Ravenstahl MIA since ending re-election bid; candidates critical of silence on public-safety issues
After abruptly quitting his re-election campaign on March 1, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has virtually disappeared from the public eye.
Even a shooting that critically wounded a city police officer didn't draw the mayor to the hospital. His staff won't say whether Ravenstahl since has reached out to Officer Morgan Jenkins or his family.
Public Safety Director Mike Huss visited Jenkins in UPMC Presbyterian, said Sgt. Michael LaPorte, president of the Fraternal Order of Police union, but LaPorte said he hasn't heard from Ravenstahl. The mayor made no public statement after the shooting, one of three in Homewood in less than 24 hours — a stark contrast to 2009, when he stood with former Chief Nate Harper after three officers were fatally shot in Stanton Heights.
“That's a question for the mayor,” Huss said when asked why the mayor did not visit Jenkins. “I've gone to the hospital to see other public safety employees, and I'll continue to do that.”
No one answered the door on Wednesday at Ravenstahl's Fineview home in the North Side, and he didn't reply to a Facebook message.
Ravenstahl's chief of staff, Yarone Zober, did not respond to requests for comment.
The mayor, who makes $108,131, was at City Hall, observers said. Ravenstahl spokeswoman Marissa Doyle said he was in his office “addressing important city business” and unavailable for an interview. She would not release his work schedule and has declined interview requests for weeks.
Ravenstahl did appear with lawyers on March 20 to announce a city lawsuit challenging UPMC's nonprofit-tax status. On that day, he released the second annual report for servePGH, a program to engage community volunteers.
His critics, including candidates for mayor, question Ravenstahl's recent reclusion.
“It's unacceptable that the mayor was not there,” Councilman Bill Peduto, a mayoral candidate and frequent Ravenstahl foe, said of his absence after Jenkins' shooting. “It's not PR if it gives people a sense of safety and security. It's doing your job.”
“The mayor has been absent in many critical situations in recent years. It's unacceptable not to be available to answer questions as to what the city's strategy needs to be,” said Jack Wagner, former state auditor general and another Democratic mayoral candidate.
“The mayor is not separate. People have to see that their leadership is present,” said state Rep. Jake Wheatley, a third Democrat running for mayor. “You can't do that from Grant Street.”
When he withdrew from the mayor's race, Ravenstahl acknowledged that he grew weary of the glare of the public spotlight. Ravenstahl said he fought the feeling that he should leave office but promised to govern through the end of the year. His term ends in January.
In recent weeks, however, the mayor stopped communicating through Twitter and his “Message from the Mayor” on the city website. He canceled scheduled appearances without explanation — among them, an April 3 speaking engagement in East Liberty for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh.
Frank Triggiani, 38, of Shadyside, who volunteers as a Big Brother, attended the breakfast.
“I know they sent somebody, but we thought he would be there. It was a little disappointing, but I understand his schedule is tough,” Triggiani said.
On March 27, organizers received his last-minute cancellation for a news conference with Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald before the annual meeting of VisitPittsburgh. Tourism Bureau spokeswoman Lynne Glover confirmed the mayor was scheduled to attend, but she declined comment.
When the Boston Marathon bombings fueled safety concerns about Pittsburgh's marathon on May 5, mayor spokeswoman Doyle issued a short statement acknowledging the tragedy and reaffirming Ravenstahl's confidence in Pittsburgh's public safety employees.
“I do hope he's paying close attention to the Pittsburgh Marathon because nobody wants a bad experience,” said Bob Strauss, a professor of economics and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University who believes the mayor's aloofness is fine as long as he focuses behind the scenes on important public-safety issues.
With a federal investigation that led to Harper's resignation and indictment, Strauss said, “the police department has a cloud over them and expecting them, in a demoralized state, to step up and do a good job — that's a hard thing.”
Bobby Kerlik and Chris Togneri are Trib Total Media staff writers. Reach Togneri at 412-380-5632 or email@example.com. Reach Kerlik at 412-320-7886 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Staff writers Bob Bauder and Margaret Harding contributed.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pittsburgh’s Downtown tops ranking of small to midsized cities
- Inmate care in Allegheny County Jail generates worries
- Icy streets leave some in Pittsburgh neighborhoods critical of city
- Interstate smash-and-grab jewelry ring may be operating in Pittsburgh area, Altoona
- Long-term closures at Carnegie interchange on Parkway West to begin
- Federal judge allows challenge to Sharpsburg’s landlord law
- Passion for speed fuels Ligonier man’s slippery dash in winter rally
- Burial set for remains of World War II soldier from Perrysville
- Amish boy stable after riding pony into intersection, being hit by car
- Teacher conduct under spotlight in Pennsylvania
- Free speech wall rises at Carlow University