Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Mayor Golfs During Hearing

The following post is based on my TV report
for Channel 4 Action News At Six.

Mayor Ravenstahl and his administration had refused to reveal where he was during the city council hearing dealing with the controversial police promotions--a hearing that some women's leaders had urged him to attend. Now that the answer to the question of his whereabouts has come to light, the mayor is facing some criticisms.

The Mario Lemieux Foundation now confirms that Mayor Ravenstahl was playing golf at the private Mario Lemieux Celebrity Invitational at Laurel Valley Golf Club.

Last week the mayor would not explain why he did not accept the invitation to hear 150 women speaking out against the promotion of three police officers with alleged histories of domestic abuse. On June 29, 2007 I asked "just for the record, where were you at the time the hearing was going on?". The Mayor answered "where I was and what I was doing is no reflection on why I wasn't at the hearing".

Jeanne Clark, the activist who gathered petitions for the meeting, told me "think about the person that we elected to that office, Mayor O'Connor. I cannot imagine Bob O'Connor blowing off the women in this city in order to go play golf".

Mayor Ravenstahl responds in a written statement that the golf outing is a charity fundraiser for cancer and neonatal research.

He says says what he describes as unfair criticism "smacks of crass politics and yellow journalism and disappoints me greatly".

In the June 29th interview, the mayor told me. "I didn't feel that my presence there would have been advantageous to the cause. It could have potentially become a political situation, which I didn't want it to be".

Ravenstahl says mayors normally don't attend council hearings, and that the issues are of critical importance to him.

Clark answers that "actions speak louder than words: the mayor keeps telling the women of this city that he understands about domestic violence, he's going to have zero tolerance, he couldn't even be bothered to be at the hearing or watch it on television".

Mark DeSantis, the republican candidate for mayor, tells me "it's poor judgement. Him not going to that hearing is just simply poor judgement. Playing golf instead of going to a hearing the cause of which was the poor handling by the city administration itself shows a complete lack of judgement".

(Note: this post was first filed via mobile Blogger, with links and images added later. I'm now in Akron, Ohio to cover closing arguments in the Donna Moonda murder trial.)



Bram Reichbaum said...

DeSantis needs to hire Clark to write talking points and the such.

Anonymous said...

We should have learned already to expect nothing less from King Luke. If the voters don't vote smarter in November we will have two more years of this behavior.
Shame on us!

Char said...

True, mayors don’t normally attend city council hearings. But it’s also not every day when three police officers with alleged domestic abuse backgrounds are promoted. Or is it?

Zachary said...

Unfair misrepresentation of Mayor Ravenstahl

I believe it is unfair for the press to be calling out Mr. Ravenstahl for not attending a public hearing on the police promotions. He obviously had plans and obligations to another group during the time of which the public hearing was held. Additionally, if he hasn't attended other public hearings, why is he suddenly looked down upon for not attending this one? Past mayors have also followed this tradition of not attending public hearings. The mayor does not need to attend a public hearing to have the public yelling at him. Especially as high-controversy as the police promotions are, emotions would run very high at such a meeting if a high profile official like Ravenstahl would have attended this hearing. Ravenstahl could have been spending the day in the office and he still wouldn't have attended this hearing. It's not his obligation. I think it is very unfair for the media, the women's group, and DeSantis to misrepresent Ravenstahl's commitment to Pittsburgh. He has done a very impressive job at listening to the needs of the many diverse communities that make up such a large city. He cannot be bogged down by attending every meeting that some group urges him to attend. There was enough government representation at the public hearing to where Ravenstahl's attendance would be redundant and unneccessary. Although Ravenstahl is the mayor, running the city is not a one-man job.

EdHeath said...

Two points: First, the registration for this event was probably due far in advance, long before the hearing was scheduled. That said, the Mayor could have given his Thursday spot to someone else, and then go on Friday. He probably did run over to Harrisburg Thursday evening, but his presence there obviously had no effect on the budget impasse (heh).
Second: where did his registration fee come from? Someone posted the city code and there appears to be an escape clause in accepting money for attending charitable events, but I, for one, would like to know where the money (variously described as $9,000 or $27,000) came from. Anyone we can ask besides the Mayor?

Smitty said...

I doubt if DeSantis and Clark are ideologically or philosophically compatable...

Smitty said...

I doubt if DeSantis and Clark are philosophically and ideologically compatable..aside from the obvious issue

Pam said...

I agree with Zachary. The mayor has already explained his position on this matter and attending a meeting to dwell on it is pointless. It's a done deal. The police department and union would make revoking the promotions impossible. A mayor appoints people to oversee these kinds of issues and whoever recommended and approved these officers for promotion within the police department should be the people under fire. I think there is alot of pressure being put on this man just because he is young. He can bring a fresh persective to the "Good Old Boy's Club" that invades City Government if people would stop judging his every move.

EdHeath said...

The Post-Gazette is now reporting "The mayor said he was a guest of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center at the event.". The relevant city code has been shown in comments over at the Burgh Report:
A public official, City employee or agent of the City shall not solicit or accept from an interested party, nor shall any interested party offer or give anything of value to a public official, City employee or agent of the city, subject to the following exceptions:
(a) Gifts from direct family members;
(b) A nonpecuniary award publicly presented, in recognition of public service;
(c) An occasional nonpecuniary gift of nominal value;
(d) Complimentary travel for official purposes;
(e) Admissions to charitable, civic, political or other public events;
(f) Admissions to cultural or athletic events not to exceed two hundred fifty dollars ($250.00) per calendar year in the aggregate and one hundred dollars ($100.00) per calendar year from any single person, agent or other interested party; or
(g) Complimentary meals and/or refreshments.
(Ord. 2-1992, eff. 2-13-92)
My reading of that is that section (e) lets him off that hook. But UPMC? Didn't they just have some business with the city planning commission, in which the administration offered some input that made a difference?

Anonymous said...

Typical republican crap. The promotuions of these officers were done in accordance with the cities contract with the police union. The Mayor could do nothing about it whether he was at the hearing or not. he is working to change the system, Give him some time.

Matt H said...

Good post Zach.

Also---why wasn't Mr. DeSantis there if he felt it was such an important hearing to be at?

Anonymous said...

Wow. I didn't realize that expecting a mayor to actually perform the obligations of his position was asking too much of him. (Even if it means cutting into his leisure activities.)
Clearly Luke is not capable of handling the responsibality. He also is unable to take responsibility for his own actions. Each time he screws up, it is someone else's fault. Is that leadership? This time we can blame the media and politics.
I certainly hope we can expect more from the leader of a city.
For Zachary to say: "He obviously had plans and obligations to another group during the time of which the public hearing was held."
This statement is incredible. He had an obligation to accept a $9,000.00 gift and then take part in a day if fun rather than a day of work. Hmmmm. . . .

Char said...

While running the entire city is not a one man job, approving those police promotions was. He was the one man who made the decision and by his own admission, it wasn’t such a good one. As for “enough government representation already at the meeting”, the govt folks in attendance (save for Chief Harper) were unfortunately NOT the ones responsible for what the folks were unhappy about.

What percentage of his “moves” do you suggest we use to judge this young man? Cut him some slack by using only 50%? 25%? Only the good percent? And yes, Luke “can” bring a fresh perspective to the Good Old Boys Club. Only problem is … he isn’t!

Matt H,
DeSantis explained on the air today that he wasn’t at a public hearing regarding a poor decision made by the mayor because he wasn’t the mayor! So simple and straight forward you’d think even a Luke would understand it. DeSantis reminded Luke that Luke was the mayor and if angry folks want to tell the mayor what they are angry about … it’s Luke they would want to talk to, not him.

My favorite Luke quote of the day, aside from all the Paul Revere warnings that the Republicans are coming … “My schedule and what I do on a daily basis is not for the consumption of the media.” Wow. I guess he put us pesky citizens in our place, huh? And you media types… Don’t you go asking any questions about anything unless it falls into Pam’s good percentage category.

Anonymous said...

Did the fee for the golf outing paid by UPMC influence the mayors decision to allow the UPMC logo atop the Steel Building? And what of the most profitable not for profit corporation paying less than their fair share in city taxes?
Sounds like someone sold out the city for $27,000 worth of high class golf.

Bob Mayo said...

I'm about to get to bed here in Akron, in preparation for the Donna Mooda trial jury resuming deliberations at 8:30am.
(They stopped for the night at 9.)

Thanks to everyone for keeping the blog posts active during my road trip.

Three comments were mailed instead of posted. I'm passing them on this time as a courtesy.. in case they were intended by the writers to appear here.

Daniel writes: "NO BIG DEAL. He had prior commitments, so who cares."

Dennis writes: "Regarding Mayor Luke and playing golf. I do not see the problem. The hearing at council was attended by the Mayor's staff who get paid to keep the Mayor fully informed as to the contents of the hearing. The hearing are televised and that is why they make VHS recordings of such hearing for the Mayor, residents and even the media to review for accuracy and content.

I am not necessarily a big fan of this mayor but in this instance it is a lot about nothing.

Thanks for your time."

and Pat writes: "So what!! Leave the poor man alone. This was a Charity Event. He can't be everywhere. What could he have done at the hearing? It wasn't like he purposely avoided the meeting."

Anonymous said...

if any one is to be put question it would chief harper, he he promoted the officers not the mayor. The only fault the mayor had was promoting chief harper or should i say putting total confidence in the chief. but to the defense of the chief these officers were not convicted of anything either.To mr. Mayo be an unbiased reported and tell both sides of a story. just not what you think will stir controversy. I think the people of this country are getting fed up with the media and the sensationalized stories they come up with

Bob Mayo said...

To Anonymous who posted on July 11, 2007 at 2:18 PM....

Both sides are represented in this story; I had to quote the mayor's news release because his staff refused to make him available...but I dug out video of him from the previous week to have him represented on-camera in the report.