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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lamb: not sheerly running for controller?

Posted By on Wed, Mar 9, 2011 at 1:41 PM

This will be the first of a handful of posts stemming from the political forum City Paper helped out with this past weekend. I'm making the somewhat counterintuitive choice to start with a race that is uncontested: city controller Michael Lamb's reelection bid.

I'm doing it for two reasons. First, as we've noted before, so much of this year's elections are really about Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, and a referendum on the job he's doing -- and that's exactly what Lamb ended up talkign about. And second, the fact that this race has only one entrant made it really easy to transcribe the highlights.

Lamb spoke for a bit under 10 minutes, and most of his early remarks were responding to a question about city pensions from fellow moderator Jeanne Clark. But at around the five-minute mark, Lamb launched into a critique of the city's present leadership -- a critique that wasn't prompted by a question from the floor. Part of Lamb's message was that city finances are tipping into the red. But another part of it sounded like ... well ... it sounded like the first speech of the 2013 mayoral race.

Of course, maybe that's just me, since I'm on record as suspecting Lamb has mayoral ambitions anyway. But look his remarks over, and see what you think:

Let me just talk about one other thing. I’m glad to have the question about pensions; I was very involved in that debate last year, and I think in the end council did a great job in getting things done.

But I think most of you know me in this room know me to be kind of a glass-half-full kind of guy. I’m an optimist. I live by the old song "You Have to Accentuate the Positive." But I would be kidding myself if I didn’t tell you that I’m a little worried about Pittsburgh right now.

I’m worried about the direction we’re going. I worry when progress is halted by petty politics. I’m worried when our leadership is talking about people rather than about ideas. And so I worry about the direction we’re moving as a city ...

This year, later this year I will be releasing the financial report of 2010, and it will show for the first time that the city end of the year into the red -- the first time since I’ve been in office. We’ve got problems, and significant problems, that need serious consideration and serious proposals. Unfortunately, a lot of the proposals that we’ve seen to deal with some of the issues are either right-wing privatization schemes or proposals that seem to be more interested in what the pinstrip patronage is getting, rather than what ordinary taxpayers in the city are going to get.

So I am concerned about that, and so we work to be involved in those issues -- that's why I got so involved in the parking/pension issue. It's why I'm very involved in this issue with respect to [a proposed merger of city and county financial-management systems] that for some reason now has come to a halt. We really need to address these issues in a constructive way, and in a way that in the end really deals with what is necessary for the people who live here in the city of Pittsburgh.

I should also add that prior to these remarks, Lamb made a joke about how I never wear neckties. Deriding the sartorial choices of alt-weekly journalists has never harmed anyone's political aspirations. 

OK, I've beaten this horse twice now this election cycle, which means I've twice written headlines with painful puns on Lamb's last name. (Get it? Lamb? Shear?Eh? Eh?)Time to move ahead. Coming soon: highlights of the Fitzgerald/Flaherty county exec match-up.

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