What they said
I wish I could convince myself that newspaper endorsements made a difference in political campaigns, because the Post-Gazette's endorsement of Mark DeSantis -- the paper's first endorsement for a Republican since 1969 -- is a doozy. Here are some highlights:
Why should a city dominated by Democrats consider a Republican for mayor? Because one-party rule has failed Pittsburgh and failed it repeatedly. It has failed to prevent population loss and business erosion. It has failed to head off the city's near-bankruptcy and job loss. It has failed to generate the big ideas that should be propelling Pittsburgh into the 21st century.
A Democratic mayor and a nine-member Democratic council have robbed the city of the robust political competition that renews the state and keeps the federal government in check. We see the invigorating value of shifting party control in Harrisburg and Washington, but on Grant Street we see rust, cobwebs and a city bravely trying to manage its own decline. ...
On the substance of governing, too, Mayor Ravenstahl has left much to be desired. Sure, he has continued his predecessor's "redd-up" campaign, stepped up the tear-down of abandoned buildings, sworn off new borrowing and submitted two balanced budgets.
But he is unable, despite his fresh arrival and the promise of generational change, to think big enough to break with the past. Instead of privatizing a service like trash collection, he extends it to Wilkinsburg -- not because it saves Pittsburgh money but because it's created a few more city jobs while helping a municipal neighbor. Instead of initiating action to combine services with the county, he's merely open to discussion and waiting to see a blueprint "put in front of me" (translation: not really interested). ...
(DeSantis) is tired of a city that puts up new buildings and sunny facades without adding net new jobs and businesses. He's heard enough talk and seen too little action on city-county consolidation, especially when both entities are led by Democrats. He's grown impatient with the sacred cows preserved by one-party rule, whether it's the number of fire stations, the size of the city budget or a lax approach to ethical behavior.
He wants to approach long-standing problems in a different way. Besides extracting more voluntary contributions from tax-exempt institutions, Mr. DeSantis says Pittsburgh should look beyond cash and, for instance, negotiate a deal with UPMC, the region's most profitable nonprofit, to provide health care for city retirees. He wants an ethics policy for city officials and employees that prohibits all freebies and uses an ethics compliance officer for enforcement. He wants city departments not just to operate well but to be judged against other cities' performance.
I can't call it persuasive because I had already made up my mind to vote for DeSantis, but it's the most eloquent case for the challenger that I've seen yet.
Speaking of Mark DeSantis, he is branded a "Republican insider" in a piece of campaign literature I received in the mail over the weekend from the Ravenstahl campaign. Fair enough. The flyer zings DeSantis for working for the first President Bush and for contributing to the campaigns of Rick Santorum and George W. Bush. (Though notable for its absence is any mention of DeSantis' affiliation with the late Sen. John Heinz, who remains a revered figure, even in Democratic Pittsburgh.)
But in calling DeSantis out for connections to Santorum and the current president, the flyer says that "Their policies were wrong for Pittsburgh..." Gee, I didn't know that Santorum or Bush had any Pittsburgh policies. Even if Mark DeSantis agreed with the president's decision to invade Iraq, I don't think we have to worry, since Pittsburgh does not currently possess any military forces. And if the president or the former senator had any views on, say, whether we should close fire stations or merge services with the county, they were not covered on Fox News.