Pittsburgh Mayor Ravenstahl won't seek re-election



Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, whose chance political ascendancy made him one of the youngest heads of a major American city, announced this morning in a news conference that he would not seek re-election, just 11 days after formally announcing his run.

The mayor opened the press conference saying he was proud of what he and his staff have accomplished during his tenure.

He said that all had come at a cost. "Those who have paid the greatest cost are those who are closest to me."

Mayor Ravenstahl withdraws from mayoral race

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl held a news conference today to announce he would not seek reelection. (Video by Steve Mellon; 3/1/2013)

The mayor responds to questions about investigation, politics

Mayor Ravenstahl took questions from reporters following his announcement that he would not seek reelection. (Video by Steve Mellon; 3/1/2013)

He said he'd decided the pressure of the job was too much and had made the decision not to seek re-election.

He said he will stay in office next 10 months. He quoted former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher's retirement speech and said, "This North Side boy has lived his dream."

Mr. Ravenstahl said that he expected more candidates to enter the race now that he has bowed out, and said he has a candidate in mind he plans to back. He would not divulge the name.

He said he has not decided what he will do with the campaign money he has on hand.

Asked what he disliked about the job, Mr. Ravenstahl said, "The public nature is something I wasn't prepared for. I disliked the ability of folks to say and do whatever they wanted to say and do regardless of any truth. I disliked the politics of it, the folks that are in it to win and will do so at any cost. I'm just not that person. I never was."

The mayor said he doesn't know what job he'll do next, except: "My next job will be T-ball coach. I'm excited this April to coach my son's T-ball team. That's my first gig."

The 33-year-old mayor has held office since 2006, when he rose to fill the position when Mayor Bob O'Connor died.

The decision to drop out of the race has been brewing the past few days and comes as controversy and criticism continue to build following revelations the police bureau's Special Events and Finance offices were under investigation by the FBI and Internal Revenue Service. Deputy Police Chief Paul Donaldson said he believed federal authorities were investigating misappropriation of funds.

Last week, after meeting for two hours with FBI agents and officials with the U.S. Department of Justice, Mr. Ravenstahl said he learned information that led him to ask Nate Harper, who he promoted to the bureau's top job early in his administration, to resign as chief.

In his press conference, the mayor said that the FBI investigation and "nasty and vicious" allegations against him made him rethink running again.

While Mr. Ravenstahl said repeatedly that federal investigators told him he was not a target of the investigation, questions continued to swirl about his knowledge of an unauthorized account set up by the chief's office at the Greater Pittsburgh Police Federal Credit Union, where federal investigators have seized records. A check written to the bureau's Special Events Office by the University of Pittsburgh ended up instead in a credit union account.

Mr. Ravenstahl acknowledged his police bodyguards had debit cards linked to the account, but said he only recently found out that they weren't city cards and that he and the guards had no idea they were unauthorized. A retired bodyguard, Fred Crawford, claimed the mayor had full knowledge of the debit cards at the time, which the mayor vociferously denied. At his press conference this morning, he said he would release receipts today that would show the expenses were from legitimate city business.

The mayor has been conspicuously absent from public and campaign events in recent days, most recently at a candidates night at Perry Traditional Academy in the North Side, his political base. There, his close friend Kevin Quigley, an assistant public works director, spoke in his place, asking the audience to keep Mr. Ravenstahl's families in their prayers.

In opaque terms, he hinted the mayor had "personal issues" and that he would make an announcement.

"It is with a heavy heart that I tell you here tonight that the mayor couldn't make it.

"Within the next couple of days he'll be having a press conference to discuss some issues," Mr. Quigley said, adding that ... there's some personal things going on right now that I'm not at liberty to discuss.

"Everyone in this room supported the mayor at one time or another," he continued. "Us as North Siders, it's always been an old adage that we stick together. I'm asking everyone in this room to send their prayers out to the Ravenstahl family and to stick together as North Siders."

The investigation was the latest and perhaps most damaging blow to an administration that has rarely had a dull month.

Mr. Ravenstahl first came to city hall as a councilman in 2004 after besting in the Democratic primary a close ally of Mayor Tom Murphy.

A deeply divided council elected Mr. Ravenstahl its president in 2005, and he thus became mayor on Sept. 1, 2006, upon the death of Bob O'Connor.

Mr. Ravenstahl focused on development, righting the fiscal ship and promoting the city nationally. He became something of a minor celebrity, making appearances like one on the David Letterman Show.

But his youth -- he was 26 upon taking the city's highest office -- seemed to hamstring him from the start. A series of peccadilloes took the bloom off the rose, as he flew to New York with a Penguins owner, took a city security SUV to a concert, went to Seven Springs as a historic blizzard approached and had a long series of no-shows.

He prevailed at the ballot box in 2007 and 2009, though his returns in the latter year were not impressive for a Democrat in the city.

In August 2011, his absentia again became a source of criticism when he failed to show up at the scene of a flash flood on Washington Boulevard, where four people died.

Responding to criticism, he said "If I could have stopped the rain, I would have ... I don't know if my location at the time of the rain would have changed anything."

During Mr. Ravenstahl's tenure, he boasted that he brought the Steel City to the world stage.

In September of 2009, the city played host to the G-20, a global economic summit that drew President Barack Obama and several world leaders.

The mayor also touted the city's improving financial stature. Under his tenure, the city's bond rating improved. The city has remained under state Act 47 oversight for eight years because of its designation as financially distressed, though recently, overseers have argued the city should be freed from oversight.

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Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee. Rich Lord: rlord@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1542 or on Twitter @richelord. First Published March 1, 2013 1:45 PM


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