Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Face Off: Peduto & Ravenstahl on the Pens

Reporter Q&A
on the arena talks impasse

I’m posting this as a long-form Question & Answer feature; my Channel 4 Action News report is based on this material. Some questions were off-mike, and are approximated here. The answers are direct quotes. Click the highlighted "Read More" immediately below.

Q&A with Councilman Bill Peduto

Q: Who's at fault in the latest developments?

"Well, obviously, the fault goes to the mayor. You know, when Tom Murphy negotiated the deal for the Pirates, when he negotiated the deal for the Steelers, when he built the convention center, he didn't go to Governor Ridge and ask Governor Ridge to take on the responsibility. when Rendell ran Philadelphia and built the stadium for the Flyers, he didn't go to Governor Ridge. The responsibility is with the mayor. In any american city with any sports franchise, the mayor takes on that responsibility. What we're seeing now is the lack of experience in the inability to get this deal done."

Q: Under their plan, the state and slots revenue would be the source of the funding. given that, wouldn't it be appropriate for the governor to take the lead?

" Still under Philadelphia, there was state money that was being used to build the Spectrum. And Heinz Field, and with PNC Park, there was state money to build those; or the convention center, obviously, a lot of state money. No. Leadership requires that a mayor be strong and be able to get a deal done. "

Q: So, what specifically and personally are you saying that Luke Ravenstahl should be doing that he's not doing now?

" Well, there's of couple things. First and foremost, he needs to sit down with the Penguins, sit down down with Mario and get this deal done. No more negotiating with three different parties--just get the deal done. Secondly, what lost the trust with the trust with the Penguins to begin with is when left the agreement with Isle of Capri to support Plan B, and somehow that trust has to be rebuilt."

" I'm willing to offer to mediate in order to get this done for the City of Pittsburgh. But I don't think the mayor will take me up on the offer because of politics, and that's unfortunate. The team trusts me, and knows that I will negotiate in good faith with them. And I know that we can get a deal done that will be better than Kansas City."

Q: Do see any fault at all with the Penguins here? Are the Penguins playing with these public officials to try to get more taxpayer money?

" You get to the point of an impasse, there's no more playing or negotiating that's going on. You're basically saying you're at the point where you cannot talk any further. The Penguins have nothing more to gain. They're adding more into it. And the concern of "well, just let them go' is a major concern, and we shouldn't really be looking at it in that way. If the Penguins leave, there is no new arena. There is no major tenant to be contributing. And we're going to set with an empty arena in the Hill District that is not going to spur any new development. "

Q: And you individually fault Mayor Ravenstahl for a personal lack of leadership?

" No, I think that what you're seeing now is what happens when you don't have somebody who has experience. This should have been led by the mayor from the beginning. This should have been continued by the mayor in order to get the job done. But the mayor was not prepared because he hasn't had the experience to do it in the past."

Q: Have you reached out to the Penguins yourself?

" Yes, and I've reached out again yesterday to their former lobbyist. The Penguins have had no communication with elected officials, other than the mayor, the county executive and the governor since the beginning of the year. And again, I reached out, and I'll reach out again today directly to help to mediate this."

Q&A with Mayor Luke Ravenstahl

Q: Your response?

" We are continuing to negotiate, myself, the county executive, and the governor. And we're going to continue to work with the Penguins., and I will be very active in those talks, as I have been from the beginning. And I believe a cooperative spirit is one that we need-- a cooperative spirit to sit down and have those discussions. And I'll continue to do that, and continue to lend myself to those discussions as I have over the last two months. "

Q: Are you talking directly to the Penguins, as Mr. Peduto says you should be-- that the failure of you to do that is what's putting this franchise at risk?

" I can tell you that I've had numerous discussions and will continue to do so. I'm not real sure what my opponent is referring to, but I've been very proactive in these discussions. In fact, took a trip to New York, earlier in January to have discussions. So I'm not real sure what he is referring to, but we've been very proactive and I've been involved in all the discussions and will continue to do so."

" This is a partnership. I do not agree with the notion that this is an issue that the mayor singlehandedly address. This is an issue that myself, the county executive, and the governor have to work together to achieve. And to suggest otherwise, I don't think is appropriate. And so I'll continue to work with those two to reach out to the Penguins, and ultimately reach a deal."

" Because no one of us--myself, the county executive, nor the governor--can do this alone."

Q: What he's saying is, why haven't you talked directly to Burkle, why haven't you talked directly to Mario Lemeiux?

" Well, I can tell you that I have."

Q: What is the difference betwween now and the negotations that led to Heinz Field and PNC Park, that make it appropriate for the governor to be the lead party here, as opposed to the mayor?

" I will tell you, and I think the governor has made this well known, that he has, since the original Plan B, added incentive, and that incentive has come from the state level. And so, without the governor at the table, there's absolutely no way that we could even be in the discussions to keep the Penguins here. So, the governor is the person that has provided the additional incentive to keep team here. And therefore, he is the leader in these negotiations, because it is state taxpayer dollars that are being offered. and so the governor has to be at the table, and the governor is the one ultimately that has to participate in these negotiationsand --ideally with myself and the county executive, through the SEA-- conclude this deal. So, to suggest that there would be one person that could do it without the other two, I just think is inappropriate, and really not applicable at this time."

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