Interesting articles in the Post-Gazette today and the Trib yesterday continue the media inquisition of local government - albeit haphazardly.
In response to the Trib, The Pittsburgh Comet asks how our local Democratic big guns are working to transform their party - I see it as savvy politicians (i.e. not Luke Ravenstahl) reacting to a changing attitude within Pittsburgh, mixed with a little ambition.
All signs point to Donorato having a go at Governor in 2010, barring he doesn't order the continued wholesale slaughter of geese (any further mass killings would likely result in war with Canada). As a result, to win a statewide election Dan is going to need a strong majority of Allegheny County on his side - better than the 54% and 59% that Ed Rendell carried against Fisher and Swann respectively. And though the city holds a 5 to 1 registration advantage for the D's, the county is only 60/40 D vs. R.
So not only will Onorato potentially have to beat out Jack Wagner, who already has State-wide election experience (and a local base), but the Philly crop as well, where D registration is at a whopping 75%. Allyson Schwartz, Lynne Abraham, and the mayoral losers should be primed for a run. Bob Casey Jr. shouldn't be counted out either. On the Republican side there is Tom Corbett, PA AG - another guy with a local base whose tough on crime stance will gain support considering the murder rates and violent crime in Pittsburgh and Philly.
Considering all these factors, Dan will need big support from ALL of Allegheny County - which entails middle of the road policies that are Republican-friendly (if only for the next 2 years).
The more theoretical aspect of this is the changing climate in Pittsburgh (the political one, not the Al Gore one). As many have already debated at length and likely will for quite some time (as they should), this city is warming up to kind of moderate reform ideology personified recently by DeSantis. This shift is the result of numerous factors -
1. Turbulence in the Mayor's Office/ City Council -
As we saw in the primary, endorsement by the democratic committee no longer equals sure victory. Three new city council members later, there may just be enough opposition to the mayor to have some real objectives accomplished around here.
Equally alarming is the failure of the party generals to muzzle young Luke. His inability to answer questions truthfully and perceived (likely real) lack of professionalism and experience is a black eye upon the stability of the Democratic party. These kind of events also lead registered Democrats to doubt their party, especially when the opposition is a sound pragmatist. Though Luke may have fired every single unelected person in the City County Building, his actions are not those of a reformer. They are more like those of a wayward official drunk off of power failing to realize that 3+ years of government experience does not mean you know everything.
Ravenstahl comes across less as a young man with “fresh” ideas and more as a young man filled with the teachings of old politics. I am disturbed by young people supporting Ravensthal “because he’s young like me, and will support things that I want.” Sorry Charlie, the youngest-thinking candidate around here was Bill Peduto, and DeSantis would still win out vs. Luke. Acting young is not thinking young, and Mr. Ravenstahl has not read his Corinthians.
2. New industry will bring a new ideology
I find it interesting that there are few comments about the potential ideological shift that may take place in the ‘Burgh as we invest in new industry and economic revitalization. Unlike other places in the country where the Republicans are the old, stodgy, keep the power in the same hands party, Pittsburgh is quite the reverse.
While some parts of Allegheny and surrounding counties are booming, the city is flailing under Democratic control. Not that this is a cause and effect mind you, but young, successful, and energetic people want change. So unless the candidates on the left want to lose their grip, they’re going to have to at least shimmy a little bit more to the right – something savvy Dan has figured out.
3. Emerging Consensus that change must happen NOW
Again, the influx of forward thinkers and young people concerned about the city’s future are necessitating action. Mark DeSantis is riding this wave, offering to provide concrete solutions to the city’s budgetary problems by Oct. 1st with the intent of pulling the city out of its hole and back on its feet. Don’t think Onorato and Doyle aren’t recognizing this impatience.