PR can't help: Pittsburghers know the mayor’s record too well

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Most politicians worry about their legacy, but it is still astounding that Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has announced a public relations campaign to remind the public of his accomplishments over the past seven years. Good luck with that. What he has mostly accomplished is to establish an image that defies polishing.

As a compromise choice of City Council to be its president, the 26-year-old became chief executive upon the death of Mayor Bob O’Connor in 2006. Although having a “boy mayor” in an aging city promised new vitality, Mr. Ravenstahl did not grow in the job. In many ways he remains the boy mayor of parody, lacking the maturity to do the hard work.

That unfortunate laziness has been especially evident since he announced March 1 that he would not run for mayor again. For weeks he turned Grant Street into a game of “Where’s Waldo?,” with the mayor portraying the elusive character of the children’s book series. He resurfaced last week with attendance at prominent events.

This late flourish coincided with the opening of the PR push, in which the mayor wants the public to believe that balancing the budget (under state oversight), keeping a lid on crime and supporting the Pittsburgh Promise to give college scholarships to public school students outweighs all the rest — the dubious personnel choices, his absence while celebrating his 30th birthday during the great snowfall of February 2010, and his excessive fondness for mixing with celebrities and trying to be one on the likes of the David Letterman show.

Forgotten, too, in the makeover is the fact that he decided not to run with a huge dark cloud over his administration — a cloud that has not yet dissipated. Last week his former police chief, Nate Harper, pleaded guilty to a federal charge of conspiracy. Meanwhile, several of the mayor’s associates in the administration have been questioned by investigators.

The mayor is entitled to the presumption of innocence. He is not entitled to the belief that he did a great job. Pittsburghers know better.

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