Sunday, March 29, 2009

Experience and the man

Matt Hogue likes to tell us that Mayor Ravenstahl has matured in the job, that he has more experience now and has benefited from it. I suspect Matt may be right. Early in the Mayor’s term, the stories the media was willing to print about him involved his interactions with celebrities and his acceptance of inappropriate gifts. But now the stories are about the Mayor’s use of campaign contributions to travel to the Super Bowl and for some meals during his trip to Europe, and how those contributors are getting lucrative contracts from the City. The Mayor has learned how business is done.

Ethics reform has resurfaced as an issue, as City Council turns its attention to it. But as far as the Mayor is concerned, that ship has sailed. Mind you, if someone offers the Mayor tickets to the Steelers, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind too much. But what the Mayor really wants is the cash as a contribution, which the Mayor can use to buy the tickets and shake a couple of hands at the game. Then it is all perfectly legal.

Campaign finance reform is also working its way through Council right now. The reform proposed by the Mayor and the County Executive would slow them down some on fund raising, but not by much. Of course the Mayor’s ace in the hole is his promise that if City and County Council’s final bills differ even a smidgen, the Mayor will again veto the bill. Even if the two Councils should find a way to agree, the Mayor could still veto their compromise bill if it differs from the original bill. Or because he feels like it. And the Mayor still likely has enough allies on Council that his veto would stand.

I’m hoping Pat Dowd won’t turn out to be Pittsburgh’s John Kerry. Still, we might all remember that though John Kerry was annoying at time, if elected in '04 he probably would have pushed for more regulation and oversight of the financial industry. In 2004 things weren’t so far gone that some cold water thrown on the housing finance industry and the credit default swap business would not have had a positive effect. We let that get away from us, because we were willing to believe Bush when he said that we needed him to keep us safe. Ravenstahl will say something similar, that we need a Democrat from the Bob O’Connor tradition, not some pointy headed professor type. But we get to make up our own mind what we need.

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