You know, if local politicians had as much ability as national level politicians, they would be national level politicians. That’s actually not fair, but tonight’s debate between Ravenstahl and DeSantis did not rise to the level of Bush and Gore or Bush and Kerry (which are themselves not terribly high bars to set). The thing to remember about Ravenstahl and DeSantis is that actually they are both relative political newcomers. DeSantis is smart enough, but naive enough to think voters should not be manipulated. He also has very little experience that I know speaking before audiences, and thinking on his feet in that format. Ravenstahl simply needs more seasoning.
So some short takes on the debate. Ravenstahl simply refused to answer Bob Mayo’s question about how his five plan goes into deficit in four years. He blathered about how his budgets are balanced, and how the ICA signed off on his budget. Someone should have asked if he understands the implications of Jane Orie cancelling their meeting in Harrisburg last week and the connection to the ICA signing off on his five year plan (ie, the state is happy for Pittsburgh to fail). Actually, Bob Mayo asked his question again, and Ravenstahl ran his pay as you go spiel, and claimed that in 2017 debt will go down by $50 million. That’s fine, if we get there intact. Ravenstahl also stated out loud that the state is responsible for fixing the $500 million pension shortfall. Of course, since the state wouldn’t let the city freeze the parking tax, what makes Ravenstahl think it will come through on pensions?
DeSantis didn’t say anything about his spending cut proposal (that I heard, anyway). That’s probably a good thing, as I don’t think that will sell well around here.
The Mayor dodged the ethics issue pretty completely. The problem with ethics is that the issue here is subtle and complex enough to make it almost impossible to deal with in a debate format. I wish a paper would devote a single article to it, but that would be the end of that paper's relationship with Grant street. Not that the Mayor has done, as far as I am aware, anything strictly unethical, but that is the area where his actions most closely resemble those of George W Bush's. Desantis proposal of an ethics compliance officer is fine, a gimmick, but his response about not accepting a gift as Mayor shows he hasn't devoted enough thought to the complexity of the issue (as it stands now in Picksburgh).
The debate was pretty boring, neither man hit a home run, or even much of a single.