Sunday, November 04, 2007

I want to continue “refining” my case for Mark DeSantis over Luke Ravenstahl, though in fact what I want to talk about now may not put him in the light his supporters want to put him in.

Back on Wednesday I wrote that I didn’t want this to be an ABL (Anyone But Luke) race. Part of the reason that I didn’t want that is because of the way those races tend to go. If people think more about why they dislike a candidate than why the like the opponent, they seem to tend to invest the opponent with characteristics they favor. So I have read, here and there, about how Dr DeDantis is a progressive.

To be honest, I’m not sure what a progressive is. I think I have a pretty good handle on populists, and I used to think I knew what a conservative is, until the conservatives in this presidential administration (and Neocons) spent money like crazy (or like Keynesians), and invaded two countries. But I’m kind of stymied on what a progressive is. Is it a populist who ignores what the people say, but tries to help them anyway?

I know Bill Peduto is supposed to be a progressive, as is Michael Lamb. I don’t know much about either man except that Peduto is supposed to be the smart guy on council. Actually, Peduto might be trying to reposition himself as council’s elder statesman, now that Dowd is headed toward council. In any event, I don’t know about any specific piece of legislation Peduto produced, although I think I am supposed to be able to find out now. So at the moment, I am not sure what a Pittsburgh Progressive is supposed to be, although I can tell you, I don’t think Mark DeSantis is that guy.

I mean, in some sense, yeah. I don’t know if I credit the charge that the Mayor is philosophically or religiously opposed to contraception, although I wouldn’t be surprised if it were true. But regardless the Mayor’s public position is to be opposed to Gay Marriage, Civil Unions and to be Pro-Life. This puts DeSantis well to the left of the Mayor on these issues.

These guys are staking out nonsensical differences between them that in fact should not matter. As I have been saying, the residency requirement gets decided by state law, and while the support or opposition of a Mayor may have some impact on the legislature, the state still can, really, do what it wants. But I believe each candidate thinks they get something out of maintaining the illusion that their respective positions on residency makes a difference.

My feeling is that the really important differences are in their views on economic policy. In this area we don’t have as much as I would like to go on, really only speeches from the Mayor and an outline of a policy from Dr DeSantis. But that outline is, to my way of thinking, very instructive.

I think that a DeSantis administration would be a time of pain for the city. A cornerstone of his policy is a hiring freeze, and letting the positions of people who retire or leave stay open. Now, he also says he wants to put more police on the street by pulling them from behind desk duty. Apparently he intends to replace those uniformed police with civilian hires, so this hiring freeze isn’t absolute. But overall apparently we could expect to see city services decline, unless we get a bunch of retirees to volunteer to cover some services (until they die).

The combination of county and city services in Parks, Information Technology, Purchasing (if that hasn’t already been fully done), Law, Maintenance and Tax Collection as proposed by DeSantis is an intriguing idea. Besides eliminating either a city or county manager (except maybe in the Law Department), there are probably some economies of scale, where maybe two people can do the work previously done by three. Maybe. Certainly worth looking into. Because both city and county are currently hurting for money.

On the other hand, DeSantis has made it clear he would like to create a friendlier atmosphere for new startup small businesses, as well as for minority owned small businesses and businesses that can supply the city and county. The Mayor and the challenger talk about streamlining the process by which business permits come into and move through city hall. Of course, you can ask why the Mayor hasn’t done this already, since he is in office now (I believe he had claimed to have do it already, but now he talks bout doing it in the future).

The picture of DeSantis emerges, to me, not of a progressive but of an economic pragmatist. That’s definitely not the same thing, progressives look for ways to better serve voters and other citizens, while someone like Dr DeSants looks for ways to save money while keeping the current level of service. I don’t think DeSantis would oppose the idea of doing more with less, just that on a practical level usually the most you can expect is doing the same with less until someone goes on vacation.

All those bloggers and newspaper columnists and people interviewed in the paper who project their hopes and labels onto DeSantis need to stop and take another look. If, by some miracle of chance DeSantis does win, he may surprise some of his East End supporters. I’m here today to say, take another look.


Char said...

An Anybody-But-(Fill in the Blank)election is always a sad affair. But that's what we've got, Ed. Sometimes life is just like that.

I don't think many East End "progressives" are deluding themselves just to be able to cast a DeSantis vote without taking a shower afterwards. They rightfully understand that progressive agendas are moot agendas when applied to a economically dead/dying city. When offered as a little Band-Aid on a massive boil of corruption.

I don't need to take another look. I've seen quite enough of the young idiot's flaws, thank you.

My vote is for DeSantis. My expectation? That there will not be "business as usual".

EdHeath said...

Of course that is what we have now. I guess mostly I am heading off the "why didn't you say anything?"'s. I think some people are deluding themselves about DeSantis, but some people may also be relatively pleased if he wins.
I am still assuming DeSantis won't win, but it well be quite close. I don't know if Nate Harper was sending the African American community a message when he said (in the Trib) that he rarely meets with the Mayor, but that may peel some votes off. The nice thing about a secret ballot is that some votes intended as a protest could tip the election.

Char said...

A couple of other "nice" things (for DeSantis) about a secret ballot:

- City workers who'd like to move out of the city but wouldn't dare say so in public. Or at home around their neighborhood ward chair. Or at work.

- Any city worker who has the brains to be concerned about state of the pension fund.

Harper may very well have been sending the Black community a message. And that's after the HUGE message deliverd by the Courier.

Like you, I still think Luke will probably win. But I do believe in miracles. And I keep getting goose bumps lately like one is about to blow in.