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Ground Zero founder would make good mayor

Hear me out on this because he has, after all, done more to save Downtown than Mayor Tom Murphy.

“He” is Pat Clark, one of the founders of Ground Zero, which helped upend Murphy’s misguided attempt to bulldoze Downtown and turn it into a place as exciting as a suburban shopping mall. Given Murphy’s Midas touch when it comes to development, it’s a safe bet that Downtown would now look somewhat like Beirut, circa 1941, if that plan had gone through.

And while Murphy is still threatening to “grow” Downtown with his mysterious Plan C, Clark still is supporting Downtown. He’s a regular fixture at Thursday evening happy hours at the Chart Room — “Redeveloping Downtown one beer at a time” — and has been a key player in getting a series of art installations up and running at the so-called “skinny building” in the Fifth-Forbes corridor.

So why not a “Pat Clark for Mayor in 2005” campaign?

“I tend to (swear) too much to be a politician,” Clark said.

Clark, 45, is more than just a Downtown backer: He’s a Pittsburgh backer. His offices are in the Strip District and his home is in Friendship. You’re just as likely to see him catching a band on the South Side as you are bowling a few strings on a Sunday night in Lawrenceville.

The mayor, on the other hand, seems confined to the City-County Building these days, save for nights and weekends at his home in Butler County — Whoops! I meant to say “on the North Side.”

Clark, of course, is not a politician and says he has no plans or interest in running. He hinted that he’ll throw his support behind City Councilman William Peduto, who would make a great mayor.

But what if Peduto doesn’t run• (“He better, damn it,” Clark said). Can Pittsburgh survive another four years under the rule of Murphy or another machine politician?

It would be easy to dismiss Clark as a political neophyte with no real experience in the halls of government. He’s never had to balance a municipal budget,. He’s never had to politic late into the night to get a precious bill passed.

He has also never pulled an end run on voters to build new stadiums. He’s never laid off 731 city employees in a failed attempt to elicit sympathy from the Legislature.

Clark has never had the power of eminent domain, so he’s never used it. He has never handed out corporate welfare packages to Fortune 500 companies or upscale North Shore restaurants.

With all these nevers on his resume, it’s a shame Pat Clark says he’s never even considered running for mayor.


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