August 3, 2007

Dahn there at City Cancil

While I was perusing the mugshots of our Pittsburgh City Council Members, my mouse furiously a-clickin', I found this page, eloquently titled "City Council Function". As I read the text against the nice salmon colored background that really brings out Jim Motznik's eyes, the words slowly resonated through my skull, and quickly encouraged my brow to furrow and the lyrics of Van Morrison's "What's Wrong With This Picture" over the music of Slipknot's "Duality" to play in my head.

Not a pleasant experience, and certainly not the song I would choose if I had the "procedure".

"City Council is the legislative branch of government. It carries out duties in accordance with the Home Rule Charter and the laws of the state, and is primarily responsible for making laws which govern the City of Pittsburgh. City Council proposes, debates, and votes on legislation governing and/or affecting the city. This body also approves appointments as provided by the Charter, regulates revenues and expenditures, incurs debt, and approves the final operating and capital budgets for the city. Council is responsible for the introduction of legislation generated by the administrative branch of city government. Council may also introduce legislation generated by individual Council Members or Council as a body."

Though some of the statements in this text are debatably true, I want to focus on 2 items.

1. "regulates revenues and expenditures, incurs debt, and approves the final operating and capital budgets for the city"

I'm wondering then why there is little if any critique of city spending by the council. I'm sure theres grumbling, and the off-comment from Peduto or Shields, but it feels like city council is merely rubber stamping Luke's initiatives. As Ravenstahl frequently proclaims, being the progenitor of the city's "best budget in years", his administration is single-handedly turning things around.

Where, o where is the criticism? No good leader, or reformer for that matter, was without myriad opposition to tell him or her exactly where they were wrong. Frequently. Loudly. And not with the intent of usurping office - it seems Burghers are quick to read dissent as intent.

Outside of city cops asking for a license and registration next time you pet your cat, or perhaps limiting the sidewalk square footage eligible for vomit on Carson Street, the critique is not there. Shields should catch heat for delaying the police promotion hearing. People should be asking why the ethics hearing hasn't been held yet. Citizens should wonder where their officials stand. Frequently. And loudly.

2. (...................).

That is the space where something about "representing their districts" should be found. Lame text on my behalf, but for real. I realize things used to be different, and perhaps the mission statement hasn't caught up with the times, but this is representative of a real problem with our city council members.

Why do none of them have a website? Somewhere their respective communities can post upcoming events, organize community block watches, identify sex offenders, arrange block parties, name their village idiots, whatever the community leaders deem necessary. I'm not saying that redistricting has done the best job of homogenizing our districts to encompass constituents with similar needs/concerns, or that they should be homgeneous in the first place, but it could work.

Take a look at all the press Pat Dowd is receiving. He's not old school, doesn't have any relatives once in Pittsburgh politics (from what I know), and has made people feel like he is bringing together their community. And beating an incumbent is no small feat in this tahn'.

To sum this whole diatribe up, I'm excited for the new blood that will be coursing through the 5th floor of the City County Building. With an absence of experienced leadership down the hall, it will be up to these 9 brave individuals right the ship.

Or steal whatever they can find and ride the submarine out of tahn'.

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