Grant St. shuffle: The mayor's 'national' search produces local hires
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When Mayor Luke Ravenstahl last week announced promotions and new appointments to his administration, he characterized them as a way to "raise the bar" in city management.
At a minimum, the changes should help to stabilize a mayor's office that has been marked by constant turnover. The administration promised a national search to recruit the best available for Pittsburgh, so it's curious that his appointees are such a local bunch. More distressing is the paucity of women in this new batch of appointments, with the mayor's new press secretary the only one. That said, however, the new directors come with experience in their corner.
Fire Chief Michael Huss has been part-time public safety director since January. That now becomes his full-time job, and he says he sees it as a switch from oversight to making policy for the police, fire, emergency medical services and building inspection bureaus. We have questioned recent decisions by city Police Chief Nate Harper and applaud the designation of a full-time safety director. Chief Huss has some important tasks on his to-do list, including writing new rules regarding domestic violence by employees. And he certainly brings a better list of qualifications than his predecessor, the ill-advised choice of Dennis Regan.
New to the city's upper management is Operations Director Arthur Victor, whose last Grant Street stint was for Allegheny County Commissioner Bob Cranmer. He will have far-reaching authority, overseeing public works, building inspection, parks and the mayor's 311 call center. Although Mr. Victor is a registered Democrat, his prior work for a Republican certainly separates him from most of his colleagues in the administration.
Six months ago, Mr. Ravenstahl appointed Pat Ford as his development czar and charged him with encouraging new projects, streamlining the city's complicated and overlapping permitting processes and working with the Urban Redevelopment, Pittsburgh Water and Sewer, housing and parking authorities. Now Mr. Ford is to become executive director of the URA. He seems amply qualified, and this new role should give him the opportunity to make the URA a one-stop shop for city development projects.
That approach should work for developers, but we hope it won't mean the end to community input and to important checks and balances designed to ensure safe buildings. That's why we're concerned about Mayor Ravenstahl's concurrent decision to oust Ron Graziano, the longtime, well-regarded building inspection chief.
Next week the mayor will name temporary replacements for Mr. Graziano and for Gregory Tutsock, whom he removed as head of the water and sewer authority. Mr. Ravenstahl also has appointed a new fire chief and a permanent solicitor; he made the decision to keep seven veterans who were among those asked to resign then reapply for their jobs in June.
Two final points about the personnel shuffle.
One, the mayor's demand for mass resignations looks more ridiculous now than when it was first put forth. In the end, after months of uncertainty, seven of the 10 directors were retained and one, Solicitor George Specter, was promoted.
Two, working for local government is still a chummy affair. Alecia Sirk, the mayor's new press secretary, is married to Mr. Ford. And Public Works Director Guy Costa of the Costa political family and Parking Authority Director David Onorato, brother of the county chief executive, were two of the officials who resigned but were retained.
On balance, this is little infusion of new blood, but it's probably no disaster either. If the mayor thinks this will "raise the bar," he should be ready to measure in millimeters.
First Published September 19, 2007 12:00 am