Tuesday, October 14, 2008
City Councilor Pat Dowd has been a controversial figure, but one thing both his critics and his supporters can agree on: He is a big believer in transparency and due process. A few months back, for example, the Pist-Gazette opined that the big problem with Dowd was that he was TOO obsessed with obeying the letter of the law, and didn't pay enough attention to the spirit.
"Dowd has demonstrated he will stand on the letter of the law to the detriment of justice," blog author Char observed.
(Speaking of which, where ARE you, Char? Your blog hasn't been updated in months -- though this didn't stop the Post-Gazette's Cutting Edge blog wrap-up from quoting it last week.)
So, yeah, love him or hate him, Pat Dowd is stickler for details.
But now there's a new sheriff in town.
City councilor Darlene Harris, whom Dowd defeated in the school-board run that launched his political career five years ago, turned some heads early this morning by releasing, well ...
It's a SEVEN-PAGE, nicely-crafted legal opinion that casts doubt on Dowd's proposed process for renaming streets in the city of Pittsburgh.
OK, I'll grant there are more compelling things to argue about than how the city should go about renaming streets -- even if there are situations in which similarly-named streets can slow up emergency responders. But come on! Harris cites such landmark cases as H.A. Steen, Inc. v. Cavanaugh, Filler v. Commonwealth Federal Savings and Loan, Commonwealth ex. rel. v. Scully and the immortal Kolb v. Tamaqua Borough. And that's just in the first two pages!
But it's not all just a bunch of citations: Harris boldly stands up for the proposition that the city should preserve its unique flavor -- except where confusing street names pose a safety threat, the city should hold onto the traditions that made it great. Or as Harris writes:
As a city which is proud of its idiosyncrasies ... we should not simply [surrender to] needlessly applied "modernity," the application of which may cause more harm than good.
What's that you say? The city's street patterns are so confusing that the city's 911 dispatch system has a hard time keeping up? Harris has an answer for that too:
"[W]e must look at another or additional provider of software for 911, rather than changing the world to comply with the software which serves it."
Suck on that, Mr. Blackberry User!
I haven't been the biggest fan of Harris, and I think much of her tenure on the school board was pretty disastrous. But this ain't bad at all. And I'm guessing that Dowd -- who recieved this letter via e-mail, along with his colleagues -- is probably wondering, "Where did this closely argued, highly technical series of objections come from?"
Which is, of course, not much different from the questions that have been asked about Dowd himself.