Friday, January 01, 2010

Prevailing Winds

Honestly, it says something about City Council that they were caught off guard and sniped by the Mayor's Office at the last minute:

A proposed new development rule that had seemed well on its way into the city of Pittsburgh's code book was surprisingly derailed yesterday by a mayoral veto.

Some City Council members made a last-minute effort last night to override the veto, but the attempt fell one vote short of the six votes needed for an override...

Mr. Ravenstahl had said long before the vote that he did not "anticipate being a strong advocate against it." But at 3:54 p.m., his office sent over a veto message saying that the piece "has too many vague and ambiguous terms, needs additional input from the entire community, and, most importantly, has the potential to hurt Pittsburgh."

Because the veto came about eight hours before the end of the two-year council session, there was no way, under the city code, for the body to meet to vote to override. Special meetings can be called only with 24 hours notice.
Not having heard that the legislation had been signed as of yesterday when Jim Motznik resigned, I assumed that Luke was getting pressure from forces both inside and outside City government and was going to pull out the veto pen. Frankly, I was surprised that the Mayor sent over the veto message as early as 3:54 p.m. I can only assume that City Clerk Linda Johnson-Wasler was going home at 4, otherwise I would have expected the Mayor to wait until after Council was already (let's say) "filled with holiday cheer" at around 8 PM and completely unable to call any type of sensible meeting.

Although, I must say that the progress of this bill itself has been unusual all around: a major piece of legislation introduced after November elections with two lame-duck members, Council reluctantly giving it a public hearing, a domineering Council President railroading the bill through, infighting between council supporters of the bill, a reluctance by Council Members to hear possible side effects of the legislation, and a local union twisting thumb screws behind closed doors. Folks can call what the Mayor did "a blatant abuse of power," but something about how this bill came about does not sit easy in my stomach.

(That may be last night's mixture of pork, sauerkraut and champagne, however, which has been known to cause similar gastrointestinal... uh... issues.)

Now, personally, I don't think that this legislation is particularly well thought out to begin with and I don't believe that our elected officials have any clue as to what the bill will actually do to the City. Council is not known for thinking deeply about unintended consequences (or being intellectually curious at all for that matter), but I would recommend to them that they take this opportunity to have a real, in-depth analysis of what the consequences of this bill might be and then bring it back to the table. There may be ways that the City can effect the same desired outcomes which have not been considered by Council.

I mean, they don't want to be caught off guard again, right?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What are the chances of over riding a veto now on Council with four members and a Mayor agreeing to work together a bit more to actually focus on the City? I bet he will veto PW every time and every time thert four will stand by him until it is right. Did any one actually think about all of this yesterday?