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City Valentine's affair

Feb. 14, 2008

How deep is their love? That's the question today, after Pittsburgh City Council and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl met to sign a joint "Proclamation of Pledges to Improve Governance in Pittsburgh" in a touching Valentine's morning ceremony.

Councilman Patrick Dowd, who spearheaded the process of coming up with an agreed-upon agenda for the fifth floor, blew kisses at all of his colleagues, calling them "people who care passionately" about Pittsburgh. "It was quite a task to bring all these passions, all these ideas together into something."

He singled out Councilman Jim Motznik for special praise, saying the nine-member body's veteran bucked him up when he was about to give up on finding consensus. "It was Councilman Motznik who said, 'Wait a minute, what do you mean? This is a good idea."

He also praised Mr. Ravenstahl's leadership.

The mayor, for his part, called the presence of eight council members, himself and Deputy Controller Doug Anderson "a very strong statement," but maintained that most of the pledges were "items that we've already begun to work on."

Why eight? Councilwoman Darlene Harris missed the news conference because of a scheduling conflict. And then there were seven, when Councilwoman Tonya Payne oddly left the event as soon as Councilman Doug Shields started talking, and before everybody ceremonially signed the proclamation.

Councilman William Peduto, the mayor's frequent antagonist who is sometimes, oddly, left off the invite list when the administration makes it up, had the event's best line. As he approached the proclamation, he looked startled, and said, "You didn't put my name on it!"

They did, though, and he signed. Later he said he was impressed that Mr. Dowd managed to get the city's officials to agree on anything. "There's a better chance of getting 11 people to agree on French fries or baked potato," he said.

Ducking the race card

Mr. Ravenstahl apparently wasn't prepared today to be asked about Gov. Ed Rendell's controversial remarks on Sen. Barack Obama's chances in the Pennsylvania presidential primary April 22.

So when the question came, in a press gang-up after the above lovefest with council, his answer wasn't as polished as usual. His instinct to run like hell from controversy, though, was fully functional.

"To be honest, I don't think he had any intent of offending anybody, and I think he was just stating, based on his experience traveling around the state in a recent campaign, running against Lynn Swann, he just illustrated what he felt the feelings of the voters of the state of Pennsylvania were," Mr. Ravenstahl said. "It doesn't mean that I necessarily agree with it. But I think that he's been taken out of context in some regard, as stating just a political position on how he sees the race shaking out, not necessarily endorsing that concept."

That solves that.

Wild about Pennsylvania

A state tourism initiative, Pennsylvania Wilds, a campaign to get people to visit the state's northern counties, has won a national award from the Society of American Travel Writers.

"The Pennsylvania Wilds covers Cameron, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Elk, Forest, Jefferson, Lycoming, McKean, Potter, Tioga and Warren counties," Gov. Ed Rendell said. "It includes 29 state parks and 1.5 million acres of state forest and game lands, the Allegheny National Forest, Pine Creek Gorge, and the largest elk herd in the northeast U.S."

The estimate of tourists and leisure visitors to the area increased from 3.5 million to 3.9 million from 2004 to 2006.

This blog was written by Post-Gazette Staff Writers Rich Lord and Tom Barnes.