Ravenstahl: I'll win

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Mayor Luke Ravenstahl expressed confidence that he will win the special two-year mayoral election in 11 days and fleshed out his stances on economic development, local government consolidation and budget aid from nonprofits.

The incumbent Democrat would not say how much his campaign has raised this election season -- Republican opponent Mark DeSantis claims to have near $300,000 -- but said everything is going according to plan. Spending reports are due today.

"I'm satisfied with where we are [in the campaign] and we haven't deviated too much from what our plan was two months ago, and still feel that that plan will lead to success Nov. 6," the mayor told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette editorial board yesterday.

Mr. DeSantis, a South Side tech firm president and business consultant, has talked often in the campaign about boosting business in the city, but Mr. Ravenstahl is forwarding his own initiatives. He said the city is in talks with private foundations to fund a $1.5 million program to provide government permit approvals over the Web, and plans (through the Urban Redevelopment Authority) to provide a "one-stop shop" issuing economic development assistance to homeowners and private corporations.

Mr. Ravenstahl said he is confident that city nonprofits will voluntarily pay up to $4.2 million in each of the next three years to help the city's bottom line, but said he is easing the burden on some of the tax-exempt entities. He said his administration is not accepting donations from very small nonprofits -- such as social service organizations -- and will refuse them from big foundations, too.

"The original agreement [on nonprofit payments] had some somewhat substantial contributions from foundation community partners. We are not approaching the foundation community this time to contribute, because they obviously do so much good in other ways to help the community," he said.

On consolidating the city and Allegheny County governments, the mayor said he would only be supportive if a merger saved money and improved government services. So far, information suggests, if anything, that consolidation may trigger duplicative police, planning, garbage collection and other municipal services, he said.

"I'm willing to have any discussion that makes sense. I'm willing to talk about city-county consolidation. I have not said 'no' to that but I have not had any blueprint put in front of me that makes sense. It just doesn't," he said.

The 27-year-old mayor, a former City Council president who took over the city after Mayor Bob O'Connor died in September 2006, said he -- like his policies -- has grown the past 13 months.

"I've evolved in many ways in terms of understanding and grasping better now than I did then the magnitude of the office of the mayor," he said.

Tim McNulty can be reached at tmcnulty@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1581.


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