Gary Rotstein's The Morning File: Romoff & Peduto -- A beautiful start to long friendship?

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Oh, to have been a fly on the wall for Wednesday's meeting between Mayor Bill Peduto and UPMC CEO Jeffrey Romoff. Might it have gone something like this?

Romoff: Ahhh, welcome, Mr. Mayor. So excellent of you to pay a visit. Would you like some wine -- I have a fine bottle of Domaine Leflaive Montrachet Grand Cru.

Peduto: Thank you, no, I'd like to be able to focus on our issues.

Romoff: A politician who's all business, how refreshing -- I applaud you. What would you like to discuss then?

Peduto: For starters, there's a couple thousand of your workers demonstrating outside for better wages and unionization.

Romoff: Yes, so sad. Let me ask you, Mr. Mayor, do you have children?

Peduto: No, but I don't see --

Romoff: You see, I think of everyone connected to UPMC as my children, and it's so hard to see them turn on you when you've done everything to feed, clothe and raise them right. I am personally hurt by their protests, but I understand you must sometimes give the children a long leash and let them make their own mistakes. So sad, though -- don't you agree?

Peduto: But isn't there something you could do to acknowledge their concerns? It creates a bad impression and ties up traffic quite a bit to have all these people on the street.

Romoff: I understand your concerns, Mr. Mayor, but this is an internal UPMC matter. You surely have more important things to focus on around the city -- I noticed on my walk back from lunch, for example, that the sidewalks near Highmark's headquarters seemed very dirty. Perhaps your people should issue them a fine?

Peduto: I don't know about that, but I'm certainly concerned about your ongoing battle with Highmark. The sniping between the two of you, whether on television or in court, does no one any good.

Romoff: I couldn't agree more, Mr. Mayor. I hope you will be talking to these Highmark people about that very, very soon. Please let me know the result.

Peduto: But, Mr. Romoff, that's part of why I'm here today. There's a perception that UPMC is trying to advance its own monopolistic interests by refusing to work with Highmark, and that average people end up as the victims.

Romoff: Balderdash! They're the ones that have decided to enter the hospital business, instead of sticking to the insurance racket. How would you like it, Mr. Mayor, if someone you had a business relationship with suddenly announced they were now competing with you to run the city of Pittsburgh?

Peduto: That's not really going to happen, and a little bit off point, so I'd ask you --

Romoff: But Mr. Mayor, once again, these are internal matters. You shouldn't trouble yourself about them when you've got problems like the city's budget to worry about.

Peduto: I'm glad you brought that up. You see, you're the biggest property owner in Pittsburgh, but we receive very little money from you because of your tax-exempt status. We ought to have something more on your part to help the city's future.

Romoff: You're absolutely right, Mr. Mayor, and that is why I have had my lawyers draw up papers to have UPMC voluntarily pay the city $9.99 for each piece of property we own. I am prepared to sign that today, as a gesture of good faith. And don't forget that we fund The Pittsburgh Promise. Now, may we drink a toast to our new relationship?

Peduto: All due respect, Mr. Romoff, I'm not sure $9.99 goes nearly as far as we need to reflect how UPMC benefits from city services.

Romoff: All right then, $10.01, and that's my final offer. God, but you're a tough bargainer! Now where'd I put my pen ...

Peduto: I think we've got a little more work to do here before anything can be signed.

Romoff: Mr. Mayor, I'm simply at a loss. I have offered you financial help, I have offered you my finest wine, I have given you excellent advice on things you might bring up with the Highmark people. What more can I do?

Peduto: Perhaps we could just consider this the start of a long-term discussion. We could meet again in, say, four to six weeks?

Romoff: Certainly, as there is nothing more important to UPMC than the health of the city of Pittsburgh. May I suggest that you leave by the back door, so you don't have to risk interacting with any pesky protesters.

Peduto: I'll be fine, and I look forward to continued progress at our next meeting.

Gary Rotstein: grotstein@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1255.


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