Monday, November 8, 2010

UPDATED with Council Reaction: Mayor Ravenstahl's Budget Message Breakout Quotes

UPDATE 2: Reactions from City Council members to Mayor Ravenstahl's address which warned of a coming "financial nightmare" in 2016 :

Council Finance Chair Bill Peduto:

• "Under his scenario which he presented today which is using one sided numbers, sure you can make that argument. But is it reality? No. Not unless we choose to go down that path. That's a path I will never travel."

• "We had a scolding, if nothing else,of city council -- and it wasn't even based on reality."

• "He's still trying to push an idea, even at the point of today, which was harmful to Pittsburgh."

Council President Darlene Harris (via written statement):

• "We have no intention of selling ourselves short, and no plan to initiate debt that will destroy future generations."

• "We also have no intention of foregoing billions of dollars of revenue over the next 50 years so that investment bankers can drain the life out of our City."

•"...In the coming weeks we will be actively working - day and night - to produce a decent, working solution to the immediate crisis, and thereafter this body intends to address the very core of the issue - the pension funds themselves.

Councilman Doug Shields:

•"I was little chagrined, to say the least, to hear that it's all council's fault, number one. Number two, there is a viable plan that the council enacted on the table."

• "I never saw a mayor come into the chamber and essentially insult the council."

• "It was like, 'okay, I'm coming into council to yell at the council about something, to basically throw this in the council's face, and blame them for everything."

Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak:

• "He said the actions of a few. I think there was clear majority that rejected the one option. there are still other options on the table."

Here are some key quotes from Mayor Ravenstahl's budget message delivered to City Council. (I posted a version of this earlier via mobile e-mail, but thumbtyping via BlackBerry leaves something to be desired in the way of formatting.) I've also expanded some quotes.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl:

• "It appears that Pittsburgh must return to the years of deficit spending..."

• " forcing us into a financial culture that looks too much like our past".

• "I submit five year plan today that does not raise taxes. That does not make draconian cuts to basic city services."

• "...makes sure that Pittsburghers can get through the next five years unharmed, even when confronted by pension payments that double and triple..."

• "We will do that by using our fund balance to ensure that we survive through 2015."

• "In 2016, the first year following the five year plan, our fund balance will be depleted."

• "(In 2016) we will be forced to make a $91 Million payment to the state pension system.."

• "...that is a quarter of our city's entire budget...more than it costs to operate any city departmentt."

• "After 2016, I cannot tell you how Pittsburgh will..deliver..core services without severe cuts & tax increases."

• "Pension payments after 2016 are even more staggering."

• "With a fund balance that is dried up, Pittsburgh will have to make a $127 Million pension payment in 2017. "

• "...our city walks with its eyes wide open into a fiscal nightmare."

• "I saw this day coming and prepared city for it as best I could."

• "...presented City Council with a solution that could have saved us from this..."

• "...some members of City Council chose the short term, irresponsible approach..."

• " is not too late to prevent an eventual Pittsburgh bankruptcy."

• "...if five members of council choose to do the right thing."

• "We can still avert pension crisis by making a large cash infusion into our pension fund immediately..."

• "...and fighting for a new revenue stream to increase our pension payments..."

• "...ignoring these solutions...will in time force us....back to the dark days..."

• "That is not what I wanted. It is not what is best for Pittsburgh..."

• "Nonetheless, if that is the path Council chooses, we must live with it, regardless of how disastrous the long term consequences will be."

• "The budget and five year plan I present today balances."

• "It maintains services without raising taxes through 2015".

• "...but Pittsburgh will not be able to absorb the costs of state takeover in 2016 or beyond."

Sent from my mobile device


Friday, May 21, 2010

Notes & Quotes: From My Interview with Targeted Tweeter, ACLU

First, here is a link to my Channel 4 Action News story on my interview with "Signor Ferrari", one of the anonymous tweeters -- along with BFBarbie -- targeted by PA Attorney General Tom Corbett's grand jury subpoena. It's a follow-up to this story in which I asked Republican gubernatorial candidate Corbett about the the case.

I should also note that Attorney General's office spokesman Kevin Harley tells me:

"This matter will be more fully explained (Friday) morning in Dauphin County Court at the sentencing hearing of convicted felon Brett Cott, who was one of the principals who was convicted in March as part of the bonus (Bonusgate) investigation that we did."

Now the notes from the Q&As.

The person who goes by the alias Signor Ferrari is behind the targeted Twitter account CasablancaPA; here are my notes of what blogger Ferrari said in our phone interview:

Reaction to the subpoena:

Ferrari: "We consider it a violation of the First Amendment… The right to criticize public officials anonymously is constitutionally protected."

On tweeting and blogging:

Ferrari: "We have very closely followed Corbett's investigation of the legislature. We've examined some of his other actions as Attorney General, and we've simply pointed out instances where we feel that he has basically not lived up to his responsibilities."

Target of criminal investigation?

Ferrari: "That's not a question I'm prepared to answer. We intend to remain anonymous and we will not confirm or deny who we are, whether we're connected to the defendants."

Anything to say to Tom Corbett?

Ferrari: "What we have to say to Tom Corbett we have said in our blog and we will continue to say it on our blog."

Why should anyone care about this case?

Ferrari: "Because what happens to us could happen to anyone. This is really not about the identities of these particular bloggers. This is about the right of an american to anonymously criticize a public official."

Closing comment:

Ferrari: "I'm just extremely grateful to the ACLU and very encouraged by the support we've gotten from fellow bloggers and tweeters on the internet."


Vic Walczak, the Legal Director of the American Civil Liberties Union Pennsylvania Chapter tells me the ACLU is now representing both Signor Ferrari and the other targeted blogger who goes by the name BFBarbie. Here are some quotes from that interview:

Q: He wants to know who the two tweeters are. What's wrong with that?
Walczak: "The tweeters are individuals who have been criticizing Attorney General Corbett and the whole Bonusgate prosecution as being overly political."

"It is a prized American possession not only to only to criticize the government, but to criticize the government anonymously. This is a tradition that goes back to the founding of this country, when you think about Thomas Paine handing out his leaflet ' Common Sense', that was done anonymously. The Federalist Papers, perhaps the most important documents written about government, were written anonymously. It's a right that the Supreme Court has recognized time and time again. …You know, the right to criticize the government anonymously is very, very important in this country."

"If the Attorney General sees this as being somehow criminal, then he's in for a huge first amendment fight, because that would be tantamount to criminal libel, which we got rid of decades ago. …I mean you don't throw people in jail because they criticize you. And that is a very scary thought when you think about somebody who's been nominated by one of the major political parties for governor of this state. If the view is that you can throw critics in jail, or somehow use the criminal justice system against them, that's kind of a scary notion."

On the specific legal concerns:

Walczak: "This would appear to be a misuse of the grand jury process to get information in aid of sentencing. The theory seems to be that the A.G.'s office believes that one or both tweeters are a legislative aide, Brett Cott who has been convicted and is to be sentenced tomorrow. They've filed a pre-sentencing report saying that if Mr. Cott is the one who is the one who is tweeting these criticisms of the A.G. and the prosecution, that that means he's not showing sufficient remorse and that in fact the sentence should be enhanced. So, is this an appropriate use of the grand jury process? We think not."

"The second is it's just a frontal assault on the First amendment. You don't just go and unmask your political critics. You're got to have an awfully good reason to do that, and we certainly we haven't heard one in this case."

What if such a tweeter were, in fact, a convicted criminal?

Walczak: "We don't believe that changes the legal analysis at all here. I mean even if it's a person who has been convicted, they don't give up their constitutional rights. They will give up their liberty at some point, but they certainly don't give up their right to criticize the prosecutor or anybody else."

What's next?

Walczak: "Right now we're in discussions with the attorney general's office and we are hoping to convince them to withdraw these subpoenas. If that doesn't work, then we'll be filing papers, probably a motion to quash the subpoena. And then we'll see what happens."

If I'm someone who doesn't know about Twitter and barely cares who's running for governor, why should I care about this?

Walczak: "I think everybody should care about whether or not the government can somehow punish you or retaliate against you if you say things critical of the government. I mean it's a prized right to be able to criticize your elected officials."



Tuesday, February 23, 2010

UPDATED: New City Government Web Design Lowers City Council Profile

[UPDATE 1 : The city's now changed its website since this blog post -- and I have some new information. I've added my e-mail exchange with Mayor Ravenstahl's Press Secretary Joanna Doven to the end of this post. A hat tip to Tim McNulty of the PG's Early Returns, who spotted the website change as of 11:15 AM.]

The "Emergency Information Page" on the City of Pittsburgh's website is apparently a sneak preview of a site re-design in the works -- one that literally takes City Council down a notch.

You can compare the before and after looks at these links.

Blogger-on-hiatus Bram Reichbaum and Pittsburgh Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak were discussing it recently via Twitter.

In the old website design, the link to City Council appears immediately to the right of the link to the mayor. (You can click on any of this images to enlarge them.)

The new design replaces the "Council" link with a generic "Government" link.

The link to City Council only appears if you hover your cursor over the word "Government".

Curiously, the link to the mayor's office appears both immediately after the home page link and as the first link under "Government", above City Council -- a sort of first among equals.

UPDATE 2 : Here's my e-mail exchange with Mayor Ravenstahl's Press Secretary Joanna Doven since my original blog post. At some point during this e-mail exchange the city restored City Council to the new website masthead. The Howard Stern mentioned in the cc: heading is the the city's Director of Information Systems.

-----Original Message-----
From: Mayo, Bob
Sent: Tuesday, February 23, 2010 10:27 AM
To: Stern, Howard; Doven, Joanna
Subject: City website changes

...Is this arrangement final? What went into the decision to drop City
Council down in the web link hierarchy?

Bob Mayo

----- Original Message -----
From: Doven, Joanna
To: Mayo, Bob E
Cc: Stern, Howard
Sent: Tue Feb 23 10:31:07 2010
Subject: RE: City website changes
I will consult with our web designer on this "concern" I assume council has. If Council has a concern, they may also consult with him. Nothing has been brought to our office's attention regarding arrangement yet.
The redesign is still in its infancy stage.



-----Original Message-----
From: Mayo, Bob
Sent: Tuesday, February 23, 2010 11:47 AM
To: Doven, Joanna
Cc: Stern, Howard
Subject: Re: City website changes
No one from council pointed it out to me or expressed a concern. I noticed the change and am asking questions based on observation. Was the web designer instructed to make that change or did he/she do it without guidance? Was it done in house or contracted out?


----- Original Message -----
From: Doven, Joanna
To: Mayo, Bob
Sent: Tue Feb 23 11:55:16 2010
Subject: RE: City website changes
In-house. No instruction from this office.

According to web designer...

The idea for Government was to have a page that describes city government (the elected bodies) to citizens. This page was an exploration of the concept:

The drop-downs were a more recent addition in the latest design, allowing us to have links to all of the most prominent resources.

Here's an image from the updated city website.



Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Reporting in the Burghosphere, 2010

Pittsburgh City Paper Editor Chris Potter raises some interesting questions about the relationship between the news media and Pittsburgh's blogosphere during this week's "where's the mayor" controversy. I spent most of yesterday in Johnstown and wasn't present for the mayor's news conference. My observations here are intended to address Chris' blog post on the topic.

Tuesday I was using Twitter to report updates on John Murtha's funeral when JanePitt (Virginia Montanez) sent me the following question:

JanePitt: "Is Luke there? Heard a rumor he went to Mardi Gras in New Orleans today".

Note that I did not tell her the rumor to her-- she asked me about it-- at a time when it was already being discussed by the public on Twitter.

My response back via Twitter direct message was:

bobmayo: "did not see him at Murtha funeral. I've been hearing that rumor since last night. Doven denies. No 1sthand sightings yest or now"

(The syntax and spelling is a forced result of Twitter's 140 character limit.)

Reporters answer viewer and reader questions about news stories all of the time. If anyone -- not just the blogger formerly known as PittGirl -- asks me a question about a story I'm tweeting, I answer it. If they ask it in the public Twitter stream, I answer there -- but if they ask via Twitter direct message, I answer back the same way. Virginia Montanez may have characterized that as a "source" -- but it wasn't anonymous and I dealt in fact, not in rumor.

Though reporters were making inquiries about the mayor's whereabouts, it was City Council's concern about his availability to sign an extension of the snow emergency that made first made news on Tuesday. The tact taken by the mayor's office in order to "make a point" to the media appears to have fueled more reporter interest in getting to the facts. No mainstream media referenced "New Orleans" or "Mardi Gras" until the mayor made his own headlines with his chastising of reporters during the news conference.

I do enjoy reading Chris' work and listening to his Wednesday appearances with Lynn Cullen online. I'll have to download today's session via iTunes to hear if they discuss this topic.

Virginia Montanez, meanwhile, has moved on to again taking up the cause of the BRESMA orphans in Haiti.



Monday, February 15, 2010

On This Date In The War On Snow

ere's a link to my Channel 4 Action News report tonight examining Mayor Ravenstahl's 2008 plan for snow removal in the wake of citizen complaints at the time. The plan was announced two years ago today.

I did contact Mayor Ravenstahl's Press Secretary Joanna Doven, asking to interview the mayor himself for the story but was told he was not available. She did provide this map of street salting routes which was developed as part of the plan. She explains that "red means state road, yellow means primary, blue means secondary, and green means tertiary. Each division has a list of priority roads".

Here are three of my questions for the mayor, along with the answers from Public Works Director Rob Kaczorowski, as seen in my TV report:

Q: When was the state-of-the-art snow removal and (computerized) routing system --"RouteSmart" -- put in place, and is he satisfied with how that system is working?

A: "RouteSmart at that point, wasn't useful to us. Actually the part of the legwork that we did took us about two years. It's completed and this is all fieldwork that was done by two people."

Q: Did the city benchmark Pittsburgh against other cities -- and what best practices elsewhere have been adopted?

A: "I couldn't find a city that had actually the type of terrain and challenges that we have here in the City of Pittsburgh -- parking on both sides of hilly, narrow streets."

Q: Does the city now install snow plows on refuse trucks -- and did it do so during this year's big storm?

A: "We found out in the early seventies when it was tried that it led to numerous accidents and it was actually more detrimental than helpful."

Below is Mayor Ravenstahl's news release from February 15, 2008.

Date: February 15, 2008
Contact: Alecia Sirk, Press Secretary

PITTSBURGH (February 15) Mayor Luke Ravenstahl is fired up about the the Department of Public Works inconsistent removal of snow and ice, the remnants of which have left some side streets impassable.

After fielding complaints from a number of residents, the Mayor cancelled his afternoon meetings Thursday for a tour of City neighborhoods, to see for himself where travel routes were still frozen.

"I am putting my full attention on getting these issues resolved," Mayor Ravenstahl said. Sure, Mother Nature can deal us a rough hand in the winter months. But we should not make excuses, we should make changes."

Mayor Ravenstahl convened a meeting with top City officials after returning to the office and, effective today, the Mayor has announced the implementation of a snow and ice mitigation plan for Pittsburgh:

1. The promotion of Rob Kaczorowski to Deputy Director of Operations for the Department of Public Works, a move that will require no pay increase. The Deputy Director, to serve under DPW Director Guy Costa, will be charged with supervising and managing all operations for the Department, including snow and ice removal. Current Deputy Director Mike Gable will be named Deputy Director of Administration, charged with supervising the administrative aspects of Pittsburgh's largest non-public safety related department.

2. The purchase of the best state-of-the-art snow removal and routing system available. The system will be in place no later than December 2008. Staff will also be benchmarking Pittsburgh against other cities to identify and evaluate best practices that could be useful for Pittsburgh.

3. The installation of snow plows onto refuse trucks for use on larger, primary streets, freeing up other trucks to clear the side streets.

4. The requirement that existing snow and ice removal routes will be adhered to, barring a major emergency, regardless of who calls the Department or the City.
"For decades, plows have been inefficiently being moved from one part of the City to another based on calls to City and Council offices, wasting time and missing entire sections of neighborhoods," Mayor Ravenstahl said. "The existing snowplow and deicing routes will be followed for the remainder of this winter, sticking to their plans and cleaning every neighborhood, street by street and block by block."

Then changes come just before a week in which at least three days of flurries are predicted.

"We can do better and we will do better, " Mayor Ravenstahl said. "All of our resources should be mobilized when our residents need us. With these changes, I will see to it that the City doesn't melt down when faced with snow and ice."



Monday, January 18, 2010

Pittsburgh Flight to Haiti : Reporter's Notes

[UPDATE: You can read Burgher Jon's question about Monday's BRESMA coverage and my response here in the comments thread of this blog post.]

Raw notes aren't pretty... but here are my raw notes on the latest developments, followed by a statement from former US Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan (via Bram of the Pittsburgh Comet). I'll have a report on Channel 4 Action News at Five.


Governor's press secretary Gary Tuma confirms that Governor Ed Rendell is among the officials on the flight to Haiti. At 3:17pm he said that the plane touched down in Miami "about ten minutes ago" and should be taking off within 45 minutes of that touchdown. It's next stop: Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

If all goes smoothly, they hope to pick up 61 of the children from the BRESMA orphanage at the airport here and return to Pittsburgh at 11pm or 12 midnight, by way of Miami. Tuma says that they don't know if things will go smoothly..and that the return to Pittsburgh could come later, if they do not.

He says some of the 150 children from the orphanage will be going to the French or the Dutch.

61 will be coming to Pittsburgh.

41 have adoptions "in the pipeline".

The 61 will first go to Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh for evaluation. Catholic Charities will be involved in caring for their needs while they are here.

Tuma says that relatives of the two sisters had contacted UPMC, and that UPMC contacted the governor. Saturday and Sunday, arrangements were made. There was contact with the Haitian ambassador, the Pentagon, and Homeland Security officials to get clearance for the mission. Republic Air provided the plane, which also carries medical personnel and nurses.

Tuma says many officials -- including the Haitian ambassador in particular -- advised that it would be helpful if Governor Rendell were personally on the plane. Tuma says the Haitian ambassador believed that Governor Rendell's presence might provide strengthen their efforts, in case there was any trouble on the ground in Haiti.

Statement from Mary Beth Buchanan on the events of today:

"I had little prior knowledge of the attempted air rescue mission that departed from Pittsburgh today, though I have since been advised that some of the resources aboard the flight were collected through the efforts of myself and others. Now that it is underway I am hopeful for the best, and continue to pray for the safety of young Jamie and Ali, this group of Haitian orphans and all of the people suffering in Haiti."

Sent from my mobile device


Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Ticket?

UPDATE 7: [Councilman Bill Peduto on Twitter: "Ravenstahl backed City Council President slate lacks experience AND independence - it must be stopped. Not sure that I will be able to get the needed fifth vote, but we cannot let any Administration control Executive & Legislative branches."]

UPDATE 6: [Councilwoman Smith to Trib: "This is something that came to me on Tuesday, and, quite honestly, it's not something I'm seeking...I'm trying to find anybody but me."]

UPDATE 5: [Councilman Peduto, via Twitter to supporters: "Despite rumors, I am still a candidate for Council President with 4 votes and working for one more - thank you for kind words of support."]

UPDATE 4: [Councilman Burgess, via spokeswoman: "No comment".]

UPDATE 3: [Councilwoman Theresa Smith responds to my e-mail: "I appreciate the opportunity to comment; however, I will decline at this time and refer you to the Council members mentioned in your email for their comments. Thank you for the opportunity to comment and I look forward to working with you on additional reports in the future."]

UPDATE 2 : [Dayvoe of 2 Political Junkies notes: if true, Smith would become council president with 8 months experience, Lavelle would become finance chair with 0 days experience.]

UPDATE 1 : [Patrick Dowd confirms he now backs Smith for Council President. Says they need someone who can work together with others and reach across divides. Says Smith has shown that capacity and will serve them well, moving forward.]

The latest political buzz? That Theresa Kail-Smith has the votes to become Council President -- and that she will reward new Councilman Dan Lavelle for his vote by appointing him Finance Chair, the second most powerful position on council.

Anything can change between now and Monday morning's vote -- but the predictions now are that Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess will abandon his hopes for council presidency and throw his support to Kail-Smith, with Patrick Dowd and Darlene Harris providing the rest of the five votes needed.

Still awaiting callbacks from council members -- there are other scenarios.

Other sources say that Councilwoman Darlene Harris is herself a candidate for council president.



The Sunshine Law & City Council's New Year's Eve Veto Override Attempt

Okay, I think I've solved this.

• There's nothing in the City's Home Rule Charter that bans council from holding a meeting on less than 24 hours notice. You can check the pdf file here.

• There is something in the Rules of Council (incorporated into the City Code) that says the city clerk should give council members (not the public) at least 24 hours written notice of a special meeting.

• That 24 hour notice requirement can be waived by a vote of 6 out of 9 council members.


• A special meeting of City Council called with less than 24 hours public notice would violate Pennsylvania's Sunshine Law.

Here's the quote. The PA Sunshine Law says:

" An agency shall give public notice of each special meeting"..."at least 24 hours in advance of the time of the convening of the meeting specified in the notice".

Section 709 adds that a "Public notice is not required in the case of an emergency meeting" -- but it strictly defines an emergency as:

"A meeting called for the purpose of dealing with a real or potential emergency involving a clear and present danger to life or property. "

So, hypothetically, if Council had mustered the six votes, first to hold the meeting on short notice and then to override Mayor Ravenstahl's New Year's Eve veto, what could have happened?

The Sunshine Law says a legal challenge to the meeting could be filed within 30 days. If a judge ruled the meeting broke the Sunshine Law, he or she would have the option of invalidating any action taken at that special meeting. Note the passage uses the words "may" and "discretion". It's not an automatic loss.

"Should the court determine that the meeting did not meet the requirements of this chapter, it may in its discretion find that any or all official action taken at the meeting shall be invalid. "
(That's in Section 713, titled "Business transacted at unauthorized meeting void". )

What's the punishment the council members involved would have faced? A hundred dollar fine:

Section 714. Penalty
"Any member of any agency who participates in a meeting with the intent and purpose by that member of violating this chapter commits a summary offense and shall, upon conviction, be sentenced to pay a fine not exceeding $100 plus costs of prosecution."

[Update: Chris Potter also fact-checks these topics in a comment here and in his City Paper blog posts .]

A couple of open questions:

1) Are there any previous cases anywhere in which legislative bodies were stymied from taking override votes because of the timing of vetoes?

2) Does anyone see anything in the law or in court rulings that addresses the legality of a veto or an override vote in a case like this? Let me know.

Below are some document links, if you want to check them out.

"The Clerk shall give written notice to the members of any special meeting not less than twenty-four hours previous to such meeting."
See Article V: Legislative, Chapter 151: Council, § 151.01 Regular And Special Meetings, , section (c).

"No rule shall be suspended except by an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members elected and such vote shall be taken without debate."
See Rule VIII h.

See Sections 709, 713 714.



Friday, January 1, 2010

Mayor Ravenstahl's New Year's Eve Veto

Notes & quotes from my New Year's Day interviews

Council Finance Chair Peduto
Councilman Dowd
Mayoral Chief of Staff Zober

Those of you who follow me on Twitter may have read my tweet-by-tweet reports of The New Year's Eve Veto. (See here .) Mayor Ravenstahl's maneuver is sparking bitter divisions. His opponents call him "undemocratic"; his supporters are comparing the other side to "fascists". The bill would have forced developers getting big taxpayer subsidies for large projects to pay workers prevailing wage rates. The mayor's tactic killed a bill unanimously approved by council. Since mayoral critics were more readily available than the mayor's staff last night, I'll start this post with the Ravenstahl administration's side.

Mayor Ravensthal's Chief of Staff Yarone Zober chose to meet me New Year's Day at the East Liberty site under consideration for construction of a new Target store. Zober used the site as an illustration to critique the prevailing wage bill:

• "..Whether it puts at risk things like nine acres of development, 500 jobs that could be created here, a hundred-million dollars of investment, put that all at risk."

Zober said the mayor had tried to talk with council members, but that:

• "The bill was rushed through. So much so, that there's so much vague and ambiguous language in this bill."

The mayor's chief of staff says that Ravenstahl tried to talk to council members, but they were frightened by potential political retaliation if they opposed the bill. Zober emphasized that the mayor's veto came within the 10 days required by law:

• "Everyone should have been quite aware of where this bill was, and council could have scheduled a meeting if they'd wanted to."

• "If we want to talk about undemocratic, there was a meeting that was held by council yesterday without required notice, against a city ordinance."
• "We followed the rules, we followed the democratic principles and, frankly, council did not."
• "Look, this is no 'gotcha' game. This is about making sure great investments can happen in neighborhoods like this."
• "There are things we can do to make this bill better. Less vague, less ambiguous, and allow developers and investors the right to figure out what they're doing when they come and invest in Pittsburgh."

Councilman Bill Peduto met me in the Shadyside business district for our interview. He appeared as much sad as angry as he talked about Mayor Ravenstahl's New Year's Eve veto tactic, which stymied any council override:

• "You are denying the American democratic process in that situation. You are basically saying this is a totalitarian society."
• "That's not good political maneuvering, that's stripping away the democratic process and taking the public out of it."
• "Under the new council session, it will be debated, it will be passed."

Peduto argued that the mayor's ends don't justify the means he used, adding:

• "there are others who would say the means are the way of judging a person's character."

Councilman Peduto also criticized a colleague:
• "You had Councilman Dowd who announced as he was standing there (in council chamber) that 'I am not present' for this vote, so that he could stay aligned with the mayor."
• "I don't know what Councilman Dowd is doing and I don't know why he's doing it. I feel disappointed by Councilman Dowd, and other than Joe Lieberman, (he's) probably one of the greatest political disappointments I've had in my life."

• "He began to heckle the council president during the hearing itself, and then moved to another part of the council chamber and continued to shout from that part of the chamber as well. In 15 years of working in that building, one the lowest points if not the lowest point I can think of."

On Monday, 2010 City Council members are expected to choose between Peduto and Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess in a vote for Council President. Peduto comments:

• "Are we going to have a council that is a rubber stamp for the mayor, or are we going to have an independent body that can make its own decisions?"
• "What I saw from the other side was complete confrontation -- a confrontation against the democratic process that we're sworn to uphold. I would consider it one of the lowest marks in my 15 years in city council."

On claims Mayor Ravenstahl's charges that the prevailing wage bill was vague, ambiguous, in need of more input, and has the potential to hurt Pittsburgh:

• "The mayor was silent on it for the seven weeks that it was before us. He never had an opinion, he never reached out to council."
• "He waited until the very last minute, when council didn't have the ability to fulfill it's democratic process and obligations, and then he made his position known. that's no way to govern, that's no way to lead."

Councilman Patrick Dowd wasn't available for an on camera interview. Dowd explained that New Year's Day is his wedding anniversary and that last night's meeting took him away from his family.

Here are some notes from our phone conversations. Most of this was not recorded, so I don't have a full transcript.

Dowd compared Mayor Ravenstahl's New Year's Eve veto maneuver to a chess game, saying:
• "Tactically, he beat us."
and adding:
• "Shame on us for not anticipating" it.

• Dowd faults his fellow council members for what he describes as a "total ignoring of the rules" by meeting and attempting a veto override. The city code require 24 hours public notice before a council meeting, or a six vote majority to waive that rule.

• I noted that Dowd had been part of the 9-to-0 unanimous vote for the prevailing wage bill, and asked why he himself didn't provide the 6th vote to waive the 24-hour notice requirement. Dowd answered there are "ways to deal with this, and it's not by bending the rules".

• Dowd dismissed the attempted veto override as a "goofy maneuver" and said he presumed the prevailing wage bill would simply be reintroduced for 2010.

• The councilman recalled that during debate of the legislation others on council "outmaneuvered" his attempts to amend the bill. Councilman Dowd calls it :
• "poetic justice they were outmaneuvered" by Mayor Ravenstahl.

• Dowd quotes:

• " can't bend the rules. And that's what fascists do -- and in the 30s, particularly. And that's what my colleagues were trying to do last night."

• "Two wrongs don't make a right".