1) Pittsburgh City Councilor Bruce Kraus said that Lil Mayor Luke Ravenstahl threatened him (that Council's staff salaries would be cut if Council cut the number of take-home cars):
Councilman Bruce Kraus said the legislation to cut staff salaries mirrors threats made directly to him by Mr. Ravenstahl at a fundraising event last week. The mayor's office has opposed legislation to cut take-home cars, and Mr. Kraus said that was the context of the threat.2) Councilor Jim Motznik denied that there was a threat:
"His exact words to me were, 'We're coming after you,'" Mr. Kraus said. "I said, 'If you feel that best serves the interests of the people of Pittsburgh, to cripple city council, have at it.'"
Mr. Kraus added that the mayor specifically threatened to cut council staff salaries, and said, "'And there's more where that came from.'"
Mr. Motznik, who hosted the fundraiser Mr. Kraus attended, said he heard the conversation. "The mayor simply said that Act 47 is a work in progress, and it's a financial road map," Mr. Motznik said. "He didn't threaten him."3) Kraus challenged Motznik's recollection of the events:
"Jim Motznik was nowhere near that conversation," said Mr. Kraus. "That's a bold-faced lie."4) Ravenstahl verified that he spoke to Kraus but denied there was a threat:
"The notion that a threat was made is ridiculous," said Mr. Ravenstahl. "I suggested that if council took the position that they saw Act 47 as an authorizing document, rather than a financial roadmap, that they should look at themselves.5) Council did vote to approve Councilor Burgess' legislation to reduce take-home cars:
"It certainly wasn't a threat, and to suggest that it was I think is unfortunate."
"If they feel that Act 47 is a binding document, then they, themselves, should live by that. ... Don't throw stones when you live in a glass house, and that's what they've been doing."
It calls on the mayor to reduce the number of employees with take-home cars from 59 to 29, a number drawn from the Act 47 recovery plan approved by council and then-mayor Tom Murphy in 2004.6) And, then mayoral ally Motznik proposed legislation to cut Council's budget for their staff; and to strip $150,000 from what he termed a Council "slush fund" (assisted by Ravenstahl Finance Director Scott Kunka); and Councilor Dan Deasy proposed "an amendment to disallow mileage reimbursements for elected city officials, which includes the nine council members, the controller, and the mayor, who doesn't need the benefit because he is chauffeured in a city vehicle."
6) So, Lil Mayor Luke was right: it wasn't a threat. It was a promise. (And, this is one promise where Luke lived up to his word.)
Others in the Burghospere on this topic:
On a side note:
During the flame war in Council Chambers yesterday, someone (Burgess? Kraus? Dowd?) mentioned that appointments by the Mayor to authority boards were handed out as rewards to Councilors who played ball with the Administration. I guess that's in perpetuity because lookie, lookie who's still on the board of Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority:
Len Bodack ( http://www.pgh2o.com/board.htm )
As an emailer wrote:
"Given that Len Bodack Jr. is no longer an elected official...and was appointed to the board as such, Bodack should have been stripped of his PWSA appointment when he left council.
151.10 APPOINTMENT OF CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS TO MUNICIPAL AUTHORITY BOARDS.
(a) Council members appointed by the Mayor to authority boards pursuant to Chapter 220 shall be deemed to serve ex officio, i.e. by virtue of their office.
(b) Upon termination of office by any Council member for whatever reason, the appointment to an authority board shall also be deemed terminated and the Council member shall take such steps as may be necessary to relinquish his or her seat on an authority board.
(Ord. 19-2002, § 1, eff. 6-4-02)
What's up with that?"