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For real, Luke — it's time to show your face

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By Nafari Vanaski
Thursday, April 25, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

When you read the report in the Tribune-Review that Mayor Luke Ravenstahl hasn't made a lot of public appearances lately in Pittsburgh, I hope you remembered that he found time to go to Kentucky. And Shanghai, China.

He had time to go to Duke University and share the stage with Cory Booker, the New Jersey mayor who pulls people out of fires, saves abandoned pets and shovels snow from residents' sidewalks. (Ha! If only Ravenstahl wintered in Pittsburgh ... )

Hizzoner's failure to show and lead has led to a lot of speculation about where he might be. Maybe he's springing in Europe somewhere, some have suggested to me. Or he could simply be lying low within the city limits. Though this would be a really good time to show himself, what with the turmoil in public safety leadership n'at, he has pulled a virtual disappearing act.

Ravenstahl announced last month to much fanfare that he was withdrawing from the upcoming mayoral election but would serve the balance of his term. Since he did not step down from the position — a move he should have considered if he was going to make sporadic appearances — he is responsible for being here.

It's not acceptable for the mayor's office to refuse to discuss his whereabouts. Court decisions this week under Pennsylvania's Right-to-Know Law in fact show they must provide accurate details on his daily whereabouts. Even the president of the United States doesn't disappear the way our mayor has.

Ravenstahl has clearly been choosing his moments to say something, such as threatening to fight UPMC over its tax-exempt status. For a few moments, it almost made one think that being a lame-duck mayor was going to give him a newfound boldness. Almost.

It's not that Pittsburghers are faint of heart or need someone to hold their hand on a regular basis. Lately, however, we've seen several acts of gun violence that raise concerns, including a 24-hour spate of shootings in one of the city's worst areas. It might be time for the mayor to talk specifically about gun control.

Or not.

When you're the mayor, you probably shouldn't ignore these things as though shootings — one of which injured a Pittsburgh police officer — are part of everyday life. This isn't Chicago, and that's not a normal course to take. (The course ... That's it! Maybe he's golfing?) The bombings at the Boston Marathon are certain to have at least a psychological effect on this city's upcoming race.

Right now, there are probably some people out there who are uncomfortable enough and maybe just terrified enough not to come to the race. Now is the time for a leader — the mayor perhaps — to reassure people that it's OK. Even if people are a little scared, a leader needs to say you can't just stop living because of a terror attack. We all need to go out there and be brave together, the leader will say, and then be there to show that resolve.

Maybe he's working on that speech right now. But a city that needs leadership doesn't want to play “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?”

Hmmm ... Argentina?

Nafari Vanaski is on maternity leave. Other columns she wrote in advance will appear in coming weeks.

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