Republican mayoral candidate Mark DeSantis yesterday challenged Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl to sign a five-part pledge to bolster ethics and help ensure a campaign focused on the city's finances.
Mr. DeSantis focused on Mr. Ravenstahl's participation in the June 27-28 Mario Lemieux Celebrity Invitational golf outing, at which the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center spent $27,000 to sponsor the mayor and two other golfers. He reiterated an earlier promise not to take such largesse.
"Accepting gifts from interested parties is unacceptable," he said. "So I think it's time now that we put a stake in the ground, both candidates, and say that we're simply not going to accept gratuities or gifts from anybody that does business with the city."
Mr. Ravenstahl's campaign issued a statement saying that he "complies fully with the existing law and will continue to do so. No amount of election year antics will change that."
The mayor was in Louisville, Ky., with Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato and members of a joint city-county committee on efficiency.
City officials aren't allowed to take anything of value from entities with city contracts, with some exceptions. The city Law Department has said that the exception for charitable events covers the mayor's participation.
Mr. DeSantis twice characterized a city Ethics Hearing Board inquiry into Mr. Ravenstahl's participation in the invitational as an "investigation."
Investigation "would not be the correct word," said Sister Patrice Hughes, chairwoman of the ethics board. Board members have voted to write the mayor a letter asking him to explain his attendance at the invitational.
Mr. DeSantis said he won't misrepresent his own, or Mr. Ravenstahl's, business or political experience, and asked the mayor to do the same. The campaign is worried that the Democratic mayor may use the Republican's work for President George H.W. Bush's administration to tie him to President George W. Bush.
He said he wants eight debates, noting that Mr. Onorato, a Democrat, and his Republican predecessor, Jim Roddey, debated more than 20 times in 2003.
Mr. Ravenstahl's campaign has proposed two televised debates, including one in which high school seniors ask the questions, and has agreed to at least one other forum.
Mr. DeSantis said that by Oct. 1, he will issue a plan to prevent city bankruptcy. He focused on the city's $800 million debt, its pension fund which is $484 million short of its ideal level, and the money owed by its authorities, calling that situation "unprecedented in the United States."
Mr. Ravenstahl's campaign shot back that he's "the first mayor in years" to submit a truly balanced budget.
Mr. DeSantis also pledged a campaign that treats voters "with respect."
Rich Lord can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1542.