Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Pittsburgh politicians reach unanimity..... It's Tom Murphy's fault!

Pittsburgh, September 6th, 2006 - Of all the sentiments being expressed this week about the passing of Bob O'Conner there was one sentiment that I was surprised to hear so much of: 'Whatever is wrong with Pittsburgh, its Tom Murphy's fault'. All week long, every time there has been a local news story, some politician was taking a pop at Murphy.

It seemed odd.

I think City Council - almost to a man - is still bitter that Murphy called for the Act 47 municipal bankruptcy protection. The O'Connor people are still ticked that Murphy cut that last minute deal with the firemen during the 2001 Democratic primary tipping the election to Murphy. The community development crowd felt betrayed by promises of neighborhood revitalization that evaporated into two stadiums and some very high-profile flops downtown.

Yes, the deal with the firemen was ... well I guess 'corrupt' would be the word for it, but by the same token, just prior to the bankruptcy City Council wasn't exactly jumping off a cliff with both feet to make any of the tough choices that needed to be made in order to balance the budget. There is plenty of blame to go around.

Tom Murphy might have been a prickly guy, and as a result perhaps an unlikely politician, but I don't think he was as bad as everyone now seems to claim. Regardless of whether you think the two stadiums were an unaffordable luxury, or whether Murphy downplayed neighborhood development in favor of big downtown projects, the city is in better shape today than it was when I moved here in 1993 - largely the years coinciding with Murphy's administration. I'm not saying it's perfect, or that Murphy can take all of the credit, but it is better and he certainly had a role in the improvements.

I'm generally of the opinion that anything positive that happens in the City of Pittsburgh occurs despite the best efforts of the City government. It's a redundant and obstructive bureaucracy. Someone explain to me why the City needs to have its own dog license instead of just using the County's? At the head of the brigade of apparatchiks is City Council. There are some good people there, but there are also some useless members representing only the narrowest city employee’s union interests or providing patronage to close friends. Pittsburgh City Council demonizing Tom Murphy is like Tammany Hall calling the Chicago Machine to point out patronage, feather-beding and graft - six of one, half-dozen of the other.

But I suppose nothing diverts attention away from one's own faults better than pointing out the faults of others (While I, on the other hand, am an editorialist). A City Council that is neutered by Act 47, and therefore has no real recent accomplishments to boast of, has little else to do other than to cast blame any which way it can. Unfortunately for Tom Murphy, they've made him the whipping boy.

Don't be fooled.


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