Democracy Has Prevailed.

October 17, 2007

Dan Simpson on Pittsburgh's Single Party Rule

It can be summed up in two words: Bad Government.

The cool thing about Dan Simpson is that as a former career diplomat, he's able to bring a broader perspective to some local issues. Like the effects single-party rule brings to a place.

In Burundi the party was UPRONA, the Union for National Progress. In Bulgaria it was the Bulgarian Communist Party. In Zaire, it was the Popular Movement of the Revolution and in the Central African Republic, the Central African Democratic Assembly. In Chicago, under Mayor Richard J. Daley, it was the Democratic Party, as it is here.

Pittsburgh has been under Democratic Party control for more than 70 years. It shows virtually all of the effects of single-party rule, with the exception of the use of police and other security forces to keep the ruling party in power, although one of this year's mayoral candidates, Ryan Scott of the Socialist Workers Party, complained repeatedly about police repression in the mayoral candidates' forum the Post-Gazette sponsored last week.

He adds that one of the many problems single-party rule brings is that serious issues do not get addressed. Locally, that's city-county consolidation. Simpson sez: Won't happen here. Why?
...everyone knows that consolidation has to occur if Pittsburgh is ever to break out of its vicious cycle of insolvency and high taxes, but the Democrats do not want to achieve that efficiency since it would mean moving their supporters out of patronage jobs.
He takes a stab at Mayor Luke and does that broader context thing to find another example:

When Mr. Ravenstahl grows up he might make a decent mayor. At 27, being 27, as he tells us when we the media point out what he is doing, he feels free to accept gifts from the Penguins and UPMC and to commit the typical cardinal sin of officials in a one-party state -- employing public assets for his private use. Only someone who knows he will get elected no matter what he does would use a Department of Homeland Security-provided vehicle to go on a recreational outing with his wife.

But that is normal behavior in a one-party state. President Mobutu Sese Seku of Zaire used to requisition the planes of the national airline, Air Zaire, for personal trips to his vacation homes around the world. For him there was no distinction between public and private property -- what was his because of his position and what was his personally. No party but the ruling party in a one-party state would dare put up for election such a candidate.

Now I can imagine all the Luke Supporters who crowd this blog (and you know who you are!) wanting to get all medieval on Simpson's behind for comparing their boy to one of the more obviously corrupt dictators of Central Africa. They'd be looking, I would think, to distract the conversation away from Mayor Luke's obviously improper use of a DHS vehicle as his personal ride to criticising Simpson for saying that Pittsburgh's Ravenstahl was as bad as Zaire's Mobotu (and if you look carefully, Simpson didn't say that at all).

On the other candidates, Simspon is less than enthusiastic:
...Bill Peduto, who either deliberately or unwittingly put forward the message that there are different points of view within the ruling Democratic Party. That is an illusion that the population should not buy. If someone like Mr. Peduto were elected mayor, it would be highly unlikely that he would change anything significant, having incurred the debts that he would have had to incur within the party to get elected.
So is there any way out of this mess? It's hard to say. The Republican candidate, Mark DeSantis, is not exactly a ball of fire, either. Ryan Scott, 24, the Socialist Worker candidate, and Tony Oliva, 27, the Libertarian candidate, are basically repositories of undeveloped ideas, works in progress like Mr. Ravenstahl.
So there you have it. Single-party rule: Bad. For Pittsburgh, there's little chance of any way out of it.

Thus Spake Simpson.


Anonymous said...

You know, my wife and I chose to come back here from a pretty nice life in Washington, D.C., because our families are here and we wanted to raise our kids in the less hectic environment of western Pa. Reading this - which, from what I can tell, is pretty spot on - makes me wonder whether we made a huge mistake. I live in the 'burbs, but as the city goes, so goes the region. The corrupt Democratic machine in Pittsburgh, IMO, is no better than the corrupt GOP machine in Washington and states across the country (oh, and the corrupt Democratic operation in Harrisburg, too!).

Hopefully something can be done about it. I am certain of one thing, though. Lil' Lukey is not the guy who will make things happen.

Anonymous said...

The Republican machine in Harrisburg is equally corrupt.

Anonymous said...

I expect that from the Republicans. It's their freaking calling card. It'd be nice if the Democrats were a little bit more... enlightened and actually spent more time representing their constituents than trying to figure out how to use staffers to do free campaign work.

Anonymous said...

ALL "machines" are corrupt. It's their defining characteristic, whether Republican or Democratic.

Not only is Pittsburgh hurt by its one party rule, but it is hurt by the sheer length of time that this situation has existed. Over the years, insiders solidify their power and then pass it along to their cronies. As Simpson knowingly points out, there is nothing good about that.

What is particularly bad in our current situation is that Luke, being young, is almost completely controlled and manipulated by those around him. He neither has the experience nor maturity to stake out even the tiniest bit of power for himself; he is a distorted reflection of all that the Democratic power brokers who actually run the city.

Piltdown Man

Mark Rauterkus said...

The grass is always greener elsewhere. Especially if you live in the city.

I've moaned a great deal about one party rule.

What breaks my heart this year is the down ticket opportunities for debate. Not a single debate is slated for the three city council races nor the race for city controller.

Harsh words were hurled at me today outside of the city-council chambers. I'll blog about this in a bit. But, the word is that we won't be able to 'flush out' the Dem in district 9 who is not going to debate -- resting on the laurels of 51% in the D party primary.

He is 'un-flushable.'

We need to grow ourselves out of this mess -- with a focus on the kids -- and the undercard.

The kids include Tony Oliva. He needs an opportunity so that the next time, we have other candidates step up.

EdHeath said...

Often, at the national level, voters seem to decide en masse that a Democratic President needs a Republican Congress or vice versa, to balance them out. Not saying that's logical, but it is a shame city voters can't decide the same thing.

Anonymous said...

John K. says: Dan Simpson is always good for a laugh or two. As in this case. There are two parties in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. The liberal party and the democrat party. Quite often they merge. But what is even funnier, like Simpson would ever endorse anyone other than a Democrat or a liberal. That is just too funny by half. LMAO

Anonymous said...

John Koward, how do you find time to breathe amidst all of your laughing?

Anonymous said...

John K. says: Does anyone in here think that left wing socialist D. Simpson actually voted for someone other than a Democrats? So for him to whine is just hilarious. But I can see where he is going with this. This region is losing people, jobs and income. And the Democrats have been running the show since 1933. So Simpson has to set up the line to blame someone other than his group of thugs. And that LMAO just makes me guffaw. Pull that Democrat lever Dan, and blame it all on Bush.

Paul said...

Well Dan's pretty much spot on except for one thing though...

there is a way out of it.

Sad to say it won't ever happen at the ballot box though. The state needs to intervene and dissolve the city of Pittsburgh for good and defang the vipers running it. Then they need to take steps to ensure another round of council redistricting doesn't take place that allows them to wield a disproportionate amount of power in a newly formed county government that runs the city.

It's the only hope.

Hutch Bailie jr. said...

Wow never thought I would reference this blog or Dan Simpson. Good post and still true in 2013!