Tuesday, November 24, 2009

My Q&A with the Ravenstahls' Attorney

he following Q&A is a transcript of my telephone interview with Luke and Erin Ravenstahl's attorney, Richard Sprague of Philadelphia.

Bob Mayo Q: My request to your earlier was that the mayor sit down and speak with us on camera as he has done in one other case, to talk about these developments. Will he do that?

Richard Sprague A: The answer is I have advised him not to and his wife as well. On the basis that I was retained, really, after they announced that they have separated to then then give them privacy, leave them alone. They've announced they've separated, they're going to work on their own problems but that's a personal matter. It's got nothing to do with the mayor's public activities as the mayor of the City of Pittsburgh, and his wife's private -- as a private citizen, what she does. And for him to appear on other channels, on the radio interviews, is really not keeping private about which I have asked the media to honor. And so I have advised them not to give any further statements or interviews.

Mayo Q: If that was the intention, why was that one venue chosen -- before we move on, just to clarify that?

Sprague A: I met with the mayor. As far I know they were readily available, and I agreed that we would give one statement and he would give a public release today. And since all he's going to be saying in any interview is 'that my wife and I have separated'. The only other thing that I made clear is that he is living in the City of Pittsburgh, so he's meeting the residency requirement. That's the only thing that would be said. How many times does he just say that over and over? I understand every TV channel and radio feeling 'well, why weren't we selected?'. But, you know, tough.

Mayo Q: Moving on. In what capacity has the couple retained you? Are you handling legal separation, a legal divorce?

Sprague A: Fair question. I am not their lawyer on the domestic situation between them. I am strictly their lawyer to try to preserve their right of privacy. I recognize the mayor as a public official won't have quite the privacy that his wife would have since she's a private citizen. But I am trying to get for both of them the recognition, just like any other couple, just like if you were getting a divorce, or getting -- I shouldn't even use that word, because that's not in the offing. It's a separation. If you were separated, you'd want to have privacy, work it out with your wife. You have a one year old child. Those are private concerns, it's got nothing to do with administering the city. So my role is to try to get them their privacy. And secondly, to prevent there being a whole bunch of smears, innuendoes, defamatory things being suggested. Because if that is so, I will bring appropriate legal action. But it's limited to that. I am not their domestic relations lawyer.

Mayo Q: To clarify, under Pennsylvania law. Is there legal separation under Pennsylvania law and in what sense is that term being used here?

Sprague A: Well, the separation is something that the parties have mutually agreed to and worked out between themselves. And that is fine wherever you are... it's just whatever is agreed to. Sometimes it's not agreed to between the parties, one just separates from the other. And other times the parties can mutually agree , and here it was mutually agreed.

Mayo Q: But there's no document filed with the court now or at any other point regarding separation?

Sprague A: Not in this matter.

Mayo Q: And you have referenced earlier about whether there's any prospect of divorce documents being filed. That-- ?

Sprague A: Divorce is not in the offing. The only thing that's in the picture now is they have separated. They are interested in their child, they are interested in working things out between them, and what happens in the future we'll have to see.

Mayo Q: You had referenced earlier in this interview and in our phone conversation when we spoke earlier in the day, concerning your role in protecting them from defamation, from smears, from invasion of privacy. Has there been anything in your view that has approached that? What is the basis for that concern?

Sprague A: No, there's nothing. As a matter of fact, I must say this, because there's been calls from great numbers of the media in Pittsburgh. And you know I'm not out there, I don't know how they're carrying it. But in the interviews by the reporters, including yourself, I think there's been a full appreciation of a couple wanting privacy, and their personal domestic situation. It's got nothing to do with his running of the city.

Mayo Q: Now, in the one on camera interview that the mayor did, he was asked about and answered questions about talk about (topic redacted). That was brought up in that interview --

Sprague A: I've got to interrupt you on that. See, I think that is outrageous to even raise that kind of a -- and I call that a smear. And if you're broadcasting that, and making that statement, then say so and I'll action against you. You understand that the mayor did not respond to that question raising that, saying things will work out. And that, you know, reporters can something -- I can say on this broadcast right now something terrible, saying, well, there's a report about this or that. And that would be terrible for me to do. You deal with a situation that they are separated and leave it like that. If the mayor answered the question you're talking about then he did not follow my advice, which is he is not to dignify anything like that and he's not to talk further. He's told the citizenry that they're separated and has asked for privacy, which I think is appropriate and i think the media ought to respect.

Mayo Q: Is the reporter who broached that subject liable for potential legal action by the mayor?

Sprague A: I'll have to look and see what he said. (pause) And how he said it.

Mayo Q: The announcement by the couple came a few weeks after the general election. Can you address whether or not there was a choice made not to bring this information into the public spotlight until the election was resolved? Was a decision made earlier that they'd be moving forward with this but to defer until after the election?

Sprague A: I understand that question, but that would involve a conversation between me and my client. As I'm sure you're aware, attorney client conversations are privileged and are not discussed.

Mayo Q: So you're not authorized to address that either way on behalf of your client?

Sprague A: That's correct.

Mayo Q: Do you have anything else regarding any aspect the mayor's official role? Or his use of any resources, whatever, in his role in the office of the mayor that in any way relates to this? Or is there no connection or relationship in any way between his official, public, elected role and this sad turn in his private life?

Sprague A: There is absolutely no connection. There, you know , let's face it. People get married, sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn't. That's a private matter between a couple. In this case, obviously they have decided to separate. They are going to work on their problems. And that has nothing to do with his role as Mayor of Pittsburgh and the request of the couple for -- on that issue, on that issue alone -- privacy. If you like or don't like what he's doing as mayor, take him up on those activities, but leave this couple alone in terms of their personal marriage.

Mayo Q: Is there anything else that you want to add or to emphasize in your role speaking for the mayor, dealing with the media for the mayor in this case that we've not covered?

Sprague A: No, I think that you've asked good questions, you've covered it. I do resent the question that picks up what I consider, you know -- I hear rumors, innuendoes. I don't think that's appropriate. But other than that, I think it's fine. And I think, as I've said, this has got nothing to do with his business as the Mayor of Pittsburgh. People ought to understand, and I think the public does understand the request for on this issue to the media -- 'leave us alone on this issue' -- is very understandable. And I think the public would stand behind the mayor and his wife 100 percent. And I really think except for the media feeling 'well we've got to get something that another media doesn't have' -- your question about why was it broadcast on one station and not on others. You know, that's just the media wanting to be at the center of some matter. The media ought to have the decency just to leave them alone on this issue.

Mayo Q: And again, the reason why I asked the question was that it was within the scope of the one interview that he chose to grant... I wanted to see if that suggested if it was something that you wanted to address. But you're saying even the broaching of that question by his chosen interviewer, you feel was inappropriate?

Sprague A: If he raised that, I think it's absolutely inappropriate. I think on a public broadcast there are some standards that the media should stand to. And that is you don't publicly give 'I hear', or 'there's rumors', or 'there's innuendoes'. I don't think that's proper newsmaking.



Monday, November 23, 2009

Luke & Erin Ravenstahl's Statements on Separation

The following e-mail arrived tonight from the mayor's office:

(PITTSBURGH) November 23, 2009

Today, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Erin Ravenstahl issued the following statements:

Mayor Ravenstahl:

“For some time, like many couples, Erin and I have been working hard to build a successful marriage and have faced the challenges associated with that. Sadly, Erin and I have decided that it is in our family’s best interest to formally separate.

As public people, we recognize that we must share this information. We have strived to work through our challenges and to do so as privately as possible. However, now reaching the decision to formally separate, we felt we should let Pittsburgh know.

Erin and I are now focused on continuing to enjoy a relationship, albeit a very different one, for the continuity and benefit of everyone involved, most importantly, our son Cooper. Our relationship is, and will continue to be, amicable.

We do not know what the future will hold for us. We have no immediate plans to pursue a formal divorce. We simply ask that Pittsburgh understand and respect our family’s privacy as we deal with this very personal matter.”

Erin Ravenstahl:
“Luke and I have made the very difficult decision to formally separate. I am a private person, so sharing this very personal matter publicly is difficult for me, but I understand that this is something that Pittsburgh should know.

I will always be Luke’s friend and continue to share with him our love of our son, Cooper. We will continue to make sure that he is raised in a loving and supportive family. For his sake, and the sake of our entire family, I thank Pittsburgh for respecting our privacy and allowing us to deal with this as well as we can under difficult circumstances, made all the harder by the public nature of our family.

Luke and I will not be making any further public statements on our separation or our family. Because our privacy on this is so very important to us, we have sought professional assistance, retaining the services of attorney Richard A. Sprague, to help us to address privacy matters. We both will be referring all questions from the media to Mr. Sprague.

[Updated with link to Sprague biography at law firm site.]


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Mayoral Debate Video Now Online

WTAE's The Pittsburgh Channel now has our entire mayoral debate online. You can view it in five segments by clicking on the links below:


Thursday, October 22, 2009

Post Debate Q&A: Acklin Attacks Ravenstahl on Verbanac Ties

It triggered the sharpest exchanges of WTAE's mayoral debate. Independent challenger Kevin Acklin repeatedly questioned Pittsburgh Democratic Mayor Luke Ravenstahl about the influence and role of a private businessman in his administration. Acklin claims that Cranberry businessman John Verbanac is powerful figure who has clients that stand to benefit from influencing Ravenstahl's policies. As he did during an earlier debate, the mayor described John Verbanac as a friend but he ridiculed Acklin's allegations as desperate and false. Verbanac himself later dismissed what he called Ackin's attempt to impugn him as "distasteful and wrong".

Acklin told Ravenstahl he had obtained:
"...very specific documents and e-mails that prove that Mr. Verbanac has had a very intimate relationship with your administration He's written your speeches, he literally puts words into your mouth. He's called the shots on who you hire and fire. He advises you on city policies and developments, including developing your strategic plan. He advised you on the firing of BBI (Bureau of Building Inspection) Director Ron Graziano and also called for the purging of your staff. It was very clear, Mr. Ravenstahl, that you lied to the people of this city..."


Kevin Acklin:
"What business interest does John Verbanac have before your administration or with any of these city authorities?"

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl:
"First of all, he has none, I answered the question last week, that he is a friend of mine. Your accusations are wrong. They're inappropriate. And I think they show the level to which apparently this campaign is going to go over the next couple of weeks. Bringing private citizens into conversations, making accusations that are false, like Kevin just did. And I'm not going to get into the minutiae of responding to every single thing that he thinks he can throw against the wall. I would just advise Mr. Acklin to be very, very careful."

"Is that a threat?"


"The mayor just lied again. We have information in documents again, including e-mails that prove very clearly..."

"I don't understand your point, Kevin. John Verbanac is a friend of mine, yes."

"Who very much is actively involved in your administration at the same time he literally has business interests in front of the city, that we have documentation to prove. Isn't that the definition of corruption?"

"Not at all. Because I have conversations with a gentleman who's a friend of mine?"

"At the same time he's directing your policies."

The barbs continued after the debate, during my interviews with the candidates. You can click the link below to listen to the raw audio from my mp3 recorder. Below that you can read some breakout quotes from the Q&A.

• "To be clear, these aren't attacks. These are facts..."

• "It's very that Mr. Verbanac has played a strong role in this administration. It's also very clear that he has business interests in front of this city."

• "...These documents came from a former high ranking official and I was a little taken aback by the fact that he (Ravenstahl) lied to us."

• "...It matters because people want honest leadership in government. And you have a situation here with someone with a lot of influence over this mayor's administration (who) also has a lot of interest in business before the city. These documents speak for themselves. "

• "...And if this isn't corruption, I don't know what is."

• "It's laughable. Especially when you consider if he and I were so close, I don't think I would have been a supporter of the Isle of Capri's bid for the casino license."

[Note: Verbanac had ties with Forest City Enterprises, which was teamed with a competing casino license bidder.]

•"I'm not sure exactly what Mr. Acklin is referring to . I think it shows the desperation right now in his campaign. That John Verbanac is a friend of mine -- he is a friend of mine. When I make decisions I speak with a lot of different individuals. Including my staff, including friends..."

• "Once again, It's a desperate attempt by a desperate candidate to try to create some interest in a race. And it's uncalled for. And you'd have to ask Mr. Acklin why he's choosing to stoop to these levels."

• "..He's (Verbanac's) never given a dollar to my campaign. He's never contributed to my campaign. He's no more than somebody I bounce ideas off of... There's no inappropriate relationship there whatsoever."

Franco Dok Harris, the other independent candidate for mayor, said after the debate:
"You hear whispers all the time. We don't have a stack of documents like the Acklin campaign or try to paint any kind of pictures. What we're doing is, we're trying to bring a positive message."

[Note: Excerpts from the documents released by the Acklin campaign appear on Bram Reichbaum's blog, The Pittsburgh Comet.]

In response to my phone messages, I received the following e-mail from John Verbanac:


With regard to your inquiry, here is my statement.

" I consider myself to be a valued friend and advisor to this Mayor, his predecessor and a number of current and former public officials, non profit and private business leaders. The fact that a desperate candidate in an effort to bolster his failing campaign would attempt to impugn me or the Mayor is distasteful and wrong and an example of why voters are so disenchanted with politics."

Thank you.

John Verbanac



Thursday, September 17, 2009

DAY TWO Update 001 -- G-20 Protest Permits - The Judge's Ruling

[These are my raw notes from the courtroom; they will often consist or keywords and phrases and are not a comprehensive log or transcript.]

10:00 AM: Like me, some attorneys on this case thought that Judge Gary Lancaster's ruling would be filed electronically. Word came that the attorneys are to be here in the judge's courtroom. Once again, the courtroom is full and everyone is anticipating the judge entering shortly.

10:05 AM : "All rise. This honorable court is now in session..."

Judge: ordinary in a case like this I would draft a written opinion.. since time is of the essence here, benefit the parties to have a ruling. The certified transcript will serve as the ruling of the

Judge: Notes that some of the original plaintiffs have been granted permits since the suit was filed. (Remaining) plaintiffs allege their constitutional 1st and 14th amendment rights are being violated.

Judge says plaintiffs seek:

-Permit CodePink to stage event in Point State Park from Sunday 7pm to Tuesday 7pm.

-Permit Thomas Merton Center to March from City County Building to 7th Street Bridge and rally at bridge.

-Permit camping overnight at Schenley Park in Oakland.

Judge: Court has analyzed claims presented at hearing. Plaintiffs must demonstrate likelihood of ultimate success on merits, irreparable harm if not granted, public interest be served by granting relief.

Judge: a preliminary injunction is not a matter of right.


Judge: On Thomas Merton Center request to march from Oakland to City County Building to 7th St Bridge. Estimate that 5,000 to 7,000 would participate in the march.

Judge: Rights under 1st amendment are not absolute. Plaintiffs do not allege restrictions are content based. Government interest in safety and in protecting visiting leaders are valid.

Judge: Defendants have legitimate interest in establishing a security perimeter and in making sure 7th Street Bridge remain passable. City showed would significantly burden already strained police. Bridge has only to points of entry and exit.

Judge: Defendants have demonstrated not overly broad. Refusal to allow thousands of protesters to stop on the bridge is not overly broad.

Judge: Defendants have provided evidence justifying the security perimeter. The heart of plaintiff's argument is that it would be more convenient/less restrictive if their request was granted. Modern technology makes being in proximity less critical. Media outlets will be able to cover... info can be spread via YouTube, Facebook, for example. 1st amendment rights would not be violated by restrictions.


Judge: On request for order to allow them to camp overnight in Schenley Park. He has serious doubts that sleeping overnight is "expressive conduct" so that the 1st amendment applies. Plaintiffs have not met that burden. Evidence is that their request is to accommodate people traveling to Pittsburgh to protest who have no other place to stay. Says they could camp at state park would camping is permitted for example. No evidence that overnight camping would send any message not sent during daylight hours. Even if camping is expressive conduct, no evidence that city prohibition on camping and park hours is content-based. 300 to 600 camping for six days would be burden on city.

Judge: City has legitimate interest in making sure its parks are adequately protected. If this the were to allow this group to camp, based on expressive conduct, no doubt other groups would press for same... create burden on city.

City's action does not violate the 1st amendment. The city does not have a constitutional obligation to provide out of town protesters living accommodations.


Judge: On CodePink and Point State Park. Notes Junior Great Race has permit for weekend before and Great Race for weekend after. Plaintiff argues that granting of permit to event associated with PA State Senator Jim Ferlo is content based. Judge says plaintiffs are not likely to prevail on this. No evidence city denied CodePink's permit based on content of their message. Finds city acted in a content neutral manner. But city has not shown that it's actions were narrowly tailored.

Evidence shows breakdown from Junior Great Race is completed by Sunday 5pm. Denial is not narrowly tailored. Denial would be harm first amendment rights. Public interest would be best served by granting permit to CodePink. Ordering city to permit CodePink to use park from after breakdown from race. From 7pm Sunday to 7pm Tuesday during regular park hours.


Sent from my mobile device


Judge's Ruling on G-20 Protest Permits

Permits to march to and rally on the 7th St Bridge, to camp in Schenley Park are denied. Permits for use of Point State Park Sunday 7pm to Tuesday 7pm during regular hours are okayed. More later.

Sent from my mobile device


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Update 004 -- G-20 Protest Permits Lawsuit -- Federal Court Hearing

[These are my raw notes from the courtroom; they will often consist or keywords and phrases and are not a comprehensive log or transcript.]

3:08 PM Court back in Session.

Officer Christie Gasiorowski back on stand, this time as witness for the city. Questioning by City Assistant City Solicitor Michael Kennedy.
Establishes that -- while approved -- the permit for an overnight camping event this year was not actually issued.

Q: what steps taken to accommodate Thomas Merton Center march? A: Wrote up alternative routes, should have gotten them today.
Mapped route from 7th St Bridge to Buncher lot. Distance from Fifth & Craft to Buncher lot along her proposed routing is 3.8 miles. (Note: that appears to involve crossing over to the North Shore and back.)

Testifies it's very labor intensive to provide police presence for these events.

Asks about plaintiff request to stop and rally at 7th Street Bridge. She testifies that river walk on North Shore is great location providing sight and sound access to convention center.
She has concerns about stop and rally at bridge. Exit only at either end. Says "if a molotov cocktail were to go off" there could be a panic and stampede. Doesn't think city could provide for safety if they stopped and rallied on the bridge.

3:18 PM cross-examination by Vic Walczak of the ACLU.

On the overnight permit -- Walczak : never used because they didn't pay security fee? Officer acknowledges, but says the permit was never approved because it was not signed.
Walczak: There's a piece of paper that was signed that was sent out to somebody. Says this was not supplied to us by the city -- "We got it from them (the applicants), your honor."

Asks about her distance calculations. Walczak say it appears Craft and Fifth to City County Building is about 1.9 miles. How did you get to the 7th Street Bridge? .7 miles to bridge? 0.4 to cross pan of bridge/ridge and .4 back, not counting distance to cover on the North Side, right? A: Possibly.

Walczak: You're suggesting it's too labor intensive for the city to provide for them to stop on the 7th Street Bridge? A: That's one of the issues we have, yes.

Q: The city's going to provide security for the march (the city suggests) to the North Side? A: Correct.
If the Merton Center has 3,000 to 5,000 people, do you believe the river walk would provide space for that many people. A: Hasn't evaluated, believes it can.
Walczak: If people have to spread out over 4 to 5 blocks on river walk by Alcoa, that would require police security, would it not. People could jump in river there, could they not? A: Acknowledges they could.


Walczak asks -- no matter where march ends up, it will require police presence to keep people out of harm's way? Officer Gasiorowski: correct.

Walczak: the concern is about safety of the demonstrators, not of the G-20 Summit correct? Officer: that's correct. But she says Secret Service has some concerns about timing in relation to First Lady's visit to the Warhol.

Walczak: Asks about people filling bridges to watch fireworks. Officer Gasiorowski acknowledges they may. Appears to say that city may not encourage (I could not hear her answer clearly).


The attorney for the Secret Service -- Albert W. Schollaert of the U.S. Attorney's Office - is now questioning Officer Gasiorowski.
Going over Google maps estimates of distances.

3:43 PM : Judge Lancaster questions officer about why she's concerned people may fall off the bridge. She answers that if something happens, she doesn't think the two ends of the bridge would accommodate a mad rush of people.
Officer Gasiorowski's testimony has ended.

3:44 PM Gregory Daley is called as a witness for the city. Supervisor for City Dept of Public Works.
Schenley Park comes within his area of responsibility for clean up. Describes the 2007 occasion when a group was allowed to camp there overnight. Says those organizers never cleaned up and city workers had to work all day to clean up the area and haul away debris.

3:53 Pittsburgh Police Assistant Chief William Bochter takes the stand as a witness for the city. Oversees the operations branch. He's the co-chair of the civil disturbance sub-committee for the G-20.

City Assistant City Solicitor Michael Kennedy is asking questions.

Q: What's manpower looking like: A: "we are stretched very thin"... "to the limits right now".

Q: A: I have a lot of issues with a rally of 3 to 5,000 people taking place on any bridge in the city, with our "manpower problems". Corrects self to "shortfalls".
Acknowledges most protesters will protest peacefully. Says they are very concerned about those who may intend to cause trouble. Says there have been cases elsewhere where people climb bridge superstructures. Concerned about safety of trying to get to them with crowds of thousands. If emergency, there is no access for emergency vehicles. Says when they to disperse a crowd, they always give multiple routes for people to disperse. Chief Bochter If they have to disperse a crowd, there's only one route.

Chief Bochter says having to man another site in addition to strip district lot and north shore would spread them thin.

Under questioning, says he's concerned about bad people infiltrate peaceful groups, with a different message -- one of violence.

4:00 PM Cross examination by Vic Walczak of ACLU.

Chief Bochter says there will, in fact, be a police presence on every bridge in Pittsburgh during the G-20 summit.

Walczak asks about differences in police approach between a march across the bridge and a stop and rally on the bridge.
Chief Bochter says they would keep lanes open during a march, but would not be able to do so in a rally.

4:05 PM Chief Bochter has ended. City Assistant City Solicitor Michael Kennedy says the city rests.

Walczak says he'd like to raise one point of information about the Secret Service representation of distances involved in varous routes.

Judge Lancaster has questions for city's attorneys.
-What's basis for denying use of Point State Park Sunday evening (before closing), Monday, and Tuesday? City attorney answers that city crew needs wiggle room in time in case of bad weather. Says there are dangers in relying on the best case scenario, and then having the worst case arrive.

Judge: I would say that if next week our biggest problem is a schedule conflict between CodePink and the Junior Great Race, we should be thankful.

Judge to protesters attorneys: What is city's alternative routes an affront to 1st amendment rights?

Lobel: Says question isn't whether city locations "might be okay", the real question is why marching across the bridge is acceptable, but a brief rally there is not.
As for someone jumping off or climbing bridge, if you used that basis -- (that such a thing *might* happen) -- you could preclude *anything* from being granted.

Judge: the city has offered CodePink to use Point Park Tuesday and Wednesday, sharing on Wednesday with Ferlo's group? Answer establishes they don't want to get swallowed up by someone else's event.
Attorneys for protesters say they believe they've proven there was clear favoritism and bias in granting of permits. Approving a large event for Ferlo on Wednesday, and not a smaller group on Monday and Tuesday.

Judge Lancaster: says he will place his ruling on record at 10 AM tomorrow.

[I'm posting this from home this evening, but I believe the hearing concluded at about twenty minutes after 4.]


Update 003 -- G-20 Protest Permits Lawsuit -- Federal Court Hearing

[These are my raw notes from the courtroom; they will often consist or keywords and phrases and are not a comprehensive log or transcript.]

1:49 PM Peter Shell of the Thomas Merton Center is called as a witness by ACLU Attorney Vic Walczak.
Shell has been active in Merton Center since 1999. Now co-chair of the anti-war committee of the Thomas Merton Center.
Says its a local social justice non-profit organization dating back to 1972. Mostly volunteers. Says center has sponsored "certainly over a hundred" marches and rallies over the years.

Mailed in permit application July 24th by certified mail. Calling it a "people's march", "money for people, not for war".
Would start with rally at noon at Fifth and Craft in Oakland. A feeder march from Freedom Corner in the Hill District would merge with them, with all arriving at the City County Building.
Had originally requested to march down Grant Street to the Federal Building and rally there.

Shell testifies

Feels G-20 is an "illegitimate organization". Want to go to City County Building to express disapproval of city and county's cooperation with G-20.

Walczak: at issue is third leg of march -- where would go after the City County Building.

Asks about the Buncher parking lot in the Strip District. (The lot is being offered by the city to protesters a place within sight and sound of the convention center.) Shell: No viable route offered by the city to get to the lot.

Walczak: there have been two proposed routes suggested by city -- through Polish Hill from Oakland to get to Buncher lot. Shell testifies it would

Walczak: City also suggested route of Over 7th Street Bridge, down General Robinson Street, back across 16th Street Bridge to Strip? A: Yes, but that would also add 3.8 miles to trip and hills would not be possible for older marches.

Shell: wants to protest in downtown as a center of corporate and government power.

Walczak: asks about protest group's latest proposal.

Shell: they propose to stop on the 7th Street Bridge. Says its better than city's suggestion of North Shore walking and bike trail. He doesn't think it would safely accommodate several thousand people.

2:03 PM: Cross examination of Shell by John Dogherty of the City of Pittsburgh law department.

Q: You've been approved for leg one and leg two of your proposed route? A: Told that, but not seen permit.

You've taken it upon yourself to advertise and promote your event, even though you did not get formal approval? A: Waiting for approval would not have left enough time. Feels was reasonable, based on city's saying it would approve Oakland to Downtown route.

Shell: If we were given a permit to stop and rally on the 7th Street Bridge, they would withdrawl permit request for other routes.

Doughterty: You don't want to march your people into a dead end? A: Yes.
Dougherty asks if North Shore river trail would offer better sight and sound that 7th Street Bridge.
Shell answers that they're concerned about safety of marchers on the river trail (because of the size of the crowd).

Dougherty: You anticipate people taking part in your march who are not part of the Thomas Merton Center? A: Yes. Dougherty suggests there could be a danger posed by those other participants, such as jumping from bridge.

2:13 PM

Next witness: Pittburgh Police Officer Gazarowski (Spelling? The officer was not at the courtroom microphone when she was sworn in. I couldn't hear her first name or the spelling of her last name).
Police bureau's representative on the city's special events committee.
Walczak: past practice when more than one application comes in is to grant the first one in? A: yes.
Officer testifies she was the one who applied for permit for Pittsburgh Police to use Point State Park.

Walczak: Plan is for city police to use the fountain side of the park as a staging area? A: Yes. Q: Don't anticipate it wlll interfere with use of entrance side of park? A: Correct.

Walczak: Permit request from Ferlo that came in August 10th was for one day -- September 23rd, correct? A: Yes.

Officer says she stamped the CodePink permit application as arriving August 24th.
Says 3 Rivers Climate Convergence request also came in on August 24th.

CodePink asked for Sunday to Friday.
Walczak: Ferlo did not ask for Sunday, Monday, Tuesday -- Code Pink asked for those dates first? Officer answers that of the three -- but indicates that Junior Great Race filed first for Sunday.

Walczak: Shows application for Junior Great Race. Officer confirms the permits is for only until 1 PM on Sunday.


Walczak asks about Public Safety Director Huss's reconsideration and approval of Ferlo's Wednesday, September 25th permit request. Officer confirms that she and the city's special events committee did not have a role in approving the Ferlo permit.

Walczak: Asks whether CodePink's permit application and the 3 Rivers Climate Conversion application for Point State Park were ever presented to the city's special events committee. The officer says she personally looked at it, but doesn't recall either way whether she presented them to committee.

Walczak: the process used for Senator Ferlo's permit application was never used for the applications from CodePink or 3 Rivers Climate Conversion? Officer indicates it was not.

Questions now turn to the Thomas Merton Center's march application.

Walczak: The city cannot grant a permit that crosses through the Secret Service security perimeter? Officer answers that is correct.

Q: What is the route that you suggested? A: Fifth Avenue to Smithfield, to Seventh Street Bridge, to North Shore...etc.

2:35 PM

[These are my raw notes from the courtroom; they will often consist or keywords and phrases and are not a comprehensive log or transcript.]

Walczak: There's no outright prohibition to going on the 7th Street Bridge? A: Not to my knowledge.

Officer: Merton Center March might conflict with First Lady's visit to the Warhol... but she says they should be able to accomodate.

Walczak: Asks if any other groups besides G-20 protesters have applied to use city parks overnight? She indicates she doesn't believe so.

Walczak introduces application from February 25, 2009 for an April, 2009 date, from 10 AM to 10 AM in Schenley Park. Estimated participants, 200 to 300.

Officer acknowledges document.

Walczak: Special events committee granted this permit, did it not? Officer: it was reviewed but not issued because group did not pay the fee.

Walczak: Shows document with checkmark by "Status: approved" for overnight use of Schenley Park. Was approved March 31st of this year, is that correct? A: Yes.

2:50 PM Plaintiffs rest. Judge calls ten minute recess.


Update 002 -- G-20 Protest Permits Lawsuit -- Federal Court Hearing

[These are my raw notes from the courtroom; they will often consist or keywords and phrases and are not a comprehensive log or transcript.]

1:27 PM: First things first: attorneys for both sides say Judge Gary Lancaster has indicated he may rule from the bench this afternoon.

When I returned from filing my noon report, there were no seats free in the courtroom where I could plug in and blog, so here's a quick recap of what happened between 11 AM and the 12:30 one hour recess.

Attorneys for the protesters presented a series of witnesses to try to make the case that the city played favorites when approving permits to use Point State Park during G-20 week.
ACLU Attorney Vic Walczak is attempting to show that the plaintiff's applications to use Point State Park from Sunday through Friday actually came before the request by PA State Senator Jim Ferlo.
The plaintiff's witnesses appeared to show that after initially being told the park would not be available, Ferlo was told that it could have the park on Wednesday.

Assistant City Parks Director Michael Radley -- who is also director of the Great Race -- testified that Public Safety Director Michael Huss intervened. Radley told the court that Huss asked him if he could accommodate a group using Point State Park on Wednesday. Radley testfied that he told Huss "it won't be easy, but we'll get it done.

1:36 PM: "All rise. This honorable court is now in session."

Radley back on stand. Testifying that camping in city parks is prohibited "for the most part".

Lobel: let me read what you said in your deposition. "In a rare situation". Is that correct?
So the director has the ability to grant permission to camp in a city park? A: "He does, by code".
Section 473.04 of the city code: "no person in the park shall camp, except with the permission of the director".

Lobel: Are there any regulations to guide the director as to which people are allowed to camp and which are not? A: No regulations.
Q: Do you know that in 2007 a group of students requested permission to park in a city park? Was it granted? A: It was.
Why? A: it was a one night request and appeared to have a very low impact. Group agreed to hire an off duty city police officer to monitor their activity.

Radley acknowledges that no one from the city attempted to reach any similar sort of accommodations with CodePink or 3 Rivers Climate Convergence.

How many students camped on that occasion in 2007? A: A couple of hundred.
Problems? A: They did not leave park as they found it. Quite a bit of refuse left behind.

City Assistant City Solicitor Michael Kennedy asks to do direct examination of Radley now, so as not to recall him later. Judge agrees.

Q: When conditions are ideal, when would you break down from the Junior Great Race? A: Sunday evening.
Any adverse conditions could push the breakdown into late Sunday night and into Monday.
Has concern about damaging sod and safety of workers if they had to breakdown in rain.

Judge: In your 13 years, how many times has it taken past 5 PM Sunday to break down from the Junior Great Race?
Radley: indicates it hasn't happened in his 13 years.

Also testifies setup for the actual Great Race the following Sunday would normally start on Wednesday. Says it is being pushed back to Thursday to accommodate Ferlo's event.

Since 2007 -- when the group of students failed to clean up after themselves -- have any other groups been granted permits to camp in park? A: There have not.

1:48 PM Radley's testimony ends.

1:49 PM Peter Shell of the Thomas Merton Center is called as a witness by ACLU Attorney Vic Walczak.

Sent from my mobile device


Update 001 -- G-20 Protest Permits Lawsuit -- Federal Court Hearing

[These are my raw notes from the courtroom; they will often consist or keywords and phrases and are not a comprehensive log or transcript.]

10:18 AM Judge Gary Lancaster takes the bench. Notes that parties have been continuing to negotiate in good faith, narrowing the issues. Says some permits have been issued since suit was filed.

Attorney Jules Lobell, Center for Constitutional Rights, says plantiffs want:
-Permits for Sunday eve to Tuesday evening for Point State Park for Code Pink and 3 Rivers Climate Convergence; are no longer asking to camp there overnight.

-A permit for a protest march from the City County Building to 7th Street Bridge and to stop there for short rally, then disperse. He says the city unwilling to grant that; asking they are asking judge to do so.
-the judge to issue a permit for camping in Schenley Park.

Witness: Francine Porter, Code Pink. 10:21AM.
She's a registered critical care nurse and has been a member of CodePink for years. She's a coordinator of the local group of 350 members for past five years.
CodePink founded to speak out against war in Iraq. Focus now is Iraq and Afghanistan.
CodePink applied for two permits in early July for Louis & Clark Parklet, behind convention center for Monday 20th to Friday the 25th.
Aims of their event: to be voice to speak on behalf of refugee crisis brought about by the wars...crisis that impacts women and children.
Later, in 1st or 2nd week in August, applied for permit for Point State Park as well. First request hadn't been granted yet. Thought Point State Park would be farther away and still have good visibility.
Application signed 12th of August, mailed August 14th to city.

City's Special Events Coordinator Nadine Brnilovich told her permits had been denied.

Hoping to create family-friendly non-hostile, non-threatening atmosphere. High visibility area would be good. An encampment with two large tents, lots of literature, speakers on impact of war on women and children.
Would allow people people to become informed on G-20 policy impact on refugees. Have since compacted plans from five days to two days because of restrictions.
When heard PA State Senator Jim Ferlo had been requested a permit for Wednesday, they told city there would be
Asking for early evening Sunday to set up infrastructure of encampment through Tuesday evening, leaving the park at 7 PM each evening.
No longer asking to camp overnight -- but need a way to secure their encampment equipment (overnights).

City said it would be difficult to set up in Point State Park on Monday or Tuesday because of the aftermath of the Junior Great Race.

Lobel: Did the city recently grant you a permit for the Louis & Clark Parklet for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday? A: They did.
Q: Does that satisfy your need for Point State Park. She says it does not.

Lobel: asks about suitability of the Buncher lot on the Strip District. Porter answers by asking if he's ever tried to pitch a tent on concrete. Says would not be a family-friendly location.

10:41 AM cross examination by Assistant City Solicitor Michael Kennedy.
Asks to confirm that CodePink is no longer asking for Thursday and Friday. She says that's because the city says it would not be available.
Asks about her familiarity with The Great Race. She says she's run it thirty times.

He asks if she's familiar with time and effort involved in setting up and taking down event.
Asks her familiarity with the Junior Great Race. Would she have any reason to believe the take-down would not take until through Monday morning.
She says she doesn't understand why the takedown of the Junior Great Race would take longer than the Great Race.
He says her attorneys may put those questions later to other witnesses.

Kennedy offers evidence of city time stamp on permit application -- ten days after it was mailed.
She says the post office told her it would not have taken that long to arrive.

Kennedy asks, establishes that city is making available to CodePink: Tuesday in Point State Park, three days at the Louis & Clark Parklet, and the Buncher lot in the Strip District.

10:50 AM Cross examination by attorney for PA Department of Conservation & Natural Resources which actually controls the park.
His questions establishes that securing the tents would require using stakes.

10:53 AM Re-direct by Lobel: if you are not allowed to use stakes, could you secure tents with sandbags? A: Probably.

10:54 AM Porter's testimony ends.

[ Breaking from blogging to prepare for noon report on WTAE Channel 4 Action News.]


Friday, September 11, 2009

Notes From Permit Lawsuit

• Alleges defendants "have unduly restricted or failed to recognize their right to peacably demonstrate in traditional public forums during the G-20 summit".

• Asks for a temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction.

Defendants are:

-US Secret Service

-City of Pittsburgh

-PA Dept of Conservation & Natural Resources

At issue:

-refusal to issue permits for use of Point State Park during entire week of the G-20 Summit

-failure to actually issue permits to plaintiffs for 1st Amendment protected activities,

-refusal to issue a permit to the Thomas Merton Center authorizing a march and assembly in downtown that is less than 0.7 miles away from the convention center on the afternoon of Friday, September 25th.

-refusal to allow demonstrators to erect overnight encampments and "tent cities" as a form of symbolic protest in Pittsburgh's parks, including Point State, Schenkey, East, and Riverfront Parks.


-Code Pink

-3 Rivers Climate Convergence

-Thomas Merton Center

-Pittsburgh Outdoor Artists

-Bail Out the People

-G6 Billion Journey & Witness

Sent from my mobile device


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Lawsuit Over G-20 Protest Permits

The ACLU and groups planning G-20 protests will sue the City of Pittsburgh and the Secret Service in federal court Friday over what they say are denials of permits for their events.

The Thomas Merton Center alleges the city is denying reasonable access to be within "sight and sound" of the G-20 summit for the planned September 25th march from Oakland to Downtown. The city has acknowledged such access is required by court precedent.

Among the end-points for the G-20 protest march vetoed by the secret service, according to ACLU:

• Fort Duquesne Boulevard beteween 6th & 7th Streets

• Liberty Avenue between 10th and Grant Streets.

The Thomas Merton Center's Pete Shell says the Secret Service would allow the march to end at a Strip District parking lot on Smallman Street. Shell says, however, that would require marchers to cross the Allegheny River via the 6th or 7th Street Bridge, walk down east along on the North Side, come back across the river via the 16th Street Bridge, then head back towards town.

The American Civil Liberties Union and the Merton Center also say the city suggested ending the march on the North Shore walking trail, across the river from the David Lawrence Convention Center. Protest organizers argue that is not within reasonable sight and sound of the Convention Center.

Among the other groups joining in the lawsuit are Code Pink and 3 Rivers Climate Convergence. They want permits to stage gatherings in Point State Park and to camp in the park overnight.

With the summit just two weeks away, protest organizers are hoping for a quick hearing before a federal judge on their request for a court order.

As I was heading home from work, Mayor Ravenstahl's Press Secretary Joanna Doven sent out word that Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Mike Huss was available to brief the news media about the permits. Channel 4 Action News reporter Jon Griener is covering that right now. Jon e-mails that protesters will have access via the Strip District to parking lots on Smallman Street just across from the convention center. Jon notes that's within shouting distance, indicates the city isn't providing information yet on what march route it would allow. He also tells me that Director Huss is referring media questions about the lawsuit to the city Law Department.



Tuesday, August 4, 2009

No "Birther": Congressman Murphy Says Obama is Citizen

"Here is Congressman Murphy's position: President Obama is a natural-born citizen of the United States, period."

That unambiguous statement comes from Congressman Tim Murphy's Chief of Staff for Media Relations in Washington DC, Susan Mosychuk. She was returning my call, in which I asked whether Murphy had sent out any messages to constituents on this topic.

Both MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show and the Pittsburgh area blog 2 Political Junkies reported that Congressman Murphy sent a lengthy message to some constituents acknowledging the concerns of those who question President Obama's citizenship, but not taking a stand himself on the matter. Chief of Staff Mosychuk told me that Murphy's office has done no mailing on this topic; she says that the congressman is focused on the issue of health care.

When I pressed and asked whether Congressman Murphy had sent out any e-mails on the subject, Mosychuk said she would not respond to blogs or videos that have appeared on the Internet. When I asked the chief of staff whether she was saying the alleged message from Congressman Murphy was bogus or a fabrication, she chose not to answer directly. She instead repeated her statement: "Congressman Murphy's position is that President Obama is a natural-born U.S. Citizen".

Mosychuk says that Congressman Murphy has never aligned himself with any "fringe movements" or "conspiracy theories". She says he is not among those who have come to be known as "birthers" -- those who question President Obama's citizenship and constitutional qualifications to legally serve as president.



Friday, July 17, 2009

Gryffindor or Slytherin?

logger "Infinonymous" kindly gave me Hogwarts points I don't deserve when he or she posted :

Mr. Mayo's powers evidently have grown to the point at which he can create links that tie directly to, and highlight, particular portions of P-G articles.

I can't take credit for that. It's some web voodoo the Post-Gazette's implemented on its own.

Try this: select and copy some text in a PG story, then paste it in another document. The result? When you paste, you get not only the copied text but a customized link to the story it came from --- a trick that's both handy and a little creepy at the same time. The virtual "yellow highlighter" effect it generates when you use the customized link does help to show that copied text in its original context -- but how is the newspaper's website commandeering the tools of my browser or operating system?



Thursday, July 16, 2009

Sign of the Times: Lamar Responds

The following news release came in earlier today:

Lamar Advertising Appeals Decision Involving Grant Street Signage

PITTSBURGH, Pa. (For Immediate Release) -- Lamar Advertising today filed an appeal to the Commonwealth Court from Judge Joseph James’ order of June 24, 2009 involving the electronic signage at the Pittsburgh Parking Authority Grant Street Transportation Center.

“We are taking this step to protect Lamar’s legal rights in this matter,” said Stan Geier, Lamar Vice President and General Manager. “We spent a considerable amount of money on the display after we received permission from the city. If the city no longer supports the project, as a good corporate citizen Lamar will respect that decision. However, if that is the case, we are entitled to recover our expenses from the city of Pittsburgh.”

Lamar began construction of the display in February 2008 based on a permit that it received from the city in December 2007. In April 2008 the city of Pittsburgh issued a stop-work order.

The appeal will preserve Lamar’s legal rights to a recovery of its project expenses.

“We received a permit for construction of this display, following a well-established procedure with the city of Pittsburgh and with the support of the city administration,” Geier said. “Relying upon that permit, we invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in the display in early 2008. We have been damaged by the city’s decision to change its mind. We cannot simply let the matter drop.”

Because of the legal delays, Geier said Lamar will begin removing electronic components of the display from the Transportation Center. The company will attempt to re-use the components in other projects, which would mitigate the amount that it will otherwise seek to recover from the city of Pittsburgh.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

City Government Summer Hockey: 5 on 4 Power Play

Imagine the shock waves in Washington if U.S. Senate Democrats used a filibuster-proof majority to approve a raft of President Obama's appointees without interviewing the nominees first.

The Post-Gazette's initial web story on Tuesday captures a flavor of the unusual nature of what happened in city government:

"Pittsburgh City Council divided sharply today before taking the unusual step of opting not to interview 12 nominees to city boards prior to approving them."

Today's PG account notes that about half of the large number of simultaneous appointments had already been approved by City Council in a matter of a few weeks:

Mr. Ravenstahl made 21 nominations on June 22, and council interviewed and confirmed nine of them within the usual two- or three-week time frame.

Council members Jim Motznik and Theresa Smith are quoted in the PG:

Mr. Motznik said the nominees "have been scheduled for interviews, only to have them canceled the night before" by Council President Doug Shields, calling such tactics "the gamesmanship, the political crap that we have to go through."

"I know what my community wants," countered Ms. Smith. "They have elected a mayor of the city of Pittsburgh, overwhelmingly," and mayors pick board members.

The Trib's council coverage doesn't touch on the no-interview approval process, opting for a four sentence story about the opportunity to apply for a new city commission.

Over on Pittsblog 2.0, Mike Madison offered analysis weeks back in June about the background of some of Mayor Ravenstahl's appointments. Council's action passes on the opportunity for citizens to hear from the nominees.

There's conversation about the story in the comments section of this post by on The Pittsburgh Comet.

2 Political Junkies has critical commentary and a biting editorial illustration.



Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Act 47 Team Letter to Council

click to enlarge

[As commenter Monk pointed out, copying and pasting from BlackBerry's Mail into GMail made a scrambled mess of the text. My apologies.]

ere's the text of the letter:

June 29, 2009

The Honorable William Peduto
Chair, Finance Committee
Council of the City of Pittsburgh
City-County Building, 5th Floor
Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Dear Chairman Peduto:

We appreciate your ongoing work with us to develop a final Amended Act 47 Recovery Plan.

Pursuant to Council’s expressed intent last week, our subsequent discussions with you and your colleagues, and with the guidance of the Mayor, we have developed the attached package of amendments to the Amended Recovery Plan. Please note that in addition to the amendments, we will make certain conforming changes to the Executive Summary, Introduction and other portions of the Amended Recovery Plan to make them consistent with these amendments.

We would be most appreciative if you would introduce this package of amendments to the Amended Recovery Plan and the relevant ordinance at tomorrow’s City Council session. If enacted without modification, these amendments have our consent as Act 47 Coordinator.

Thank you again for your tremendous leadership, good counsel and advice in bringing us to this point.


James H. Roberts Dean Kaplan

c: Members of City Council
The Honorable Luke Ravenstahl, Mayor
Yarone Zober, Chief of Staff to the Mayor
Scott Kunka, Finance Director
Bill Urbanic, Council Finance Director

Sent from my mobile device (and later reformatted).


Friday, June 26, 2009

Lamar Billboard Saga

Is it end-of-chapter or end-of-story?

Judge Joseph James has upheld the Zoning Board ruling denying permission for construction of a multi-million dollar billboard  downtown --- a billboard that's already mostly completed.  (See the PG and the Trib stories.  Bram Reichbaum's Pittsburgh Comet has the entire ruling online.)

Controversies connected to the handling of the Lamar electronic billboard are woven into a number of big Pittsburgh political and goverment stories of the past couple of years.

This link will let you check out many of my past blog posts on the topic. After clicking the link, scroll to the bottom of the screen.

This PG story also notes that Mayor Ravenstahl has just changed the makeup of the Zoning Board that ruled against the billboard.

More to come.



Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Tweeting the Act 47 Saga in Council again


Go to the link above to get the updates.

Sent from my mobile device


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Your Tweets on Mayor Before Council

Readers provided a lot of feedback via Twitter as I did my live tweeting of Mayor Ravenstahl's appearance before City Council:


Tweeting the Mayor Meeting with Council

Here's my Twitter coverage of Mayor Ravenstahl's appearance before City Council to discuss the Act 47 financial recovery plan. For those not used to reading tweets, the entries below are in reverse chronological order, with the most recent listed first. Please pardon the typos, these are thumb-typed in a rush.

I did correct one embarrassing typing error: some comments were attributed to Councilwoman Burns instead of Harris. Of course I know better. That's an interesting subconscious slip; using the name of a former North Side council member instead of the current one. At least I didn't call Doug Shields "Jeep".

The tweets follow:

  1. Mayor tells reporters his side comment was to the effect the proceeding was a joke. Remark was in a moment of frustration.
  2. Peduto says it's not a threat, but council will not pass plan as is. Done w mayor.
  3. Mayor at Council meeting for more than 2 1/2 hours. Still going.
  4. Shields tells mayor he wants to work with him to fight in Harrisburg for city.
  5. Shields: says this mayor cares about this city -- he has no doubt about that.
  6. Shiellds: this plan is a little screwy if you ask me.
  7. Councilman Kraus, I am told, thinks he heard the mayor mutter that kraus "is a joke".
  8. Mauor expresses concerns that expections are being created there can be widespread changes in the Act 47 plan. Doesn't think it's the case.
  9. Some here think the mayor's muttered side comment was "this is such a joke".
  10. Kraus apparrently thought he overheard mayor mutter "joke" as Kraus was talking. Kraus called him on it, Mayor said he was talking to Huss.
  11. Mayor to Kraus: he was highly offended by council's criticism of his being away on vacation last week. Kraus said problem was timing.
  12. Peduto notes his sense is that council will not support the Act 47 plan as is.
  13. Dowd tells Ravenstahl he cannot suport raising taxes as the plan's "failsafe option"m
  14. Mayor says plan provides options .... Says not passing it is "a blueprint for disaster".
  15. Dowd: concerns about whether mayor can implement in time to get budget without tax increasesm
  16. Burgess says that will put city in "state receivership.". Calls for meeting with council, mayor, Act 47 team to reach unity.
  17. Burgess says if don't adopt plan by June 30, may as well not adopt it ever. Says not approving by then leads to union arbitration costs.
  18. Burgess says his concern is unity. Suggests working together to craft agreement.
  19. Councilman Burgess says he doesn't like to do policy "under the lights".
  20. Peduto: the plan is bad for Pittsburgh if council doesn't amend it.
  21. Peduto tells finance director council will put the options the mayor describes into the plan in writing because "they're not in there".
  22. Peduto: Act 47 "failsafe plan" increases local taxes. Mayor says he's pursuing leasing parking garages instead.
  23. Peduto to Mayor: do you support closing the Greenfield fire station. Mayor: "yeah".. But says at end of day it's Act 47's plan.
  24. Pedutoh plan leaves only options of raising property taxes and wage taxes and real estate transfer taxes on city residents.
  25. Peduto to Mayor: legislators say $145 a year isn't going anywhere. Peduto says voting this plan today will raise taxes on city residents.
  26. Peduto to mayor: hope you had nice vcation. Mayor jokes "firefighters are asking for 5th week of vacation, I can't even has one"..
  27. Mayor's chief of staff Yarone Zober tries to interject during Shields' questioning of Ravenstahl. Shields tells Zober he's out of order.
  28. Mayor: I'm sitting her talking to you nowm Shields: under motion to compel. Mayor: it has nothing to do w/ motion to compel.
  29. Shields complains of mayor's past "resounding silence". Mayor : "I'm here". Shields how do you build relationship if don't meet?
  30. Shields says mayor did not answer his repeated requests to discuss problems. Tells mayor unity is built before, not after.
  31. Mayor: not his plan, would he draw on differently...it's the Act 47 team's plan. He's asking council to approve it.
  32. Mayor to Shields question on call foe council unity: mayor says need to act to approve this plan. Says will work w/ council afterward.
  33. Council Prez Doug Shields to Mayor: bottom line is the plan has a $15M hole. Says Act 47 and ICA doesn't have weight to carry city's case.
  34. I'm going to ease off of tweet-by-tweet coverage now, but if anything big comes up, I'll let you all know.
  35. Harris: we've had 5 years for the state to come in and do something and they haben't done enough.
  36. Councilwoman Harris continues to press City Solicitor Specter: show in writing where June 30 is deadline for Act 47 and contract talks.
  37. Mayor: says if if state legislature were to approve increase in LST tax from $52 to $144 and payroll prep tax on non-profits., won't be back
  38. Mayor: doesn't necessarily disagree. But says he's a political realist. Says still facing uphill battle in Harrisburg.
  39. Mayor notes local services tax apply to everyone who works in cituy, not kust city residents. Payne says she'd like commuter tax.
  40. Councilwoman Payne: hopes he's not saying will still raise taxes, but not just those city residents alone pay.
  41. Huss: says he'd rather deal with provisions of plan than eliminating jobs.
  42. Councilwoman Smith: asks for info on impact of potential public safety retirement. Director Huss and administration provide.
  43. Kraus: tells mayor wants cooperative relationship, door is open but says mayor hasn't used it yet.
  44. Mayor: choices are extremely limited... Again points to his proposal to monetize assets to put large influx of cash to pension fund.
  45. Mayor: we have to think outside the box. Need $ for pension fund.
  46. Mayor to Kraus: nobody is losing their jobs here. Kraus: says his concern is ability to recruit and retain workers, including police.
  47. On labor issues, in response to Kraus, mayor supports plan as is. Says plan should be approved by June 30th.
  48. Councilman Kraus to mayor: says he personally has had no communication from him. Doesn't want to hear by press release.
  49. Mayor: if don't approve plan, everything city's accomplished will go up in smoke.
  50. Says guarantees he won't support tax increases . Says if none od other options are implemented, will be back with cuts.
  51. Mayor: depends more on council leadership more than anything he as mayor will do.
  52. Dowd to mayor: you need the $15M by the time you present budget by Sept?
  53. Kunka: any combination of these totalling up to $15M will do job.
  54. Dowd: how do you do this in 2010 without avoiding tax increase? Mayor defers to finance director Kunka.
  55. Tells council not to delay approval......failure could bring state sanctions.
  56. Option E: staff reductions, services cuts, tax increases that he does not support.
  57. Another option: surcharges. Poss. On garages, hospital bed fees, head tax on college students.
  58. Another option; apply payroll prep tax to non profits.
  59. Another option: increase local services tax from $52 a year to $144 a year. (Would need state legis. approval.)
  60. Mayor element one: "monetize assets"....that's selling or leasing parking garages.
  61. Mayor: four elements to his plan to raise revenue to meet long term obligations.
  62. Mayor will not support tax increases that are solely on city residents.
  63. Mayor: Not like cuts other cities are seeing now. Need to be able to make difficult decisions now.
  64. Mayor says city workfoce is overworked and underpaid. Plan woulg give bonuses, modest raises.
  65. Mayor says time to approve Act 47 plan is now.
  66. Mayor says his powerpoint presentation will answer. Says has sufficent savings to get through next 5 years. Plenty of work still to do.
  67. Dowd to mayorh do you support this plan, if so, why? Can you implement. Will you have a tax increase?
  68. Dowd tells mayor plan is a mountain of service cuts combined with tax increase or increases.
  69. Mayor says he has presentation, but Dowd wants to start with Q&A.
  70. Mayor allowed to table with staff.
  71. Dowd asks for Mayor alone, not staff. Burgess says if that happens, he'll invoke right to block mayor speaking.
  72. Burgess motion to approve Act 47 plan fails for lack of 2nd. Dowd moves to reject, asks mayor to come to table.
  73. Peduto: no issue more important -- affects everything, including public safety for next 5 years. Mayor will go first.
  74. 10:59: mayor back in room, last public speaker wrapping up.
  75. Darren Kelly (sp?) Of fire union: points to closing of fire station, elimination of deputy chief positions.
  76. 10:50: mayor and his bodyguard just stepped out and headed into his office as unrelated citizen public comment continues.
  77. 10:40: Mayor sitting in audience as citizens speak out on other concerns during public comment period.
  78. O'Hara says pool of potential applicants is falling. Says council should think about safety implications.
  79. Police Union prez Dan O'Hara: public safety is first, not looking to raid coffers. If you vote for plan as is, city will see deterioration.
  80. Finance chair Peduto apologizes but keeps King to the 3 minute comment for now. Union will get to say more later.
  81. Fire union prez Joe King: there is not a time limit for you to pass this by June 30th. Says current Act 47 plan would still be in place.
  82. 10:18. Mayor Ravenstahl just entered. Meeting about to start. Public comment normally comes first.