Saturday, February 16, 2008

Mayor's Office Scenario II

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.


Bram Reichbaum said...

This theory has it's own internal consistency, O, but I think this one is funamentally all wet.

I don't think our Mayor is desperate for "accomplishments" to finish; he's always okay making good progress. I think that between money, politicking and a simple message (neighborhoods, optimism, future!) the Mayor doesn't really see a way he can lose.

I think he DOES want to finish all these projects -- the necessary ones and the optional ones -- for their own sake. More pyramids, you know. Let's get stuff built! As far as "ramming policy forward", I think even that is geared toward that end -- make it easier to exert his will on the physical landscape.

If you stare at a picture long enough and let you're eyes go blank, you're bound to see a boat or a dragon or something. I think what we're dealing with here is more like a Borges or even a Dali. It certainly helps to understand the symbolism, but the impression one gets from the imagery speaks for itself.

EdHeath said...

I don’t know exactly what the Mayor is thinking, but I think he is living in fantasy Pittsburgh, where he has unlimited money and power, and no one can restrict his actions. The city is still in Act 47 status, and anyone with any sense would be angling to start another five year plan, this one with provisions to reduce our debt and unfunded pension obligations. Instead the Mayor and Council are talking about exiting Act 47 status. This lack of sense will not go over well in a couple of years when the city is again downing in red ink. I think the lack of a capital budget will only hasten budget shortfalls. City Council being cut off from information will only conceal things for a short period of time, perhaps just long enough for some felony fraud to occur.

O said...

I don't think we're necessarily disagreeing, Bram: Mayor needs widgets... in the same way, I suppose, that Mars needs Women.

And to Ed's point, budgets are the hobgoblins of little minds. I mean, COME ON!

Speaking of which, I understand there's an Arrested Development movie coming out.

EdHeath said...

I believe that is actually a foolish consistency. As opposed to a wise consistency.
Budgets, and our unwillingness to live within them (perhaps at the risk of losing a sports team or two) are the reason we are in Act 47, and are likely to stay there for some time to come.
Come on.

Bram Reichbaum said...

Gob Bluth always reminded me of Dan Onorato.