What Fresh Hell Is This?

December 16, 2006

Luke says it - so that makes it so

Paul Martino posted an interesting story last night.
At first glance, when you see a smiling Luke Ravenstahl on a billboard on Route 28, you might think it’s a campaign ad.

It’s not.
Turns out it's a not a promotion for Mayor Luke's upcoming mayoral campaign, but a promotion for that "Redd up" thing. Billboard space donated by Lamarr Advertising. Anyone know if Lamarr Advertising does any business with the city? And if so, how much?

Take a look at "Redd up" campaign's web presense. Redduppittsburgh.com redirects to this city site. Where, of course, the banner across the top of the screen reads:
Bob O'Connor's
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl
Then there's the mailing about the city's "311 line." Martino explains:
The city had a help line for several years, but two years ago they shut it down because of a budget crisis. The late Mayor O’Connor began to resurrect it, and Mayor Ravenstahl finished the project.
So what's the deal with it? Though I haven't received one, there's a mass mailing promoting the city's help line. Cost to the taxpayers? According to Martino, nearly $30,000. It includes a nice picture of Mayor Luke.

Here's where the fun begins. Martino went that extra step and ACTUALLY CALLED the 311 line.
When you call, you hear: “Thank you for calling Mayor Ravenstahl’s response line 3-1-1.” [emphasis added]
Do other city's answer their respective lines the same way?

How about Chicago? Nope.
“3-1-1 At Your Service.”
Baltimore? Same thing - nope.
“City Call 3-1-1.”
Of the 15 cities check only Pittsburgh's line plugs the mayor by name.

Couldn't be that we're approaching a campaign for mayor, could it?

Then there's the oddly campaign-resembling setting of the City website. Martino found "dozens" of pictures of the mayor at the city website. The OPJ has already touched on this here.

But of course it's not an abuse of the taxpayers nor is it campaign related self-promotion. How do we know this?

Simple. Mayor Luke says so. From Martino's piece:
But Ravenstahl denies [the answer on the city's help line is] self promotion.

“That’s not an advertisement for Luke Ravenstahl as far as I’m concerned,” he said.
Heehee - Mayor Luke refers to himself in the third person. Dayvoe doesn't like that. Dayvoe thinks it's pretentious and boorish. But Dayvoe digresses.
“I disagree wholeheartedly that this in anyway is campaign motivated. That this is in anyway an abuse of taxpayers’ dollars, [be]cause in my opinion it’s not,” Ravenstahl said.
So that, I guess, settles that.


Richmond K. Turner said...

There is also yet another needless mailing going out to all city residents. We received ours yesteday, and I have blogged about it this morning.

The 3-1-1 thing, in comparison to what is happening in other cities, is also really disturbing. All of this is subtle. It probably isn't illegal. As an incumbant-protection strategy it is darn near brilliant.

But it still stinks to high heaven. I wonder if Peduto will call for an investigation of any of it.

Anonymous said...

I wonder whether it's a violation of the city or state ethics codes? Of course, since Luke has already done his own legal research, he can simply direct his law department to provide the opinion of his choosing, but the state might disagree? Even if he doesn't call for an investigation, Peduto should really hammer these kinds of things as they happen in his capacity as city councilman - not wait until he throws his hat in the ring, as we'd like to see someone put a stop to this wasteful spending. Given the city's distressed status, that mailing should have gone to just those neighborhoods whose pick-up dates have changed and should've been printed in black & white, no pictures. Why on earth don't the oversight boards weigh in on these things? City Council? What exactly are their jobs if not to safeguard the public treasury? Oh, that's right, their jobs are to safeguard their own jobs...

Matt H said...

Luke is the sitting Mayor and this is the power of being the incumbent. He is not violating any codes or regulations. It's really a none issue but since this blog is obsessed with Mayor Luke it's an issue here.

Anonymous said...

Matty H is right. It's power, albeit immature, irresponsible abuse of power. Turn a blind eye, your mayor says it's o.k.

The Burgher said...

Well Matt, why is it that no one can find another city with a mayor that abuses his power this way?

You see, from a communications standpoint the purpose of the mailing is to inform the residents about 311. Any money spent outside of that is waste.

A full color photo of the mayor increases the cost of each piece printed. Multiply that price increase times 115,000 and your talking thousands of dollars.

Matt H believes the city -- which may soon be in receivership --should waste thousands of dollars just to promote the mayor.

I'd say that's an opinion most voters don't share.

Matt H said...

None issue come election time.

Anonymous said...

Luke’s campaigning on the tax payers’ dime issue is one that we need to take up. There are good questions & points that I haven’t seen addressed yet – including:

1. How much city staff time was used on producing these campaign mailers & billboards?

2. Why couldn’t the 311 mailing simply have been an insert into our city tax bills – this is a mailing the city already does (&, unlike the garbage schedule, it’s one everyone gets & gets it on time). There was plenty of free media on the 311, as it’s a non-emergency line, were lives in danger if they’d waited to put an insert about it in our next tax bill?

3. Why send out a 2nd mailing, this one about changes in garbage pick up, which was basically useless, since it didn’t even include the yearly schedule? And how much did this mailing cost?
How much will the 3rd one, with the yearly schedule cost? Will Luke’s photo be plastered all over it too?

We need to take action - not wait for some white knight. We’re the citizens, voters & tax payers of this city. We’re supposed to be in charge. I am going to do the following today:

1. In addition to contacting our own council members, (see city website for contact info), we should also complain on Luke’s 311 Line.

2. Send ltrs to the editors & ask the City Hall reporters to get on the stick & start looking into & reporting on this stuff

Pittsburgh City Paper
Fax: 412.316.3388 or email: Editor, Chris Potter: cpotter@steelcitymedia.com

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Letters to the Editor
Fax: 412- 263-2014 or email:letters@post-gazette.com
City Hall Reporter: Rich Lord - rlord@post-gazette.com & phone: 412-263-1542

Pittsburgh Tribune Review
Letters to the Editor
Fax: 412-320-7965 or email: opinion@tribweb.com
City Hall Reporter: Jeremy Boren - jboren@tribweb.com or 765-2312

Anonymous said...

Bob O' barely got a pass on the original billboard campaign because: (a) there weren't nearly as many billboards; (b) he was announcing/cheerleading a NEW City/private initiative; (c)he wasn't running at the time; & (d) everyone assumed that it was a temporary measure.

I agree with anonymous above that there should be a grassroots campaign to put a stop to the bleeding of the city budget for luke's private political gain. This isn't a "none issue" (?I believe Matt H means "non-issue"?) - this gives us tremendous insight into luke & co.'s character and level of fiscal responsibility, or lack thereof. It also shows me, once again, my city councilman deserves to be tossed out on his ass for failing to do his job by acting as a check/balance on out of control spending habits by the young mayor. From what I hear, the mayor's office is teaming with the overpaid & underqualified & d. regan was just the most obvious example - he's just the beginning. Peduto has my vote, and I might renew my PG subscription if they take on this fight. This isn't a 1-day story, the media, council and citizens should put the pressure on. Of course, luke will dismiss Peduto's comments as "political", but he's batting .500 on flip-flopping in response to media pressure - of course, the only sure-fire way to get him to flip-flop is to do as lieberman & zappalla do - just buy him.