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Nonprofit director launches campaign to unseat Pittsburgh council incumbent

Published by Mike Pound on .

 

La'Tasha Mayes (Julia Rendleman/Post-Gazette)La'Tasha Mayes (Julia Rendleman/Post-Gazette)

 

By Robert Zullo

The executive director of a community nonprofit challenging an incumbent for the 7th District City Council seat this spring will formally roll out her candidacy Wednesday evening in Friendship.

La'Tasha D. Mayes, who founded the 11-year-old New Voices Pittsburgh, a black women and girls health organization, will launch her campaign at 6 p.m. at the Irma Freeman Center for Imagination, 5006 Penn Ave.

"This is a people-powered campaign and the power of the people will drive us to victory," Ms. Mayes said in a news release.

Ms. Mayes, of Morningside, will take on first-term Councilwoman Deborah Gross, an ally of Mayor Bill Peduto and former head of the Pittsburgh Arts Alliance who won a five-way special election in 2013 for the seat vacated by former Councilman Patrick Dowd.

They will vie to represent the neighborhoods of Bloomfield, Friendship, Highland Park, Lawrenceville, Morningside, Polish Hill, Stanton Heights and the Strip District.

Ms. Mayes, a native of Philadelphia who graduated from the University of Pittsburgh and obtained a master's degree from Carnegie Mellon, says Pittsburgh "changed her life."

"I look back at my time in Pittsburgh and one thing remains clear: Each and every day, I wake up inspired with the people on my mind," she said in a news release. "After speaking with the voters and residents of District 7, they want affordable, sustainable and healthy communities."

Robert Zullo: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 412-263-3909. Twitter: @rczullo.

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Breakfast Sausage: 5 stories to read today

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Sen. Ted Cruse, R-Texas waves as he arrives at Liberty University, founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, Monday, March 23, 2015 in Lynchburg, Va., to announce his campaign for president. Cruz, who announced his candidacy on twitter in the early morning hours, is the first major candidate in the 2016 race for president. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas waves as he arrives at Liberty University, founded by the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, Monday, March 23, 2015, in Lynchburg, Va., to announce his campaign for president. Cruz, who announced his candidacy on twitter in the early morning hours, is the first major candidate in the 2016 race for president. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

1) We finally have a declared Republican presidential candidate ... and he's Canadian? OK, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz from Texas renounced his Canadian citizenship – he was born there to a Cuban father and an American mother – but it's always been interesting to us that one of the Republican Party's most strident hawks on immigration may have to spend some time addressing some of the same questions that have exasperated President Obama for years.

2) Another observation about Mr. Cruz: In the video he posted to Twitter to announce his candidacy, the senator inferred that things aren't so hot in his adopted home country (i.e., we have to "restore our promise" and that his candidacy will "help make America great again"). President Obama draws mountains of criticism after any instance when he suggests that there might be problems with the United States; should Republicans be held to the same standard?

3) Presumptive Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush is good with social media tools, but Politico wonders whether the former Florida governor has a problem with the most shrill of old-school media platforms – conservative talk radio.

4) To the surprise of no one, the energy industry doesn't like the current leadership of the state Department of Environmental Protection as much as it did that of the previous administration's version.

5) Marcus Brown, Gov. Tom Wolf's nominee to lead the state police, probably wouldn't have had to worry about the flap over him wearing the agency's uniform without coming up through its ranks; he is a career law-enforcement officer and held the same position in Maryland before receiving Mr. Wolf's nomination. But removing signs critical of him may have given this controversy the kind of legs that could pose problems for the nomination.

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Perry on Politics: How Cotton spun the Senate

Published by Mike Pound on .

Sen. Tom Cotton (Associated Press photo)Sen. Tom Cotton (Associated Press photo)

By James M. Perry

Junior members of the United States Senate were treated once upon a time somewhat like proper little children of Victorian parents: They should be seen but not heard.

Behold, then, Sen. Thomas Bryant Cotton, an Arkansas Republican and at 37 the Senate's youngest member.

On March 9, he wrote a letter to Islamic leaders in Iran, saying, basically, they should know that his party might not welcome an Obama-negotiated nuclear-free pact with Iran. The curious thing is that he managed to entice 47 of his party's 54 members to join him in signing it. "Traitorous," said one critic. "Mutinous," said another. "I'm embarrassed for them," said President Obama.

Seven days later, after causing a major upheaval in both his country's domestic and foreign affairs, he delivered his maiden speech on the Senate floor, in which, for the most part, he urged significant increases in defense spending. But he did allude briefly to the letter to Iran's brutal leaders.

"I will simply note," he said, "that the deal foreshadowed by the president -- allowing Iran to have uranium-enrichment capabilities and accepting any expiration date on an agreement -- to quote Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- 'doesn't block Iran's path to the bomb; it paves Iran's path to the bomb.'"

So, who is this young whippersnapper who has managed to cause such a furious uproar before he had even spoken a word on the Senate floor?

Let's start at the beginning. He was born in Dardanelle, Ark. (population: 4,745 in 2010), in one of my favorite jurisdictions, Yell County. After graduating from the local high school, he was accepted at Harvard, graduating magna cum laude. He moved right on to the Harvard Law School, where he took at least one course with Elizabeth Warren, now a U.S. senator and the Democratic Party's leading left-wing firebrand. None of that Ivy League education seems to have sunk in.

Three years after graduating from law school, he joined the army, and served tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

He gave notice of what might lie ahead when he wrote an angry open letter to the New York Times in June of 2006 when he was on active duty in Afghanistan leading a company of 130 soldiers. In it, he complained about a story in the paper that revealed the Bush Administration was running a secret program monitoring the finances of suspected terrorists. Mr. Cotton called for the arrest on espionage charges of those responsible for publishing the story.

"You may think," he wrote, "you have done a public service, but you have gravely endangered the lives of my soldiers and all other soldiers and innocent Iraqis here." The Times didn't publish the letter, but he had sent a copy to Power Line, a conservative blog. They did publish it, and -- in the blog's words -- "it shot around the world."

Captain Tom Cotton took an honorable discharge in 2009.

Moving right along, he won a vacant seat in the House of Representatives in 2012 and then defeated Democrat Mark Pryor for a Senate seat in 2014.

It's an amazing story. Tom Cotton is a young man on the move. Even so, why did so many of his Senate colleagues sign that flame-throwing letter? It's no excuse to say some of them were in a hurry to vacate Washington and head home on recess. They were taken in by an ambitious young man who has a long way to go.

James M. Perry, a prominent veteran political reporter, contributes regular observations to post-gazette.com. Mr. Perry was the chief political correspondent of The Wall Street Journal until his retirement. Prior to that, he covered national politics for the Dow Jones weekly, The National Observer.

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Breakfast Sausage: 5 stories to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

 

Gov. Tom Wolf speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in his Capitol offices, Wednesday, March 11, 2015, in Harrisburg, Pa. (AP Photo/Marc Levy)Gov. Tom Wolf speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in his Capitol offices, Wednesday, March 11, 2015, in Harrisburg, Pa. (AP Photo/Marc Levy)

1) Randy Albright, budget secretary for Gov. Tom Wolf, got to spend some quality time with the state Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday, and we learned … pretty much nothing. Mr. Albright was steadfast in his claims that Governor Go Time’s tax proposals would improve the state’s economy, bolster its general fund and make it more competitive as it tries to land new businesses; meanwhile, the Republicans running the committee were equally insistent that the governor’s tax plan would do the opposite. Don’t be discouraged, though. There are plenty of bargaining chips on the table for both sides – booze sales, pensions, bits and pieces of the administration’s tax plan – and we’ll see what they’re willing to tinker with as the budget deadline approaches this summer.

2) Sean Ramaley, the former Beaver County legislator who was one of the first to get caught up in the Bonusgate scandal – he was acquitted of corruption charges, but not before he called off a promising campaign for the state Senate – has landed a job in the Wolf administration as deputy secretary for safety and labor management relations.

3) Our friends at the Patriot-News tracked down information from a study that shows liberals are happier – marginally, at least – than conservatives.

4) Republican wunderkind Aaron Schock has resigned from Congress while questions about his spending and what appear to be sweetheart business deals followed him from Illinois – his home state – to Washington. We first heard of Mr. Schock when the Washington Post started asking questions about the new Downton Abbey décor in his Capitol Hill office; since then there have been many more questions, some of which may continue to trail him after his resignation.

5) We can’t get enough of Nate Silver’s fivethirtyeight.com, when we’re looking for the best data we can find about politics and elections. This week, we’re spending time there for a much different reason.

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Breakfast Sausage: 5 stories to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

Gov. Tom Ridge discusses education funding with state Sen. Jay Costa, left, and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzpatrick while touring facilities at the Community College of Allegheny County. (Nate Guidry/Post-Gazette)Gov. Tom Wolf discusses education funding with state Sen. Jay Costa, left, and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzpatrick while touring facilities at the Community College of Allegheny County. (Nate Guidry/Post-Gazette)

1) Here's a number that should at least make you think about what Gov. Tom Wolf is proposing to change school funding in the state: per-pupil spending in Pennsylvania's poorest school districts is 33 percent lower than in the state's richest districts – and that, according to the Washington Post, is the highest disparity in the country. Even worse? When factoring in federal education funding – a source of money that evens out that disparity in most cases – Pennsylvania is still one of just five states that spends less on poor districts than wealthy ones.

2) Seamus McCaffery may be done with the state Supreme Court, but we may not be done with him. Documents show that Mr. McCaffery – who retired from the court last year as part of the fallout from our infamous pornographic email scandal – appears to have had a hand in securing referral fees for his wife, Lise Rapaport, something that experts say is a violation of judicial ethics.

3) We can buy clothing without paying sales tax in Pennsylvania – and so can people from any other state who travel here. That's turned shopping – particularly at outlet malls not far from the state's borders – into a tourist attraction. And that's why folks in Grove City and Washington County are happy that Mr. Wolf's proposed tax changes don't include taxing the sales of clothing.

4) There are pretty much just two groups that don't like the net neutrality rules proposed by the Federal Communications Commission – big Internet service providers and Congressional Republicans – and FCC chairman Tom Wheeler will get to spend a lot of time in the next two weeks debating with the latter.

5) We love politics, but c'mon – these are the contests we're most concerned about this week.