bodack does not have a website, so I can’t really comment on his record or proposals much.

Dr. Dowd’s proposals might well be over-reaching. That’s kind of refreshing, though, for Pittsburgh.

patrick dowd said...

this speech I delivered the night I cast the vote referred to by the above anonymous post. It has been on my website since 2005 along with more than 20 such statements and newsletters.

Public Statement on Resolution Severing Contractual Relationship with Dr. John Thompson
Patrick Dowd, Board Member,
January 26, 2005

Much has been said over the last few weeks about Dr. Thompson’s superintendency, and I want to make clear my position. I support the decision to not rehire Dr. Thompson for a second term as superintendent of the Pittsburgh Public Schools. This is not an indictment of Dr. Thompson’s character or skill. Dr. Thompson courageously raised taxes, he closed schools and, at a time when Pittsburgh’s Board of Education could not end its division, his imperial style of leadership steadied the district. Dr. Thompson, I extend my gratitude to you for your years of service.

In all institutions, the failings of the past accrue to those in the present, and the Pittsburgh Board of Education is no exception. Over time, the Board of Education failed to execute its responsibility for setting clear performance objectives and criteria for judging the success of the superintendent. During the last four years little has been done to inform Dr. Thompson of either his success or his shortcomings. In this context, the discussion of his contract has become political and hyperbolic. Dr. Thompson, I will be held accountable for the failings that have accrued to me and for the failings of the Board I apologize to you.

In December of 2003, when today’s Board took office, we pledged to use student achievement as our guiding compass. The Board’s decision not to rehire Dr. Thompson stems directly from this pledge. Today, we, who are responsible for the education of tens of thousands of students, see a troubled landscape. We see our achievement gap growing to disturbing proportions. A majority of our students are African American, and they face dire statistics. Less than 1 in 3 can read at grade level, but even worse, only 1 in 4 can do math at grade level. Partially due to academic concerns, families, both white and black, are choosing not to enroll in the Pittsburgh Public Schools or, even worse, to leave our city altogether. Our revenue streams are drying up before our very eyes. Simple tax hikes are no longer valid solutions. And there are managerial issues. Dissension is apparent, and evaluations of administrators are less than effective. Some of these difficulties Dr. Thompson inherited and others he created. But ultimately, he, like the board, is accountable for each and every one. Dr. Thompson, this is a matter of job performance, a matter of what has and has not happened during your watch.

Given the politics and rhetoric in recent weeks about a process, which has been less than perfect, I must address the commentary about race. My part in this decision has never had anything to do with anyone’s skin color. Unfortunately, one faction insists on this simplistic reduction. Perhaps these individuals are unwilling to see the complexities of the problems we face or perhaps they are willful sensationalists. In either case, their charges are counter-productive and tragically divisive.

Looking to the future, the Board of Education must seek leadership that will be guided by our common compass. We must seek leadership that will be held accountable not only to predetermined goals, but to events and circumstances that this leader must face and manage along the way. We must seek leadership that will be empathetic, not imperial. We must seek leadership that will harness all of Pittsburgh’s resources and talents to forge the path to the future.

To my colleagues on the Board, let me say that we have a mountain to climb. We must continue to hope for an amicable resolution to our relationship with Dr. Thompson. We must search for an interim superintendent. We must establish clear criteria for judging the next superintendent. We must carry out a national search and we must name a permanent successor. Most importantly, though, we must shoulder the gargantuan task of healing.

We should pass the resolution before us and sever our contractual relationship with Dr. Thompson, effective February 9, 2005. Doing so will enable us to meet squarely our academic and fiscal challenges.

The last four years have been filled with rancor and division. Each and every one of us is to be held accountable for that. Today’s Board must continue its efforts at building the consensus and cooperation. This is the only way we can hope to change the statistics our children face. We should pass this resolution and move forward with all due speed.

patrick dowd said...

In fact, you can view the entire meeting of January 26, 2005 at the the following website. It is the Legislative Meeting. You can also find a link on my school board website

Please note, this plays only in certain browsers.


Anonymous said...


You know that it is a plain untruth that Bodack wants to tear down 15,000 houses. I suggest that you and your family take a little mosey down to the alleyway housing in upper Lawrenceville, now would be a good time, right around 9:30, and tell me what vacant home you plan on renovating and where will you get the money to rebuild a house with dirt floors, no roof,and no working systems. Im not buying your story and you are being naive. In most cases it costs more to renovate a home than it does to demolish it and rebuild new. You being elected to City Council would kill those neighborhoods that need the most help and are progessing in the right direction after years of mismanagement. My opinion is that your neighborhood, spotted with Dowd signs in front of 400k houses, needs the least attention and that is the area you are most familiar with.
Dont pretend to know that you have the slightest idea about what is needed in Lawrenceville, Polish Hill, Bloomfield, or parts of Garfield. You are no more prepared to deal with our problems than Bodack is crating policy for affluent neighbors in Highland Park. If anything this election shows the clear need for redistricting so that like minded people have their agendas forwarded. I hear phrases like framework for a vision and I will tell you where the efficencies are once I get there. That is not a reason to vote for you, no more than I should vote against Bodack because his father was a Senator.
I am disillusioned by both of you. You are supposed to be a reformer and you are not and he has a record to stand on and he is not calling you on what you subjects you know very little about. My comments are not meant to be demeaning, but rather to tell you something you already know, you are not ready yet. You are no more ready for this seat than you were the State Rep seat when you ran against Preston. This is it for you and you know it. Bill Peduto was the shinig beacon for all progressives and now he has lost a major portion of his base and if you lose here its over. I would have gotten better advice before running for this seat at this time.

EdHeath said...

Damn, I was going to spend some time reformatting a Mac, not blogging. Or if I was going to blog, I wanted to make fun of Ruth Ann Daily (well, gently disagree, anyway).

Well, Dr. Dowd, given what was said in the ’05 PG article, along with what you say in your statement, a complex picture of a troubled board emerges. Perhaps not Pittsburgh’s best moment, but (IMO) we don’t always get to choose our moments. I’m not going to analyze your statement line by line, but I will say that I was impressed with it. I’m not sure exactly why there was a need to buy Dr Thompson out early, but I’m not finished going through what material is there to examine. I don’t have an hour right now to spend watching the video (though my Lombard wants more than an hour to install OS 10.29).

I do want to say something about your housing proposal. I have wondered (in print) about where the money might come from. But I see you are talking about rehabbing where practical, tearing down where needed and looking for private partners where possible. I disagree with Anonymous (above) that it is mostly more expensive to rehab than tear down and build new. Particularly in poorer neighborhoods, building new is actually not all that likely to happen anyway, realistically. Rehabbing older house appeals to the conservative in me; capitalizing on existing resources rather than using new resources. It’s also the kind of thing that could be combined with the Mayor’s plans to try to retain young people in the area. Chris Briem (Null Space, UCSUR) I believe disagrees with the conventional wisdom that we are losing young people, he thinks it is older people who leave. OK, then lets attract young people in from other places. Now, anonymous is right, dirt floors and no provision for heating or cooling might doom some houses, make it impossible to make them livable by 21st century standards. But even there, a good part of rehab expense can be tearing old HVAC systems out, or old plumbing or even old floors. Could be a blessing in disguise.

Now that tax season is over, I do plan to (maybe) get a bit more involved. There are various distractions at home and at work, but elections don’t come around every day. I at least want to do a bit more research.

Skip said...

I, too, was impressed with Dowd's level-headed response to releasing Dr. Thompson.

Anon, straw-man arguments have never persuaded me. Dowd's proposals to 1. "use your tax dollars transparently and efficiently". and 2. "work to deliver city services at the high standard working people deserve by monitoring and assessing performance" are what sell me. I believe in monitoring and assessing performance in delivery of public services; much like Peduto proposed today regarding street paving.

Additionally, seeing a school bus full of democratic committee members (from mostly within but also without Bodack's district) who were treated to a nice breakfast (all at Bodack's expense, allegedly) before arriving to vote at the IBEW raises my suspicions. I don't care who it is. When I see a gaggle of committee members greased up to vote for a candidate I am suspicious of that candidate.

Dr. Dowd, you've got my vote.

Anonymous said...

That my friend is called solidarity behind a candidate that has served his district well. Do you think that committee people are concerned with a couple of eggs and some dryed out potatoes? Addresssing Dowds transparency and fiduciary responsibility. Ask him about the Lynn SCAManato debacle. Over 400 thousand dollars were wasted on this horrible decision. Im sure your good with that though.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Mr. Dowds diatribe, let me assume he means to say Mrs. Harris was right all along?

EdHeath said...

I don’t see where you can assume that at all. Dr. Dowd listed the accomplishments Dr Thompson had achieved, and took personal and collective responsibility for failing to achieve the necessary support of the board to establish standards by which to evaluate Dr Thompson. Maybe Dr. Dowd’s emphasis in his current council campaign on transparency and performance standards in government is driven partly by what was clearly a hard lesson. I’m sure Mr. Bodack has some hard lessons, but he doesn’t want us to know how they shape his views BECAUSE HE DOESN’T HAVE A CAMPAIGN WEBSITE.