Monday, April 7, 2008

Silent Lies from the Suckup Committee

I just finished reading the city-county merger recommendation. I was hoping for a real examination of the situation with number crunching, pie charts, and a semblance of a worthwhile use of my time. Unfortunately, it's a fluffy piece pandering to the current and previous administrations that appears to make its recommendation based on previous invalid recommendations.

I can't help but be reminded of a recent quote of Mark Twain's that I read regarding American reviews. "We are too good-natured a race; we hate to say the unpleasant thing; we shrink from speaking the unkind truth about a poor fellow whose bread depends upon our verdict; so we speak of his good points only, thus not scrupling to tell a lie - a silent lie - for in not mentioning his bad ones we as good as say he hasn't any. The only difference that I know of between a silent lie and a spoken one is, that the silent lie is a less respectable one than the other." The committee report is full of useless silent lies, obscuring the picture of our city and county government and using up space where they appear to have no other valid items to say.

Silent lies?
"Committee members shared a genuine sense of gratitude to the Mayor and County Chief Executive for inviting them to participate in this important undertaking."

"The reporting of that record, then, should not be viewed as a criticism of the current Mayor and County Chief Executive."

"The current County Chief Executive and Mayor deserve great credit for pushing these processes forward."

"These deficits grew over the course of many years and were not produced by the practices of the current City administration."

"... we do genuinely respect the elected leaders who brought us together and gave us our charge."

We get it! You appreciate the current administration that clearly hand-picked you. This 15-page report really doesn't need to mention it more than 5 times!

And just to make sure that they weren't neglecting to pander to previous administrations, they had to also mention the late Mayor: "Allegheny County Chief Executive Onorato and the late City of Pittsburgh Mayor Bob O’Connor generally are credited with forging this long-overdue agreement. Nothing should detract from their ultimately successful commitment to that effort."

Instead of convincing me with logic and facts, I see a report that is preaching to the already believing choir. Being a new citizen of Pittsburgh, I have no idea what the right path forward is, and this report only makes me more confused.

I read that in 1929 the people of Pittsburgh voted by a majority to consolidate the government but that it didn't happen at that time because of a "technicality". However, I feel that the city of Pittsburgh has almost nothing in common currently with the city of 1929, and so I have to completely disregard all references to that historical note even though the committee felt the need to drone on about it for a few paragraphs.

I read that a committee met in 1996 and performed a study. They recommended that there be consolidation of services. However, I do not read any of the reasoning, merely the results. I have a sneaking suspicion that this previous study also did not rely on facts and logic.

In 2008, '... a RAND study commissioned by the Advisory Committee generally concluded that “the case for or against consolidation will have to be made on grounds other than incontrovertible scientific evidence."' It appears the grounds they chose were silent lies.

Hopefully, there will be more debate coming from this issue in future weeks and months. For now, I'm concerned about the merger as a city dweller. I'm concerned that it means I will have less of a say in my city government. I'm concerned that the needs of the city will be overrun by the needs of the suburbs. I'm concerned that Dan Onorato will have even more power and will disregard the will of the people even more. In theory, the concept of merging duplicative services sounds like a great idea. I hope someone does some research about it and presents that research to the people of Metro Pittsburgh.

(For reference, the report can be found here:


Sean said...

Welcome back to the Pittsburgh blogging world. I enjoy reading your posts.

seklecki said...

Thanks for your thoughts. I agree that the report is mostly marketing propaganda. I'm searching long and hard for a comprehensive research study on the long term impacts of other / earlier municipal city-county mergers. As far as I can tell, no such document exists (except of the implicit nature of New York City)