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These Boots Weren't Made for Running

A politician flushes his credibility down the sewer

The behavior of Mr. Sewer Boots stinks to high heaven. Jim Motznik is the city councilor who, last December, sanctimoniously and cartoonishly put his stinky ol' sewer boots on city council's table, just to demonstrate how he was knee-deep in the fiscal bullshit he said the mayor was spewing during the city's never-ending fiscal crisis. "It's a bunch of crap, Mr. President," Mr. Sewer Boots declared. "I've been out of Public Works and I ran back and got my sewer boots. I thought I was out of the sewers, but I'm back in it."


I imagine Motznik thought the stunt would go well with Pittsburgh's Joe and Josephine Sixpack, who might witness the performance of the former Department of Public Works laborer and say, "Good old Jimmy, sluggin' it ott with da Mare ... callin' a spade a spade ... he's da same old straight-shootin' guy we knew back in da sewer."


Yes, not since Ed Norton has such a noble man emerged from the bowels of a city to speak truth to power. Norton regularly confronted Ralph Kramden on his bloated stature; Motznik confronts Mayor Murphy about his bloated budget. But it appears the crap flows both ways, for Mr. Sewer Boots has been knee-deep in humiliation since mid-May, when reporter Jim Parsons of Channel 4 nailed his butt to the wall on videotape.


There's nothing more entertaining than a TV-reporter ambush when the victim has it coming. And it seems that is the case here. Mr. Sewer Boots, Mr. High and Mighty Fiscal Responsibility, morphed into Mr. Hypocrisy faster than you can say "Channel Four Action News is taking action for you."


Parsons reported that Motznik borrowed a city vehicle for four months and also applied for mileage reimbursement as if he'd been driving his personal car on city business. Can you say "double dipping"? Motznik says he's reimbursed the city for one of those months. He offers no explanation about the other three, or how he could accidentally ask for personal reimbursement when he'd been driving a city car using city gas.


But amazingly, inexplicably, unbelievably, in a mind-bogglingly imbecilic move of biblical proportions, when Mr. Sewer Boots saw Mr. Parsons and his photographer, he took off running down a Downtown street, darted into a building, snaked through a bank in that building, and flew out the other side like he was being chased by, well, a TV reporter who had the goods on him.


I guess Channel 4 isn't kidding with that "action" thing. The video is as hysterical as it is pathetic. The buzz at City Hall was predictable. What was he thinking? Even if you're a lying hypocrite, you face the camera, mumble something like "mistakes may have been made, and my office is investigating." Then you come up with a plausible lie that is at least marginally supportable, reimburse the city, and move on with your disingenuous career. Simple!


But Jimmy da sewer rat ran like Jerome Bettis in his good years, darting and dashing with dexterity and aplomb. It was as if he had just stolen candy at the drug store and Officer McParsons happened to be walkin' the beat in the neighborhood. "Ah, little Jimmy boy! Is that a Baby Ruth in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?"


Mr. Sewer Boots was not glad to see him. Instincts kicked in and Motznik beat feet.


Even in the worst-case scenario, we're probably talking no more than a thousand or so bucks being pilfered from the pockets of city taxpayers. There is a tendency in government to ignore fiscal waste in small amounts because it's such a tiny percentage of the multi-million dollar budget. Of course that's partly how the city found itself in the current fiscal debacle.


But it's not so much the money as the principle of the thing, as well as the utterly transparent hypocrisy. You don't get to pull a cheap finger-pointing publicity stunt, making the evening news to the supportive howls of the outraged citizenry, unless you're squeaky clean. Mr. Sewer Boots ain't squeaky.

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