Friday, May 15, 2009

Peak: Fair and balanced

While my blog has been largely dormant for the past two years - with only smatterings of activity, generally between May and July - I haven’t lost touch with Pittsburgh’s online community. The list of links on the right side of this page includes the blogs I read the most, and if you keep a regular diet of those sites, you’ll generally have some sense of what’s going on in Pittsburgh.

Anyway, if you spend any considerable amount of time on those blogs - and their comment threads - you’ll likely encounter The Pittsburgh Hoagie, aka Matt Hogue, a member of the Allegheny Democratic Committee. Mr. Hogue is a political blogger who also frequently posts on other blogs, and it doesn’t take long to see where his alliances fall. Mr. Hogue is a staunch party member and his full support lies with Luke Ravenstahl.

As such, it has become fairly expected to see Mr. Hogue show up on local blogs announcing his support for the current Mayor in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. The problem is, Mr. Hogue’s support is so unfailing, so determined, and so relentless that it comes across as a blindly and thoughtlessly towing the party line.

Now, I don’t know Mr. Hogue. I’ve never met him, never corresponded with him, and only once or twice posted a comment on his blog. So I don’t wish to speak for his study of the Mayor or his challengers, Patrick Dowd and Carmen Robinson, and I am only presenting the perception of Mr. Hogue’s comments and postings, not his actual line of thinking.

Anyway, as I was reading the local blogs one day - probably a comment from Mr. Hogue (aka Matt H) like the one on this post, which offers very little insight and screams of blind obedience - I started thinking about the recurring themes in Mr. Hogue’s posting. And it occurred to me that, if Mr. Hogue truly is thinking for himself and not just following the line of the party, then the best thing he could do would be to voice his own concerns about the current Mayor. By showing some objectivity, Mr. Hogue might sway some of the perceptions about him that exist in the so-called “Burghosphere” (if he were so inclined).

But then I realized that what’s good for the goose is, indeed, good for the gander. If Mr. Hogue can grant himself some credibility by showing some critical thinking about the Mayor, then so should I. Throughout the recent history of this blog, I have spoken against Luke Ravenstahl and in favor of Patrick Dowd and Carmen Robinson.

But the truly informed, truly objective voter understands that there are no absolutes: Dowd is obviously not an absolute positive, nor is Ravenstahl an absolute negative. He became Mayor in September of 2006; surely something good must have happened in the past 32 months, right?

So, in an effort to be as objective as possible - and to convince myself that I’m not just following the “Anyone But Ravenstahl” party line - I set out to find some positive things the Mayor has done for the city of Pittsburgh.

I figured the easiest way to accomplish this was to go to the Mayor’s home court. There is no purer form of self-serving rhetoric - and I say this in reference to all candidates for all elected office - than a campaign year website. Surely we’ll find some positives in there, and then I can feel good about myself when I go to the polls on Tuesday and vote for Patrick Dowd.

So let’s see; what can we find…

Okay, here we go:

During his three years in office, Mayor Ravenstahl has been "Getting it Done" for Pittsburghers. Clean and safe neighborhoods, new development, balanced budgets, diversity, technology, transparency and green are just a few of the ideas that come to mind to define the Ravenstahl agenda.
Ugh. This is not going to be easy.

Safe neighborhoods - Yeah, no. Last year’s homicide rate kind of screws that one up.

New developments - Yes, I suppose there have been some new developments. But with the near-daily emergence of new developer-slash-campaign contributors who end up getting benefits from city government - check the sixth paragraph in this piece for a recent example - (with a hat-tip to The Radical Middle, as well as a thanks for the shout-out) the new developments all seem to carry a little stink.

Balanced budgets - That seems to fall under the umbrella of “things he takes credit for but doesn’t really deserve to.”

Diversity - I don’t have any real numbers on this but I have to say that it’s hard to imagine this administration really being that diverse.

Technology - Sure I guess the Mayor has probably kept the computers on Grant Street up to date. Or something.

Transparency - You’re kidding, right? This administration wouldn’t have half the problems it’s got right now if there was any kind of transparency. This one falls under the “It wouldn’t be listed here if Dowd didn’t say it so damn much” category.

Green - Yeah, the city seems to be making some strides on the green front. I guess.

Okay, so that didn’t go so well. There have to be some things that he’s done well, but since that blurb in his bio didn’t help, I’ll have to come up with some on my own.

The Pittsburgh Promise - This thing seems to have a lot of detractors, and I can admit that it’s not a perfect system, but it’s a good start and the intentions are at least headed in the right direction. Ravenstahl didn’t come up with it and he wasn’t the one who noticed it working in Kalamazoo and he wasn’t the one who decided to bring it to Pittsburgh, but he helped the process along once it got started, and I’ll give him credit for that.

311 - I don’t know what other people’s experience has been with 311, but I’m okay with it. I like the concept, and the few times that I’ve called it, I’ve gotten results. Plus, I’ve noticed a lot of patches getting done on streets and alleys around me - including the one that was used in the famous Pokey Politics video (watch the second video on the page) - and I’m assuming that 311 calls were the source of the fixes.

The baseball field in Bloomfield - This one hits home since I live in Bloomfield and have lived near the baseball field for more than six years. The ballfield under the Bloomfield Bridge used to be a mess. It had a bad turf rug that was always bunched up in numerous places, and I can’t imagine anyone ever really wanted to play on it. Now the field is really, really nice. Grass, good dirt, big foul poles, a warm-up bullpen beyond the outfield; I mean, I’d say it’s almost state of the art. And Ravenstahl was behind it; I know this because there was a sign with his name on it for a year or two after it was finished.

(Sorry about the quality of photo; my cell phone's camera lens is pretty dusty)

So I did it. I came up with three good things the Mayor has done for Pittsburgh. That’s pretty good, right?

Now I can feel a proper sense of self-righteousness about voting for Dowd on Tuesday because I am an objective voter. Hooray!


Mount Washington Brain Trust & Pipe Club said...

Don't forget about Luke Ravenstahl's Campaign Against Potholes 2 months ago. That was a huge success.

Also, he can now read the print on your business cards from several blocks away with his state of the art cameras in "problem areas" around the city.

On a significantly less sarcastic note, Tony Norman's column about the Big Brother cameras was really fantastic.

I love his column in general and I wear a WWTNDES bracelet to constantly remind me of his superior intelligence and provide me guidance through the tough times that my days at the University didn't cover.

The first five letters of the bracelet are obvious, at least I think they're obvious. Even non-Jesus lovers know about the bracelets, correct?

The last two stand for Exception Stillers. I follow everything Tony Norman says with exception to his thoughts on the Stillers, he's a Philly boy and can't be trusted when it comes to that topic.

A completely unrelated tangent - why does put "amp;" beside the ampersand in our profile name? That is annoying.

Matt H said...

I have been critical of Mayor Ravenstahl in the past.

Peaks and Gutters said...

Maybe so, Matt. I just haven't seen too much deviation from the norm. And really, I just used you as a jumping-off point for an examination of my own objectivity.

illyrias said...

my list of highly similar reasons

Chris Peak said...

You know what? I actually read your post last month. I wonder if that subliminally influenced my post. Probably.

Either way, at least we tried, right?