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Going Through the Motions

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Apparently Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's "spirit of cooperation" in cutting the city's number of take-home vehicles to 29 was neither spirited nor cooperative enough for some city councilors, who tried to override his veto of council's car-cutting bill.

Council voted March 24 to cut the city's take-home vehicle fleet from nearly 60 cars down to 29. The cuts were recommended by the Act 47 financial recovery plan, which was drafted in 2004 by a state-appointed panel of overseers. Ravenstahl vetoed the bill, but promised to cut the size of the city's fleet.

However, the legislation didn't just cut the number of vehicles available to city employees; it also set parameters on which employees were eligible to drive them. The bill, which was authored by Councilor Ricky Burgess, also prevented the administration from later increasing the number of take-home vehicles without justifying it to, and gaining the consent of, the Act 47 coordinator.

Burgess urged council to override the veto -- six votes were required -- and failing that, asked the mayor's office to implement the bill's other criteria. The override failed 5-3 when Councilor Dan Deasy, who previously had abstained, voted no. (Councilor Darlene Harris was absent.)

"My emphasis ... is upon the explicit justification of the take-home vehicles and not merely the total number of cars available for such purpose," Burgess said in a letter to the mayor, which he read to council.

After the meeting, Burgess confirmed that without controls enacted by council, the number of vehicles could be increased at any time without notice, and again urged the mayor to adopt the bill's other stipulations. He added, however, that "we have to trust that the mayor will use these take-home vehicles appropriately and judiciously."

The mayor's office did not return phone calls by press time.

Coming Attractions

Bill 2008-0269: Debate will begin April 17 to approve $400,000 for the second year of Ravenstahl's summer youth-employment program. Let's hope the allocation of jobs is handled a little more equitable this year.

Last year, 726 young people from across the city applied for 114 jobs. To the mayor's credit, additional funding was found and the program expanded. In an effort to make sure that all neighborhoods were treated "fairly," the jobs were divided up evenly by geographical region -- north, south, east and west -- and the winning applicants for each area were pulled out of a hat.

The problem was that the number of applicants in each region differed greatly, and in areas with the largest number of applicants -- Homewood, East Liberty and the North Side -- applicants had the smallest chance of landing a job. But if you lived in areas with a small number of applicants -- places like Beltzhoover, Sheraden and Elliott, for example -- your chance of getting a job was drastically improved, simply because of where you lived. (See City Paper, "Random Chaos," June 28, 2007)

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