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Councilman says Ravenstahl issued threat over vehicle policy

| Tuesday, March 25, 2008, 12:00 p.m.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl threatened Pittsburgh City Council if it voted to reduce the number of take-home vehicles, as it did today, said Councilman Bruce Kraus.

"The mayor came up to me and his exact words to me were, 'We're coming after you,'" Kraus said.

To exact political retribution, Ravenstahl threatened to push legislation that would slash each councilman's budget to $61,000 a year, Kraus said. Each council office currently gets $82,000 annually to pay members' salaries and other expenses.

"The notion that a threat was made was ridiculous," Ravenstahl said.

The mayor said he simply challenged Kraus to curtail council's spending under the provisions of Pittsburgh's five-year financial recovery plan created under state Act 47 -- the same provisions Kraus and other council members used to justify reducing the number of take-home cars from 61 to 29.

"If council members take the position that Act 47 is a binding document then they themselves should live by that," said Ravenstahl. The mayor said he sees Act 47 as a "roadmap" and not a set of rules to be strictly followed.

According to Kraus, Ravenstahl told him, "Try working on $61,000 a year on your council salary budgets."

Kraus said he replied: "If you feel that that best serves the interests of the people of the city of Pittsburgh to cripple council, have at it. That was the extent of the conversation."

The exchange took place Wednesday during a political fundraiser for Councilman Jim Motznik at La Mont restaurant in Mt. Washington.

Motznik, a Ravenstahl ally, introduced the budget-cutting legislation today, and accused Council President Doug Shields of maintaining a $149,000 "slush fund" in various City Council accounts. Shields denied the claim.

Ravenstahl said he was aware of Motznik's intentions and supports the legislation.

Motznik said the cuts to each councilman's office budget are in line with the city's five-year financial recovery plan. The reduction in the number of take-home cars also is part of the recovery plan.

"The reality is if you're going to live by the sword, you're probably going to have to deal with both sides of the sword," Motznik said.

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