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Voters give Ravenstahl 'surprising' approval

| Saturday, April 6, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Nearly half of likely voters approve of the job Mayor Luke Ravenstahl does, despite an FBI investigation of the city's police bureau, a Tribune-Review poll found.

Susquehanna Polling & Research in Harrisburg, which conducted the poll April 1 and 2, said 46 percent of respondents approved of Ravenstahl's job performance. Forty-five percent did not approve, and 9 percent were undecided.

The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.

“It's very surprising,” said Mike Mikus, a Democratic strategist. “I think the fact that he left the race probably built a lot of goodwill from the average citizen. Because of all the scrutiny, it was almost a rallying effect, really, where everybody is feeling bad for the guy.

“Quite honestly, that's the only way I can explain it.”

A Trib poll in 2004, by comparison, found that only 10 percent of likely voters believed former Mayor Tom Murphy deserved re-election. Murphy of the North Side left office in 2005 after deciding not to run again.

Ravenstahl, 33, of Summer Hill dropped out of the mayor's race on March 1, 11 days after declaring his intention to run, saying the demands of the job and constant media attention negatively affected his life and family.

Ravenstahl has rarely appeared in public since quitting the race. He took office in 2006.

Pollsters found that 49 percent of respondents think the city is moving in the right direction. Thirty-two percent believe it's on the wrong track; 19 percent were undecided.

“Mayor Ravenstahl has worked tirelessly to put the City of Pittsburgh on the right path,” spokeswoman Marissa Doyle wrote in an email. “We're pleased to see that the residents of Pittsburgh recognize these efforts and agree that our city is positioned for continued success.”

Moe Coleman, director emeritus of the University of Pittsburgh's Institute of Politics, said Ravenstahl's approval rating likely is tied to the perception about the city's future.

“I suspect most people don't really know what (Ravenstahl) does in the city, and the city looks pretty good,” Coleman said. “It's got good comment nationally, the unemployment rate is pretty low, we've got development going on, and we've got younger people coming in.

“If the city's going in the right direction, the mayor gets credit for that.”

City Councilman Ricky Burgess, a fervent supporter of the mayor, noted that under Ravenstahl, the city drew national and international acclaim by hosting the Group of 20 economic summit and revitalized East Liberty on the strength of development such as Bakery Square.

“All those things have helped bring the image of Pittsburgh of a smoky steel town to sort of a chic, diverse city,” Burgess said.

City Councilman Corey O'Connor said there are two sides to Ravenstahl.

“Obviously, he has his own personal issues going on right now, and it's not a good situation,” O'Connor said. “The reason his numbers are so high is because we're getting so much national recognition.”

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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