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A Witness 
Member since Jan 4, 2007



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Re: “Out With the Old (?)

Regarding the cover story in the current issue of the Pittsburgh City Paper about the generational shift in Pittsburgh party politics, there is at least one glaring issue that requires clarification. In the article, Joe Mistick, the esteemed Duquesne University law professor and local political pundit who usually is quite on the mark with his analysis of the political game, makes mention that the late Allegheny County Commissioner was once a political maverick who at one time beat the political machine and then after several terms, became entrenched in office and became the machine. This point is absolutely correct. However, Mistick goes on to state that the voters had to do away with the three commissioner system to finally get rid of Foerster. This, however, is not accurate. The referendum was not even placed on a ballot until years after Foerster was voted out of office. The commissioner, who became complacent in office, was defeated for a variety of compelling reasons in his final run to hold onto the seat he held for seven terms. At that time, the entrenched Foerster administration was beleaguered by a series of serious scandals which got caught in the crosshairs of a few investigative reporters. The result was a number of very negative stories that seemed to dominate the airwaves and both of the Pittsburgh dailies and proved disastrous for the long-term commissioner. The Foerster regime was crumbling slowly until it finally collapsed on primary election day in 1995 when the Foerster-Pete Flaherty ticket was defeated by the team of Mike Dawida and Coleen Vuono. But the story doesn't end there. As it turned out, Vuono, who incidentally had a much better grasp of the issues and was more knowledgeable in the arena of county government than her running mate, lost her bid for one of the three seats on the county commission to an unemployed political novice by the slim margin of 900 votes in the general election. As it also turned out, I've been told that many of Dawida's campaign staffers didn't even vote for her, which speaks volumes as to their inexperience and intellect. As disappointed as some of us who worked tirelessly for the Dawida-Vuono ticket were after the general election defeat, this disappointment pales in comparison to how Commissioner Dawida fared during his term. In addition to alienating those who got him elected and who were still willing to go the extra mile to help make his term as minority commissioner at least a respectable one, he joined forces with the even less-experienced Bob Cranmer and allowed the reins of county government to be controlled by County Manager Glenn Cannon and staff, who made the Dawida campaign team look like geniuses. To say that Cannon wasn't equipped for the job and was way-in-over-his-head is a gross understatement. The Dawida-Cranmer-Cannon recipe of mismanagement drove the county into the ground, both operationally and financially. This is precisely the reason that voters opted to rid Allegheny County of the three commissioner system of government. Changing the form of our county government virtually guaranteed getting rid of those responsible for the need for change. Dawida's campaign slogan was "Change Allegheny." I can't think of anything more fitting. There has been some scuttlebutt that Dawida is now weighing his options with regard to possibly running for Mayor of Pittsburgh in the spring election. I will not place any bets at this time as to whether Luke Ravenstahl, Bill Peduto or any of the other potential younger candidates -- or someone else -- will be victorious in May. But my smart money will be bet that the voter's of this city will recognize that Dawida has no real vision for this region and will not be duped by him a second time.

Posted by J. on 01/04/2007 at 9:43 AM

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