So, I went back and thought again about my assertion that the Mayor's Office is methodically and actively trying to appear more competent than it really is by restricting the flow of information. I still think that analysis holds water, but I've come up with a different, competing theory that would also explain the, seemingly, irrational behavior we're seeing at 414 Grant Street.
[I must say that this all came to me the other night, as I was talking about economic development with a very bright colleague and former schoolmate, in a way that one of those "Magic Eye" pictures resolve themselves suddenly into a boat.]
Let's start with a few axioms here that I've kind of hinted at elsewhere on this site:
(1) All politicians want to be re-elected.
(2) Luke only has a two year term before he has to face the voters again.
(3) There are only certain things in his purview (land use policy being the most obvious example) that the Mayor can have swift, decisive control over.
With those axioms in mind, it becomes readily apparent why the Mayor's Office seems to be not only controlling information, but trying to push things ahead fast (e.g. Casino and Arena) and trying to circumvent the normal, established procedures.
Simply put: the Mayor needs to have a whole bunch of "wins" under his belt before he faces the voters again in 2009. It doesn't really matter if the policies or programs are *good* or *bad* just that they are *done*, and can be used as evidence that Luke is a "can do, take charge kinda guy."
The quote by the Mayor in the Trib about the appeal to Commonwealth Court by One Hill regarding the Arena (h/t Bram) is very telling:
"I think it's unfortunate, and I don't necessarily think it's productive," Ravenstahl said. "I'm not sure what they feel their actions will achieve. To me it was something that wasn't necessary. I think the planning commission acted appropriately, and I believe the court will find the same."If you read carefully, you'll see he's not talking about the effectiveness of the plan, but rather the efficiency in getting the plan in place.
The problem, of course, is that good policy rarely comes out of such a narrow view. Good policy directions for the City will have to be broad and far reaching, lasting over the course of many Mayoral administrations. The short term, narrow goal of re-election is not going to result in good policy decisions... which is bad news for the residents of the City.
[Personally, I think that the new agreement with City Council is just a preemptive move by the Mayor to define objectives, thereby narrowing the scope of what a "win" means.]
So, while I still think that the Mayor's office is trying to hide everything, I will also concede that there is an interest in trying to ram policy forward before the next election.
One does not necessarily preclude the other.