Update: Darlene Harris was unexpectedly voted as council president when she was nominated by Bill Peduto. This is a compromise, and WOW! Impressive.
Oh, my God. Where do I begin. I don’t even know. This is madness that my brain is rejecting on every level.
Let’s just go chronologically, okay?
1. Several months ago, City Council passed the Prevailing Wage Bill, and they did it unanimously. Here’s what it is:
Approved was a bill saying that when $100,000 or more of city aid goes to a large-scale development, any hotel, grocery store, office maintenance and cafeteria workers in the development must earn a prevailing wage, reflecting the average paid to similar workers in the city.
2. However, the URA (led by The Dread Lord Zober) had problems with it and introduced what the Dread Lord called “common sense amendments.” Those amendments were rejected by council. Councilman Patrick Dowd had problems with the bill, and his amendments were rejected. In fact, his amendments were not even really heard because he couldn’t get a second motion when he wanted to introduce them to council. He says he was silenced. The Dread Lord agrees.
2. There is no public record of the Mayor himself indicating he would veto the bill. He indicated he didn’t foresee himself vetoing it or “being a strong advocate against it.”
3. New Year’s Eve, at about 3:45 p.m., after all council members had left and after Jim Motznik resigned to become a magistrate and after Tanya Payne had her last day as councilwoman, in other words, council as it passed the bill no longer existed, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl vetoed what should have been a non-veto-able bill.
4. Hearing this, council called an emergency meeting in the hopes of overriding the veto. Problem is, and this is where Lukey and Zober became chess masters, it required that council give 24-hours notice of special meetings, but in 24 hours, COUNCIL AS IT ONCE EXISTED WHEN IT PASSED THE BILL, NO LONGER EXISTS. Dowd and Burgess are having anniversary dinners with their wives when they get the calls. Dowd shows up and Burgess gets on the phone. Council then needs five votes to waive the 24-hour rule, but doesn’t get the votes and continues with the meeting anyway. Council then votes to override the veto, but both Burgess and Dowd indicate they are “not present,” with Dowd explaining that the meeting is not legal because of the 24-hours rule. Lacking a fifth vote, nothing happens, everyone goes home pissed at Lukey and many pissed at Patrick Dowd for not giving his vote.
5. I hear this all on New Year’s Eve and I am all, “WTF, LUKEY IS UP TO SHENANIGANS! EVIL EVIL-DOING SHENANIGANS!”
6. I spend the next several days emailing The Dread Lord Zober and Bill Peduto back and forth as well as getting lots of emails and tweets from all sides, everyone suddenly trying to convince me their side is the good side and the opposite side is run by Darth Maul and is so dark Satan would ask for a night light.
7. I suddenly remember why I don’t write about politics. I’ve heard of council members encouraging other council members not to give Dowd the second motion he needed in order to get his amendments heard. I’ve heard of council members trading votes and positions with Lukey in order to get the council president that Lukey wants in power, Teresa Smith. I’ve heard name-calling and accusations that I could never hope to prove or disprove.
Here’s all I can say for certain:
1. Lukey, perhaps under the pressure from various business leaders, had to find a way to kill this bill and the only way he could do it was to veto it in a way that would guarantee council couldn’t override his veto. Well played, Lukey, you devious chess-master.
2. Patrick Dowd has confused the hell out of me what with presenting amendments, then freaking out when he was “silenced” on those amendments, then taking an HOUR of council time to vote to individually TABLE every single one of his very own 15 or so amendments, then voting FOR the bill without his amendments, and then refusing to vote to override the veto. I am at a loss to explain any of that. Patrick Dowd indicates he will vote for Teresa Smith today, which is who Lukey wants to be Council President.
3. Bill Peduto is up for the presidency of Council, too, but he is shy by one vote. This is me, shaking my head at Patrick Dowd because Patrick Dowd + Bill Peduto > Luke Ravenstahl. The city would run better and be better if Lukey and the council president weren’t in cahoots with each other. That is called checks and balances and it’s a really swell thing.
5. I remember why I likened writing about politics to flinging myself into a volcano. I am never doing this again. You guys, I DON’T KNOW! You cannot really make a decision on this based simply on what the newspapers, the TV media, and blogs are telling you because there is SO MUCH happening behind the scenes and having only been recently given a small glimpse of it, I feel dirty and very very sad that there are people who profess to be politicians with the best interests of Pittsburgh at heart, but who are really politicians with their own agendas resting at the top of their hearts’ totem poles.
At least we can rest with this knowledge: regardless of what motivated Lukey to do what he did, regardless of the pros and cons of prevailing wage rules, regardless of which side really is the good side, and regardless of who becomes council president this morning, we, the people of Pittsburgh, are bigger than the Mayor and we are bigger than city council and we’ll be damned if we let either of them run us into the ground because at some point in time some of them lost sight of who they work for. Us. Or because at some point in time some of them forgot what they fight for. A better Pittsburgh.
Let them fight it out and call each other names. When it all calms down, we’ll still rise above it.