No public interviews for Pittsburgh board members

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Accusing a handful of Pittsburgh City Council members of sitting on Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's nominations to key boards, a bare majority of council pushed through 12 picks for key seats yesterday without conducting the usual public interviews.

Councilman Jim Motznik's proposal to vote up the mayor's nominees to the Planning Commission, Zoning Board of Adjustment, Historic Review Commission, Human Relations Commission and Shade Tree Commission prompted nearly four hours of bitter debate and 5-4 votes.

Mr. Motznik said the nominees "have been scheduled for interviews, only to have them canceled the night before" by Council President Doug Shields, calling such tactics "the gamesmanship, the political crap that we have to go through."

At the end of a long series of votes, Councilman Patrick Dowd, who voted against the uninterviewed nominees, said the city's legislators had "stuck our nine heads in the sand, and I, for one, apologize to the nominees, and to the citizens."

Mr. Ravenstahl made 21 nominations on June 22, and council interviewed and confirmed nine of them within the usual two- or three-week time frame.

Some of the other picks, though, saw interviews canceled at the last minute. Six interviews that were set for July 8 were postponed indefinitely by an e-mail sent at 4:26 the afternoon before.

Mr. Motznik, Ms. Harris, Ricky Burgess, Tonya Payne and Theresa Smith voted to forgo the interviews. The same five then approved each nominee.

"Shame, shame, shame," said Councilman Bruce Kraus before most of the votes. He said council was denying his constituents the right to have their representative interview the nominees.

"I know what my community wants," countered Ms. Smith. "They have elected a mayor of the city of Pittsburgh, overwhelmingly," and mayors pick board members.

Rich Lord can be reached at or 412-263-1542.


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