Monday, September 28, 2009

Mayoral candidates respond to G-20 concerns

Posted By on Mon, Sep 28, 2009 at 1:41 PM

Let's see if I can post this before Bram does. It's a statement from mayoral candidate Kevin Acklin about how the city handled security during the G-20 summit ... and after. Among other things it reflects, I think, the politically dicey nature of this stuff. Those in the blogosphere who are predicting this will be a political disaster for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, in fact, ought to keep a couple points in mind. 

Even if the police DID overreact to security threats, even if they DID go overboard in their handling of protesters and students ... there are plenty of constituencies in town where that wouldn't exactly hurt the mayor. One of the areas where Acklin is running hardest, actulaly, is in the city's South Hills ... which more than a few cops call home. 

Besides, Luke Ravenstahl just held a press conference today defending the city's performance -- even boasting that the city had "sent a message" to out-of-town anarchists. In attendance, and showing support for the mayor, were luminaries like the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, the Allegheny Conference, and US Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan. More on this later.

UPDATE: The campaign of Dok Harris has also issued a statement prior to a press conference later in the week. Building off an earlier campaign gambit -- in which Harris launched a Web site for people to grouse about the dislocations caused by the G-20 -- the release argues that "Pittsburgh spent $18 million last week to protedt a ghost town, and then forgot about our neighborhoods. We spent $18 million to keep foreign dignitaris safe on our streets, but in a North Side neighborhood near where I grew up, a 5-year-old boy was murdered, sleeping in his own home ... We have to wonder what our leader's priorities are when this continues." 

Anyway, with that, Acklin's statement:

I would first like to thank all of the uniformed men and women who came to Pittsburgh last week to help keep us safe during the G-20 conference. I come from a family of public safety workers, and my brother, who is a state trooper, was among the thousands of police officers who came to Pittsburgh to provide security last week. I would also like to thank President Obama for showcasing our city. The positive attention that was brought to our city is an asset for us all, and I am hopeful that we can convert that attention into good-paying jobs for our workers.

In two areas, however, I have concerns about decisions that will have a lasting impact on our city's affairs. First, the decision to shut down the downtown business district was incredibly short-sighted. I spoke against this plan last week when it was first announced, and after speaking with Pittsburgh business leaders last week, over the weekend, and again today, I am convinced that the economic damage done to our local business community was both unfair and unnecessary. The G20 could have been an incredible opportunity for local small businesses and employees who are struggling in this economy, but effectively shuttering downtown only made matters worse for all of them. Those two (or three) days of lost income could, and should, have been avoided.

There have also been some questions raised about deployment, especially in Oakland, of the police force last week. I want to say unequivocally that our uniformed men and women performed admirably last week, and they have my full support. However, there is a growing concern in our community that leadership on Grant Street made some tactical decisions that were not conducive to protecting the public's safety.

If I were Mayor, I would launch a blue ribbon commission to audit all aspects of the city's performance during the G20, so that we may learn from this experience, and to make sure we are ready the next time Pittsburgh has a chance to step up on the world stage.


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