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City Hall intrigue does not take a holiday during the holiday season

| Sunday, Dec. 17, 2006

Talk in certain Grant Street hallways has Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl considering offering Allegheny County Prothonotary Michael Lamb a high-level position in his administration.

But would Lamb accept?

Voters last year eliminated the elected prothonotary, who maintains civil court records, so Lamb definitely will need a new gig when his term -- and his job -- expire at the end of 2007.

Ravenstahl wouldn't be charitable by inviting Lamb into the fold. An administration position would keep Lamb -- who ran for mayor last year -- from seeking the Democrat nomination for next year's special mayoral election to fill the unexpired term of the late Bob O'Connor.

Ravenstahl also could further cement his ties to the O'Connor camp by keeping Lamb out of the city controller's race. It's been rumored Lamb will run for controller if he does not attempt to unseat Ravenstahl in the May primary.

Council President Doug Shields, O'Connor's top aide when the late mayor served on City Council, reportedly has all but decided to run for controller.

And if that happens, O'Connor's youngest son, Corey O'Connor, already has indicated he would seek the council seat his father once held.

We don't know how this will all shake out, but we do know this: More political intrigue is occurring in the City-County Building than should be allowed in the holiday season.

AHEAD OF HILLARY. Ready to handicap the 2008 presidential race?

The Los Angeles Times and Bloomberg were last week -- and their joint poll shows that New York Sen. Hillary Clinton will have some difficulty winning the presidency if she captures the Democrat nomination.

Given a choice between Clinton and Sen. John McCain, 50 percent of the respondents favored the Arizona Republican compared with 36 percent for the former first lady.

That's not all. In a matchup with Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who is not nearly as well known as McCain, Clinton holds only a 42 percent to 36 percent edge.

Although former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani often is mentioned as a possible presidential candidate, the poll did not measure how he would fare against Clinton.

Even though it's early, the poll is likely to reinforce the concern among some Democrats that although Clinton is a strong force within the party, she may be too divisive a candidate to triumph in the general election.

JIM'S IN. We reported last month in this space that Pittsburgh City Councilman Jim Motznik had e-mailed his fellow council members that he was not participating in council's annual holiday party this year.

Speculation at the time was that Motznik was playing Scrooge because his fellow council members passed him over for the council presidency in September, instead elevating Shields to the post.

But if Motznik was afflicted by the humbug bug, he apparently has recovered.

In an e-mail last week to Deputy City Clerk Mary Beth Doheny and the other council members, Motznik wrote that his wife had rearranged his schedule and he would be able to make it after all.

Also, he concluded, "Whoever forwards my e-mail to the media, no need -- they've been CC'ed."

We sure were.

DeWEESE ON COW INNARDS. Bill DeWeese, the eminently quotable Greene County state representative, was at it again last weekend.

Speaking at a Pennsylvania Manufacturers Association seminar in New York, the presumptive new House speaker was a veritable quote machine.

As Lincoln Institute CEO Lowman Henry noted in his Internet Lincoln Blog, DeWeese delivered the following gems:

  • He described pulling over in his pickup truck and "curling into a near fetal position" upon hearing of the election night defeat of his longtime colleague and sidekick, Democrat Rep. Mike Veon of Beaver Falls.

  • He said efforts to get representatives to switch parties and tip the balance of power in the House involve promises of "everything short of larceny and unnatural sex."

  • Speaking of Republican Rep. John Perzel of Philadelphia, the man he will replace as speaker in January if the Democrats maintain their one-vote edge in the House, he said, "I hope on Jan. 2, (his) world is as dark as the inside of a cow."

CONSULTANT CORNER. Specifics have emerged on where some key Republican operatives will end up in the new year.

Vince Galko, most recently outgoing U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum's campaign manager and former executive director of the state GOP Committee, will team with Mindy Finn to start a new consulting firm. Finn is the former Republican National Committee deputy e-campaign director.

Meanwhile, Mike Long , the powerful aide to outgoing Senate President Pro Tempore Robert Jubelirer of Altoona, is joining Hallowell & Branstetter. The firm should be familiar with Long; it has performed much work for state Senate Republicans since 2000.

NEIGHBORS. Maybe the trade-deprived Pittsburgh Pirates will soon begin swapping players with the Texas Rangers now that owners of both organizations have vested interests in Westmoreland County.

While the Pirates' Kevin McClatchy owns a retreat in Ligonier Township, the Rangers' renowned owner Tom Hicks, of Hicks Holdings, was among a group of investors that also includes the Watermill Group and Sankaty Advisors that shelled out $215 million for specialty steelmaker Latrobe Steel Co. in Latrobe.

Hicks, a Dallas billionaire, organized the group that purchased the Rangers in 1998 from a group that included President Bush for $250 million.

But not all of Hicks' deals have been praised. He is the professional sports owner widely criticized six years ago when he engineered the deal to sign former Rangers shortstop Alex Rodriguez to a $252 million contract.

NO SPELLING BEE CHAMPS. A Web advertisement on , the Uniontown Herald-Standard's Internet site, trumpets the elections of Tim Mahoney and Deberah Kula to the state House.

The election of the pair of Democrats from South Union and North Union townships, respectively, will "Double the Impact in Harrisburgh for Fayette County."

We wonder where this "Harrisburgh" is located.

PENNSYLVANIA PROUD. That National Christmas Tree on display at the White House literally had its roots in Pennsylvania.

The tree was grown by the Crystal Spring Tree Farm in Lehighton, Carbon County.

Pennsylvania actually ranks first in the nation for the number of Christmas tree farms and ranks fourth in the nation for the number of Christmas trees cut each year at 1.7 million, and acres in production, 44,905, the state Department of Agriculture reminds us.

The state farms also generate $13.9 million in sales each year.

- - compiled by Tribune-Review staff

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