Monday, November 21, 2005

Burying Caesar

An interesting article in the Trib, here on O'Connor's silence about the top post in his administration.

OK, so the article isn't that exciting, but this quote was:

"It's an experience that I don't think any of the rest of us had," [David] Donahoe [former aid to Mayor Richard Caliguiri] said. "We were in much more control. I mean, if we wanted to adjust tax rates, we did it. Now you can't do it -- no one will do it -- and you've got oversight. If the mayor said we were going to save the Pirates, that's what we did. There wasn't a question."
Donahoe is right; that era is over.

We're currently entering a new age in Pittsburgh politics, in my opinion, ending the Strong Mayor period. We'll never see the likes of a David Lawrence, a Pete Flaherty, a Dick Caliguiri, or, dare I say, it a Tom Murphy. At least through the next few years, we're going to see a weaker form of Mayoral governance for a variety of reasons:

(1) The overall decline of center Cities in general;
(2) The decline of Pittsburgh in relation to the suburbs;
(3) The fiscal crisis (the proximate cause) and the related apparatii; and
(4) The decline of the Democratic political machine.

These are systemic factors, with their roots in both local and national politics and policies.

The absense of these factors allows for:
(1) Federal & State money being sent to Metropolitan areas;
(2) Federal & State money being sent to Pittsburgh over the suburbs;
(3) Unlimited (or nearly so) spending;
(4) Patronage and credit claiming for projects at all levels.

A Strong Mayor can get shit done, but can only do so if s/he has access to money, people, and power. That is no longer the case. The Mayor will now find himself bound to at least 2 oversight boards, and by extension the Governors and Legislatures, and more so to Council.

Without a strong mayor, I predict that we will see an increase in consensus and coalition building. More people will be trying to share power; fewer big things will get done. Collaboration has its own perils; as I'm fond of saying, Rome didn't conquer the world by holding meetings, it did it by slaughtering all that opposed them.

Like Murphy or not, he's left an indelible mark on this city, both in buildings and in our pocketbooks; it is unlikely that O'Connor and his successors will rise to the same level.

Of course, that may not be a bad thing.

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