Constant Bearing, Decreasing Range
Secondly, you just can’t make this stuff up. If you were writing this as fiction, it would not be believable enough to sell.
What am I talking about? I would recount the story du jour here in Pittsburgh, but it’s quite convoluted and still in flux. The current version goes like this.
Clearly an important local story, but is it anything bigger than that? Allegations of conflict of interest are not that exciting in the end and certainly not things that have been absent from government since… well, since there has been government. What’s the bigger story?
So if you have not read the news, don’t even try to follow this. Even if you have read the news, it’s hard to describe. It’s kind of in the middle, but one starting point for this is when one Alecia Sirk was hired as the spokesperson for the mayor. At the time there was this little issue of a blog she had been writing for some time. Nothing wrong with blogging (I hope!). It was a bit of a personal blog, but who should knock anyone for speaking from the heart. Nonetheless, it was a little too far out there to be continued while the same author was also speaking in an official capacity. The blog was, unsurprisingly, quickly taken down. So keep in mind is that none of this would have played out as it has if there had never been this hyper-honest blog out there in the first place.
I would say it’s mostly rational behavior at this point. The blog was taken down, new job accepted and everyone moved on.. There was this little technical sidebar that nothing on the Internet is ever really eliminated. What was that Oliver North quote? “I thought when I hit erase, the email was erased”… or something like that. Of course that was 20 years ago. So thanks to Google cache many many folks out there retrieved and content of the blog and most certainly saved it for future posterity. Who were they? Historical preservationists? Voyeurs? Political malcontents or just neb-noses?........ Or none of the above?
Now the following is speculation, but I don’t believe much in coincidences. I suspect that the content of Ms. Sirks blog was deconstructed in fine detail some time ago. I would call it forensic blogging if that is a term. Nonetheless, somebody out there figured out that a vague reference to “JV” in Ms Sirk’s blog was also Lamar Advertising real estate manager Jim Vlasach. It appears that the blog described a gift that JV had given to her which at the very least had the appearance of a conflict of interest with her job, and more importantly with her husbands job either with City Planning or the URA. If that had come out say 6 months ago, it might have looked bad for all concerned, but it might not have been as big an issue… at least not as big an issue as quickly as this all transpired yesterday. Whomever was smart enough to sleuth this out was probably smart enough to sit on this little unverified fact. Wait until when? Who knows, but then opportunity always comes knocking.
In recent weeks the big political story in town became a tussle over a permit to put a billboard on the new transportation center downtown. The details of that story are pretty boring and the short version is that the public debate gets a bit ugly from both a political and personal perspective and in the end city council votes to disallow the billboard. You now edge into the bizarre a bit with Tuesday’s news (yup, that was all just two days ago… or a political month at least down on Grant Street) that the same Lamar Advertising filed a lawsuit against the city council folks who were opposed to the new billboard.
So maybe it was all just a low probability event that the revelation of a possible passing reference to the real estate director of Lamar Adverting in just a single line of a long ago deleted blog surfaced the day after Lamar Advertising filed a suit against 5 sitting council persons.
Sure it was.
Since that is almost too hard to believe, you are left with the conclusion that the filing of the lawsuit provided an opportune time to inject this little fact into the public discourse. Would it have made it out there eventually? It might have been thrown out there in due course to minor effect, but given the timing of this the effect was magnified.
So one summary could be that Lamar Advertising thought it was playing hardball not realizing that it didn’t have the winning hand. No matter what happens with their legal case at this point, they lost their own ace in the hole if a new URA head gets appointed. You could say that they chose to play with fire and got more than a bit burnt.
But…… something still nags at me a bit. From the first news on this, I will tell you that I always found the whole topic of the billboard important, but nonetheless a bit overblown in how much political machination it was producing. Again, I am sure it’s an important issue, but given all the other dire things going on in city government it’s a question of priorities. Something never really added up to me.
Clearly this is speculation on my part, but this all leads me to another hypothesis…. Did someone know about the potential hammer hanging over Lamar? Could that explain why the issue of blocking the billboard was pressed farther than it might have been in other circumstances? Makes an awful lot of sense to me at least if you think Lamar was baited into their lawsuit. Poking the tiger is one thing, but what if the goal was really to get Lamar to do something extraordinary, like say filing a fairly high profile lawsuit? If even partially true, who knew Henry Kissinger was moonlighting on the Mon?
Where does that leave us? Just the other day the Mayor had successfully moved out in front of an issue by announcing his fairly unqualified support for city county merger issues. Instead of perpetually reacting to issues being generated by others, for a few days everyone was reacting to him which was probably one of the goals. It was a fairly brilliant political move if nothing else. It worked for all of a couple days. And while I said recently that mayor-council relations may have appeared strained of late, they actually were not as bad as periods not that far in the past. Now I presume the worst. I think it’s a matter of public record that the mayor and Pat Ford were pretty close. His untimely ouster may necessitate a green line being drawn down the middle of the 5th floor of the city county building. Brace for collision.