Cities in motion, which all tend to be to varying degrees, are a lot like motor vehicles.
They operate best with someone behind the wheel.
Since March, Pittsburgh has lacked a leader to steer it. After abandoning his re-election bid, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl essentially pulled this midsize model American city over to the side of the road, hopped out and hitchhiked to a nearby golf course.
The city has idled motionless for the past eight months, but a new driver is on the way.
After his victory in Tuesday’s mayoral election, Democratic City Councilman Bill Peduto will apply foot to accelerator beginning in January. Peduto triumphed over Republican nominee and nomad Josh Wander, who spent most of the campaign in Israel, and independent candidate Les Ludwig.
There’s no guarantee that Peduto‘s policies will be successful, but he promises to have a distinctly different driving style than the man he is replacing. Expect Peduto to devote more attention to the task; Ravenstahl would have been cited for distracted driving numerous times had he been behind the wheel of a Chevy instead of a city.
With Peduto the mayor-elect, it’s not too soon to begin speculating how the infancy of the administration might differ from the waning days of the outgoing one. Significant stylistic variations are possible in the areas of:
• The mayor’s inner circle
Ravenstahl: Golfing buddies, attractive TV station account executives.
Peduto: Carnegie Mellon University policy wonks, the happy hour crowd at Cappy’s.
• Common refrains
Ravenstahl: “We continue to cooperate fully with the federal grand jury’s exhaustive investigation of city government.”
Peduto: “Did anyone see that goal Crosby scored in last night’s Pens’ game? It was sick!”
• Availability of the mayoral calendar
Ravenstahl: “I don’t care if the state Open Records Office has ordered its release, I firmly believe a public official’s schedule is private. I distribute mine on a need-to-know basis. The only person who regularly sees it besides me is my caddy.”
Peduto: “Not only will I post my calendar online, I can have one of my aides stop by and boot up your computer if you want so you can see it.”
• A winter weather emergency
Ravenstahl: In the event of a paralyzing snowstorm, history suggests he will direct the city’s response from an out-of-town ski resort
Peduto: Likely will have the Public Works Department attach a blade to the street sweeper in his campaign commercials so he personally can clear the South Side Slopes.
• Inquiries to the mayor’s office
Ravenstahl administration: “You want to speak to the mayor, sir? He’s unavailable until he leaves office, but if you’d like I can put you into his voicemail … no sir, I don’t believe he checks it.”
Peduto administration: “Hi, it’s Bill. What’s up?”
Eric Heyl is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7857 or [email protected].