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Opie-and-Shut Election

Pittsburgh misses a rare opportunity

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Final score, Pittsburgh Mayor Opie: 1; Snarky Columnist: 0.

The Boy King has been officially crowned. Readers of this column are aware that I've been hammering this kid since day one because I think he's underqualified and lacks maturity. I was on Opie's case before just about everybody else, and as a result I endured countless slams by the "c'mon, give the kid a chance" crowd.

But then the tide started to turn. While many dismissed the initial reports of his altercation at Heinz Field in 2005 as a strange but insignificant incident, Opie subsequently stepped on his penis enough times that many began to wonder.

He blew off angry North Siders, pissed off about the casino. He blew off angry blacks in the Hill District, who were worried about the impact of a new arena. He blew off women's groups, angry at promotions being given to cops with accusations of domestic violence in their pasts. He partied in New York City with Penguins co-owner/billionaire Ron Burkle. He reportedly trashed a Homeland Security-funded SUV after taking it to a country-music concert.

To paraphrase comedian Jeff Foxworthy, if you drive a Homeland Security SUV to a Toby Keith concert, you might be a dumbass.

And let's not forget the police chief's demotion of Commander Cathy McNeilly after she blew the whistle on the shady practices of Opie's now-departed nominee for director of Public Safety, Dennie Regan. A federal judge reinstated McNeilly, and by the time the lawyers' fees were thrown in, the whole flap cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Then, perhaps the biggest miracle of all: a credible Republican candidate! Mark DeSantis, a 48-year old grownup who had significant policy experience in government, and who knew something about small business and how to create jobs. He was a guy who could analyze the intricacies of the Act 47 state oversight of this financially inept government and actually say something intelligent about it. He was a policy geek who might actually know what to do, if elected.

I had naively hoped all of this was creating the perfect storm for a major-league upset. DeSantis was running TV ads. Television is supposedly the most powerful political tool a candidate has. Opie was not running TV ads, assuming a cakewalk victory. I thought it was arrogant at the time, but apparently he's the astute one.

Because then the predictable occurred. Nobody cared. I mean nobody. Well, I mean, hardly anybody. A 28-percent voter turnout? That's disgraceful. Apparently, it's par for the course in Pittsburgh mayoral elections come November. But this time there was -- supposedly anyway -- a snowball's chance in hell that we had a real contest. And still nobody showed up. And still nobody cared. Why do we political junkies fool ourselves into thinking anyone gives a rat's ass about who's in charge?

As a guy wrote to me in response to my post-election blog: "Guess now that the political order is safely frozen in place for a couple more years, they can crack a couple more Irons open, watch the 'Stillers' and concentrate on the important things in life, like the office pool, the bartender's ass and which of their buds has the best gas grill."

I would beg to differ with one element here: I would think it would be the waitress' ass, as opposed to the bartender's. But either way, Pittsburgh certainly is putting its best ass forward.

Do I sound bitter?

OK, time to put on our optimistic hat one more time, because we're just foolish enough to try to find a silver lining here. What's the hope for the future, as in the '09 election? Well, let's get out of fantasyland and quit pretending a Republican is going to be able to compete. Yes, DeSantis got 35 percent, impressive for a Republican, but not impressive enough to think Republicans can win the next time. I've narrowed it down to Pittsburgh City Councilor Bill "Mr. Peduto-head" Peduto, and state Rep. Dan Frankel, a good guy who's kinda like Tom Murphy without the abrasive personality.

Someone save us. Please. You'll excuse me while I go stare at the waitress' ass.

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