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by stephen donahue Wednesday, May. 05, 2004 at 8:08 AM
412-361-3022 or 412-802-6542

It is their royal right!

Late last winter the Pennsylvania General Assembly under the leadership of right wing legislators from the city’s North Hills suburbs imposed on the people of Pittsburgh an “oversight board” of five rich white men whose job is to force austerity measures and fiscal responsibility (they call it tough love) on the city. This measure came in response to the city’s fiscal crisis and this oversight board, called the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority for Cities of the Second Class (hereafter simply called the ICA) was given broad powers. The ICA will shortly deliver their demands regarding their relationship to our elected city council, called an Intergovernmental Cooperation Agreement to the city council. The ICA is authorized by the legislation that set them up to actually withhold city funds if the city council does not obey them. The City Council is an elected body that represents diverse neighborhoods in the city. The ICA is an unelected body of 5 rich white men that represents only the interests of their own kind.

Last March the ICA began to meet but they were doing so in private. The legislation that set them up however does at least mandate that they follow the Pennsylvania Sunshine Law. Back on March 10, 2004 around a dozen activists attended an ICA meeting wearing gags over their mouths. At that meeting the ICA began to listen (a relative term) to the public.

Early on it was easy to sort of excuse the ICA. They had no office, no executive director and no telephone. Now they have an executive director and an office and they are back to holding private meetings. The ICA even is asking ex-officio members of the board, the only woman involved no less, to stay out of certain meetings.

One way that the ICA avoids the public is to conduct their meetings via email. After all there are only five of them. This begs the question as to how the use of email in decision making processes in many groups subverts the democratic process. Regardless however the state Sunshine Law does not allow state agencies to hide behind their computer screen. Decisions made by consensus in informal settings like the Duquesne Club must at least be given the final rubber stamp at a public meeting.

These five white men act as a single entity. They all are rich. They are all tied up in the same power structure. Even at their public meetings, the few that they have had, it is interesting to see them rapidly agree to everything. The closest thing to disagreement witnessed by this writer was about whether the board should meet on Good Friday or not.

DEMOCRACY IN PITTSBURGH IS IN REAL DANGER. This board acts like a king. The five of them coalesce into a single royal highness. They answer to nobody except their rich benefactors. They have digs now in an office building that has the appointments of a palace. Just walk into the Reed-Smith Building at 435 Sixth Avenue in downtown Pittsburgh and see for yourself.

To date public activism around the ICA has limited itself to keeping swimming pools and recreation centers open for the summer. A benign dictator can do that. It will be interesting to see how the public reacts when the ICA punishes the city council for, oh lets say refusing to privatize our city refuse workers.

Those fat cat lawyers in the Reed Smith building had better get used to seeing picket signs (for starters) in front of their building.

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Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 4 posted about this article.
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Skewing the facts Concerned Citizen Saturday, Jun. 05, 2004 at 12:22 PM
Making the Oversight Board Permanent R Field Tuesday, May. 11, 2004 at 3:22 AM
Come on down and place bids! Zacharias "The sixth banker" Antho Sunday, May. 09, 2004 at 12:13 PM
5/5/04 They did it again! stephen donahue Thursday, May. 06, 2004 at 5:22 AM
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