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Pittsburgh mayor's veto on take-home vehicles sticks

| Wednesday, April 9, 2008, 12:00 p.m.

Pittsburgh City Council failed Tuesday to overrule the mayor's veto of legislation that would reduce the number of city officials' take-home vehicles.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl agreed in a Friday letter to council to reduce the number of take-home cars from 61 to 29 and emphasized that he, not council, oversees the fleet's size.

His reduction didn't comply enough with the original proposal, the bill's author, Councilman Ricky Burgess, said yesterday. It wasn't the number of take-home vehicles but the justification for each one that matters, he said.

The vote was 5-3, and council needed at least a two-thirds majority vote to override the veto.

Burgess, along with council members Patrick Dowd, Bruce Kraus, Bill Peduto and Council President Doug Shields, supported overruling Ravenstahl's decision. Daniel Deasy, Jim Motznik and Tonya Payne were opposed. Darlene Harris was absent.

"We trust that the mayor will use take-home vehicles judiciously and appropriately, and continue to work cooperatively with council," Burgess said after the meeting.

During the meeting, Burgess read a letter that he submitted Monday to Ravenstahl. In it he expressed interest in reaching some common ground on take-home vehicles but emphasized council's ability to set the legislative agenda.

"I remained at all times open to negotiation and compromise," Burgess read from the letter. "Although representatives from my office had numerous discussions with your staff, no written suggestions were ever presented. ... I trust that you are not suggesting that Council members submit legislation to your office for your approval in advance of introducing said legislation to Council. I believe that would have a chilling effect and clearly erode the separation of powers."

Council, on a 6-2 vote, turned back a bill that would have decreased council staff budgets by $17,000 to $65,000. Motznik and Deasy voted in favor of it.

Ravenstahl planned to submit at least 10 city board and authorities appointments for council's approval, but they will be postponed, likely until next week, his spokeswoman Alecia Sirk said.

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