Thursday, July 24, 2008

The City Paper - "Motion Sickness" (heh)

There was an article in this week’s City Paper on the City Council (Charlie Deitch). Not surprisingly a lot of it had to do with Pat Dowd. He has become well known to Council watchers as some one who is argues the technical merits of issues, any nad perhaps all issues, without really being concerned about who he is arguing with. Away from the Council table he seems to think this is OK:

“There was a time that you knew these five were with the mayor and these four weren't," Dowd says. "You don't have that now, and I think that's pretty important. I don't see the middle as a bad place. I see it as a way of being reasonable and considered, deliberate and open-minded, and not ideological and locked into a way of thinking.

"When is the last time that you were able to sit in a city-council meeting and honestly not know which way the votes were going to go? I think it's great for the process."

But Pat Dowd has accused fellow Council persons of “dirty politics” and “dishonesty”. He is raising his voice (so I am told), showing his passion for his position. But that could be viewed as contempt for someone else’s position, maybe everyone else's position. He appears to be burning bridges, getting a reputation not as an independent thinker but as a contrarian.

Look, I am the last person to disagree with the idea that each issue should be viewed on its merits. I think that each issue should have at least some discussion, possibly an argument, as long as all sides agree to be civil and logical. If your position is based on fact, if you can advocate the logic of your position thoughtfully and persuasively, then you should win supporters. After all, City Council is a place where you have the time and resources to lay out your case (the "Twelve Angry Men" fantasy).

But Council persons are political animals. Their voters may believe that their street should be paved or their local police station should be re-opened or what have you. If you always vote against the Council representative from the West End (for example) when he proposes these things, after a while (s)he is going to take it personally, and start voting against you reflexively, no matter how logical your position. So you need to cultivate allies, especially on a closely divided Council. Ideological purity is nice and all, but tough to explain to voters. Even tougher when City Council seems bogged down in minutia, when the City plunges further into debt and the pension funds fall further behind.

There is no shame in saying “I disagree with Mr. Shields, Mr. Burgess, Mr. Kraus and Mr. Peduto on this specific point, but I understand and agree with their larger intention, so I will vote with them.”. People may say you sold out, but they will understand why. And most will probably agree with you.

There is a District 7 town hall meeting tonight. I plan to attend to see what Dr Dowd has to say. This means I will miss the CityLive event, “Transportation Solutions for Our Region” tonight on the North Side (Hazlett Theatre). I hope someone asks about the price of diesel fuel and what PAT is doing about getting funding to cover it. And I hope someone suggests lowering fares and increasing routes. People need reasons to get out of their cars and get on the bus. The price of gas has gotten many people there (although it is now showing signs of falling due to demand, the right result but the wrong incentive). But others are only three quarters or halfway there. For the sake of our country and the future of the world, we each need to do what we can (says the guy who drove into work today: hey, at least my last tank-full was at 34 mpg, and I plan to ride in tomorrow. Gotta get home tonight for the Town Hall).

1 comment:

Bram Reichbaum said...

I'll be at the transportation event tonight; I'll do what I can to relay your concerns. I'd be very curious to see if the drama outlined in the City Paper cover story gets an airing at the town hall tonight.

I was watching a previous one in Councilwoman Payne's district on the City Channel -- one gruff individual got up and asked, "First of all, why are we still paying Pat Ford his salary, and second of all, I think we should start using Community Benefits Agreements, because from some 'things I've been reading' it seems like they're the way to go." I could have kissed him.