Pittsburgh reacts to Mayor Ravenstahl's announcement

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Reaction to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's announcement that he will not run for re-election began as soon as his press conference ended this morning.

Controller Michael Lamb, who is running for mayor, said in a statement: "I understand this was a difficult decision for Mayor Ravenstahl to make today. I respect the choice he has made, and wish the best for the Ravenstahl family.

"As our city continues to face serious challenges, I hope to work with the Mayor, his Administration, and City Council for the remainder of his term toward our common goal of improving Pittsburgh and the lives of the people who call it home."

Mayoral candidate and longtime Ravenstahl rival Bill Peduto said: "I understand how difficult of a decision this was and would like to extend our sincere best wishes to Luke Ravenstahl and his family. My campaign will continue to focus on taking Pittsburgh in a better direction and making the city the most livable for all of our residents."

Council President Darlene Harris said that when the mayor said during his press conference that holding public office had taken a toll on him, she empathized.

"I know how stressful it can be. The mayor is young and campaigns can be very nasty at times," she said. "I know it does take a toll on your families."

Squirrel Hill city Councilman Corey O'Connor, the son of late Mayor Bob O'Connor, said: "I'm a little surprised. Obviously the rumors were going around and we knew it was coming, and I just think our job right now as council is to just move the city forward, continue to do our job and do the best we can do. Obviously there's going to be a new mayor in a few months but while [Ravenstahl] is still here we want to work with him, the administration and get things done for the people of the city of Pittsburgh."

"I remember when he first ran for city council my dad was on council, and he met with him for coffee. My dad came home and he said 'I just met with this young guy and he's interested in becoming a councilman, we'll see how it goes.' So there's obviously a family connection there. At this point are prayers are just with him and his family."

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said the mayor's decision wasn't surprising given the events of the past few days. Mr. Fitzgerald has not been close to the mayor and is supporting Councilman Bill Peduto in the mayor's race.

"I think all of us got some indication in the last few days when he started missing events," he said.

Mr. Fitzgerald said he respects the mayor's decision.

"Even when things are going well ... There's always someone taking a shot at you for something," he said. "It's part and parcel of the political process.

"I have an appreciation of what Luke said in his opening remarks" about the toll public life can take on a family.

House Majority Leader Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, said:

"The mayor had a positive relationship with legislators. We always found him reasonable and proactive and respectful, and I think we wish him the best in his remaining time as mayor. I think a lot of people are appreciate of his service."

Senate Minority Leader Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, said he was surprised at the mayor's announcement.

"He was clearly a leading candidate to continue to serve as mayor, and he should be proud of a very positive legacy that he's left for the city of Pittsburgh," Mr. Costa said. "We are a much better city today than we were when he took office, despite what folks might want to say. That's a fact."

Sen. Wayne Fontana, D-Brookline, said he respects and understands the mayor's decision. Mr. Fontana, whose district also includes Beechview and Downtown, said he worked with Mr. Ravenstahl in efforts to revitalize those neighborhoods.

"He was always receptive and listened to any issues or concerns I had about those types of things, about revitalization," Mr. Fontana said. "We've had some good results in my district with that relationship."

State Sen. Jim Ferlo said in a statement: "I am proud to be one of many elected officials and citizens who have, and will continue to, support Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. His actions and words expressed in today's press conference speak for themselves. He should continue to hold his head up high and be proud of his personal accomplishments and the success our city has enjoyed during his tenure. When asked about one initiative he is most proud of, his poignant response was the Pittsburgh Promise, an initiative that continues to open up the doors of higher education and opportunity for thousands of Pittsburgh youth. The economic development and progressive aspirations of our city from the Downtown core to the North Shore to Oakland and neighborhoods spanning our great city have been unparalleled.

"I would not want to trivialize Tom Paine's famous quote, but as a state senator and former councilman and someone who has worked closely on community development with the mayor, I am not a 'summer soldier or sunshine patriot,' and I continue to support, appreciate and enjoy a working relationship and friendship. So, I close with a Thank You to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl."

Darrin Kelly, a trustee of the politically powerful city firefighters union, said: "It's shocking to a lot of people. At the end of the day if he feels that's the best thing for him, we wish him the best of luck. I truly believe that he's done amazing things for this city."

Dennis Yablonsky, CEO, Allegheny Conference on Community Development, said:

"As the mayor noted in his remarks today, the city has made great progress over the last seven years in stabilizing its finances and building a growing national and international profile. We appreciate the leadership the mayor has provided on these and other issues important to the business community during his tenure. We wish him the best as he charts his future course beyond the Mayor's Office."

A number of leaders of community groups responded to the mayor's decision.

"In his seven years he has been an advocate for our community," said Sarah B. Campbell, a longtime advocate and resident of Homewood. "He has listened to what we have had to say. My heart is heavy for him. He has paid a terrific personal price, being the age he is.

"It's always hurtful for us older people because you are basically looking at your son. But I approve of the fact he is stepping back, and I pray he will be able to strengthen his personal life. I pray that his road will be open and positive."

Architect Paul Tellers, who has been involved in several groups, said: "I can't say I'm surprised from things I have heard from people involved in community affairs. A lot of good things have happened in the years he has been mayor, and he and his staff get credit for a lot of that, but it did not seem to be an open administration. And there was not enough creative thinking about sustainability issues and what the city could be doing" in that regard. Mr. Tellers is a former city planning commissioner and a former board member of the Mount Washington Community Development Corp., the Design Center and the Oakland Task Force when he was university architect at Carnegie Mellon University.

Kristina DiPietro, a member of the board of the Hazelwood Initiative, said she knows it was "a difficult decision for him, especially since the primary is more or less a general election here." Speaking on her own behalf as a resident, she said, "I feel that the Hazelwood comunity was kind of neglected by the city, with sometimes no response back to us" during Mr. Ravenstahl's tenure. She cited improvement that gave more amenities to other neighborhoods that already have pools and nice playing fields "while Hazelwood's pool has been closed many years and the field is neglected. I've also been frustrated that, Hazelwood being a riverfront community, the mayor was not as interested in providing the kind of influence for development that he could have."

Aggie Brose, deputy director of the Bloomfield-Garfield Corp., said: "I would only have positive comments. We have had great support in all the initiatives we have been working on," notably on the $5 million reconstruction of Penn Avenue that's to begin in August. "He was quite an advocate on our behalf with Duquesne Light when they wanted to put big wooden poles back on the avenue. He negotiated with Duquesne Light so that we will have fewer poles" that are upgrades. "We've had a great relationship with his public works people" and city representatives on the neighborhood's public safety task force. "I respect him for standing behind the police chief [former chief Nate Harper], who was right with us every time we had a shooting. I'm glad he didn't throw him under the bus."

Aurora Sharrard, vice president of innovation for the Green Building Alliance, said: "He and his staff have been very supportive of several things, starting with the Green Government Task Force work that led to the Pittsburgh Climate Initiative. He continued Mayor O'Connor's support for that. He hired the first sustainability coordinator that the city has ever had."

Catherine Mitchell, president of the South Side Community Council, said, "I have had many moments of frustration during his time due to the seeming lack of response to our complaints and concerns due to the bar situation, the safety, the cleanliness, those kinds of things.

"The recent crack-down could have been avoided if the mayor's office would have responded to the concerns of the South Side residents four or five years ago. It's unfortunate that our great city, our awesome city has to have this kind of political scandal, if you will, but we look forward to hearing from the other candidates and expressing our concerns.

"Great things have happened in our city, and none of us know all the facts, but I know many of the residents have been and continue to be frustrated."

Georgia Petropoulos Muir, executive director of the Oakland Business Improvement District, said: "The mayor's office has been overwhelmingly supportive of the BID. His office automatically has a seat on our board, and it's been positive. His staff has been great with us." she added, "We want to be partners with whoever sits in that seat."

Alexis Miller, board president of the Polish Hill Civic Association, said: "We've seen a lot of support from his administration for activities in Polish Hill," mostly for greening efforts. "We received grants and in-kind work to turn city lots into parklets and gardens, so that's been a positive thing. I would just hope that whoever is the next mayor would continue with support of these neighborhood initiatives."

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First Published March 1, 2013 12:45 AM


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