In response to Councilman Bill Peduto's ad describing some of Jack Wagner's positions when he was auditor general, both your paper and the Wagner campaign quickly described them as negative ads. That description may not be accurate.
Both Mr. Peduto and Mr. Wagner have a long history of public service. Ads describing actions that they have taken during their years of holding office, which are truthful and relevant to being mayor of Pittsburgh, are informative to a public that does not have the resources to check past positions. They are not negative but instead provide a public service. Examples of negative advertising would be personal attacks, gross distortions of previous public positions or ads emphasizing positions that are prejudicial and irrelevant in the race.
Mr. Peduto's ad described certain positions that Mr. Wagner took with respect to the state Medicaid programs. The mayor of Pittsburgh does not oversee any Medicaid programs, so those ads may be viewed as irrelevant and prejudicial; however, the mayor does oversee numerous senior citizen programs so a candidate's attitudes with respect to those voters is certainly relevant.
The issues involving whether the Peduto ad was negative are complex and most likely did not call for a knee-jerk reaction from the media or the Wagner campaign, but instead should have led to some honest discussion of that position. Mr. Wagner's response by comparing Mr. Peduto to Karl Rove, one of the more unscrupulous campaign managers in history, was a personal attack that did not belong in this otherwise civil campaign.
In the future, I would hope that the candidates will sponsor more ads commenting on their opponent's prior positions on issues relevant to the mayor's race and the media and their opponents will not dismiss those ads out of hand as being negative. The public needs all of the relevant information it can get.
The letter writer was a deputy city solicitor for the late mayor Richard Caliguri.