Sunday, January 3, 2010

Dowd's Strange Journey Approaches New Phase

Patrick Dowd's City Council journey has traced a strange arc.

The success of Dr. Dowd's anti-machine, doorknocking campaign -- in which he overcame local handicaps such as his education, intellect and use of standard English -- against mediocre-old-boy Leonard Bodack was hailed by reformers.

His early steps as council member were in line with his progressive platform and his supporters' hopes.

He has continued to advance worthwhile positions, and been willing to put his shoe leather on the line, but over time has pursued those worthwhile ends by increasingly awkward and prickly means.

In recent weeks, Dr. Dowd's conduct has shaded into bizarre and toward inexplicable.

Dr. Dowd's behavior has all but erased the opportunity associated with Natalia Rudiak's arrival, which created an apparent independent and progressive council majority -- Dowd, Kraus, Peduto, Rudiak, Shields -- and an opportunity to steer the city away from the failed course of lost decades (a path embodied by old-time machine Republican Democrat Luke Ravenstahl). Instead, Dr. Dowd has become alienated from his natural allies and has gravitated toward forces he formerly found repellent.

Where some would see differences with Bill Peduto (degree of support for Dowd's mayoral campaign; the precise form of a legal challenge to the Lamar sign) as brotherly friction, Dr. Dowd apparently perceives the foundation of a blood feud of Orie-Hart proportions. In practical terms, and in Dr. Dowd's increasingly insular world, friction with Peduto (and Doug Shields) constitutes justification for voting for Rev. Ricky Burgess or Theresa Kail-Smith (or whomever the Ravenstahl camp views on Monday as the most viable obstacle to council independence and a progressive agenda).

Circumstances therefore seem aligned to send Dr. Dowd into new and unfortunate territory on Monday, when his progression from eager new reformer to well-meaning-but-awkward to correct-but-strained-to-the-point-of-counterproductive arrives, for the first time, at doing the wrong thing.

1 comment:

Bram Reichbaum said...

Well. I don't know about "inexplicable". Apologies for length:

If you look at Rev. Burgess's journey, he also went from mayoral critic to very close ally -- though he did so much earlier, less abruptly, and with somewhat less apparent rhetorical contradiction.

What do these two have in common? If you look at where the heavy development action in the City -- not one building here or there, but HUGE TRACTS OF LAND, whole zones -- you have the corridor in E. Liberty, Bakery Square and supposedly Larmier, that is, Burgess's district; and you have the "Allegheny Riverfront", which I enjoy calling the Esplanade, that is Dowd's district. It even happened in sequence if you're talking cause and effect.

Now, development in this city is determined in whole by the Mayor, or maybe more to the point by Mr.'s Zober and Stephany. It's ENTIRELY in the administration's hands. And it can be done in such a way that is in alignment with a council member's philosophy, or with the promises he or she has made, or in a way that rewards his or her allies -- or it can be done in a way offensive to that council member's tastes and that actively punishes that member's allies and actively strengthens his or her political enemies.

That's a lot for a helpless Council person to consider. What the hell is Bill Peduto ever going to be able to do for you when it comes to installing a master plan for half your district? I'm not making excuses, these people deserve a good roasting, perhaps for being so trusting of an administration that is fully capable of reneging on promises or simply screwing things up. I'm just saying don't be so confused.

All of this also makes me think of Lavelle. I've faithfully passed along insiders' rumors of a supposed "deal" made betwixt the mayor and Wheatley, though honestly I don't give them a ton of credence. But what concerns me is, if you look at the next vast, yet-to-be-outlined development zone in the city, it's in the Hill District or at least around the arena. On one hand Lavelle already has far more personal reason than most not to put any faith in the administration regarding that specific business, but I'm interested to see where he goes. If Peduto pulls this off it's Lavelle that will deserve the ticker-tape parade.