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Caped Capers

Look! In the sky! It’s Super Bob!

Faster than a speeding mullet! More powerful than a local yokel! Able to stare at tall buildings while standing his ground! It's … Super Bob!

Yes, Pittsburgh Mayor Bob O'Connor is developing quite a reputation as a crime-fighting superhero. When the Golden Triangle was paralyzed by a pigeon-shooter thought to be a terrorist, Super Bob sprang into action.

He donned a bulletproof vest and, as a friend of mine who was there put it, "appeared" to be directing the SWAT team. Super Bob had a bodyguard hustle him across the street to check on his wife, who works at a nearby building. Super Bob said his wife was safe, but since police stopped traffic for a time, she was worried about missing her bus to back home to Squirrel Hill. Apparently, Super Bob's powers do not extend to providing his wife transportation.

Is it a good thing to have your mayor roam the streets in a bulletproof vest while police search in vain for a suspected terrorist? I'm not sure. If this had been a real sniper and he killed Super Bob, we'd probably all be saying, "What an idiot! Let the police do their jobs."

On the other hand, as a KDKA radio caller said, it makes Bob look like a "take-charge kind of guy" who "takes the bull by the horns." The new mayor actually has quite a record of would-be superhero-like behavior. Last year he heard a woman scream when her purse was snatched, so he tried to run down a mugger in Squirrel Hill, though to no avail.

Councilman Bill Peduto recalls two similar incidents. In one, Bob rescued the Torah from the Beth Shalom Synagogue while it was on fire. The other, Peduto recalls, took place when Super Bob was disgusted by a graffiti artist writing "murderer" in red paint on the Christopher Columbus statue in Schenley Park: Peduto remembers O'Connor standing in the fountain, getting his pant leg wet -- and then trying to rub off the red paint with the wet pant leg.

OK, so it's not exactly the stuff of Spider Man, but it clearly is Super Bob trying to save the day.

He was there in Garfield just weeks ago when, as the Post-Gazette headline screamed, "A shot rang out and the mayor showed up." As reporter Diana Nelson Jones put it, "Mayor Bob O'Connor visited the corner of Penn Avenue and North Graham Street yesterday, less than two hours after a non-fatal 11:30 a.m. shooting in front of the Horoscope Lounge."

I have opined in this space that Bob should be like the former mayor of Providence, R.I., Buddy Cianci. Cianci used to show up at the opening of an envelope. And now that I think about it, Mayor Cianci once grabbed a bullhorn during a hostage situation. (Of course, Cianci was later thrown in jail for running a criminal enterprise, otherwise known as the city government. So let's hope any similarities end at high visibility.)

Super Bob isn't just showing up at photo ops. As a crime-fighting superhero, he is both refreshingly interesting and potentially dangerous.

Let's say he shows up at an active crime scene -- say a hostage situation -- and really does start trying to direct a police response. If somehow the whole thing blows up literally and figuratively, he's going to have more than egg on his face. He may have blood on his hands.

But for pure entertainment, it beats the hell out of your average Tom Murphy ribbon-cutting.

I asked Dick Skrinjar, the mayor's press guy, if the superhero bit was here to stay. "In the words of the Carpenters, we've only just begun," he said.

I asked if Bob was going to learn how to fly. Replied Skrinjar, "You're presuming he doesn't already."

Come to think of it, I didn't actually see how the mayor arrived on the scene when the pigeon shit hit the fan.

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