What does it mean to have the backing of the machine? Well, from what I can tell this means that the candidate gets the endorsement of all the ward bosses which brings with it money and a mass mailing from party headquarters which says that candidate X is the guy you should vote for in the primary. From what I understand, O'Connor represents the old boys network of the party. I've never met O'Connor. I really don't know much about him, but the folks I talked to at the Meetup didn't have anything positive to say about him.
So, Bill Peduto and Mike Lamb were there to try to grow some grass roots support. Bill Peduto is currently a member of city council. Mike Lamb is the Allegheny County Prothonotary.
Bill Peduto spoke first. Bill was very animated as he spoke. "The fiscal state of the city has put it into a box. However, we get to decide what color to paint that box." He understands that we need to balance our city budget, but the mayor needs to have a vision to do more with less. Bill is strongly in favor of community involvement in planning and development. City planners should look to communities first and then figure out how to serve the community - not the other way around. He is a true believer in new urbanism. He is a supporter of a multi-modal transit. He took initiative in studying the idea of providing free wireless access in the city. He seems genuinely interested in policy and in improving the city. He has worked with Ground Zero to help Flux events happen. He is against Mon-Fayette expressway. He thinks we have too many roads. We can't fix them all. Bill also advocates using GIS technology for planning how many and where fire departments should be located. Bill Peduto also thinks that city should not dissolve into the county government, but resources should be consolidated where it makes sense to do so.
Mike Lamb was more rooted in county politics. He had modernized the prothonotary's office. He took it out of the age of paper and ballpoint pens and into the electronic age. He cut the size of the office through attrition and transferring employees to other offices. Mike Lamb's message was rooted in efficiency and consolidation of redundant jobs. He would like to see more police departments in the county merge or contract their policing from the county or other municipalities. He thinks the city needs a leader who is willing to walk away from their turf. He wants row office reform. 25,000 houses in the city are abandoned. Act 47 gives city the leeway to re-sell these vacant properties. As part of balancing the budget, the city had to cut the amount of money it spends on demolition crews. When Lamb was asked about how to fix the city's finances, he talked about getting efficiency gains at the county level. This is all well and good, but he's running for mayor.
Overall, I found that Bill Peduto was a more charismatic and visionary candidate than Mike Lamb. Mike Lamb seemed to have answers based more on consolidation at the county level. He didn't talk as much about his vision for what the city would be like. I think I'm going to enlist with Peduto's campaign - assuming he decides to run...