Sunday, August 19, 2007

Redefine Pittsburgh

John Murray, Duquesne University’s un-elected city/county official at large, is getting out ahead of the soon to be released Nordenberg committee’s report, trying to spin what he believes will be in the report and what he believes will undoubtedly be counter-spun for weeks after the report’s release (that’s what I am taking away, anyway). Chancellor Murray has an opinion piece in today’s PG, Redefine Pittsburgh, where he uses the history of the evolution of the county executive and row office reform to make his case that we Pittsburghers can change. He tries to make that case because the Nordenberg report is (of course) going to recommend city-county merger, and he expects the usual city-county resistance to new ideas. This is a slow motion train wreck for the Mayor, who has recently tried to wriggle out from Act 47 status by virtue of a small surplus. Surpluses are nice, and even reasonably expected, since the two state boards have given the city additional taxing authority and some Commonwealth money. However, the Commonwealth really only gave us that money to delay the problem, until Rendell is out of office (so a new governor can suffer the embarrassment of the two largest cities in the Commonwealth going bankrupt , or hadn’t you heard about Philadephia?).

Anyway, the Mayor was last year sort of an advocate of City-County merger, a merger of two sister bureaucracies, until he figured out who the little sister would be. Now he would prefer to wait, certainly until after November, to address the issue. If the Mayor can win re-election by a reasonable margin, he may be in a better position to negotiate the terms of a city-county merger (all county trucks will now have “Mayor Luke Ravenstahl” on them). The funny thing is, I believe Mark DeSantis would be fine making the city-county merger the center of the election, as in who has the best policy for it. John Murray has turned into an early water carrier for DeSantis. I don’t know, but I suspect Chancellor Murray is a republican. Could this opinion piece in fact be a deliberate stealth salvo in the Mayor’s race?

Speaking of DeSantis, I really don’t get his objection to Ravenstahl’s name on these ditch digging kid’s t-shirts. While he was in Washington, Pittsburgher’s suffered through trash cans and brakeless garbage trucks reading variously “For Pete’s Sake” and “Sophie’s Choice” and “Pick up yer crap or Tom Murphy’s gonna come and beat yer face in” (it covered the whole trash can). Now, our arms akimbo boy mayor has come up with his own clever saying: “Mayor Luke Ravenstahl” … “Mayor Luke Ravenstahl” Hunh. No wonder he went to three schools.


Judge Rufus Peckham said...

Murray was selected by Gov. Rendell to serve on the Pittsburgh oversight board, and in the mid-90s by the two Democratic county commissioners to head up COMPAC 21. He ain't nobody's water carrier.

EdHeath said...

Well, I respect Chancellor Murray, but you know, Your Honor, the world don’t exist in a vacuum. Murray made his point, Judge, and none too subtly.

Judge Rufus Peckham said...

Tell you what: why not have the best anti-merger spokesperson you can find debate Dr. Murray on TV about it. See who wins that one.

EdHeath said...

Hey Judge, I'm not anti-merger. In fact, I *want* the whole thing, all the little municipalities and school districts rolled into one, more than even than Louisville has done. That’s what I would *like* to see, but I don’t think it’s gonna happen here.

Just because I’m pro-merger doesn’t mean I don’t see ulterior motives in someone else advocacy. Maybe the Chancellor intended his column at face value, a reminder to Pittsburghers that we are not set in stone, that we can and need to make changes. But I think his column was also a net plus for the DeSantis campaign. I don’t think that’s a bad thing, it’s just a thing I remarked on.

But, as to your challenge we could have the Mayor debate Chancellor Murray. The Chancellor would win on debating points and the Mayor would go ahead and do what he wants to do regardless.

Why would the debate have to be on TV? The internets, man, that where all the youngin’s are. All those tubes.