This weekend, sitting members of Pittsburgh City Council and the Councilor-elect Bobby Wilson are debating whom to elect as their President. They will vote on Monday at 3 PM.
There are lots of factors to consider, including their legislative records and leadership skills, as well as their ethical comportment over the years. Use your Google and do your research.
But perhaps the most critical thing to consider is this – which of these two men would you want to become Mayor if Mayor Peduto were incapacitated?
Remember Luke Ravenstahl?
At age 23, he ran for a seat on the Pittsburgh City Council. He was elected and took office in January 2004 before being appointed City Council President in December 2005. After the death of Mayor Bob O’Connor, Ravenstahl became the mayor on September 1, 2006.
City Council was unable to come to a consensus to elect a President from their ranks so Ravenstahl was a compromise candidate. No one foresaw that he would ascend to the Mayor’s office. Now we know better.
The lesson here is two-fold. First, City Council needs to be very aware that they could be electing the next Mayor, not just a President. The Ravenstahl precedent is too fresh, too recent, too damaging to ignore. It certainly could happen again and it should weigh heavily on everyone’s mind.
The other lesson is that compromises have consequences.
I could remind you of all the reasons Ricky Burgess is unsuited to be the Mayor of Pittsburgh. His history of homophobia alone should be enough to make the other members of Council take a moment. Some folks that I know think that Burgess has evolved. I am here to tell you that is not how it works and there is zero evidence that Burgess has changed his heart, apologized for the damage he wrought in this regard, or made things whole for LGBTQ folx in Pittsburgh. Could he do those things? Yes, certainly, but if he wins this vote, he’ll have zero incentive to do so. He needs to make amends BEFORE seeking more power and influence.
I must point out that Ricky Burgess is an ordained Christian pastor so much so that he insists on being referred to as the Reverend Ricky Burgess (we don’t comply with that because he’s not our pastor.) He’s known informally as ‘The Rev’ and that’s very troubling. Like Mike Pence level troubling. We need strong boundaries between church and state in Pittsburgh. We do not need a Reverend Mayor. That’s not a step forward, especially for the thousands of children and adults who continue to suffer at the hands of the Diocese of Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh’s fusion of church and state is uncomfortable, awkward, and threatening to most of us. While I have no objection to people of strong faith running for office, I do object when they cannot maintain a professional boundary and insisting that your religious title be used in your political role is the absolute epitome of religious entitlement. It does not bode well for that Mayoral ascendency. Not even a little bit.
I could point out to you that Ricky Burgess seems to have an unexpected working agreement with Mayor Peduto and thus is not exactly the “check and balance” that we need for a robust Democracy. While I like Mayor Peduto, I think it is important for him to work with a strong independent Council and I think it is important that City Council strive for a progressive majority on their own terms. We’ll see in this vote how independent the City Council progressives truly are. And that’s very important information.
It may seem counterintuitive that electing another East End white cisgender heterosexual man, Corey O’Connor, is the best way to ensure a strong, vibrant, independent City Council. Especially as Ricky Burgess would be the first Black male President of City Council.
But those are our choices. Well, not our choices because this is not our vote. This vote will be cast by the nine people we elected to represent us – it is an internal organizational vote that has long-lasting ramifications for every resident of Pittsburgh.
We may not be part of this vote, but we can certainly make sure our voices are heard. Today. Contact your member of Council and the Mayor’s Office to share your thoughts. Do you want Ricky Burgess to be next in line to the Mayor’s Office? Say something now or that might be a possibility that we have to live with for at least two years.
Use email, text, Facebook and Twitter tags, etc. They are paying attention. If you need to figure out who represents you in Pittsburgh, click here for the Council home page.
We should never again be put in the Ravenstahl compromise candidate situation. That’s not good or responsible governance.
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