Sunday, September 02, 2007

November's coming....

As I mentioned peripherally in my last post, I met with Mark DeSantis last Saturday (sorry Mom). He does seem to know the issues, and we now know he can pick an interesting policy team, capable yet politically incorrect because so few of them live in the city. I am pretty eagerly awaiting policy output, which I assume I should be able to take from the campaign website.

We chatted about the impending doom of Pittsburgh, among other things. At one point, he stated that he thought the city might not be allowed to go bankrupt, which might be worse than going bankrupt. I remember saying that bankruptcy protection is essentially a private sector function, where you are given “official” shelter from your debtors in one form of bankruptcy or your assets are liquidated in another. I assume your debtors are allowed to write off bad debt, which then has tax implications, to give them a measure of relief (from your folly) as well. So using bankruptcy to describe what a city would go through is using the wrong word.

By the way, I was sent information on the city’s bonds, which I have yet to go through, but there is a report I am finding informative on the city website, the Controllers’ Annual Report. One of the pages lists the city’s debt, inclusive of Authorities, at one billion six. I do not believe that includes healthcare for current and retired employees.

It took a few days, but it occurred to me that one way to describe Mark DeSantis is as a supply-sider. If I’m right, I would say he comes by that inclination honestly, as a Pittsburgh businessman who advises other business people. He talked some about the various business taxes that are placing a heavy burden on starting or maintaining a business here. Some of those taxes were probably created in the Act 47 legislation, but that doesn’t make them an optimal solution for the long run. And in fact, encouraging the growth of for-profit business is probably the best long term solution for the city’s problems.

You can look at it in terms of incentives. Unionized for profit businesses are certainly not going to want to set up here. The taxes are high and the unions have been strong and know how to agi- negotiate. Non-unionized small business in fact might want to start up here because the low cost of living means you could sell over the internet at a bit less than New York prices and still make a profit. But those taxes kill you. Non-profit business have none of the business taxes and few of the unions, so they thrive here, consider Pittsburgh’s number one and two employers, UPMC and Pitt.

I said DeSantis is a businessman, but he is also a policy wonk of sorts (sorry Mark) with a doctorate in Public Policy. Another PhD ran for city council in the primary, fighting what was considered an uphill battle, and worked hard at it for a bit more than three months, knocking on doors. Pat Dowd squeaked by with 81 votes, in a district where four years prior Len Bodack had won with a plurality, less than a majority. Everybody being democrats in the primary, there was none of this five to one ratio to overcome.

Mark DeSantis has said he has been working at his other job, and feels he owes his investors and employees his hard work. Chris Schultz has mentioned here and there (couldn’t find a second link) around the Burghospree that DeSantis has been showing up at meet and greets. I hope it is a lot of meet and greets, and maybe it is. Dr. Dowd managed to knock on a lot of District 7’s doors while still teaching at Ellis, and I would match the schedule of a dedicated teacher against the schedule of a dedicated CEO. But it is easier to walk around and make meaningful contact with a council district than to cover an entire city, even one as shrunken as Pittsburgh.

If Jim Roddy can raise a lot of money for Mark DeSantis some TV air time can be bought. I think personally you can win an election with a good TV ad campaign, but the bar for how good is rising every day.


Schultz said...

Yes, DeSantis has a shot, but it is going to take more than TV ads like you said.

I expect a low turnout in November, due to this being a quiet election year and the bad taste Mayor Ravenstahl's behavior has left in the mouths of many city Democrats.

My prediction: the turnout will be low, 50,000 at best. From Weinroth's and the independents' performance in the 2005 general election I expect Mark DeSantis to get 20,000 votes right off the bat. The remaining 5001 votes he needs to win are up for grabs. DeSantis's performance in his campaigning and debates over these next two months will determine whether or not he can win over enough Democrats and independent voters to put him in office.

I've already heard a large number of Democrats say they will "sit at home" rather than vote for a Republican. That is fine - sitting at home is better than a vote for Luke!

EdHeath said...

It is possible that a convergence of factors could create that perfect storm. If the scandal that I keep hearing hints and rumors of breaks, if the Mayor is caught doing something clearly unethical, but not illegal, that might keep a lot of voters at home. But DeSantis needs to get himself out there, and particularly out into the African American business community, where he will show them he understands the issues they face. But I don't know if he will have time for more than TV ads.

Schultz said...


Are you referring to Ravenstahl and his crew's drunken golf outing up at Conneaut Lake? I heard something about that a couple weeks back. I'm still looking for someone to confirm the rumors.

Of course, knowing how out of control our mayor is, you could be referring to an entirely different scandal.


EdHeath said...

There were a couple of things on John Mcintire's MacYapper blog, including the Conneaut Lake thing. Since Mcintire broke the Halloween story of last year, he has more credibility than one might otherwise expect

Schultz said...

It's on. DeSantis was out at the Labor Day parade today. Although I didn't see him kissing any babies he was shaking a lot of hands.

Matt H said...

The McIntire halloween story was not correct.

EdHeath said...

Well, Matt, I don't know that I ever saw Mcintire's post, but apparently it had enough true elements for the Mayor to reveal more details about that night. If Mintire said the Mayor had been arrested, for example, that apparently has not proven to be the case. I don't know that the general public (including me) still knows all the details. Maybe someone on the cops or in a political office does know, but so far no one's talking. I do know that I am not comfortable taking the Mayor's version at face value.