Saturday, August 22, 2009

You Don't Mess Around With Jim Luke

Perhaps taking a cue from Dan Onorato's inexplicable defiance toward the courts regarding assessments, the mayor of Pittsburgh has -- apparently purposefully -- redirected discussion of city pension funding toward a series of belittling exchanges with state legislators.

Pittsburgh hasn't seen this approach to city-state relations since 1998, when Tommy Tantrum Murphy called a (fatally premature) press conference to ridicule and insult state legislators for failing to catch a "stealth" stadium funding provision snuck into an unrelated bill.

As most teenagers learn eventually, the path of hollow defiance becomes less attractive as the rush of mindless emotional satisfaction yields to the pain of substantive consequences.

In Mr. Onorato's case, his posturing can't obscure the fact that his position on assessments is unconstitutional and immoral, conditions ineligible for legislative cure. He is likely to learn soon -- when the county next appears before Judge Wettick -- that his stubborn public posturing has been irrelevant at best, but more likely counterprodutive.

In the case of Mr. Ravenstahl and the city's pension problem, he and Yarone Zober act and talk as if they have a straight flush and a huge pile of chips. Instead, they hold a nine-high and are insolvent, with a $600 million gambling pension debt.

Mayor Murphy later called his news conference "the worst decision we ever made"; the legislative outrage caused Gov. Ridge, who had supported the bill that prompted Murphy's unseemly crowing, to veto the bill. The mayor and his chief of staff probably recognize that the "arrogant, arrogant snit" eruption is not a good sign, but adolescents generally require more than a single episode to learn the lesson concerning idle defiance.

Maybe someone could buy Ravenstahl and Zober a copy of Jim Croce's hits, and point them toward this one (featuring Tom Caltagirone as "Slim"):

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