Heir-Brained | Vox Pop | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper


Is city government being hijacked?



We elected Bob O'Connor to a four-year term as mayor of Pittsburgh. Nobody elected Mayor Opie, a.k.a. 26-year-old Luke Ravenstahl. And while he may be a fine, well-intentioned young man, I think you ought to be at least 30 to run a city. I also think you should be elected by the voters.



Ravenstahl became mayor because earlier this year, his fellow city councilors chose him as council President. But nobody picked Ravenstahl because they thought he'd be the best replacement for Bobby O. He was just the consensus candidate when the grown-ups on council couldn't figure out which grown-up to make president. If they'd anticipated Bob's demise, they'd have found a way to put a grown-up in there instead.


Now that we've buried Bob, whom I respected and admired, I'm pissed as hell at the way things have turned out so far.


The acting city solicitor issued an opinion stating that Mayor Opie would stay in office through 2009. That is absolute BS. The rationale is that there's some obscure language in the city charter saying you can't elect the controller and the mayor in the same year. The controller's seat is up in 2007; hence, rationalizes this irrational opinion, we'll have to wait until 2009 to pick a new mayor.


That fertilizer could keep the grass at PNC Park green for decades.


I'm no Johnnie Cochran, but the city charter couldn't possibly contemplate installing a mayor for several years without voters having a say. It looks like elements of the former O'Connor administration have one thing in mind: hanging onto their jobs on the government gravy train.


It's a gut-wrenching shame that Bob is gone. But he is, and the O'Connor administration is no more. And that means I want a new mayor with a new team. It means I don't want O'Connor cronies telling Mayor Opie what to do for three more years. Out with the old, in with the new.

The acting city solicitor told KDKA-TV political analyst Jon Delano that when he wrote up his opinion, he didn't voluntarily include the part about the length of Mayor Opie's term. He said he was asked to do it. He wouldn't say by whom ... but gee, do ya think it was remnants of the O'Connor administration, intent upon sucking the government gravy for a few Thanksgivings?


This is a hijacking of democracy. Everybody with a clue who follows this stuff knows it's a big steaming pile of doggy doo-doo. To take that pile of poo and present it to the public as fact ... and at a time when no one was likely to raise a stink because Bob hadn't been buried yet ... is a disgraceful move.


People have told me I'm being too tough on Mayor Opie. But this city is in the financial shitter. We've got major Downtown development in the offing. There's a casino headed our way ... along with its inherent crime and corruption. Opie is not qualified to deal with this. Someday maybe he will be. But not today.


  According to rumor, backers of the proposed Harrah's casino at Station Square want Mayor Opie in until '09. Why? Because he's O'Connor Lite, the theory goes ... and some of the lesser lights in O'Connor's circle support Harrah's. The company already has local big-shot supporters like Charles Zappala, brother of Allegheny County's district attorney. Reportedly, "Fast Eddie" Rendell is in Harrah's corner too, though he denies it.


In the past, Ravenstahl has publicly backed the Isle of Capri deal, whose sponsors would build a new Penguins arena as part of their development. If Opie comes out for the Harrah's deal, we'll know rumors of casino involvement in this fiasco have some credence. And we'll know that former Mayor Tom Murphy's words about gambling's future in Pittsburgh ... "the fix is in" ... were deadly accurate.


  I thought the city was hopeless until city council chose not to select Councilor Jim Motznik ... the gasoline double-dipper who flees TV journalists like a startled deer ... as council president. Motznik's subsequent meltdown, during which he called his colleagues liars and morons, illustrates why he shouldn't even have been considered. Council made a much better choice by selecting the relatively sane Doug Shields, a former O'Connor protégé.


But Mayor Opie through 2009 ain't gonna cut it. Elections officials should kill this turkey, and if necessary, a judge should bury it. Don't let the bastards steal our city.


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