The dubious distinction of being the first to be placed in the rusty, old Pittsburgh Quarterly stockade goes to the local Republican Party. We’re putting the party in the pillory for essentially being a no-show in city politics. If ever there were a time when the Republicans should have recognized and seized an opportunity, it was in the months leading to the November election. For too long, though, there has been no vision, no organization to speak of, and no will to become a meaningful local player. Prove us wrong. Please.
Republican mayoral candidate Joe Weinroth, however, does not go in the stocks. He made a stand and deserves respect. Unfortunately he had very little help from his own party. And this is not to say that we don’t believe in Mayor Bob O’Connor. We do. We believe that Bob is right when he talks about needing a new attitude. We just wish the Republicans had a different one.
We can hear them saying “But the registration advantage in the city is 5-1. That’s hopeless.” The Berlin Wall was hopeless. Patrolled by armed guards, mined and booby trapped, it was never going to come down. Until the people got tired of it and tore it apart. It has been pointed out that in New York City, Republicans are outnumbered 4-1 but have won the last three mayoral elections. We’re not putting the Republicans in the stocks because we want to ridicule them. Like a football coach at wit’s end, we’re trying to figure out what will wake them up and get them to start playing ball. There is a way of making this a two-party region. So far, there just hasn’t been the will. We’ll let the party go free as soon as it promises to try.
On a pedestal
There were a number of candidates for our first recognition of a person or institution moving this region in the right direction. We’re happy to place Mark Roosevelt on a pedestal for his initial efforts with the Pittsburgh Public Schools. The great-grandson of former President Teddy Roosevelt has taken the right first step in proposing to close 20 city schools and reduce district personnel.
The district has seen enrollment fall from 40,181 students eight years ago to 31,148. That’s a 22.5 percent decline in customers. The district’s annual budgets, however, have not reflected that change. The 2006 preliminary budget of $545.7 million — more than half a billion dollars for 31,000 students – represents a 3 percent increase and a deficit of $47 million.
To his credit, Roosevelt is not seeking to raise taxes. That’s what rightly lost his predecessor his job. For far too long, the Pittsburgh Public Schools have been a poster for profligacy, doing too little with too much. As a task force of civic leaders pointed out two years ago, the schools “are beset by poor performance, high costs, high taxes and a very public record of failed leadership and governance.”
Now the schools should and can do more with less. Leadership is how that happens. We’d like to see excellence and efficiency become the hallmarks of the city schools. This region can afford nothing less. We are counting on Roosevelt and the school board to press on.