In a New Year's Eve surprise, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl this afternoon vetoed prevailing wage legislation passed unanimously by city council 10 days ago. Council President Doug Shields called a special 6:30 p.m. council meeting in an effort to override the veto, but fell one vote short of the needed six.
Coming at the end of council's two-year session, the timing of the veto was apparently meant to leave council no chance to vote to override. The complex legislation to guarantee hotel, cafeteria and building maintenance workers at future city-subsidized development sites wages equal to the average of their peers citywide would have to be reintroduced next year, under a new council.
Mr. Ravenstahl, in his veto message, pledged to work with council next year on a rewrite of the legislation. But he also criticized some of the bill's intended effects.
"The bill in its current form has too many vague and ambiguous terms, needs additional input from the entire community, and, most importantly, has the potential to hurt Pittsburgh," the mayor wrote in his veto message.
By having a wage rule that isn't matched by any similar rules in neighboring communities, the mayor wrote, the legislation would "put us at an incredible disadvantage with respect to the county and region as a whole.
"This bill will all but ensure that [large] projects will look to other geographic areas without the constraint of its restrictions."
"None of the basis of his veto is factually borne out by experiences anywhere in the county," said Gabe Morgan, Western Pennsylvania director of Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ, which was joined by other unions, environmental groups, community organizations and churches in backing the legislation.
The veto was delivered to council at around 3:30 p.m., after most council members and staff had left the City-County Building.
Mr. Morgan called the end-of-session veto, "a blatant abuse of power geared toward overturning the legislation that was unanimously approved by city council, and doing it in the most unscrupulous way possible."
Normally, it takes a two-thirds vote of council to overturn a veto, and that must be done at council's "next meeting" after the veto is issued. Even with a special meeting tonight, council members might be thwarted by provisions in their rules that require 24-hour notice before any such gathering.
A new council with two new members takes office Monday.
Rich Lord can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1542.