I just spent an hour of my life that I'll never get back watching City Council debate extending the city's emergency snow-removal declaration.
The bottom line is that council voted unanimously in favor the extension, which allows the city to expedite contracts in the name of clearing streets more quickly after last week's storm. Even Bill Peduto, who first raised concerns about the process and previously indicated he would vote against the extension, came around in the end. "After listening to my colleagues about the real needs" of snow-struck residents, Peduto said, voting no "would be foolish."
This was all a foregone conclusion, of course. As noted here yesterday, extending the declaration is "a procedural matter that ought to be easier to clear up than, say, a couple feet of snow." On paper, this issue boiled down to the question of whether or not the mayor himself had to sign off on requesting the extension. And despite some very long-winded discussion around the table today, the question is: a) legally somewhat murky, and b) totally uninteresting. No one would even be talking about it ... except that Peduto's earlier request for the mayor's input helped prompt questions about where the mayor actually was.
But Peduto took plenty of lumps of his own at the table today. Public Safety Director Mike Huss gave no quarter, and councilor Ricky Burgess called it "unfortunate" that council was discussing procedural questions with city residents still struggling in the snow. Patrick Dowd, Peduto's nemesis on council, was harsher.
"I care about process; I really do," said Dowd. (No news there.) But he didn't see that any procedures had been violated, and what mattered now were things like "get[ting] the woman who is on Sapphire Way so that she can get to and from work in a wheelchair." Council could debate procedural questions "When it's spring."
That would certainly be in keeping with a season of rebirth and renewal. But it seems to me that, if you're going to blast Peduto for not taking into account the city's dire plight, then you've got to fault Ravenstahl as well. In a genuine state of emergency, a city's leader ought to be someplace where everyone can find him.
This matter could have been resolved more quickly if Peduto just set aside his procedural concerns, yes. But it could also have been resolved just as easily if Ravenstahl hadn't performed a vanishing act earlier this week. If this emergency was so important that Peduto was supposed to step aside, then it should also have been important enough for Ravenstahl to step up.