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Friday, January 8, 2010

Ravenstahl strikes a different tone on prevailing wage bill (UPDATED)

Posted By on Fri, Jan 8, 2010 at 3:08 PM

As has been reported elsewhere, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl is proposing his own prevailing wage legislation, after vetoing a measure council passed late last year. At first blush, Ravenstahl's measure appears to be a dramatically scaled-back version of what council voted on: For example, it would put prevailing wages in limbo until they were passed at the county level too. 

(UPDATED: A copy of the bill can be viewed here. The measure is broadly similar to amendments proposed last year by Patrick Dowd. It basically rules out any subsidies provided by authorities -- through which the vast majority of government support is channeled. It limits the prevailing-wage requirement to 10 years or the duration of the subsidy. It exempts any spending on infrastructre in the public right-of-way. Gabe Morgan, the SEIU's director in the Pittsburgh area, tells me that his union can't identify a single worker the mayor's bill would actually cover. "It's not easy to write a prevailing wage bill that doesn't apply to any workers," Morgan says. "But the mayor may have done it.") 

None of that is very surprising, I guess: Ravenstahl took a similar tack on campaign-finance reform this time last year, insisting city and county rules be exactly the same. 

What is a bit more striking is an e-mailed note Ravenstahl sent this afternoon to City Councilor William Peduto, cc'ed to all members of council and other city officials. Peduto chairs the law and finance committee, and has been a strong proponent of the legislation.

The note reads as follows:

As the chair of the Law and Finance committee I wanted to reach out to you to request a meeting to discuss the prevailing wage legislation. As promised in my veto letter, today I introduced a bill. I anticipate that Council will do the same on Tuesday. It is my hope that these bills will not be viewed as "competing" bills. Rather, let them be starting points for us to sit down and develop the best possible bill we can for our City and the workers that are employed in it. In addition, because this discussion is so important to our City's future I respectfully request that we dedicate the necessary time to achieve our objective. This time should include plenty of public discussion and discourse in the form of public hearings, post-agendas, etc. If you have any questions please let me know. Please contact Missy with a time you're available to meet. I am optimistic that this legislation can be a great example of us working together, Council and Mayor's office, to develop good policy. There is little doubt we'll have our disagreements, but nothing that we can't overcome. I am committed to this effort.

Is this a sincere effort to try to get beyond the bitter recriminations surrounding the New Year's Eve veto? A recognition that Peduto, having scored at least a partial victory in the council presidency donnybrook, can't be ignored? Could Ravenstahl be trying to meet Peduto halfway, in hopes of creating a better working relationship? Or is it merely the opening gambit of yet another attempt to bury the measure?

We'll find out in the weeks ahead. (ADDED: But here's the text of Peduto's reply)

Mayor:

Good to hear from you – congratulations and happy New Year. I appreciate your willingness to meet and discuss the Prevailing Wage Law for Publicly Subsidized Private Development. As you know, Council devoted much time during the final 6 weeks of last year doing just that – we sure could have used your involvement or even your opinion back then. But, this is a new year and certainly there are still opportunities to provide a better attempt at dialogue this year.

A couple or rules that I believe need to be addressed with your legislation. As you are aware, all legislation from the Administration much be received by the Clerk no later than 12 noon on Friday. LJW has stated that she did not receive this bill until later this afternoon. I spoke with President Harris and she has confirmed this. If your intent is to have your legislation introduced on Monday, it will require a Councilmember’s sponsorship.

Also, although the sponsoring Councilmember(s) will appear on the legislation, the bill should be introduced through either Councilmember Shield’s committee (Land Use and Economic Development) or mine (Law and Finance). Once you have the sponsors, I will NOT pocket-veto your (and the Councilmember’s) legislation – I am adamantly opposed to pocket vetoes or other attempts to thwart democracy.

Once you we have a bill that is legally able to be introduced on Tuesday, we can then begin to have an earnest discussion on this bill. I look forward to sitting down and meeting – it’s been a few months and we certainly have much, much more to talk about.

Be well,

B.

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