Although his administration's reaction to the Washington Boulevard flood faltered out of the blocks, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has recovered nicely, responding responsibly in comments and conduct.
Correcting an early exhibition of deflection and delusion, the mayor acknowledged that the relevant government officials' dissemblings were inadequate and declared what should have been obvious from the start: "Something has to change on Washington Boulevard."
While others adopted a helpless stance, the mayor proposed policy suited to the circumstances: "If we have to close down a road, perhaps prematurely, perhaps unnecessarily, we will do that." That is nothing of which InsolvenCity should be proud, but it is the sole prudent course unless and until a reliable engineering solution is implemented.
The mayor properly described a point some subordinates had proposed as a defense -- that they perceived no flaw in operation of the stormwater management system -- as evidence not of vindication but of inadequacy: “If in fact their conclusion is accurate, then we clearly have bigger issues on our hands than we may have anticipated.”
Returning to his city after another awkward invocation of what must be the most uncannily effective subconscious early-warning system in human history, the mayor added an appropriate grace note by attending the funeral of a woman his city had failed.
Rejecting the dodging and defensiveness of others, Mr. Ravenstahl acknowledged, deftly, that the municipal breakdown raised issues of accountability for many public officials, including the mayor: "Certainly we'll take a look at it and whoever bears responsibility, and we all do in some way, for the events will certainly take it."
Mayor Ravensthal's performance since the catastrophe occurred has been nearly as good as the precipitating failures were bad.
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