Monday, July 9, 2007

Past Mayors Braved Key Council Hearings

Mayor Caliguiri
Joyce Mendelsohn/Post-Gazette Photo, Dec. 1984

The moment was rare and dramatic.

I remember Mayor Dick Caliguiri attending a City Council hearing about his controversial plan to merge then-separate Police, Fire, and EMS departments into three bureaus under one new Public Safety Department. The change was strongly opposed by the police and firefighters unions, whose members packed council chamber as he spoke. I clearly recall Mayor Caliguiri sitting opposite the council members, fielding their questions about his plans as a standing-room-only crowd of opponents rumbled with sounds of disapproval. I was a radio reporter covering council at the time. Below you'll find clippings from the Pittsburgh Press and the Post-Gazette describing what Mayor Caliguiri said and did that day.

Here's a link to my Channel 4 Action News report; it includes video of Mayors Murphy, Masloff, and Caliguiri in rare policy debate appearances before City Council.

Click image to enlarge.

Click image to enlarge.

The Press and PG reports were front page stories, the second items down from the mastheads. Click 'Read More' if you're interested in seeing the rest of the clippings.

PG article, part 2. Click image to enlarge.

Press article, part 2. Click image to enlarge.


Jason Phillips said...

I would think that with the age of those papers they would have turned a shade of yellow by now, thus, making them the only actually yellow journalism related to this story.

Maria said...

KUDOS, Mr. Mayo!

I did a google search last week to try to find examples of Mayors attending past Council hearings and came up with a big NOTHING, so it looks like you did some REAL digging on this one.

Matt H said...

Bob did do his homework. Good job.

I just don't see the big deal with him not attending the meeting.

rico said...

I am very surprised Mr. Mayo. As a professional you are confused on the issue, which you should not be. The hearing you refer to was a Council budget hearing discussing the budget the MAYOR proposed and then for council to vote on for the coming year. The hearing by the women advocates occurred by presenting a petition to council to discuss an issue 25 registered voters presented. You are comparing apples to oranges. As a personal opinion, the police appointment issue pales in comparison to the issues Mayor Caliguiri was addressing at that time. No kudos

Bram Reichbaum said...

Good post.

Anonymous said...

I have nothing to say other than -

I heart Bob Mayo.

Bob Mayo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob Mayo said...


My story takes a look back on the rare occasions when Pittsburgh mayors appeared in Council Chamber to address controversies. (All mayors, of course, appear before council each year to make budget speeches.)

Unlike you, Mayor Ravenstahl has never cited the fact that citizens petitioned for the promotions hearing as a reason not to attend. The petitions did not suggest his presence, some members of his City-County Women's Commission did so in a meeting with the mayor. The agenda for the hearing indicated that City Council itself had also invited him as a guest. Mayors Ravenstahl, Murphy, Masloff, and Caliguiri were all within their rights to make their individual choices. In fact, I could find no record indicating that either Masloff or Caliguiri were even invited to the council meetings they attended.

Murphy's appearance before council shown in my story took place on April 2, 2004. That was not a budget hearing, it was a meeting to respond to an uproar over Murphy freezing funding for community groups. (See the PG story "Mayor, Council butt heads" at this link: )

I actually found video of a second case of Murphy appearing before council to address a controversy. The other was on December 3, 2003 ( ). That appearance was during budget hearings, but it followed the standard budget speech by several weeks and was a rare and unusual question-and-answer session with council.

As for what you suggest may be confusion on my part, please note the date of then-Councilman Ravenstahl's remarks about Murphy--February 4, 2004. Mayor Murphy had presented his 2004 budget in 2003, and council rejected Murphy's 2003 budget on December 31, 2003. Council had already approved the parking tax increase on January 15, 2004, effective February 1, 2004. The issue before council on February 4, 2004 was Councilman Ravenstahl's new proposal, not Mayor Murphy's old one.

Anonymous said...


While it's standard procedure to require 25 signatures on a petition to hold a Public Hearing, the petition circulator for the police promotions hearing was made to get more than 25 signatures by Council Clerk Linda Johnson Wachsler (sp?). Who told the clerk to require more signatures? Why?

Regardless of how many signators there were, Council Chambers had standing room only during that hearing.

The issue is important, as are many issues, past & present, facing Pittsburgh mayors.

How many signatures were on the petitions requesting past public hearings attended by mayors?

What difference does it make? Those mayors acknowledged that citizens' concerns were important and required their attendance at the hearings. The current mayor did not.

Zachary said...

I still think that placing Mr. Ravenstahl in a bad spotlight for keeping to his prior (and already scheduled) committments is just an unfair way to try to get the community to look down on the mayor. The promotions were simply not his fault as he had put trust in his subordinates to make sure the promotions were warranted as he has also 'delegated' things to his subordinates in the past too. I don't doubt that Mr. Ravenstahl has lost some trust in these subordinates.

Think of it this way: This unfair criticism is much like you blaming your boss at your job for your failure to get a task done. For example, your boss tells you in your job description your responsibilities are to make sure the daily deposit to the bank is done before 4 pm and that it is counted accurately, etc. Then one day you simply don't do your job. You get the heat for not doing your job...but then you blame your boss for not making sure that you did your own job.

Do you see the comparison? The boss should not be held accountable for one mistake of a subordinate when the subordinate earned the trust and were actually doing their job correctly in the past.

I feel that Luke is doing a tremendous job filling the shoes of the late Bob O'Connor. O'Connor would have been at the golf outing too if he were still Pittsburgh's mayor. A mayor cannot let the voters decide his daily schedule...especially on issues that nothing can be done about. The mayor cannot rescind these promotions as he has said already. If the voters want to talk to Luke...send him a letter to his office. I'm sure a flood of letters wouldn't be ignored.

Bram Reichbaum said...


Mayor Ravenstahl said he did not attend the meeting because Mayors do not ever attend council hearings, and there was a separation of powers issue.

This report points out that plain historical inaccuracy.

Ravenstahl would have been on better footing if he said, "This matter does not RISE TO THE LEVEL of importance for me to break my previously scheduled public appearance."

If this is "unfair" criticism, it is hard to imagine what you would consider fair.

Also: A "tremendous" job? I can't a rational defense of "tremendous."

Anonymous said...

God job Bob!

Mayor O'Connor was a great man. Ravenstahl is not living up to the standards set by Mayor O'Connor.

I hope we are talking about Mayor DeSantis at this time next year.

Char said...


Please let Bob O'Connor rest in peace. You don't know what Bob would have done in this case or any other.

Char said...

EXCELLENT job, Mr. Mayo.

Paul K said...

Mr. Mayo, thanks for the investigative journalism - and for being one of only two television journalists to pursue this story.

Anonymous said...

Off the topic a bit, but is a list available of Pittsburgh City Council members, their districts/neighborhoods, and when they were in office?