Pittsburgh Looks Forward

Luke Ravenstahl's victory in the Mayor's election was no surprise. As it must, Pittsburgh looks ahead. Will Mark DeSantis remain publicly invested in the vision of a New Pittsburgh that he tried to articulate during the campaign, and again last night? If you want to review that vision, it's online. In his entry today, Chad Hermann posts the full text of DeSantis's eloquent concession speech. Let's hope, for Pittsburgh's sake, that DeSantis isn't one-and-done. Whether or not he has the stomach for another run in two years, Pittsburgh needs his voice.

What will the 35-percenters do? Will DeSantis's supporters gravitate back to Bill Peduto -- the long-standing voice of the Eastern neighborhoods, or align with the emerging Patrick Dowd? The revolution, such as it is, needs a face and a voice. If DeSantis isn't it, who's up next? And will that person be able to find backers willing to invest in building a political organization that doesn't rely on Pittsburgh's long-standing party apparat?

Someday, Pittsburgh will look back. Will city and regional residents of the future look back on the election of 2007 as just another example of Democratic dominance? Or will they think that Mark DeSantis and his supporters energized a sustainable politics for a New Pittsburgh? Will 2007 be regarded as a turning point, or as another bump in the road for the Democratic juggernaut?

The same old themes -- Old Pittsburgh / New Pittsburgh; Democrat / Republican; young / old; authentic Pittsburgher / carpetbagger; immature juvenile / mature adult -- can get overplayed in these reviews. Pittsburgh can use some new themes. On NPR this morning, I listened to a report about the first African-American to be elected mayor of a major American city: Carl Stokes, in Cleveland, 40 years ago.

And I wondered what it would take for Pittsburgh to elect an African-American mayor.

UPDATE (11/10/07): What he said.


15 Responses to "Pittsburgh Looks Forward"

EdHeath said... 11/07/2007 4:57 PM

Draft Dean Larry Davis from the School of Social Work for 2009. Only get some professionals to run his campaign, starting with any disciple of Drew Westen you could find.

Mark Rauterkus said... 11/07/2007 7:38 PM

Many 'movements' don't have a figure head or a 'face' as you say.

We need a blasted movement that has many faces, many voices, many verses and a choir of characters.

So, I don't buy that bit of insight in your post.

- -
Good idea about Dr. Davis. Humm...

Anonymous said... 11/07/2007 8:56 PM

What Pittsburgh needs to break out of its old habits is time.

But not time in the sense of "the same old." What Pittsburgh needs is more and more people slowing spinning the progressive flywheel. Peduto did it, DeSantis did it, Pittsblog does it, and every new reader who takes a second and thinks about how Pittsburgh can be better is doing it, too.

Anonymous said... 11/07/2007 9:23 PM

Keep in mind that Cleveland is a majority black city while Pittsburgh's only 1/4 black. I think the Democratic machine candidate will continue to win for some time (such as Ravenstahl)... if the machine produces a black leader... than that black leader will become Mayor of Pittsburgh.

Schultz said... 11/07/2007 9:49 PM

Two things,

First - this is the first time I have ever heard of or witnessed both liberal Democrats and Conservative Republicans working side by side in their support of one candidate, Mark DeSantis, who happens to be a moderate Republican. I think that in of itself is historical.

Secondly - I wrote Mark DeSantis in for County Executive, since Dan Onarato was unopposed. I'm doubt many others did the same but I think Mark's best chance at winning is to run for Allegheny County Executive when Onarato either vacates his seat to run for Governor or when he finishes his term in 2011. Either way, Mark is the favorite to win that seat since he already has a base in the city and name recognition throughout Southwestern PA.

C. Briem said... 11/07/2007 9:52 PM

I suspect Larry is smart enough to not want that job, but I'll ask him when I see him next. ha.

but Louis Mason was City Council president from 1970-1977 and only because of illness did he announce his resignation in February of 1977. At the time, there was an expectation that Mayor Flaherty would take a position in the newly elected Carter administration (he would become deputy Atty General). He had support to stay as city council president and likely become mayor when Flaherty left. But he did resign. If he had not resigned he would probably have been the city's first Black mayor. As it was Dick Caliguiri became city council president and then acting mayor before being elected on his own later in 1977.

Jefferson Provost said... 11/07/2007 11:02 PM

And I wondered what it would take for Pittsburgh to elect an African-American mayor.

More African-Americans?

Pittsburgh may be a bastion of the democratic party, but the sad truth is that among blue-collar, white Pittsburghers there are a lot more Archie Bunkers than there are Meatheads.

Just one of the many ways that Western PA channels East Texas.

Anonymous said... 11/08/2007 3:33 PM

I'd like to see DeSantis run for County Executive. He could do more toward the goal of consolidation in that position than he ever could as mayor.

Anonymous said... 11/08/2007 4:33 PM

What a crock, can anybody tell me with a straight face that this guy is better qualified to lead this city than his opponent? Did anybody bother to read their resumes or at least bother to listen to the debates? And please, enough with this notion of change. Hasn't his family basically run the north-side machine for the last 30 years or so? Yeah, that's change. This is just a younger version of the same machine politics that have helped run this city into the ground. And believe me, that is all we are going to hear about from this guy for the next 2 years, that is, how he is only 27 or 29 or whatever. Big whoop. Guess what Mr. phi gamma kegalot? There are a lot of young people who actually do amazing stuff and don't use their age as an excuse or a reason for celebrity. It is not like this guy was some whiz kid or public policy prodigy. I mean if the city wanted to go the youth route, why not go with somebody with some natural talent to lead or creativity, or maybe even somebody who has been outside of South Western Pennsylvania before. That's great good luck Pittsburgh enjoy your star chasing mayor. Sorry for rant but I really needed to get that off my chest.

Schultz said... 11/08/2007 4:52 PM


I feel your frustration. I worked with the DeSantis campaign since early July. I was at several of the polls all day on Tuesday and people who showed up to vote were overwhelmingly senior citizens.

Some of them told me "I would never vote for a Republican" and many of them go in and vote for the straight Democratic ticket. The only hope for change in the city is if the reform Democrats in the city align themselves with one candidate to take on Ravenstahl in the 2009 primary. If it is a race among a number of Democratic candidates then it will be a lost cause, just like the 2005 primary.

The partisanship is too strong in the city and the Democratic machine is too strong and integrated into the lives of those in the neighborhods for the Republicans to overtake, even with the help they had from the liberal and moderate Democrats of the east end. The Democrats for DeSantis was not a myth, like ACDC chairman (and ahole) Jim Burn said following my quote on ABCnews.com, but there just wasn't enough of them to make it a closer contest.

Some have said DeSantis could have won had he said or did things differently but I do not agree. DeSantis could have spent over $1 million and started his campaign months earlier but it wouldn't have mattered much, not with a 68,000 voter turnout at least.

Schultz said... 11/08/2007 4:55 PM

" Anonymous said... I'd like to see DeSantis run for County Executive. He could do more toward the goal of consolidation in that position than he ever could as mayor."

I agree, consolidation may be the only way this region can thrive once again. DeSantis has studied this for some time now and I do think he is the guy who could execute the consolidation.

Onarato's political aspirations will prevent him from doing anything this radical during his last term, but we need radical change if we are going to go anywhere.

Anonymous said... 11/11/2007 11:23 AM

If politics is the art of the possible, then Pittsburgh's reform movement must come with a Democrat (or possibly Independent Democrat) label, given the registration numbers in the city. Furthermore, reform Dems hurt themselves by working with/for a Republican candidate. In these polarized times, any Dems working with/for the GOP will hurt their ability to draw more Dems towards the reform camp. I hope the energy put into helping DeSantis--destined to lose by a healthy margin on election day--doesn't detract from these reform Dems' abilities to grow their support within their own party over the coming years.

Schultz said... 11/12/2007 9:12 AM

"...any Dems working with/for the GOP will hurt their ability to draw more Dems towards the reform camp"

I guess we will have to wait and see. I'm not ashamed to have crossed the party line to work with the DeSantis campaign, and I am sure most of the other Democrats who supported him feel the same way, because we felt it was the right thing to do for the city.

Bram Reichbaum said... 11/12/2007 4:30 PM

I'm guessing that Joel meant it might hurt those Democrats with big names and political aspirations of their own. I think we're safe, Schultz.

Wow, Mike, thanks for the link!

Schultz said... 11/13/2007 11:51 AM

"I'm guessing that Joel meant it might hurt those Democrats with big names and political aspirations of their own. I think we're safe, Schultz."

Bram - you're assuming that myself and other not so big named Democrats do not have aspirations to run for office someday.

You are also assuming that big name Democrats openly supported DeSantis. I cannot think of anyone though, at the moment.

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About Pittsblog

Updated September 2020:

Pittsblog 2.0 was written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh, from January 2004 through December 2011.

Since then, Pittsburgh-themed essays have appeared from time to time at madisonian.net, on law and technology, and in some of Pittsburgh's classier professional media venues.

Chris Briem of Null Space drops by Pittsblog from time to time.

All opinions expressed at Pittsblog 2.0 are those of their respective authors and of no one (and no thing) else, least of all the University of Pittsburgh.

Pittsblog 2.0 has a motto: "It's steel good in Pittsburgh." Say it aloud, with a Pittsburgh accent.


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