On the precipice of a boiling lake of lava.

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.

Other reading on the subject:  The Pittsburgh Comet, Slag Heap, Busman’s Holiday.


  1. Bojack
    January 5, 2010 10:47 am

    PS @ Simple-

    This is PA!!!
    Allegheny County!!!
    City of Pgh!!!

    The folks who fuck up a 2-car funeral!!!!

    The “shared” 911 service is a fiasco!!!
    They can’t get THAT right!!

    City of Pgh is in RECEIVERSHIP for God’s sake!!
    Do you even know what that means??????????

    They aren’t allowed to write a check!!!

    Your re-elected mayor wants to make a bookie interest payment by pawning the last tangible real assets city residents own!!!

    Where is the G20 $16 million payback???

    Who the F*** would would EVER partner with these idiots??
    And I include, no BLAME the moronic voting and non-voting city residents!!!!!

    You propose efficency by increased govt size???

    Go take a drug test!!

  2. Just A Simple Man
    January 5, 2010 3:33 pm

    @ bojack

    The problem which you have (not uncommon in this area and state)is you continue to play with the same cards. By you posts it seems you have resigned yourself that there is no alternative.
    I’m suggesting we get a new deck.

  3. Pingback: Holiday hell « Carpetbaggery

  4. beaner
    January 5, 2010 8:38 pm

    Sexy J: too funny

    Ginny: thanks for this blog. I was starting to wonder if I was the only outraged/disgusted/interested city resident…please keep up the good work…THANK YOU!!!

  5. Bojack
    January 6, 2010 6:00 am

    @ Simple- AKA “Mr ‘New’ Deck-

    How about this for a ‘new’ deck??

    Learn to READ!

    Do it (read!)

    Pay FUCKING attenton to who you are voting for!!!

    THEN VOTE!!!!

    How’s THAT for a novel, nouveau, “thinking out of the box” concept???

    A real 2(or more)-party system does a lot to promote accountability, that is if the lazy-ass reidents of the city who apparently don’t mind getting obbed on a quarterly basis gave shit, or cared what will be here for our kids!!!

  6. Just A Simple Man
    January 6, 2010 11:26 am

    @ bojack

    Take a pill dude.
    Who the hell pissed in your Cheerios?

    You have made a lot of assumptions about me that well, are so far off the mark I won’t even continue to discuss this with you.
    Maybe it’s your way of forcing an opinion on someone I don’t know. Won’t work here.

    By by….

  7. Bojack
    January 6, 2010 2:14 pm


    I don’t have to make ANY assumptions! I
    READ what you wrote!!

    “…alternatives…diff plan…new wave…” etc.

    What I am trying to POINT OUT is that we HAVE
    a perfectly good system- IF, and only IF, the yo-yo’s who get screwed (taxpayers, residents)
    would simply PAY ATTENTION to WHO they are voting for, what they have done in the past, whether they have any integrity…..

    ‘An honest politician is one who STAYS bought…” I digress….

    and even more fundamentally….after hopefully educating themselves on the issues and the personnel, and-


    You, as you stated, (no assumption here,) proposed creating one large Allegheny county-size city!!!

    What the F*** would THAT solve?????