Ready, Fire, Aim
Most readers here probably saw Mike’s piece on the PG’s Next Page summarizing some of his thoughts on Pittsburgh’s revitalization. It was just a part of his 10 part series he has been producing over the last couple months.
Today’s PG had a ‘rebuttal’ of sorts from an unlikely vector. What was it rebutting? It seems former Republican county commissioner Bob Cranmer took issue with Mike’s passing mention of former mayor of Tom Murphy in a less than enthusiastic light. I'm not even going to touch the subtitle: "Pittsburgh's Debt to Tom Murphy". Mike himself has already responded to Bob's piece.
Where to start parsing all of that? The better part of valor may be to just let it all go. Give Bob a moment to vent and we can all forget it. But I figure he won’t be reading this since he must never have noticed Mike’s 10 part series until parts 1 and 2 were reprinted in the Post Gazette months after they were online. Poor Mike had to go to Amsterdam to redeliver his thoughts only to have them make it to print here at home… and then incurring the Bob Cranmer’s wrath along the way. Mike came to town in the mid 1990’s I believe. Mike might not have recognized who Bob was before today?
First off you have to believe Bob has had most of that pent up in him for some time. He just needed something to set it off. The strangest thing about it all is is that Mikes very very glancing (by Bob's own admission) mention of Tom Murphy was lukewarm at best in describing the former mayor's legacy… it nonetheless represents the only thing not entirely critical of Murphy’s tenure in office that has made it to ink in years. Granted I have suggested the renaming of the Hot Metal pedestrian bridge for the former mayor, but those thoughts have remained in the ether. Tom M. has few public friends these days and aiming all of that at Mike of all people was just a tad reactionary... it was certainly counterproductive. Kind of explains why Tom remains in the public's proverbial dog-house: with friends like these......
Must be hard being a former pol.
Cranmer is of course a former county commissioner. Possibly more important to local history than most anyone can really believe. It was Bob’s upset election as the third county commissioner in 1995 that lead to the historic change in party control of Allegheny County. With him there was a majority of 2 Republicans to 1 Democrat and thus Republicans took control of the county apparachniki for the first time in decades. It appeared to be the godsend for all those who hoped and prayed for an end to ‘one party’ rule by Democrats of local government.
Didn’t quite turn out that way. Cranmer’s election really put the top Republican, Larry Dunn, into power and the results were quite dramatic. Taxes were slashed with no plan for cutting expenditures and the county's budget quickly became a shambles. Bond ratings went down and even the grass in county parks went unmowed (seriously, look it up). Then to top things off he fired all of the county property assessors. Didn’t need them of course since he suspended property assessments. I quote the pair in the Guiness commercials. The result was almost predictable and the inevitable lawsuit came before Judge Wettick who ruled that the county not only must commence assessments, but must conduct the first in decades ( or ‘ever’ one could argue) mass assessment of properties in Allegheny County.
Cranmer would soon see how bad things were going and flipped his allegiances and supported Democrat Mike Dawida midway through their term. That coalition would be in charge of the county for a couple years, but the damage was done to the careers of all three. Dunn's was clearly self inflicted. Cranmer can't escape association with Dunn and poor Dawida can be blamed for letting the other two get elected. Disatisfaction with county governance resulting from the brief circus was enough to push the nearly 50-50 referendum on a county Home Rule charter and the elimination of the 3 commissioner system altogether. Dunn and Cranmer would barely be seen in the political space ever again. Dawida would lose in the primary to Cyril Wecht for the new office of County Chief Executive which would be won by Jim Roddy.
Roll that all back by induction and what do you get?? If Cranmer had not eeked out an upset in the normally quiescent election for county commissioner…. No Dunn… no assessment lawsuit… no mass reassessment, no Sabre system… no assessment lawsuit today and there would likely have been no new home rule charter and no position of county chief executive created. The butterfly says Dan O. would likely not be running for governor and who knows what would be happening with the city.
So… going back to Mike’s piece… if you read all of Mikes postings, or even the summary the summary in the PG you really have to wonder what set off Bob Cranmer so. Why was all that was aimed at Mike and how the brief and incidental line on Murphy (which Mike could have eliminated without impacting his message an iota) is kind of a mystery. I take he feels some kindred spirit with Murphy as another passed over pol not getting his proper due. If I knew Tom, which I don’t for the record, I’d rephrase the Bentsen quote.
Make no mistake… Cranmer makes some good points and I myself have argued that the unhistory writing Murphy out of all history is at best odd. But Cranmer's piece was sort of like the entire Murphy legacy: even the messages that made sense were delivered so obnoxiously that you just don’t have any sympathy for them in the end. Thus when all is said and done, Cranmer did far more harm than good than for any case at rehabilitating Murphy’s place in history. But the 'rebuttal' reminded us of his.