The mayoral debate was illuminative, which is more bad news for Pittsburgh (the city and, therefore, the region).
Carmen Robinson appears to be a well-educated, well-meaning, articulate, experienced (law and police), sensible person motivated to contribute to her community. Which means she has nearly no chance of getting within a mile of Pittsburgh's City Hall, so her relative lack of polish is not worth worry.
Patrick Dowd appears to be a highly educated, community-minded, exceptionally articulate and thoughful person with a strong desire to improve his community. Which means he is substantially handicapped in any election among the diluted gene pool of the remaining City of Pittsburgh electorate.
Luke Ravenstahl is, without doubt, the people's choice (if the people are the members of the City Democratic Committee, those who care more about the Steelers draft than about their children's prospects for college, and those whose livelihoods depend on city contracts and variances). Mayor Ravenstahl is becoming less awkward in public speech, but no less hapless with concepts of even modest complexity.
He referred to Iron City Brewing -- whose latest iteration of heavily subsidized, inadequate management was the beneficiary of millions of dollars in public assistance from the Ravenstahl administration just before it was caught outsourcing jobs to Rochester -- as one of the two economic success stories he could think of. His decision to use forgiveness of Water and Sewer Authority debts to prop up failed management (and deny a Pittsburgh icon a chance at a fresh start) likely doomed the brewery. (For a quantified assessment of the wisdom of the mayor's investment of public funds in Iron City Brewing, check the Propositions Board, right).
He crowed about Pittsburgh's "most livable" label without mentioning -- probably because he couldn't recognize the point on pain of losing beer privileges at Steelers games -- that the portions of the metropolitan area that earn the award are the Upper St. Clairs, Franklin Parks, Fox Chapels, Hamptons and Sewickleys (good schools, effective government, nice houses at nice prices courtesy of a moribund local economy). There might be four or five city neighborhoods that aren't leaden drags on the region's "most livable" calculations . . . or there might not be that many.
The mayor also boasted about the city's fiscal trajectory (a tailspin), the Pittsburgh Promise (unfunded and an impediment to collecting from "not-for-profit" entities) and city government's commitment to public safety (strange, so soon after the Stanton Heights tragedy illustrated the consequences of years of shortchanged training and equipment for police officers).
Some debate-point-scorers might survey the details and conclude that the mayor stumbled severely, but across a dying city the City Democratic Committee members exchanged properly confident high-fives concerning their endorsed candidate . . . the leeches who fund city campaigns smiled and nodded smugly concerning the security of their investments . . . and city voters continued their March of the Penguins Fans toward a straight-ticket walk for Mayor Ravenstahl.