Mayor wouldn't speak at forum until DeSantis left room
Republican mayoral candidate Mark DeSantis is asked by Sara Davis Buss, moderator of a breakfast at the Duquesne Club, Downtown, yesterday, to leave so Mayor Luke Ravenstahl would speak to the Executive Women's Council of Greater Pittsburgh. At right is Meghan Jones Rolla of Mr. DeSantis' campaign staff.
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The two main Pittsburgh mayoral candidates both addressed business and women's issues at a breakfast forum yesterday, but it was not a debate by any means.
The candidates had agreed in advance there would be no give-and-take between them. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl made sure of that: When the Democrat arrived at the Duquesne Club's Founders Room at 8 a.m., he had his hosts at the Executive Women's Council tell Republican opponent Mark DeSantis to leave the room. Only when the mayor's speech and question-and-answer period were over was the Republican challenger let back in.
Not that Mr. Ravenstahl said anything controversial. He talked about the city's positive budget situation (including an $80 million fund balance); cuts to city personnel levels; easing burdens on small business; and improving city quality of life.
Women in Pittsburgh earn only 70 percent of what men make and the mayor described his efforts to prominently place women in government jobs and agencies.
"I realize we have a long way to go but I'm very proud of where we're at right now. Our boards, authorities and commissions since I became the mayor have been 53 percent females ... Twenty-five of the 47 nominees to city-related panels are women, and 15 of those appointments are minorities," he said.
"When we talk about making decisions and having individuals in the mayor's office that make decisions, I'm very proud of my record there."
Mr. Ravenstahl promised to meet privately with officials from the Women's Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh on efforts to address domestic violence among Pittsburgh police. On city hiring standards, he said he favors requirements -- modeled on the NFL's "Rooney Rule," he said -- that the city always interview women or minorities for jobs.
Mr. DeSantis -- a former federal government official and lobbyist who runs a tech startup on the South Side -- talked about improving city government's efficiency and facing down its debt and pension problems. He mentioned plans to support minority businesses through a loan initiative he has designed, and also promised to promote women to high-ranking government positions.
Pressed on whether he is a conservative or moderate Republican, Mr. DeSantis told the 52 women executives that he is pro-choice on abortion. He said he doubted the mayor's pledge to place women to prominent roles, noting no women were hired in the national search Mr. Ravenstahl promised for 10 department heads this summer.
According to council president Karen Myers, when the forum was being planned Mr. Ravenstahl requested that he and Mr. DeSantis speak separately, a stipulation to which the council and the Republican agreed. Yesterday morning, when he saw Mr. DeSantis in the room before his remarks, the mayor asked that his opponent not be present.
The mayor had the right to ask for Mr. DeSantis' dismissal, said the forum's moderator, attorney Sara Davis Buss.
"The way it was presented to the mayor, it was not a debate, nor was there any expectation that he be in the room at the same time as Mr. DeSantis," she said.
First Published October 4, 2007 12:00 am