Thursday, March 24, 2005

Thursday Mayoral Discussion

I'm going to pause from my Federalist screeds for awhile and offer my opinion on the Pittsburgh Mayoral Race. (Democratic primary only. Sorry Joe.)

There is one mayoral candidate that holds full sway over the race. He has crystallized the issues and he has set himself up as the standard against which the other candidates are to be judged. His opinions are well known and, while many disagree with him, he has shown an ability to push his agenda. He has offered a broad vision for the City of Pittsburgh which the other candidates have reacted against. His specter dominates the other candidates.

He is Tom Murphy. He is the man the other candidates are trying to beat in this election, and here's why:

This campaign season quickly descended into two major themes. The first is the "Whatever we've been doing, we've been doing it wrong and I, the other candidate, can do it better" theme. For example, look at the words that they've chosen: "New Leadership," "Wrong Track," "New Pittsburgh," etc. Major criticisms have been leveled against certain mayoral pet projects and certain policy decisions, some, all or none of which may be warranted, given the situation. All the candidates have chosen to say that the current mayor is wrong in his choices and that, as Mayor, they would have chosen differently. The result is a comical round of shadow boxing, with the shadow determining the course of the fight.

The other theme, a closely related corollary to the first, is summarized as "Hey, I'm 'hip'. I'm 'cool'." (with the implication that the current mayor is neither). The most evident example of this is the out doing of O'Connor's Trolleys by Lamb's Trains. 'Cool' is supposed to be equated with 'progressive' which is supposed to attract 'young people' which is itself supposed to be 'good'. Everyone is trying to be cool, 'cept Peduto who honestly believes himself to be the epitome of coolness in Pittsburgh Politics... which is kinda like being the top kickboxer in Belgium.

But I digress.

'Cool' is supposed to be the antipode to the Murphy policies.

In any event, the formulation is clear:

Tom Murphy was wrong; Tom Murphy was uncool.

Candidate X opposes Tom Murphy; Candidate X is cool.
Candidate X is more opposed to Tom Murphy and more cool than Candidate Y.

Therefore, vote for Candidate X over Candidate Y.
The irony, of course, is that here Murphy has pretty much set the agenda for his potential successors and their campaigns. They are rhetorically chained to opposing his previous string of decisions and the winner will be chained to the political and governmental realities that Murphy created.

Real progress in solving the problems facing Pittsburgh is going to come from neither Anti-Murphy nor reductio ad cool systems of policies. The real pressing problems facing Pittsburgh (population decline, eroding of tax base, continual loss of employment, increase of crime, decrease of educational quality, environmental degradation, etc.) cannot be solved by the Mayor of Pittsburgh alone. A combination of local, regional, state, and national strategies, both public and private, are needed to truly remedy the City of Pittsburgh. The next mayor, whoever that may be, is going to find himself able to control only a small chunk of the strategy and will have to beg, borrow, and steal in order to get what he wants from the other players.

The City has been in trouble for a long time, longer than this mayor or his predecessor or her predecessor can take full responsibility for. I would wager that if Murphy had done exactly the opposite of what he did do, the City would still be in trouble... only different trouble... and the current candidates would still be running against his policies.

Bob O'Connor, Michael Lamb, Bill Peduto, Louis Kendrick, Les Ludwig, Daniel F. Repovz and Gary W. Henderson are all still running for Mayor. Tom Murphy is not.

But in 4 years we'll be hearing the same thing against the new guy...

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