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July 25, 2009

G-20 in Pittsburgh: Luke's Real-World Moment

July 25 Wall Street Journal: Pittsburgh Scrubs Up for Visit From the G-20

I'd like to follow up on a great post at an excellent blog, Politics and Place. The post is titled, If he Loses, this is how he'll lose. The "he" is Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, and the thing to Lose is the Pittsburgh Mayoral election this November.

P&P describes a reasonable scenario in which Luke's seemingly inevitable re-election may not be guaranteed. Pre-requisites include: Appearance of a single electable opponent (Harris and Acklin are splitting the opposition), Northshore Northside Angst about their legit issues with Luke's administration (accountability, wow!), and a geographic (Southern-Western) strategy. It's an excellent, well considered write-up of a scenario in which Luke's pre-ordained victory might not occur.

If I may, the conditions described set the stage but don't ring the bell; they're necessary but insufficient. For Luke to not be elected, there needs to be an event, either (1) a significant, understandable scandal (a bag of cash rather than complex financial derivatives), or (2) an obvious failure of leadership attributed to the Mayor's office.

Holy Cow, Batman! What's that? The G-20 in Pittsburgh on September 24 and 25th? Zowie!
Here's a few fundamental facts (I invite correction):
The G-20 weren't invited to Ed Rendell's Western Pennsylvania.
The G-20 weren't invited to Dan Onorato's Allegheny County.
The G-20 were invited to Luke Ravenstahl's Pittsburgh.
The Mayor is responsible for security in the streets of Pittsburgh. It's his city.

All the sunglass-and-earpiece-wearing, talking-into-cufflinks guys with their lapel pins are going to be worried about are the VIPs. The responsibility for local peacekeeping lies with local government.
Let me be clear: I don't know anything other than what we read in the media. No insider information. No wink, wink.

If there's a riot threatening the VIPs, then the Spooks will engage and extract the VIPs. If there's a riot threatening to burn the Hilton while the VIPs are away at their secure locations, that'll be an issue for the locals. The Feds will keep their eyes on their responsibilities and avoid distractions.

Will Luke declare an emergency and seek State help? Will the Governor declare an emergency and seek Federal help? Are local politicians capable of making these decisions in real time? New Orleans wasn't.

Consider the July 2009 G-8 summit in L'Aquila, Abruzzo, Italy. The government had 15,000 police officers standing by. Just a few weeks ago.

Consider the London 2009 G-20.
On March 28, 2009, 35,000 people joined the peaceful "Jobs, Justice Climate" march. On April 1, five thousand people joined the G-20 Meltdown protest outside the Bank of England. Two to three thousand people joined the Climate Camp in the City. There were 10,000 law enforement officers involved.

Here's my favorite story about the G8 Summit in 2001 in Genoa, Italy: 23-year-old activist Carlo Giuliani of Genoa, was shot dead by Mario Placanica, a Carabinieri officer, during clashes with police. Video shows Guliani throwing a fire extinguisher at the carabinieri's vehicle before he was shot and then run over twice by the Land Rover. Placanica was acquitted from any wrong-doing, as judges determined he fired (1) in self defence and (2) up into the sky, but a flying stone deflected the bullet and killed Giuliani. This is brilliant. I guess these things happen. My question is, who's going to be the accountable official at the press conference when this happens in Pittsburgh?

Consider Pittsburgh 2009. The city is smaller, and the area is an non-integrated hodgepodge of too many (130?) municipalities. We have a relatively inexperienced police department and public safety force. The big events locally are Steelers games. We hope to get maybe 4,000 police, but we don't have exact committments yet. At sixty days to go, we just sent out the email asking for assistance. Our police department is not experienced, trained, or equipped to handle this. Neither is the leadership.

I'm sorry to repeat myself, but in the same year:
  • Pittsburgh: 4,000 police
  • Italy: 15,000 police
  • London: 10,000 police.
Why does Pittsburgh need so few police?

Consider Chicago 1968, and look at how Mayor Daley lost control of the police force. Chicago turned into a police riot. Does anybody believe that Luke will be a more effective Commander than Mayor Daley (Senior) if things break bad?

Hey, Pittsburgh Reporters

If I could persuade local reporters to pursue one question it would be: What person is responsible for Pittsburgh public safety during the G-20? Who'll deserve the credit if it goes right, who deserves the onus if it goes wrong? Any answer that sounds like "it's a team effort" is baloney. Accountability goes to one boss. It'd be cool to clarify who that is. I believe it's the Mayor. If I'm wrong, somebody teach me, please. You'd better ask beforehand, because you'll never get a straight answer after.

How Luke Ravenstahl Loses the Election

Absent a dead body, a scandal with a bag of money, or a simply understood swindle, if Luke's going to lose - it's going to be because the Pittsburgh G-20 is a debacle.

If the G-20 goes wrong, it'll be a tragedy. People will die.
That's a lot more significant than what happens to Luke.
  If anybody else wants to be prepared to act on the G-20 debacle, they're going to have to be out in front, demonstrating that they would have (1) done it differently and (2) done a better job than Luke. I don't know if either Acklin or Harris have established that they're a better grown-up than Luke. The odds are with them, but they haven't made the case.

I don't think Luke will do well with the G-20. I don't think either of the tenderfoot alternatives have presented themselves as credible protectors of the city, either.

Maybe the only possible winner will be regionalism, the notion that perhaps having 130 municipalities in Allegheny County is counter-productive in the face of real-world events.


Bram Reichbaum said...

I'm not anticipating security emergencies at the G-20 to get seriously out of hand, chiefly because I do not believe intense and provokative protesting activity is likely to occur outside the general zone around which the Secret Service and Interpol are responsible for everything really. Which I believe yes would include the Hilton at the point, no matter what. Also, I believe most protest organizations are going to be reasonably well-infiltrated. Also our public safety apparatus, though small, is consistently professional. And our Mayor does a good job deferring to Dir. of Public Safety Huss, who is eminently qualified for everything.

Your comments about the mayoral race bug me. I'm still not sure we have potentially viable challengers -- but if we did/do, I don't necessarily know about your "G-20 going wrong" theory. The G-20 could go right in a lot of ways and still provide teachable moments.

Vannevar said...

Hi Bram,
Pittsburgh Politics are a bit like the TourDeFrance. Some German guy gets a flat, everybody asks "How's Lance?" Similarly, mayoral politics lurks in all events here.

I do think that G-20 is a potential mayoral-election game changer, if there's a credible opponent. I concur that we may not have viable challengers.

I get that the Mayor defers, but the question I'm interested in is: Who's Responsible?

Finally Bram, if I may, and with great respect: Interpol? Responsible for security on American soil? Say it ain't so.

With good cheer and best wishes, Vannevar

Bram Reichbaum said...

Okay, got me on that one. Everything I know about Interpol I know from movies. Don't they deal in like, information? At a high-profile international event wouldn't it be lurking? But no seriously -- I guess I meant there was the overlapping combined security apparatuses of all of the G-20 countries and what must be their somewhat professional methods of cooperation. I just feel like *the world* is providing security to some extent. "Who's responsible" for the world economy that these G-20 leaders are trying to keep from crashing and burning?

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