Saturday, February 05, 2005

Who Wants to be Mayor of Pittsburgh?

Despite their snarky attitude, The Pittsburgh City Paper sometimes does some passable journalism. Their latest Cover Story on "Why Anyone Would Want to be Mayor of Pittsburgh," is worth a look.

Among the solutions that they seem to throw out are (1) merging City-County Functions, (2) elimination or merger of Several of the quasi governmental Authorities, (3) sale of City/Authority assets, (4) cost containment, (5) development of more efficient managerial system, and (6) deferral of maintenance / beautification projects. Unfortunately, the feature doesn't address some of the very real lingering problems of the city (some of which are discussed here), which are more of a bind on the operations of the city than anything else.

The big problem for the office of the mayor, and one that the article doesn't really give enough time to, is that so many of these items listed above are outside of the control of the mayor. Beyond the ICA or the Act 47 Committee, the mayor will need buy in from Council, the County Executive, County Council, Authority Boards, the Governor, and the State Legislature. Some of the more extreme ideas will event require calling a Constitutional Convention for the State (hardly a power of the Mayor of Pittsburgh).

The Problems of the City of Pittsburgh cannot be solved by any of the above... they may be delayed, deferred, withheld, or avoided, but given the current state of the City, County, Region, and State, the Problems will return eventually.

So if the mayor is virtually impotent, this leads me to the question that every Pittsburgh voter should be asking every candidate when they start given their stump speech about the problems of the City of Pittsburgh and how we're going in the wrong direction.

It's a simple question, and you'll kick yourself for not asking it sooner.

Here it is:

"Yeah, so what?"

Simple huh?

Listening to the candidates, as I am wont to do, one hears then rattle off a litany of complaints and then promises to fix them all.

"Yeah, so what?" a snarky voice yells out from the back row.

"We cannot continue this way."

"Yeah, so what?" the snarky voice grows louder.

"We need to attract more dynamic creative talent to this City."

"Yeah, so what?" the snarky voice becomes a snarky chorus.

"We need to create greater synergy."

"Yeah, so what?" the snarky chorus chants in unison.

And so on...

The attitude of Yeah, so what? presses candidates to present real, workable solutions to problems that are effecting us all. We cannot accept empty phrases as answers and must not be swayed by political acumen. We cannot smile nicely and vote blindly as a candidate promises things out of his power. The candidate's rhetoric is cheap and I fear that the solution to the problems will cost us so much more.

So, perhaps a little snarky attitude is OK, but let's take a good look at what the problems are first, recognize what the mayor will actually be able to do, and plan a strategy, and not just toss out cheap platitudes and unattainable goals.

Frankly, anyone who wants this job of mayor obviously doesn't understand the amount of work needed to overcome these problems. No sane person should ever want to run for mayor...which explains, I suppose, the current slate.

And why those who should run only drive cabs, cut hair, or write blogs.

"Yeah, so what?"
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