Democrat rivals take aim at Ravenstahl during debate
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Challengers to Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl repeatedly took him to task tonight in the first of two televised debates in the race for a four-year term, with Councilman Patrick Dowd questioning his leadership and attorney Carmen Robinson saying some of the mayor's recent reform moves were products of the "political silly season."
But the mayor had a response for nearly every critique of his 21/2- years in office, at one point reading Mr. Dowd's quotes from a council debate on gun control legislation to paint the councilman as a flip-flopper.
All three candidates repeated key themes, with Mr. Ravenstahl portraying himself as the steward of a city in the midst of a renaissance that comes in spite of national economic turmoil.
Other cities are facing "huge budget deficits," he said. "We're a city that's balanced our budget three consecutive years."
"We need some leadership, and this administration is not providing it," said Mr. Dowd. It was one of many criticisms of the mayor's failure, in his view, to take strong positions on issues like campaign finance reform, lost-and-stolen gun reporting legislation, and governmental cooperation. He criticized the mayor's leadership at nearly every turn, accusing him of cronyism.
Ms. Robinson took advantage of her best opportunity yet for widespread exposure by showing poise and emphasizing her law enforcement background as a former city police sergeant.
"We can't just keep throwing money at prisons and curfew centers and detention centers," she said. She also opposed both investment in a network of security cameras and gun control.
Mr. Ravenstahl, 29, of Summer Hill, won a council seat in 2003 when he was just out of college, rose to the council presidency in 2005, became mayor upon predecessor Bob O'Connor's 2006 death, and in 2007 won a special election to finish the four-year term, which ends this year.
Mr. Dowd, 41, of Highland Park, is a former private school teacher who served a term on the city school board before winning his council seat in 2007.
Ms. Robinson, 40, of the Hill District, is an attorney and former city police sergeant who sued the city alleging sexual harassment, and spent more than five years off work while losing at trial, appealing and settling.
Tonight's debate was televised on WTAE-TV, and the second and final broadcast debate will be on WPXI-TV on May 4.
First Published April 20, 2009 8:40 pm