There’s a weird race to a bottom between two news services I look at. Yesterday evening KDKA reported that when the four intelligence unit SUV’s arrived last March, Chief Nate Harper immediately thought of the Mayor. Sergeant Wallace apparently started protesting immediately. Although KDKA does not say so, we can assume the protests only got as far as the Chief’s office, since the Chief apparently was the one who put the Mayor together with an SUV. Only in August did Sergeant Wallace go over the Chief’s head to Public Safety Director Michael Huss (and was reprimanded).
Tangentially, I wonder if Nate Harper is becoming the designated administration fall guy. The Mayor reprimanded him in the hiring thing, and now he is being volunteered as the person who was informed that the Mayor was breaking the rules and let it happen anyway. Will he be offered up to the US Attorney as the rule breaker?
Today the PG reports that Mayoral Chief of Staff Yaronne Zober witnessed the signing of a federal grant with Homeland Security, in April of 2006 (the PG sees KDKA’s last March and raises them April 2006). In witnessing the signing is implied the idea that Mr. Zober understood the rules for use. And Mr. Zober has ridden in the SUV, to Harrisburg and to DC. The PG lists the grant Mr Zober witnessed as around 60 grand. For four SUV’s? Sure. The PG also complains that the Mayor’s administration won’t let them look at the grant. The PG uses the phrase “citing national security” in the title of their story, but the quote from the Mayor’s office reads: “"The City of Pittsburgh cannot release them, they are 'Official Use Only: Sensitive Homeland Security Information,'" mayoral spokeswoman Alecia Sirk wrote in an e-mail response to questions.” Interestingly, the FOP continues to volunteer how this could endanger the grant. They have been very visible on this particular story, aggressively complaining about how the grant is being endangered by the Mayor's behavior, and commenting about how the chain of command leads to the Mayor.
It should have been common sense, I would have thought, whether to use that SUV. If there is a chance people will find out, you should *not* use something bought with federal money. I have to think if the Mayor was older, he might have wondered how the financially distressed city bought four SUV’s. If he did ask, and he may have done, he should have maybe wondered, and asked, are there any restrictions on using this vehicle?
There is also the issue of humility. The Mayor has many chances to set an example. He could ask for the city to buy a Ford Escape Hybrid, as Senator Dick Durbin has bought for himself, to set an example. He could have requested a different *car* from the city motorpool. I don’t know if the Mayor was being relentlessly practical about the larger passenger capacity of an SUV, but he could think about different considerations as well.