Monday Miscellany | Slag Heap

Monday Miscellany

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A few quick political items while I try to put together the pieces after Santonio Holmes' departure ...  

If the prospect of a battle royale between Anthony Coghill and Pete Wagner doesn't have you rushing to the barricades of the South Hills, the 19th Ward now offers progressives a useful outlet for their passions. Georgia Blotzer, who vied with Theresa Kail Smith in the district 2 city council race last year, has joined with other like-minded folk to launch the 19th Ward Independent Democratic Club

Self-consciously modeled after the venerable 14th Ward Independent Democratic Club, the new organization will be compiling its own endorsements in the spring. 

Stirkes me as a hopeful sign. Yeah, the 14th Ward is a liberal bastion. And yeah, the 19th Ward's upstart committee will probably have tougher sledding, focused as it is on South Hills neighborhoods including Beechview, Brookline, Mt. Washington, and Duquesne Heights. But if progressive, independent voices are going to gain any traction outside the East End, it's going to have to be in places this. And let's remember there's a reason guys like Kevin Acklin campaigned so hard here during last year's mayoral race.

Besides,I see the new club already provides its bylaws and constitution online. If it does nothing other than avoid a major endorsement fiasco, it'll have a leg up on the Democratic Committee itself.

... Speaking of Kevin Acklin, be sure to check out Rich Lord's very fine story yesterday about the tax travails of Democratic powerbroker Ed Grattan. 

You may recall that Grattan's name surfaced last fall, when Acklin was raising questions about two associates of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl: Grattan and businessman John "Don't Call Me a Lobbyist" Verbanac. But while Acklin released a series of e-mails suggesting close ties between Verbanac and Ravenstahl -- to the extent that Verbanac apparently helped to write speeches for the mayor -- the campaign never documented its concerns about Grattan.

I asked Acklin whether the material in Lord's story dovetailed with the information his campaign was prepared to release. He declined comment.

...  Finally, just a note for stats geeks out there. For reasons that are hardly worth going into, late last week I found myself perusing a list of the city of Pittsburgh's 644 Public Works employees. And since I had nothing better to do during my lunch hour, I spent it cross-referencing that list with the roster of the roughly 900 current Pittsburgh-dwelling members of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee.

It's a truism in local politics that there's a considerable overlap between the two groups, so I thought I'd see if I could document it. (Jealous of my job much? Thought so.) Sometimes, after all, the "conventional wisdom" we have about politics is totally wrong. Sometimes, we get cynical and just assume that we know things ... things that aren't true at all. 

This isn't one of those times.

My analysis suggests that 40 public works employees are also committee members ... which means that if you work for that city department, the odds that you are also a committee member are a bit better than 1 in 20. 

If you're a member of the general public, meanwhile, your odds of serving on the party committee are closer to 1 in 500. 

My methodology was admittedly a bit simplistic: I merely compared the names on the public-works roster to those on the committee list; if the names matched, I assumed they were the same person. In theory, then, I might have wrongly counted a couple cases where a works employee merely had the same name as a committee member. (My lunch hour doesn't stretch long enough for me to start running down addresses.) But based on the names in question, that seems unlikely in anything more than a small handful of cases. 

In fact, if anything, my analysis probably understates the influence PW employees have on the committee. In several cases, a PW staffer and another family member -- typically a spouse -- serve on the committee.

Who says Democrats don't have family values? 

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