Allegheny County's Executive and District Attorney have advanced competing economic and community development proposals in the wake of UPMC's uncharitable (but exquisitely profitable and competitively ingenious) abandonment of Braddock.
Dan Onorato's UPMC-friendly proposal seems natural -- even predictable -- in form and substance; in form because economic and community development is an important part of the county executive's job description, in substance because Onorato is Jeff Romoff's faithful government affairs coordinator. (The Post-Gazette -- ignoring or, more likely, forgetting -- the tissue separating Onorato from UPMC in public, actually refers to Onorato's proposal as "the hospital plan.")
Steve Zappala's proposal (and participation) is more difficult to decipher, for at least two reasons. First, why would a district attorney conduct a press conference addressing a specific economic and community development project? Second, on whose behalf is Mr. Zappala advocating?
The district attorney's job is to enforce criminal laws. Regardless of how depraved one considers UPMC's treatment of Braddock, no one has responsibly alleged a crime. Zappala's role in the Braddock debate consequently is inexplicable, even if there were not myriad situations within Zappala's jurisdiction that have deserved (but not, apparently, received) the attention of a prosecutor. (In fairness, the district attorney conspicuously cleared one prominent case -- oops, sorry, that one must have slipped out of the 'none of his business, even if it was his brother' folder). (That's brother Greg, right)
That point shades into the second perplexing part of Zappala's involvement: On whose behalf is he proposing a project?
Cynics might wonder whether he is pushing a real estate deal or a public contract or perhaps a government license for one relative or another. The skeptical might speculate that his family members are undisclosed, but highly paid, mouthpieces for an interested entity. The jaded might wonder whether he could be attempting to divert attention from other circumstances, or competing for camera time in preparation for a statewide political campaign down the road.
The next time a district attorney calls for cameras concerning an economic development proposal for Braddock, or any other community, perhaps at least one reporter will consider asking why the county's chief law enforcement official is devoting time and energy during business hours to something other than investigating and prosecuting crimes.
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