2006.06.27: June 27, 2006: Headlines: Figures: COS - Paraguay: Politics: City Government: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Supporters say Murphy rubbed people the wrong way, but only to get things done for the city

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Paraguay: Special Report: Paraguay RPCV Tom Murphy, Mayor of Pittsburgh: June 26, 2005: Index: PCOL Exclusive: Tom Murphy (Paraguay) : 2006.06.27: June 27, 2006: Headlines: Figures: COS - Paraguay: Politics: City Government: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review: Supporters say Murphy rubbed people the wrong way, but only to get things done for the city

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Supporters say Murphy rubbed people the wrong way, but only to get things done for the city

Supporters say Murphy rubbed people the wrong way, but only to get things done for the city

"If you were to take an aerial snapshot of Pittsburgh from the day Tom Murphy took office and then take a second one the day he left office, I think it would be clear to anyone that he's had an enormous impact on this community," said David Matter, president of Oxford Development Co., who was chief of staff for the late Mayor Richard Caliguiri and a longtime Murphy backer. Thomas Murphy, Jr., former Mayor of the City of Pittsburgh, PA , served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Paraguay in the 1970's.

Supporters say Murphy rubbed people the wrong way, but only to get things done for the city

Ex-mayor forced to rebuild bridges

By David M. Brown and Andrew Conte
TRIBUNE-REVIEW

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Tom Murphy has never played well with others.

When Pittsburgh faced financial collapse after a decade of his leadership as mayor, lawmakers in Harrisburg refused his pleas for the tax reforms that could stave off insolvency.

"He had burned bridges with both Democrats and Republicans," said David O'Loughlin, who served as an original member of the financial oversight board appointed by the state. "He had been so insulting to them. That made it much harder for the city."

Now, to avoid prosecution on charges of using public influence to win his third and final election, Murphy has a year to learn how to play nice and cooperate with federal authorities, city officials and the groups charged with fixing Pittsburgh's money mess.


Murphy's closest allies point to what they see as physical evidence of the legacy of his 12 years as mayor: new stadiums. An expanded convention center. Summerset at Frick Park, a neighborhood built on a slag heap. Crawford Square, which helped return affluence to the Hill District. The SouthSide Works. Hiking and biking trails.

"If you were to take an aerial snapshot of Pittsburgh from the day Tom Murphy took office and then take a second one the day he left office, I think it would be clear to anyone that he's had an enormous impact on this community," said David Matter, president of Oxford Development Co., who was chief of staff for the late Mayor Richard Caliguiri and a longtime Murphy backer.

But when he decided not to seek a fourth term in office, Murphy suffered from miserable approval ratings while the city struggled financially.

He had been spurned by the legislators with whom he'd once worked, mostly because of his bullying nature, O'Loughlin said.

The former mayor's sour dealings with state lawmakers "made the job unnecessarily difficult," and he could be "quite abrasive" even with friends, said Mulugetta Birru, who headed the city's Urban Redevelopment Authority under Murphy.

"His facial appearance is that of an angry person, but his heart was in the right place -- for the betterment of Pittsburgh," Birru said.

Federal prosecutors question whether that's true, saying the way he awarded a 2001 labor contract to city firefighters -- guaranteeing their support for him in that year's mayoral primary -- was not in the city's best interest.

Supporters say Murphy rubbed people the wrong way, but only to get things done for the city.

"He's clearly not a hardened criminal," said Jerry Shuster, a political communications professor at the University of Pittsburgh. "He may have his political foes ... but I cannot believe that most people in the city of Pittsburgh perceive Tom Murphy as anyone derelict in his duties."

Terry Van Horne, a former Democratic state lawmaker from Lower Burrell, Westmoreland County, who knew Murphy from his days in the Legislature, said he believes Murphy might be remembered like former president Jimmy Carter, warmly recalled only decades after leaving office.

"Murphy was never in it for anybody's interests but his constituency," he said.

"You couldn't find fault with him because you knew the effort was sincere even if you disagreed with it," said state Rep. Joe Preston, D-East Liberty.

Mark Schneider, who headed the city's Stadium Authority and the city-county Sports & Exhibition Authority on Murphy's watch, said the city was spiraling toward bankruptcy well before Murphy took office. The former mayor sought distressed status from the state to help the city, he said.

"The only way Tom could get the state to address that is to create a crisis," he said. "Tom probably could have come up with tricks and pushed this off to the next administration, but I was in the meeting where Tom said, 'Let's fix this problem. I'll take the bullet. I don't care what people think about me.'"

Essential city services like street repairs and the demolition of condemned buildings had been sharply curtailed. Rats got a prolonged holiday when the city's three-member rodent control squad was laid off in 2003.

Lazarus-Macy's Downtown department store closed despite $40 million in taxpayer subsidies. The nearby Lord & Taylor department store closed after receiving an $11.75 million loan that was never repaid.

And the problems will continue -- likely for decades, said Robert Strauss, a public policy professor at Carnegie Mellon University who has long been critical of Murphy's handling of city finances.

"There's a lot of dark clouds over the city and the region that are not going away because of the kind of insensitive decision-making he engaged in," Strauss said.





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Story Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Figures; COS - Paraguay; Politics; City Government

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