Saturday, February 26, 2011

Infindorsement: InsolvenCity Council District 1

Darlene Harris has blossomed as an InsolvenCity councilor, in part consequent to happenstance, in part consequent to outrunning reasonable expectations. The result is a straightforward, independent public servant who appears to recognize, and overcome, her limitations. Her independence is precisely the reason she has unexpectedly become the mayor's main target for elimination from council.

Mrs. Harris (left) embodies old school Pittsburgh -- literally. A lifelong North Sider trained as a dental assistant, a churchgoing mother and wife of a union laborer, she entered the public arena to oppose certain elements of change in Pittsburgh's public schools, which where being compelled to change by declining enrollments in a declining city. She was a straight-ahead combatant, before and after joining the school board, who succeeded in modifying the district's transition, sometimes in ways the district could absorb sensibly.

It was reasonable to refrain from expecting much when Mrs. Harris was elected to her council position. She had aligned with the ossified elements of the city's Democratic machine. She lacked the resume suited for tackling the public policy problems of a deteriorating and stubborn InsolvenCity.

After a few years as a head-down, block-and-tackle councilor, Mrs. Harris made a striking end run to the council presidency, patiently transforming her vote into a path to the presidency after Rev. Ricky Burgess (carrying the ball for the mayor) and Bill Peduto each faltered just short of the goal. The degree to which Mrs. Harris foresaw or arranged her ascension is a point for interesting debate along Grant Street.

The established interests in Pittsburgh politics -- the List-Makers, the mayor -- expected to tolerate Mrs. Harris' presidency: How far would a Len Bodack soldier wander from the ranks? But the improbable coalition of progressives and Mrs. Harris stuck together long enough to sink the Not-So-Great Pittsburgh Parking Garage Sale, and with it millions of dollars in commissions, placement agent fees, law firm invoices and prospective revenue streams.

Mrs. Harris has, remarkably, become the mayor's top target. Ahead of Bruce Kraus, whose mere existence bothers the Ravenstahl camp, even before he illuminates and fights the deadly but profitable cesspool created by South Side saloons. Ahead of Patrick Dowd, who not so long ago was standing on street corners (right), yelling about the mayor's corruption and failures.

Beyond schoolyard taunts, Mrs. Harris is challenged by two pursuers of the Democratic endorsement.

Vince Pallus (left) brings a career-and-education resume fit for class recording secretary. He pledges to correct "poor decisions;" we are willing to wager, however, that Mr. Pallus could not identify, let alone analyze, Pittsburgh's public policy issues with a pistol at his forehead. He did, however, attend North Catholic with Luke Ravenstahl.

Bobby Wilson (right), the other challenger, is a twenty-something son of a Democratic committee member; like Adam Ravenstahl, he has been an "analyst" on UPMC's payroll. He also has a Facebook page. His political affiliations have yet to be publicly identified.

Kevin Quigley, an aggressive mayoral ally from the Public Works Department -- the Harvard-Kennedy School of Government for one traditional element of Pittsburgh politics -- is a North Side ward chair, rustling committee votes in an effort to deny Mrs. Harris the Democratic endorsement. In a district that elected Adam Ravenstahl to the Pennsylania General Assembly, no unqualified, underaged, politically connected candidate can be dismissed. But the Ravenstahl forces appear to have been hobbled by a late start -- they apparently switched from Kraus and Dowd to Harris because of a late-breaking perception she was more vulnerable -- and Pallus and Wilson are weak even by North Side standards. Even without the party endorsement, Mrs. Harris seems positioned for reelection.

Darlene Harris deserves another term as InsolvenCity's District 1 councilor. She takes the Infindorsement into the primary.

Infindorsement: Darlene Harris
Infinonytune: North Country Girl, Pete Townshend


Anonymous said...

Dying to know who is behind this blog. Anyone know??

n'at said...

I can surely tell you they are not J. Alfred Prufrock, someone who has been in my Mom's kitchen or someone who may have paved a dead end public thoroughfare to their own dwelling.

Anonymous said...

I loved your take on Ms Harris and I to have seen her develope and mature in her position. Unlike knucklehead Luke who defaulted into Council president, Ms Harris has worked hard and faced challenges of leadership that were incredible. The goofball Mayor is 30 going on 70 in terms of his old school, backroom style. Maybe, just maybe, those days are gone and we're too sophisticated to play that junk. The Rev Ricky carried the Mayors water with promises of riches but couldn't deliver for his boy. It was ugly and painful to watch but Ms Harris navigated council through the cesspool that the Rev threw down in rightiousness and ranker. His hate was palpable but she did not stoop to his level as a leader and I will always be grateful for her finess.
Go Darlene!

gradstudent1 said...

Anon 5:38,
what does ranker mean?


And why would Mr. Harris be more vulnerable than Mr. Kraus or Mr. Dowd? Out of the four councilpeople running for reelection, she had the second largest margin of victory in the May 2007 primary with about 1200 votes. Kraus won by about 450 votes, and Dowd by less then 100. I mean, four years is a long time, but as a city council president who defeated a fairly unpopular lease plan, I would think she'd be pretty safe, at least relatively.

Infinonymous said...

The mayor's allies fancy themselves especially effective north of the Allegheny. It probably also smarted a bit extra when their homey crossed them.

The same political deciders who chose Harris also stood up Barack Obama more than once; jilted Onorato on election night; look to the likes of Verbanac and Grattan for guidance; gravely mishandled the parking deal; and delivered Pat Ford to the FBI.

Some might therefore perceive a possibility that they erred in choosing Harris, delivering a gift to Patrick Dowd.

MH said...

Both of those challengers you have pictured should not try so hard when they smile for the camera.

Anonymous said...

If she wins the endorsement, she can start high-stepping it in from the 30 yard line immediately. If she fails to win the endorsement, it's going to be a VERY interesting campaign that turns at least partially on who works harder up and down the streets. The margin of victory in that committee vote could potentially be telling in itself.

Anonymous said...

I get 2x as much from this blog as the Trib and PG combined when it comes to politics. Could do without all the songs and videos tho. Just a thought-more posts and less songs maybe?

MH said...

When Brian Wilson is running for city council, you're going to have songs.

SSider said...

PLEASE do the South Side race!

Crystal E. said...

I endorse this endorsement for my councilwoman.

infinyfan said...

Please keep posting the songs and videos. Your blogging talent and political insights are only outdone by your taste in music.

Anonymous said...

This blog obviously not written by a NS'er because it is almost public knowledge that Harris is going to lose. You can take that to the bank.

MH said...

Hasn't been a good couple of years for banks. Anyway, three challengers against an incumbent is, on its face, promising for the incumbent.

Infinonymous said...

Infinonytune added.

If an incumbent is going to lose in a multi-challenger race, the winner must be an exceptionally strong opponent. So which youngster -- the one with an education, or the one who hung out with Luke at North Catholic -- is the "public knowledge" winner?

Anonymous said...

This is yet another "blog" produced by Darlene's staff, REALLY

Infinonymous said...

You are wrong. And probably accustomed to it.