New alliance keeps Harris in Pittsburgh council presidency


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Darlene Harris was re-elected Pittsburgh City Council president this morning in a vote that pit her against her one-time political teammates.

Voting for Mrs. Harris were herself, Ricky Burgess, Patrick Dowd, Theresa Kail-Smith, R. Daniel Lavelle and newcomer Corey O'Connor.

Voting against her were Bruce Kraus, Bill Peduto and Natalia Rudiak, her teammates the past two years.

Along with Doug Shields, who left office at year's end, Mrs. Harris, Mr. Kraus, Mr. Peduto and Ms. Rudiak formed a coalition that often sparred with Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

The five, for example, spearheaded rejection of Mr. Ravenstahl's proposed parking lease in 2010.

But personal political differences caused a rift in the group last week.

In the end, Mrs. Harris received the support of Mr. Burgess, Ms. Kail-Smith and Mr. Lavelle, all three of whom are considered allies of Mr. Ravenstahl. Mrs. Harris also picked up support from Mr. Dowd, who sometimes voted with the coalition and other times voted against it, and from Mr. O'Connor, who replaced Mr. Shields.

Mrs. Harris named Mr. Burgess to the key post of finance chairman, replacing Mr. Peduto, who had said he didn't want the position again.

Mrs. Harris named Mr. Peduto chairman of human resources, considered one of the less prestigious posts. She reappointed Mr. Kraus to public works, Ms. Rudiak to performance and asset management, Mr. Dowd to intergovernmental affairs and Ms. Kail-Smth to public safety. She appointed Mr. Lavelle to land use and economic development and Mr. O'Connor to urban recreation.

It remains to be seen how the realignment will affect council's relationship with the mayor. Mr. Ravenstahl's office has said he's hoping for a thaw this year.

Before the vote for council president, Mr. O'Connor, 27, took the oath of office. He is filling the same council seat held by his late father, Bob O'Connor, who became mayor in 2006 but died several months later.

"I know Dad's looking down on you today, and he's smiling ear to ear," Rev. Terrence O'Connor, Corey O'Connor's elder brother, said before giving the invocation.

District Judge James Hanley administered the oath to Mr. O'Connor. His mother, Judy O'Connor, held a Bible for her son.

Mr. Burgess, Mr. Dowd, Mrs. Harris and Mr. Kraus were sworn into new terms today.


Joe Smydo: jsmydo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1548. First Published January 3, 2012 4:00 PM


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