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Heyl: County Councilman Drozd is odd man out

| Tuesday, Dec. 10, 2013, 11:59 p.m.

Fear not, Allegheny County Council fans. The mantle of eccentricity has been successfully passed.

For months, justifiable concern existed over the fact that this largely irrelevant legislative body was about to lose its lone colorful character. Councilman Matt Drozd was defeated in the Republican primary and leaves office at the end of the month.

With the often outré legislation he introduced during eight years on council, Drozd of Ross consistently provided one of the few reasons to pay attention to council. It's a stupefyingly dull bunch that mostly rubber-stamps the whims of the county executive.

Space limitations prevent a full listing of Drozd's outrageous ideas, but here is a representative gem from 2011: He introduced a bill calling for the county to spearhead an effort to begin housing violent local prison inmates in Third World nations.

Unfortunately, council failed to approve that innovative proposal. The required congressional authorization never occurred, and no nation stepped forward offering to accept our most dangerous criminals.

Hard to believe, I know.

With such legislation, Drozd leaves indisputably large and idiosyncratic shoes to fill. It's heartening to see Councilman Bill Robinson's inspired attempt to cram his feet into those Florsheims.

Robinson, a former Pittsburgh councilman and one-time state legislator, announced he no longer will pursue county funding for the financially troubled August Wilson Center for African American Culture.

Robinson blamed his recent removal as chair of the county's budget and finance committee by council President Charles Martoni on his attempt to include $500,000 in the county's capital budget for the privately operated Wilson Center.

Accusing Martoni of being county Executive Rich Fitzgerald's pawn, Robinson demanded he resign as president. Martoni was so on board with the idea that he announced last month he would step down in January from that role, which I suppose Robinson can claim as a peculiarly timed victory.

“See?” he can say. “Martoni realized he was so wrong in kicking me off that committee that he heeded my call for him to quit weeks before I even made it.”

Robinson said he intended to have county police sweep council offices for listening devices. Although the NSA has proven that little can be ruled out when it comes to governmental eavesdropping, the suggestion that county offices might be bugged is guffaw-inspiring.

What might be gained? Anyone listening in on council members' conversations likely will find them lamenting their utter insignificance and complaining that their part-time council positions pay a paltry $9,000 annually.

Issuing demands that have been met and making assertions most observers would consider paranoid make Robinson a worthy successor to the departing Drozd. As council's new standard-bearer of eccentricity, his potential is enormous.

Perhaps he'll revive the plan to send our murderers to Madagascar.

Eric Heyl is a Trib Total Media staff writer. He can be reached at 412-320-7857 or eheyl@tribweb.com.

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