Ravenstahl a hit on the talk show circuit

New mayor taking the opportunity to boost city 'nationwide'

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Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl during his live interview yesterday on CNN.
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Mayor Luke Ravenstahl is not trying to cause a big sensation, but he is talking about his generation, and his city, to a national audience.

On Saturday, Pittsburgh's 26-year-old mayor made the front page of The New York Times. Yesterday, he did a live interview with CNN. Tomorrow, he's booked on CBS's "Late Show With David Letterman," along with the rock band The Who, which was already old before he was born.

Everybody, it seems, wants to talk with one of the youngest mayors ever to run a major American city.

Far from getting tired of questions about his age, the man who took office Sept. 1 following the death of Mayor Bob O'Connor has embraced them.

"We now can talk nationwide about Pittsburgh moving forward, some of the great things that are happening here, and to be a young voice in that process is something I look forward to," he told CNN's Betty Nguyen shortly before 3 p.m. yesterday.

After CNN was done with him, Mr. Ravenstahl told local news media that he views the national exposure as an opportunity to tout Pittsburgh, not himself.

"We're a lot different than we were 10, 15, 20 years ago," he said. "However, our image nationwide has not changed, and that's something I hope to achieve with some of these nationwide interviews."

"Our young mayor is creating quite a stir," said Michele Fabrizi, president and chief executive officer of Marc USA and an architect of a new promotional campaign for the region. The new mayor reinforces the city's brand and updates it, she said.

"Our region historically has a heritage of being a change-maker" through its mastery of heavy industry, organ transplants, robotics and other innovations, she said. "I think that it's a wonderful opportunity to have our young mayor, who's very articulate, tell the story of what's happening in Pittsburgh now."

But for how long?

Asked about the touchy legal issue of whether he will face voters in 2007 or 2009, the mayor told CNN that he expects the matter to go to court. Earlier, he said city lawyers weren't yet sure if the city has standing to file any legal action on the issue, and that their research continues.

He intimated to Ms. Nguyen that he might not be the favorite in that race, but wasn't concerned.

"Pittsburgh embraces the role of an underdog, and as a 26-year-old mayor, some people may view me as an underdog," he said.

Meanwhile, going on "Letterman" is a thrill.

"I was always a fan of David Letterman as I grew up, and to get that call was very humbling to me," he said. "I hope to have some fun with it, and again, to tell the story of the city of Pittsburgh."

He won't be the first Pittsburgh mayor to win national attention due to his age.

Sophie Masloff appeared on the "Pat Sajak Show" on CBS in 1989, partly because she was in her 70s when she ascended to the mayor's office after the death of Richard Caliguiri. She was also the subject of a New York Times story, which noted her pop culture gaffes, as when Bruce Springsteen became Bruce Bedspring, the Grateful Dead morphed into the Dreadful Dead and The Who took on the name The How.

Presumably, Mr. Ravenstahl will be more careful tomorrow.

What's next? On the way out of the Pittsburgh VideoTech Center, where he sat for the CNN interview, the mayor jokingly suggested his next horizon: "Oprah."


Staff writer Timothy McNulty contributed. Rich Lord can be reached at rlord@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1542.


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