Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Mayoral Debate on Neighborhood Development (Part III)

A LONG TIME AGO IN A THEATER IN EAST LIBERTY: Part III of the Mayoral Debate on Neighborhood Redevelopment. For those of you that like pain and suffering: Part I is here and Part II is here

Question 5: Lightning Round.

Question: Why should voters of any age vote for you?
Answer: Trust me, I’m uncorrupted.

Question: With your contacts to certain powerful developers, how do you assure CDCs that their interests will be represented?
Answer: Look at my record. Otherwise, give me a call.

Question: How do you tackle the debt problem?
Answer: If you vote for a black mayor, the Republicans will gladly support me.

Question: How much money can you expect to raise from corporate sponsorship and how do you do it without selling out?
Answer: Public art must be of high quality. [Later added "$20 Million"]

Question: Given your land acquisition plan, how do you ensure that properties are sold to respectable owners?

Answer: First participants in this program will be CDCs or adjacent property owners for sideyard purposes.

Question: Given the City’s financial crisis, how can you justify your City funded Blackberry Account?
Answer: Uncircumcised Microphone… I have a record of living below my budget means, but in any case, the Blackberry makes City Officials more productive.

Kendrick: (0) – Very entertaining, but logically ridiculous.
Ludwig: (-) – Logically incomprehensible.
Lamb: (+) – Well thought out response; again, he’s being coached well.
Peduto: (?) – Seriously, Uncircumcised Microphone. Good answer on the Blackberry, though.
Repovz: (-) – Why should we trust someone we don’t know?
O'Connor: (+) – Bob lays the smackdown.

Closing Statements: Describe Overall Approach to Neighborhood Development. [I’ve shortened it to a few words, for brevity’s sake.]

O'Connor: Provide Leadership & management, addressing quality of life issues, and professionalizing City services. (+)

Kendrick: Addressing Societal ills as a first step. (+)

Ludwig: City needs tolerance above all else. Then Les goes on to beat up on the other candidates, in violation of the rules of the debate. Penalty flag. Fifteen yards and loss of time. (Disqualification)

Lamb: Innovation & New Technologies; City/County Cooperation and Consolidation. (+)

Peduto: Structural Changes; Changes in Budget Process. (0)

Repovz: Lower the Crime Rate by providing more police and social services. (0)

Analysis Those of you that weren’t there missed Les Ludwig lean into Lamb by charging that if the position of elected Prothonatory is eliminated, Mike will still keep his job as appointed Prothonatory and his salary will go up by $30K. Les then went on to start accusing Peduto of hypocrisy, I believe, for opposing TIFs, except for the much touted Baum-Centre Corridor. Les was shut down by the moderators for that.

Peduto’s low score on this one is largely due to the amount of time that he spent on his zero-lined budget proposal, rather than talking about Neighborhood Development. While this approach to budgeting is interesting, it seemed very out of place.

Hop and Repovz talked about the need to reduce crime. Unfortunately for Repovz, Hop went first and said that social services are the answer, not more police. It was one of the more genuine moments in the debate where Hop related his philosophy of “poor being a state of mind.” Unfortunately, Dan Repovz had to follow that sentiment by saying that we need more police… and social services, almost as an after thought.

O’Connor and Lamb both stuck to their script.

Commentary and Final Ranking :

Generally, I was impressed by Michael Lamb; he seemed to have been well briefed by his campaign. I am still under the impression that he’s getting some damned good advice from someone at a CDC. Bill Peduto sounded pretty flakey, without a real nuts & bolts plan of action, and seemed to rely on a nebulous “holistic” approach to neighborhood development, short on specifics. Bob O’Connor stuck to his guns, passing himself off as the chief advocate of the City, hoping to capitalize on his personal relationships with the various funders in the region. The others seemed out of their league, confused, on drugs, or all three.

More specifically, however, 50% of my concerns relayed here were discussed in some fashion, with the exception of Storm/Sewer Separation, Parking Tax, and Asbestos Remediation.

The view on taxes seemed to be a bit simplistic all around, focusing not on the tax rate, but on the mechanics of tax collection. The point was raised that the County Treasurer collections 90% of his taxes, while the City does a substantially worse job. Not mentioned, however, is that County taxes are 43% of the City Taxes (4.690 mills versus 10.80 mills), and would be easier to pay.

CDBG funding was discussed, and Bob is right: begging and pleading is going to be the way to solve this problem.

In general, Construction Costs vs. Prevailing Market Prices was discussed, but always in the background. Questions were more tailored towards how to get money in order to alleviate this problem.
As a Bureaucrat, I was dismayed by the lack of understanding the candidates had with the intricacies of City government and its Authorities and Agencies. I would have hoped that they were more familiar with the City that they were expecting to lead.

Nothing Earth shattering, though. Mostly, this was an appeal to some powerful interests on the ground who can help through some votes around in the waning days of the campaign. It was clear from the smirks and the chuckles around me which groups were supporting which candidate. It was further clear that there are some significant fissures in the Economic Development Community in the City of Pittsburgh, and at least three of the Candidates were attempting to rally their base.

Final Ranking :

1st Place: Michael Lamb
2nd Place: Bob O’Connor
3rd Place: Louis “Hop” Kendrick and Bill Peduto [Tie]
5th Place: Dan Repovz
Disqualified: Les Ludwig [Red Card, 93rd minute]

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