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Pittsburgh councilman, mayoral race front-runner Peduto calls Ravenstahl's absence 'a benefit'

| Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013, 12:15 a.m.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh mayoral candidate Bill Peduto, the Democrats' nominee, talks with Trib reporters and editors at the Trib offices in the North Side on Wednesday, October 9, 2013.
Stephanie Strasburg | Tribune-Review
Pittsburgh mayoral candidate Bill Peduto, the Democrats' nominee, talks with Trib reporters and editors at the Trib offices in the North Side on Wednesday, October 9, 2013.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's disappearing act during the past seven months has been a “benefit to the city,” according to the mayoral race's front-runner.

Ravenstahl, 33, of Fineview has appeared infrequently at events he previously attended and in the halls of Pittsburgh government since March when he dropped his re-election bid.

City Councilman Bill Peduto, the Democratic nominee for mayor, described Ravenstahl's absence as “a blessing.”

“For so many years, I was just beat down by that office,” Peduto told Tribune-Review editors and reporters on Wednesday. “My friends were told, ‘You're done,' because they were supporters. Council members, when my bills were called or coming up that day, were getting calls from the mayor's office or calls at the table — say this or do this. Living under that was like living under the iron bloc. It was sort of like this must be what it was like to exist in Soviet-era time,” he said.

“To have them go away and not be around, to me on a personal level, is like a blessing.”

Ravenstahl was not available for comment.

Spokeswoman Marissa Doyle declined to comment on Peduto's remarks about Ravenstahl's absence.

Peduto, 48, of Point Breeze and Ravenstahl have been political enemies for years. During the primary, Ravenstahl used campaign money after he left the race to air ads critical of Peduto.

Peduto said he rarely has seen Ravenstahl around City Hall since March.

“Back in the day, you'd see Luke a few days a week, then he'd be gone a few days a week,” he said. “Now days that he would be gone have turned into weeks that he would be gone.”

He last saw the mayor Oct. 1 when the Pirates beat the Cincinnati Reds in a Wild Card playoff game at PNC Park. The two ran into each other at a Sports & Exhibition Authority luxury suite and posed together for a photograph.

Peduto said he was there with a campaign staffer, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and some of Fitzgerald's staff.

Ravenstahl was there with friends. Peduto said the Sports & Exhibition Authority gave seven tickets each in its luxury box to Fitzgerald and Ravenstahl.

Peduto got a photo of himself with the mayor and shared it on Twitter. “I had to. That was like Twitter gold. It was very strange. I'll just be honest. He stood by himself the whole time,” Peduto said.

Peduto has served on council for 19 years and said that if elected in November, he would be the first councilman since former Mayor Pete Flaherty to go directly to the mayor's office.

Peduto is running against Republican Josh Wander, 42, of Squirrel Hill, who is conducting his campaign from Israel where he is working as a security consultant, and Lester Ludwig, 80, an independent candidate from Squirrel Hill.

“My opponent lives in Israel, but he seems to show up more than Luke did,” Peduto said.

Peduto said his experience in city government and Ravenstahl's absence have led city department directors and developers to call him for guidance.

Doyle confirmed that developers were no longer seeking Ravenstahl's assistance with long-range projects and attributed that to the mayor's lame-duck status.

“There was such a dark, dysfunctional force that was placed down upon things that it going away is like sunshine,” Peduto said. “At this point it's a benefit to the city.”

Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com.

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