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Looks like I picked a bad day to watch the live Sotomayor hearings instead of the live City Council meeting.
Today, the majority of the City Council of Pittsburgh decided to deny the public the right to hear from nominees to the Planning Commission, the Zoning Board of Adjustment, the Historic Review Commission and the Shade Tree Commission.
Today, the majority of the City Council of Pittsburgh decided to deny the nominees the right to appear before the public.
Today, the majority of the City Council of Pittsburgh decided to themselves forgo interviewing twelve nominees for these boards.
Today, the majority of the City Council of Pittsburgh decided that "the mayor appoints and we approve."
Today, the majority of the City Council of Pittsburgh decided that if nominees already have enough votes to pass, there simply is no need for any real discussion or review.
Today, the majority of the City Council of Pittsburgh decided that their function was to serve as a rubber stamp for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Lamar Advertising.
For those who haven't been paying attention: Lil Mayor Luke has lots of friends who give him lots of money -- Lamar Advertising being one of them. From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:
Amid a reshuffling of city boards and commissions this week, the Ravenstahl administration dismissed the author of a Zoning Board opinion that blocked a controversial electronic billboard proposed for the city's Grant Street Transportation Center with the support of the administration.
Alice Mitinger, a lawyer with expertise in zoning issues who had been appointed to the Zoning Board of Adjustment by the late Mayor Bob O'Connor, was informed by the administration this week that she would not be named to another term. Ms. Mitinger wrote an opinion supporting a 2008 ruling, which was upheld yesterday, that denied a permit for Lamar Advertising to erect an electronic billboard on the transportation center.
The administration also chose not to reappoint David Toal, another board member, who had recused himself from the Lamar case because his firm had represented it on unrelated issues. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl did reappoint the third member of the board, Wrenna Watson, who wrote a dissenting opinion in support of the Lamar application.
This doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of the Lamar controversy which included free billboards for
Lukey's election the Ravenstahl Redd Up campaign, major conflicts of interest, threats to Councilors' jobs, civil lawsuits against Councilors from Lamar, etc.
So while Council had voted unanimously on June 29th to interview each of the 21 nominees on the list that the mayor had sent over on June 22nd and had already interviewed nine of them, lame duck Councilor Jim Motznik introduced an amendment to the already partially enacted 6/29 bill to stop the interview process and simply vote up/down on the remaining twelve candidates.
It was clear during the hours of discussion that the minority of Council felt that the main purpose of the amendment was to deny the asking of tough questions of Wrenna Watson who was up for reappointment to the Zoning Board.
Motznik's amendment by substitution to stop the interview process passed by 5 to 4.
Motznik's twelve bills to rubber stamp the approval of the twelve remaining nominees passed by 5 to 4.
Oh yeah. It became apparent during the meeting that the Rubber Stamp Five didn't even know enough about one of the nominees to be able to attempt to pronounce his last name.
Statement by Franco "Dok" Harris about the Mayor’s "Closed-Door Appointment Processes":
As other local and state governments, throughout this great country embrace fair and open processes as well as clarity in all government dealings, the current Mayoral administration stands out by championing an opaque, “back-room deal” system of government. The Mayor has consistently shown questionable judgment when the people of Pittsburgh are not looking; I encourage him to try to win back the public trust by reversing this dangerous course of action and filling the positions in a clear, open, and transparent manner. The residents of this city deserve to see how their government’s decisions impact their daily lives. As Mayor, I am committed to establishing good government processes and ensuring that every Pittsburgher has the opportunity to be involved in the leadership of our great city.