Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Protect Ya Neck!

What your step kid, you best protect ya neck!

The 2008-2009 Pittsburgh City Council is officially on fire! Allegations of threats from the Mayor, personal attacks on each other and unprecedented attempts to reopen the budget, have turned this once polite body into a Wu-Tang Clan video from the early 90's.

Excerpts from today's Post-Gazette:

A divided Pittsburgh City Council set its wallet on fire yesterday, and some members accused Mayor Luke Ravenstahl of supplying the match. By day's end, the flames of council-mayor discord threatened to spread throughout city government.

Councilman Bruce Kraus said Mr. Ravenstahl was behind the escalation in tensions, pointing to a "threat" he said occurred last week at a fund-raiser.

"[The mayor's] exact words were, 'We're coming after you. Try working on $60-plus-thousand dollars a year in your council salary budgets,'" Mr. Kraus said. "And I said, 'If you feel that best serves the interests of the city of Pittsburgh, to cripple City Council, have at it.'"

The blowup followed six weeks of spats over the permitting of billboards, the Urban Redevelopment Authority's budgeting practices and the 58 employees who can take home city cars. Council has sought codified practices, while the administration has argued for flexibility.

The take-home-car reduction passed 5-3, with Jim Motznik, Darlene Harris and Tonya Payne voting no. Dan Deasy abstained. Mr. Ravenstahl has 10 days to let it become law or veto it, and it takes six votes to override a veto. The mayor said he has made no decision.

Mr. Motznik, a mayoral ally, then proposed legislation to strip $150,000 from what he called council "slush funds" and steer it to public safety uses, plus cut council staff spending from $82,872 per district office to $65,000, with those savings going to police. "If we're going to live up to what [Act] 47 says, by the book, here's a good opportunity to do so," Mr. Motznik said. Most members spread their staff allocation among three or four aides. The allocation has dropped from $99,445 in 2004 but has never reached the $65,000 in the plan.

"It seems that my actions to take away the perks of the highest-paid people in the administration have now caused us to receive a firestorm of retaliation," said Mr. Burgess. "Mr. Motznik has become an instrument of brutality to this council and to this city." "It's not an attempt to punish anyone," Mr. Motznik countered. "Reality is that if you're going to live by the sword, you're probably going to have to deal with both sides of the sword."

"I don't think this solves any problem," Ms. Harris said during the debate on mileage reimbursement. "I think it's ridiculous. ... All this is is child's play, and I wish somehow, some way, we could get back to the business of this city."

Things are starting to get interesting on the 5th Floor...

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