PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — As 2012 begins, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl knows his political future is on the line.
“Are you going to run for re-election?” KDKA Political Editor Jon Delano asked the mayor in an exclusive sit-down interview.
“Yeah, I have every intention of running for re-election,” Ravenstahl replied.
The Democratic primary is still 16 months away, but he expects multiple opponents.
“As we go through 2012 it’s inevitable that the speculation will grow about who will run against me, who the potential opponents will be.”
Ravenstahl knows one big criticism is that he’s an absentee mayor, preferring the limelight in a Batman movie to nitty gritty work in the neighborhoods.
“To say he was in the Batman movie and he made time for that, which was on a weekend, but that’s not the point, yet he wasn’t here or he should have been there — that’s part of the job,” says Ravenstahl. “That’s criticism that will always come.”
Another criticism is his acrimonious relationship with city council. The mayor promises change.
Ravenstahl: “I think in 2012 I will have a different approach.”
Delano: “How’s it going to be different?”
Ravenstahl: “We’re going to open our door more to city council. We’re going to try to work with them more.”
Ravenstahl admits it’s hard to take criticism.
Delano: “Do you have a thin skin?”
Ravenstahl: “I think it’s gotten thicker. I think I’ve gotten a lot better. When I first started the littlest of things would bother me. I think now I am much better equipped to let things go in one ear and out the other.”
And on balance he’d rather be mayor than not.
Delano: “Are you enjoying being mayor, Luke?”
Ravenstahl: “I do. There are ups and downs. There are days where this job can be very difficult, but there are also rewarding things that you are able to do. And that’s really what drives me the most.”
The mayor’s assessment of 2011 is no surprise.
“I think 2011 was a great year in the city of Pittsburgh. We continued to see a tremendous amount of progress from an economic development standpoint.”
Ravenstahl sees the resurgence of Market Square as part of that progress.
“Our priorities and policies are working. We’ve seen the failed policies of the past from Fifth & Forbes to the Lazarus building. That’s changing now and Market Square is symbolic in that regard.”
But the mayor says the larger focus must be the city’s neighborhoods.
“These are the issues that are important to people. If you have a vacant home on your street, it’s bringing down your property value. It’s bringing perhaps a crime element into your neighborhood that you don’t want to see. That’s what we’re focused on.”
While shootings throughout the city seem up, Ravenstahl insists crime is down.
“The nuisance crime is down significantly. The homicides have remained relatively stable — in fact, were down last year – that’s no consolation to someone who has lost a loved one. One homicide is too many.”
As for the city’s schools, Ravenstahl says the Pittsburgh Promise is working but hasn’t committed to sending his son to public school.
Ravenstahl: “I would be happy to do that if I felt he was going to get the education that he needed to be successful.”
Delano: “But you’re not convinced of that yet?”
Ravenstahl: “Well, to be honest with you, I don’t even know what school he would go to. I haven’t even looked into it to that degree. That is still a couple of years away. It is something I would seriously consider when the time comes.”
Ravenstahl’s son, Cooper, is only 3, so the mayor has a couple years to make that decision.