Politically Savvy Friends

Friday, December 7, 2007

Cavorting with the PA Society

Dear Politically Savvy Friends,

Don't try to find a prominent Pennsylvania politician in their hometowns this weekend. That's because most of them are in New York City to schmooze with each other and the "wheelers and dealers" from Pittsburgh industry. It's call the annual Pennsylvania Society dinner at the Waldorf Astoria, but it's an excuse for politicians to enjoy each other and the money people while in the delightful environs of Manhattan during the Christmas season.

Now I admit I have attended some of those dinners (and other related events) over the years -- and, yes, it's great fun -- but there is something a little peculiar about Pennsylvania politicians and business leaders leaving the commonwealth in order to "make contacts" and "enjoy" each other's company.

The history of this weekend is fascinating to political insiders. Back in the late 1800s when Pennsylvania was solidly Republican, the PA Society gathering in New York was when the railroad, steel, and coal barons gathered, privately, to name their Republican candidates for state office.

This weekend's gathering is much more ecumenical, as it has been for decades, with Democrats just as visible as Republicans. Gone are the days when industry moguls named candidates for public office. Of course, they still play an important role -- money! So politicians flock to the Waldorf in hopes of connecting with the big money donors who will help fund their campaigns in the months ahead.

Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato is hosting an event (not a fundraiser) in NYC, as he done in past years, to "meet and greet" the state's business leaders, especially from Philadelphia, who can help boost his candidacy for governor in 2010. I am told that Onorato expects 300 to 500 people to drop by for his liquor and hors d'oevres. But just in case someone is NOT going to NYC this weekend, Onorato mailed invitations to around 8,000 people, including government leaders in all 67 counties of the state. Hmmmm, does anyone think he's not running for governor?

Of course, Dan is not the only one taking advantage of the gathering to spread around some holiday good will. But one thing is certain -- those that are hope to have a future in Pennsylvania politics. As for the rest of us, enjoy the snow this weekend!

Monday, November 5, 2007

Is the Election Over or Just Beginning?

Dear Politically Savvy Friends,

Election Day 2007 may prove to be anti-climatic, particularly since almost everyone thinks Luke Ravenstahl will win election to serve out the term of the late Mayor Bob O'Connor as mayor of Pittsburgh.

Republican Mark DeSantis, however, has surprised almost everyone with a stronger-than-expected campaign, rooted both in some Democratic discontent with Ravenstahl's performance and DeSantis' own articulate position on issues. On economic issues, DeSantis is clearly the more conservative of the two candidates, but he is much more liberal on hot-button social issues than Ravenstahl.

That makes DeSantis a serious challenger in certain parts of the city like Squirrel Hill, Shadyside, and Point Breeze where Democrats like their Democrats to be pro-choice and pro-gay rights. But carrying the 14th Ward and even the 7th or 11th Wards would hardly be enough for DeSantis to win the mayor's office.

DeSantis needs two things to happen: traditional Democrats (many socially conservative) need to reject Luke by either voting for Mark or skipping this race and Republicans (nearly 25,000 of them) need to show up to vote, something they do not often do in this overwhelmingly Democratic city.

The most likely outcome is that Luke wins, but here the issue becomes: Is the Election Over or Just Beginning?

By all accounts, Ravenstahl should do at least as well as Bob O'Connor did two years ago. After all, O'Connor coming off a divisive Democratic primary against two strong Democrats, Bill Peduto and Michael Lamb, cruised to a 67% win in November 2005. Ravenstahl, who had no Democratic opposition last spring, should get at least that.

If Luke gets more than 67% -- indeed, if he breaks into the 70% range where many of us thought he would be last spring -- then he sends a strong signal to fellow Democrats that the NEXT real election (the Democratic mayoral primary) 18 months from now is going to be pretty solid for Ravenstahl.

In contrast, the closer DeSantis holds Ravenstahl's margin to 60%, the greater the likelihood that the next 18 months will be all about which Dems are positioned to take Luke on in May 2009. If Luke falls below 60%, watch for the spin to be that he really lost by winning, setting himself up for opposition for the next two years, perhaps even a rematch against DeSantis in 2009.

I cannot predict this election. Bad weather might keep only the most hearty and devoted voter from voting -- but does that favor Ravenstahl with support from traditional Democrats who always vote or DeSantis whose voters, arguably, are more committed than Luke's? Stay tuned, but surely as the sun comes up on Wednesday, we will have a story to tell.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

DeSantis Campaign Ads Previewed

Dear Politically Savvy Friends,

If you missed my story last night on KDKA-TV, feel free to click http://kdka.com/video/?id=32817@kdka.dayport.com to see a sneak preview of Mark DeSantis' campaign ads. DeSantis allowed me to watch and listen to several of his campaign ads, as long as I didn't air the entire ads in advance of their publication. That was fair, since in a 90-second TV story I couldn't post the entire ad anyway.

Judge for yourself, but my take is that his approach for an initial kick-off ad makes some sense, although I think all of this may be too little, too late. DeSantis has decided to take head on the fundamental question of whether a Republican has a chance of getting elected in the city of Pittsburgh where something like 147,000 Democrats outnumber 29,000 Republicans and 25,000 Independents. The theme of these first radio and TV ads, simply put, is that DeSantis does have a chance and that if the "no chance crowd" had won we would not have had Renaissance I and II and great city fathers like David L. Lawrence and Richard S. Caliguiri.

Getting people to believe that a vote for DeSantis is not a total waste of a vote is a critical first step. The voting public likes to vote for winners, and right now Luke Ravenstahl, despite all the miscues, looks like the November 6 winner. One series of ads won't turn that around, but it's a start.

The next step for DeSantis is to convince Democrats that he is worthy of their vote. His campaign mailing to Democrats this week suggests that sometimes the candidate who best reflects Democratic values "isn't always a Democrat." It's a clever approach, but it requires Democrats to buy into the notion that Ravenstahl is really an ultra-conservative, anti-gay, anti-choice, pro-war clone of George W. Bush. I don't think it will sell, except to the most liberal of Democrats who already object to Luke on other grounds.

None of the DeSantis ads that I previewed over at Kolbrener, the ad agency that is making its first real foray into political campaigns, directly attack Luke Ravenstahl. That defies conventional wisdom, which would suggest some hard-hitting attack ads are needed to shake Democrats from their comfort level with Luke. Maybe they have something in the works, but for the moment it's all positive about Mark.

If DeSantis had money for a 10-week ad campaign, introducing the candidate in a positive way before going after the incumbent is always the best approach. But this campaign is down to just 3+ weeks. The few TV and radio ads I saw, while creative and well done, may not be enough to turn things around for DeSantis in such a short period of time. Still, I give the Republican a lot of credit for trying. It's good to see a race for mayor in November 2007 when most people in town think the real race is 18 months away in the Democratic primary of May 2009.

And that's exactly what the Ravenstahl team thinks, too, which helps explain why they do not (yet) plan to run radio and TV ads this fall, although look for plenty of lawn signs and some direct mail. The Ravenstahl theory is sound. If you're going to win anyways and don't really care whether the margin is 60% or 70%, why not save your million bucks for the battle that really counts. Any Democrat looking to take on Ravenstahl will have to think real hard if the incumbent has that kind of money in his warchest before the campaign even begins.

Bottom line. DeSantis' campaign ads have the potential to make this race more visible among rank-and-file Pittsburgh voters -- all 50,000 or 60,000 that will bother to vote -- but it may all be prelude to political battles ahead.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Apology Issued to Luke from ICMA

Dear Politically Savvy Friends,

Ho-hum. Believe it or not, we have an election four weeks from today. Yes, a few lawn signs have started to sprout around the region, but the radio and television airwaves have been surprisingly quiet. That won't last for long. I understand the DeSantis for Mayor campaign will launch its radio commercials later this week with television ads soon to follow, probably early next week.

Last night, I watched the Post Gazette editorial board's mayoral debate between Luke Ravenstahl and Mark DeSantis (along with a Libertarian and Socialist Worker). The format did not lend itself to a back-and-forth between the two major candidates, but both did manage to get a lick in on each other. Truthfully, I was not overwhelmed by either -- and that, ultimately, turns out to be a plus for Ravenstahl. DeSantis needs a stronger performance if he's to have any chance in upsetting the incumbent. (Of course, who watches these debates but us junkies).

On an unrelated note, Luke deserved -- and got -- an apology from the International City/County Management Association for, inaccurately, confirming that the mayor had snubbed 4,000 city and county managers gathered in Pittsburgh this week for their national convention. Early this year, the ICMA invited Luke to give brief remarks at their opening session on Sunday (same time as the Steelers game). When Luke didn't show, Marty Griffin of KDKA Radio heard from a city source that the mayor was a no-show, pissing off a lot of folks at the convention.

On Monday, Michele Frisby from the ICMA confirmed Marty's source (through me) and he reported it on his morning show on Tuesday. Later that morning, Ravenstahl called in to dispute the charge and pointed to an email his office sent on September 7 declining the invitation. Turns out the mayor is right. Here's the text of the apology sent directly to the mayor's office: "I am writing to acknowledge that at no time did Pittsburgh Mayor Ravenstahl formally agree to provide greetings during the conference opening general session of ICMA, the International City/County Management Association. The information I provided Jon Delano earlier this week was incorrect, and I apologize for any inconvenience it may have caused the mayor’s office." Michele called me personally and apologized to me. In reality, the apology is owed the mayor, and I am pleased the ICMA apologized to him.

In the scheme of things, this is hardly an important issue. The mayor should be free to choose what events he wants to attend or not. He told Marty that he was not at the Steelers game but spending some quiet time with his wife. I'm all for that, too!

The larger issues of Pittsburgh -- its financial health, its lack of jobs, its crime and vandalism, its management, and its future -- these are the legitimate items to debate, not whether the mayor attends a particular conference. So let the real debate begin. Pittsburgh deserves it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Six Weeks to Go

Dear Politically Savvy Friends,

Well, give Mark DeSantis some credit for trying to stir the political waters this last week. The guy's been mighty aggressive attacking Luke Ravenstahl over the last 10 days, going after him on ethics, crime, finances, and now most recently attacking Ravenstahl for having a bloated personal office staff [see TV story on right]. The problem for DeSantis, of course, is that there's no indication that anyone is listening to him. The mayor just keeps doing his mayoral thing, ignoring his opponent, and acting like DeSantis is some pesky insect that he must endure for a season until cold weather knocks him out.

It's tempting to say this election is all over with the only question being how big Luke wins -- 60%, 70%, 80%. But don't tell DeSantis that. Where some people think the voting public has already decided to "give the kid a chance" for at least another two years -- yes, we go through this again in 2009 -- DeSantis thinks at least 50% of the voters are still uncertain about Ravenstahl's qualifications to guide the city through tough times ahead. Even if that were true, I don't think the public is sold on DeSantis to do the guiding instead. After all, nobody really knows who he is.

DeSantis is expected to begin his campaign ads shortly. Maybe the ads will be so extraordinary that the public will give him a look-see, but don't bet on it. Part of the problem is that Luke preaches the always popular "good times are here" sermon, while Mark is into that "gloom and doom" message. My 25+ years in the political world -- take it for what it's worth -- have taught me repeatedly that, unless life is personally unbearable for people or something angers them deeply, the positive always sells better than the negative. For now at least, the "feel good" message of Luke resonates far stronger than Mark's "warnings" about the future. It may be as simple as that.

Six weeks can be an eternity in politics, and I've seen no reliable independent polls in the race for mayor of Pittsburgh. But nothing persuades me that an upset is in the making. Taking on an incumbent is always challenging, especially when as mayor Ravenstahl dominates the print and broadcast news media. The local media has given DeSantis more time and space than any other Republican candidate for mayor, but add up the column inches and the airtime and Luke the incumbent still dominates the media four-to-one. Challengers always complain to me about that, but, hey, the "news" business is supposed to report the "news" and incumbent office-holders "make" news far more than challengers. Still, most responsible journalists are now seeking DeSantis out for his "reaction" when the mayor makes a policy pronouncement of some sort because that is the right thing to do in the midst of a campaign. But after election day passes, it's back to the incumbent all the time!

If readers see anything unusual or interesting on the campaign trail, please do email me. Back and forth press conferences get pretty boring! And stay alert. If the campaign for mayor, so far, has put you to sleep, I suspect the rhetoric will only get hotter in the weeks remaining. Let's hope so!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Seven Weeks to Go

Dear Politically Savvy Friends,

Seven weeks from today, voters in Pennsylvania will stay home. I would be surprised if more than 20 to 25% of registered voters bothered to cast a ballot. Of course, that gives more power to those of us who do vote -- but it also puts a premium on those campaigns that can best organize their get-out-the-vote efforts.

The Pittsburgh mayor's race is relatively boring, despite Mark DeSantis' best effort to engage Luke Ravenstahl. As you can see if you click on the stories to the right, last week Ravenstahl announced that he was keeping most of the city directors that he asked to resign 90 days ago. DeSantis derided that exercise, but the mayor ignored him. This week, DeSantis attempted to stake a stronger ethics position -- again see the story posted to the right -- and, this time, Ravenstahl just welcomed DeSantis to the cause.

This race for mayor probably won't get close until we see some television ads that really trashes Luke -- and, even then, it's still hard to imagine an upset of Ravenstahl. Still, give DeSantis credit for attempting to create fire when most people don't even see smoke.

What may wake some people up in Campaign 2007 will be the judge races. Well, maybe not exactly wake you up, but at least get your attention. It will be hard to miss all the TV ads we expect in October. Add to that the fact that PA Clean Sweep is urging a NO vote against all seven statewide judges running for reelection. That includes State Supreme Court Justice Tom Saylor. The anti-pay raise group also wants a NO vote against the local judges up for retention, too. Their sin? Accepting the double-digit pay raise that the state Supreme Court ruled the legislature could NOT repeal for judges.

It's not clear to me that the pay raise issue still has legs, but in any case I believe the anti-pay raise groups have overplayed their hand by urging a NO vote on every single judge in Pennsylvania. It's one thing to go against a state supreme court justice -- like they did successfully against former Justice Russell Nigro in 2005 -- but it's quite another to urge voters to reject every judge even if they had no connection whatsover with the pay raise controversy. In my view, it makes PA Clean Sweep look just a wee bit unreasonable, particularly since (as I know from personal experience) many of these judges are extraordinarily good.

Unlike 2005, there will be organized efforts to urge voters to vote YES for many of these judges, both by the judges themselves and their supporters in the legal community. In an exclusive interview posted to the right, Superior Court President Judge Kate Ford Elliott sat down with me, on camera, to speak out on this issue. Sitting judges rarely go on camera, let alone talk politics. Obviously, this issue is being felt very deeply in the judicial system.

Campaign 2008 is just around the corner chronologically, even if it began months ago. Last week, Rudy Giuliani was in town to raise big bucks in Washington County, but (as we've learned from earlier visits) Rudy likes to sample the local fare. This time it was Sarris candy in Canonsburg. But after the schmooze, the former New York mayor launched into a major attack on Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton for not "denouncing" Move-On.Org, the liberal group that asked whether General Petraeus would become General Betray-Us. Giuliani's attack on Clinton is one way that he can win over Republican voters who disdain the Clintons, and he couples it with the somewhat legitimate argument that he's the one Republican who can take it to Clinton in moderate states lilke Pennsylvania.

Given the irrelevance of Pennsylvania in the primary season -- the PA primary is not until April 22 when the nominees should have pretty much been decided -- it's still nice to see a few of the presidential candidates traipse through our area, even if it's only for our money and food! Pierogis, anyone?

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Campaign 2007 -- Does Anyone Care?

Dear Politically Savvy Friend,

I'm back! Yes, it's been a long summer and, yes, I did take a bit of a hiatus from this sport of blogging. Truth be told, it's not easy to blog every day -- which has only increased my tremendous admiration for those bloggers who manage to find time every single day to write something. You are an amazing group of people, either very sick or very determined, but in either case highly focused on meeting a self-imposed blog deadline much the way I must meet a TV or newspaper deadline. Props to y'inz, y'all, and you!

Campaign 2007 sometimes seems to be overwhelmed by Campaign 2008, but Republican candidate Mark DeSantis is -- slowly -- beginning to demonstrate some life in his steep uphill battle to unseat incumbent Democrat Luke Ravenstahl in the race for mayor of Pittsburgh. Of course, it's questionable how many people care about this race.

The best guess is that no more than 60,000 people will vote. Some pundits think 50,000 is closer to reality. And nobody really thinks Luke will lose this. Two years ago, Republican Joe Weinroth got 27 percent of the vote with about 6 percent splitting among some third party candidates. Democrat Bob O'Connor got the rest -- a whopping 67%.

But, hold on. Ravenstahl could actually do better than O'Connor. In 2005, O'Connor still had some negative residue from supporters of Democrats Michael Lamb and Bill Peduto (both of whom challenged him in the primary), although both Lamb and Peduto endorsed O'Connor in the fall. In 2007, among Democrats (and, let's face it, they're the ones who count in Pittsburgh) at least, Ravenstahl does NOT have 50 percent of his own party on record as voting AGAINST him in the spring primary. In my view, that gives him the potential to win more than 67 percent of the vote on November 6.

Now, it is true that Peduto has NOT endorsed Luke and is not likely to do so. But Peduto has not endorsed DeSantis either. In fact, no high profile Democrat has endorsed DeSantis as far as I know. And DeSantis can only make this close by attracting hundreds of Democrats to his cause.

That has not stopped the Republican candidate from stepping up his rhetoric against Ravenstahl in the last two weeks, accusing Ravenstahl of being the photo op candidate more interested in celebrities than city finances, a man with no accomplishments despite a year in office, and an old school politician who is more than a little ethically challenged.

The news media and the blogosphere, of course, will enjoy reporting a good old-fashioned slugfest between these two, but I'm not convinced that the vast majority of Pittsburgh residents are tuned in to any of this. I talk to a lot of folks on the streets -- many just come up to me -- and while some have doubsts about Luke, most know nothing about DeSantis and seem perfectly content to give the mayor another two years to demonstrate he has what it takes. Perhaps that will change once DeSantis hits the TV and radio airwaves, but even if DeSantis gets 20,000 votes, I'm still betting Ravensahl wins in a typical Democratic landslide.

Other races are on the ballot, but I'll hold for another post. In the meantime, I welcome your comments, and click on to some of my TV stories over on the right. It feels good to be back.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

When Presidents-to-Be Come to Town

Dear Politically Savvy Friend,

This week I met former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani when he campaigned in Pittsburgh’s Strip District (for out-of-towners, that’s a funky old-fashioned market place, not what the name suggests), and I must admit I was impressed with the guy.

Forget his political positions for the moment. In person, Giuliani comes across as a regular guy, not one of those stiff politicians who look over your shoulder to see whom else they should ignore. Maybe it was the venue – for an Italian American like Rudy, visiting Jimmy and Nino Sunseri’s Italian market to sample the cheese, the pasta, and the pizza must have been a bit like heaven.

Giuliani was relaxed, shaking hands with the locals, joking with kids about being off school, kissing a 10-month old baby who had the most gorgeous smile, sharing family history with another Giuliani (who spells her maiden name Guiliani), and walking the Strip to feel the ambience of Pittsburgh’s old-country market district.

Giuliani was in Pittsburgh to raise money at two separate fund raising events, but kudos to the Giuliani campaign for scheduling this hour-long effort to meet real Pittsburgh folks and make himself available to the local media for Q&A. Contrast that to Senator Barack Obama’s quick visit to Pittsburgh a week earlier, where the goal was solely to raise money, not to meet ordinary schleps or talk to the press. But thanks to some very smart Obama supporters here in Pittsburgh – kudos to them – Barack did stop by a gaggle of reporters for at least 120 seconds. Still, it was not particularly satisfying when, after opening comments, he would not take any questions.

The irony is that, on the central issue of our time – the war in Iraq – Obama’s message will resonate with more Americans than Giuliani’s. Obama has opposed the war from the beginning, while Giuliani is absolutely certain that Iraq is where we need to confront the terrorists. But as we learned in 2000 and 2004 in the race for the White House, personality will trump issues almost all the time. When candidates come to Pittsburgh and fail to mix it up with average folks, they miss a tremendous opportunity to show us what they’re like.

You can watch what we capture of the presidential candidates by looking through the “Recent News Stories” link on this page.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Luke at Oakmont

Dear Politically Savvy Friends,

The big story locally this week has been the U.S. Open out at the exclusive Oakmont Country Club, fifteen miles north of the City of Pittsburgh. So maybe it’s no surprise that the top story, politically, has been Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s successful effort to get into an invitation-only private event to watch Tiger Woods practice on the challenging course back in late April.

Afficionados of this story have had a field day on radio talk shows and in the blogosphere, dissecting Luke’s every move and motive. The story developed “legs” when the mayor decided to go on radio with WDVE’s Jimmy Krenn and Randy Baumann and KDKA’s Fred Honsberger and Dom Giordano (sitting in for Marty Griffin), followed on Thursday with an on-camera interview with WTAE’s Bob Mayo.

Now, as Luke has been quick to tell everybody, KDKA-TV was the first to break the story on Monday night. His repeated use of KDKA and my name in subsequent media appearances [“I have great respect for Jon Delano but . . . .”] made this a little awkward, since I am a journalist and the messenger of the story, not the source of the facts. Still, he has every right to state his version of events. In fact [see below], I wish he had done that on Monday so I could have included them in my story. Nonetheless, by consistently referencing KDKA in his response, I found myself getting invited by responsible journalists to restate the facts as KDKA learned them – thus prolonging the story beyond its normal life cycle.

First off, I really didn’t break this news story.

Let’s give credit where credit is due. The Pittsburgh Tribune Review first broke the story back on May 6 in its “Whispers” column. Under the headline, “Luke Crashes Tiger’s Party,” the anonymous columnist wrote: “The story making the rounds in political circles has Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl getting the folks at the Oakmont Country Club upset recently after Tiger Woods played a round of golf there. Seems that after Woods was done practicing for next month's U.S. Open at Oakmont he attended a private party sponsored by American Express. Political insiders say Ravenstahl showed up at the event uninvited and angered folks by worming his way into pictures with Woods and others. Country club officials would neither confirm nor deny they were perturbed at the young mayor. Nor would they comment on whether Ravenstahl was able to secure Woods' autograph.”

As far as I know, the mayor never responded publicly to the Trib’s story, although I understand that some of the investigative reporters (print and broadcast) in town may have pursued the mayor on this. I was not among them, and the story was largely dropped by the MSM (mainstream media).

That changed on Monday when the first practice rounds of the U.S. Open began and everybody was looking for Open-related stories. At KDKA, the “crash” story was recalled, and I was assigned by the news managers to see what I could find out. This assignment would have probably fallen to KDKA’s two investigative reporters, not me, except one was on vacation and the other was already assigned. No problem. That’s the way it works in TV-land. You do what the boss says!

It did not take long to confirm the basics of the story. When Mayor Ravenstahl learned that Tiger Woods was going to be out at the Oakmont Country Club, he tried to secure an invitation to see him. His staff called out there, and later on radio, Luke said he himself also called. KDKA sources told me that Luke was told that this was a private event, and, as the mayor later acknowledged on radio, his subsequent appearance did “anger” some at the Club.

American Express officials told me that Ravenstahl was not on the list of 82 people attending their special luncheon and golf outing scheduled for the same day that Tiger Woods was practicing on the links. The event, for which AmEx charged $900 a head, included a surprise: Woods would appear at the private luncheon and give some golf tips out on the course for the participants.

Even though he was not on the AmEx list or a member of the Oakmont County Club, Ravenstahl and two body guards drove out to the Club in hopes of fulfilling “a life long dream” of meeting the golfing great. Once out there, Luke insists he was “welcomed.” I guess that depends on whom you talk to, as both the company and the club were put in a very awkward position. Kick the mayor off the property and risk adverse publicity and whatever other consequences might follow – or let him in and try to contain the situation.

As KDKA reported Monday night, Ravenstahl got into the club and was invited to dine with members of the club’s board of directors. KDKA sources also reported that the mayor was again told that the AmEx event was a private affair. What exactly happened next is unclear. KDKA reported Monday that Luke “got his hands on an American Express golf shirt.” That was true. In subsequent interviews, Ravenstahl says the company, perhaps like the club, decided to “welcome” him and gave him the shirt (along with shirts for his body guards). I have no reason to disbelieve the mayor on this, but American Express won’t confirm or deny that.

Again, as KDKA correctly reported Monday night and now confirmed by Ravenstahl, the mayor was, however, told not to approach or interfere with Tiger on the links. He says that he respected that warning, but that an ESPN anchor volunteered to introduce him to Tiger and, ultimately, Ravenstahl got a minute or two with Woods, who, sources tell me, was in a great mood that day and friendly with everyone. In a DVD released by American Express out at their hospitality tent this week, you can see brief pictures of the mayor among the crowd, clearly enjoying himself. Who wouldn’t? It must have been a great experience.

I will leave the analysis of the mayor’s behavior to the radio talk show hosts, sports commentators, and bloggers. As for me, I do regret that Luke himself was not part of the initial story on Monday night. But as a journalist, I did try to get his take shortly after I was assigned the story late Monday morning. I called his office and requested time to talk to the mayor. At the same time, his office was pitching their own story, a follow-up on the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s piece about Luke’s billboards and using the U.S. Open to promote Pittsburgh – all quite legitimate and of interest to me. But I was also clear that I wanted to talk about the Oakmont incident. Their response – the mayor was not available on Monday because he was spending the day with the mayor of San Diego, although he could talk to me the next day. When the news managers decided to run the piece on Monday with or without Luke, I did the next best thing. I got a statement from his office and used it, accurately, in my tag.

Throughout the week, KDKA continued to offer Luke time to give his version of events. As I always do, I would have posted the entire unedited, uncut Q&A of that interview on the KDKA website. I do that so people will know that I do not engage in selective editing to make a politician look bad, and it also protects the politician from being taken out of context. The mayor and I had a private telephone conversation on Wednesday, which I will keep private, except to say that he thought he had said everything there was to say on this subject on radio and that it was time to end the story. [Luke and I have known each other since before he was elected to city council. I believe I was the first local TV reporter to put him on television, and we share a mutual respect, even if on this story we “agree to disagree” on the facts].

As I said above, in my view, this story was never more than a 24-hour piece, but as late as Friday, I was still hearing snippets on radio about it. Some are suggesting that the mayor’s announcement of another shake-up at City Hall was timed to get off the Oakmont story. I don’t really believe that because the story was over anyways.

Finally, despite what some radio talk show hosts and bloggers may have opined, this was never Luke versus KDKA. It was about the facts. I laid them out as best I could, and the mayor disagrees. Okay, that’s cool by me. I have been in this business a long time – on both sides as an aide to an elected official doing damage control and pitching stories – as well as on the media side seeking to get the truth out to the public.

Nobody is perfect, and we -- politicians and journalists alike -- all make mistakes. I work hard to be accurate in everything I report, but if I make a substantive error, I will be the first to correct it. This story relied on “sources” because, especially during the U.S. Open, people in the know, including those present on April 23 at the club, were not willing to go on camera. That doesn’t make their statement of the facts wrong, any more than someone on camera always speaks the truth. And, so far, I’ve seen no evidence that contradicts the basic story.

I am deeply grateful for the many emails, phone calls, and expressions of support that I received from my colleagues in the media and many others in the community. But I was only doing my job – like most of you do – albeit in a somewhat more visible way. And unless someone has something more to add, the “Luke at Oakmont” story is over. Now let’s move on.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Immigration -- Legalizing Illegals

Dear Politically Savvy Friends,

When Emma Lazarus wrote her famous poem for the 1886 dedication of the Statue of Liberty, nobody quite envisioned the current debate over illegal aliens. "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

This idyllic view of America as the great refuge for those from other lands has always been a bit overstated and hardly reality. After all, the USA has had substantial quotas on immigrants for decades, and even when a respectful concern for human rights might have dictated otherwise, we denied refugee entry to many Asians, Jews, and now Iraqis.

Still, Americans are conflicted on immigration. We (almost all of us) are descendant from immigrants, and we know it’s only fair to treat current would-be immigrants the same way our grandparents were retreated. The problem, of course, is that President Bush and the Congress are wrestling with a different kind of problem – illegal immigrants who did not follow the rules to get into this country.

A recent CBS/NYTimes poll highlights how schizophrenic Americans are on this issue. When asked if illegal immigrants should be allowed to stay if they pay a $5,000 fine, have a clean work record, and pass a criminal background check, some 67% say yes while only 28% say deport them – and a similar number support the proposed guest worker program. But if asked directly if illegal immigrants should be prosecuted and deported home, 69% say deport them and only 24% would not.

Because these people are illegals – not traditional immigrants -- the government really has no idea of how many people we’re talking about. U.S. immigration officials think the illegal influx amounts to about 500,000 people a year, and they estimate about 9 to 10 million illegals in the USA. The Pew Hispanic Center estimates the number at 11.5 million to 12.0 million. Others put the number of illegals closer to 20 million.

Even if the number is closer to 10 million than 20 million, how can the United States realistically capture and deport that many men, women, and children? And is that really the best solution when many (but obviously not all) of these individuals work hard and contribute to the American economy?

Congress is wrestling with a solution amidst a political cacophony from those who think any form of recognition of illegals constitutes amnesty and those who think these illegals, mostly Hispanics, should be given all the rights of traditional immigrants. In my view, both are wrong.

Here’s my proposal. First, anyone who entered this country illegally should be permanently barred from ever becoming a citizen of this nation. They broke the law, and that should mean something. Second, it’s in the best interest of this nation to encourage illegals to step forward, register as guest workers, pay some sort of restitution, and be allowed to stay (without forcing them go back home for one year or some other back-and-forth scheme) – so long as they are employed, have no crime record, and learn to speak English. Those who fail to step forward should remain subject to capture and deportation under the law.

Third, we should crack down hard on companies that hire illegal aliens, driving them out of business if need be because they are the catalyst that attracts illegals to this country. Fourth, border security is an important priority. While I am skeptical that building fences will really secure the border, we should not short-change law enforcement at the borders, as we do today. The last report I saw we had 11,000 border patrol agents monitoring the nation’s 19,000 miles of border. Sounds pretty spotty to me. Fifth, we should adopt a sensible immigration system that welcomes all those with something to offer without some artificial (and inherently racist or ethnically biased) nation-by-nation quota system. And those who enter lawfully should be encouraged to earn American citizenship.

Who knows what will come out of the Congress on this issue. My hunch is that the issue may still be too hot for a reasonable compromise to be enacted.

This "blog" was part of a much larger PSF newsletter I sent out the other day to my Politically Savvy Friends. If you would like to get that free newsletter, just click on the subscriber button found on this page. I would welcome you as a PSFer.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

PSFs Return

Dear Politically Savvy Friends,

It has been months since I took fingers to keyboard to send you one of my periodic e-newsletters. Many of you have wondered what happened to that PSF (“Politically Savvy Friend”) missive that I sent out every couple of weeks, while a few of you are receiving this PSF for the very first time. So an explanation is in order.

Computer problems (what else!) plagued my life at the end of last year. That, coupled with a PSF list that has grown into the thousands, made the process of sending PSFs a nightmare. Today, thanks to an upgraded home computer system and the help of one of my Carnegie Mellon graduate students, we are inaugurating a better way to communicate with you.

First, those of you on this special PSF list will receive an occasional e-mail from me about all things political and governmental at the national, state, and local level from the perspective of someone who spent years inside the Capitol Beltway as well as time out where “real” Americans work and live. As one of my Politically Savvy Friends, I welcome your personal (and off-the-record) insights and comments back, along with any hot tips you have.

Second, you can now visit my web blog called Delano’s Den where I will post publicly (1) an abbreviated version of the PSFs, (2) links to some of my TV news stories and interviews (which you can watch) and print articles, (3) the audio podcasts that I will be renewing at TalkShoe (which I hope you will participate in or listen to later), (4) links to blogs, websites, and candidate homepages, and (5) the obligatory bio of yours truly. I hope you will check all this out and add Delano’s Den to your favorites.

Third, as many of you know, I do all this for fun at my own expense without charging my PSFers for anything. I don’t expect us to agree about everything. Indeed, my PSFers come from all political stripes – super conservative to very liberal – while most of the time I am a “flaming” moderate. My point is to share news, information, and perspective, not to persuade you. As you will hear me say often, this is a great country because of the diversity of our viewpoints. We need to respect that more often.

So, welcome back, PSFers!