Tuesday, August 29, 2006

even difficult questions need to be asked

Well, it seems the time has come for people to begin talking openly about what will happen when BO can't serve any longer. It's curious that the media has mostly shyed away from the topic, which I suspect is in some ways a reflection of respect for BO. Nonetheless it's getting a little incredulous to believe BO will ever come back to office full force.

There are some public rumblings. WTAE ran this blurb last week that seems to challenge the conventional wisdom that the City Council President would serve out the remaining term of a mayor who leaves office. It seems that one can interpret section 206 of Pittsburgh's City Code such that a special election could be held in the Spring of 2007.

That seems plausible although the argument that the election could be in the spring/primary election begs the question of why there was not such a special election following Mayor Caliguiri's death in spring of 1988?? By the logic propounded in that blurb, there should have been a special election in the spring of 1989, which was in fact the first municipal election after Mayor C's death. There was no such election. (has this section been updated since then? anyone?) Was there even talk of one being held? It could have been a dual election as is common enough, with a special election to fill out the remaining term being held at the same time as the primary election for the next term. but again, there wasn't any such special election. Sophie masloff served through the end of term Caliguiri was elected to.

How big a difference do the two interpretations of the code make. If a special election had been held in spring of 1989, it would likely just have had one candidate from each of the two main parties. The candidates would have been picked by the parties respective committees, not in a primary election. So who won the Democratic endorsement for mayor in 1989? Tom Flaherty, who would therefore have been a reasonable pick to win the endorsement/nomination in the special election as well.

The city could have had a very different counterfactual history. If Tom Flaherty was the only Democrat onthe ballot, he would most likely have won the special election, but he still would have been in a wide open field for the primary, which Sophie could still have won. TF would have then taken office immediately from Sophie in the spring, while Sophie remained the Democratic nominee for the full term starting in 1990. Tom could have served served through the end of the year when a victorious Sophie would have taken over again. but then looking ahead TF would have been in a much stronger position to run for a full term on his own 4 years later. TM could easily still be in the state house.

Anyway... if the ambiguity of city code leaves something lacking.. it really isnt that much better at the Federal level. I know everyone thinks it's pretty clear: if President leaves office, the VP takes over.. if VP is not around the speaker of the house is next up and so on. That may seem clear, but there are some footnotes to all of that and some odd possibilities about what could happen in the presidential succession process that are not talked about much. Maybe in another post I will try and explain that, or at least try to explain why I even know about such things.

7 Comments:

Blogger Jim Russell said...

I'm not surprised that the media remains relatively quiet. I view politics, particularly elections, as a legitimacy performance. Thus, the unclear transfer of power is very troubling (see 2000 US Presidential election or the political history of Russia). If the polity begins to lose faith in the institution of government, the real trouble begins. There is a lot to be said for the appearance of business as usual. Power is largely a function of public trust. If that fails, there is either anarchy or violence (sometimes both).

I suspect that some investigative journalism would reveal a great deal of chaos, effectively pulling back the Green Curtain. I doubt anyone is ready for that. Meanwhile, "the ambiguity of city code" leaves ample room to work behind the scenes to steady the ship. As long as no one with considerable political cache cries foul, there will be a consensus performance of the transfer of power.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006 3:42:00 PM  
Blogger O said...

I can't see the benefit to anyone inside the Democratic party of "rocking the boat."

Moreover, chances are that any common pleas judge is going to look at '89 and say that a full term is the de facto law of the land.

The REAL question is who in the current administration gets ousted by a new mayor.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006 11:03:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

I am not quite sure which side would be considered rocking the boat and which side isn't. That news blurb has DS on record saying the election would be in the coming spring.

and I do hope we can strive for something a little more orderly than the 2000 presidential election or your run of the mill Russian putsch.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006 11:44:00 PM  
Blogger Amos_thePokerCat said...

Ah, but the putsch would be a good excuse to drink vodka. Lots of vodka.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006 1:31:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So the Trib today unequivocally reports that Ravenstahl will be the next mayor if O'Connor dies. One of the things that strikes me here is the sudden youthquake among city officials. Ravenstahl 26, Zober 31, and it appears that at last half of council is under 40. Of course, what we want are younger officials who are also progressive in their thinking. At least it's a start.

Thursday, August 31, 2006 12:15:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

BTW, Ravenstahl got 2,570 votes in his narrow win over Barbara Burns in the 2003 Democratic primary--less than one percent of the city's 2000 adult population, by my calculation. Democracy rules again!

Thursday, August 31, 2006 12:27:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ravenstahl's staying late at the City County Building to take the oath of office!? Come on, it's not like O'Connor has his finger on the nuclear button. I think everybody needs a good night's sleep before things get too bizarre.

Friday, September 01, 2006 9:58:00 AM  

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