InsolvenCity Council District 7's theme has been improbability -- sometimes mercurial -- for several years.
A blue-collar slice of the city along the Allegheny River from Highland Park to Lawrenceville, in which nothing larger than a lemonade stand has been built without public subsidy since the United States last won a war, the district threw a wrench into the Democratic machine by electing Patrick Dowd to council in 2007.
Dowd overcame several severe political obstacles -- a strong education, an accomplished professional career, familiarity with standard English -- in defeating legacy hack and endorsed Democrat Len Bodack with a strenuous campaign. Geographically, Dowd used votes in Highland Park and Bloomfield to overcome Bodack's strength in Lawrenceville.
Dowd joined council as a natural ally of an emerging independent and progressive group of councilors, then promptly alienated his ideologically compatible colleagues (even when appearing to operate from the same policy page) and entered an isolation chamber. Soon after joining council, he succeeded his most estranged colleague, Bill Peduto, as challenger to Luke Ravenstahl for mayor.
After bitterly criticizing Ravenstahl and losing, Dowd became the improbable and unwise fulcrum in an awkward and failed effort to deny Peduto the council presidency and deliver that plum to Ravenstahl. The beneficiary of such intrigue was council president Darlene Harris, whom Dowd defeated in his original campaign for school board.
(This sequence was no easier to follow as it unfolded.)
Dowd then became a component of the coalition that thwarted the Not-So-Great InsolvenCity Parking Garage Sale (although, after joining the coalition, Dowd engaged in a final dalliance with the List-Makers before finally voting against the proposed transaction).
Dowd appears to be trying to reconnect with his natural cohorts, but fractures persist despite general congruence on policy. Some of the friction, curiously, has been most pronounced during episodes of seeming agreement, such as the Lamar and Pacific billboard disputes.
Neither Dowd's dust-ups with the Pedutos and Krauses nor his bizarre cooperation with the mayor has lessened the Ravenstahl camp's fundamental dislike of Dowd, which establishes the context for Dowd's re-election campaign.
The Ravenstahl camp positioned Lauren Byrne (right), offspring of a minor but effective political family, in a community development position from which she could dispense minor goodies and make the contacts suitable for a council candidacy. The mayor's agents openly and confidently predicted Byrne's victory (let alone candidacy) against Dowd. Consequent to a blind spot, however, the Ravenstahlers misjudged one element of Byrne's character: its existence. Byrne passed on the race, reportedly because she preferred to avoid perception as a puppet.
This leaves the mayoral camp with a late minor-league call-up, Tony Ceoffe Jr., to pitch at Dowd. Ceoffe Jr. yet another twenty-something with heavy connections but light qualifications, is son of a district justice who, as a community leader, had befriended and benefitted unsavory developers and property owners. If Ceoffe Jr. has an education, he is too modest to disclose it on his website (which nevertheless revealed more than Ceoffe Jr. intended). He has manned a low-level state government desk for a few years, and is one of the ward chairs who makes the City Democratic Committee a formidable force for mediocrity.
Another candidate, carpenter and artist David Calfo, seems well-meaning but irrelevant.
Dowd squandered much of his prospects and opportunity during his first term as a member of council, but his record and especially his remaining reservoir of promise constitute ample reason for his constituents to re-elect him. With hope Dowd's interpersonal and tactical problems on council are (like his doctorate and the classes he taught at the Ellis School) history, the Infindorsement goes to Dr. Patrick Dowd.
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