Luke Ravenstahl

The federal grand jury, which heard evidence against then Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, has been dismissed without handing up any indictments against the mayor or anyone in his administration.

David Hickton, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, would not comment on the development. Ravenstahl’s attorney Charles Porter Jr. could not be reached for comment. 

An ongoing federal investigation involving Pittsburgh's former mayor and the city's lawsuit challenging the nonprofit status of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center have intersected — at the ex-mayor's computer.

Former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl took the computer with him for about 10 days after leaving office in January, but has since returned it. Now UPMC's attorneys want to know if he did anything with the device that might impact the city's ongoing lawsuit over its nonprofit status.

Why Mayor Peduto Wants Act 47 to Stay, for Now

Jan 10, 2014
Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

In 2003, the city of Pittsburgh was operating under a debt burden of more than 20% of its operating budget. Pools and recreation centers had to close and hundreds of city employees, including police officers were laid off.

Pittsburgh was declared financially distressed and placed under Act 47 oversight.

As the local economy has stabilized, former Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, along with Act 47 coordinators have said the city is ready to be released. But Pittsburgh's new Mayor Bill Peduto is asking Governor Corbett to keep the city under Act 47 oversight to allow his administration to work on a final recovery plan.

During former mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s term, he created ArtPGH, which is part of a 25-year comprehensive plan for the city of Pittsburgh.

ArtPGH encourages public art in the city and involves artists in designing public space.

It seems as if Bill Peduto has some artistic shoes to fill, but the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council (GPAC) thinks he is already making great strides.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

When Mayor Luke Ravenstahl was quietly sworn into office following the 2006 death of Mayor Bob O’Connor, the 26-year-old City Council president became the youngest mayor of a major U.S. city. 

Headlines around the time included the following: “Hope surrounds new Pittsburgh mayor, 26” and he made several national television appearances, including a spot on "The Late Show with David Letterman." But as he heads out of office, the last months of his tenure included headlines such as “Luke Ravenstahl Maintains Low Profile Amid Federal Probe.”

WESA News Editors Look at Top News Stories of 2013

Dec 20, 2013
Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

The Pittsburgh region was impacted by many major news stories during 2013. From a breakthrough in the stalemate over funding for transportation infrastructure, to a police scandal and the election of a new mayor.

WESA’s Senior News Editor Mark Nootbaar gives some perspective on the year’s top stories.

At the state level, privatization of government functions were a theme for the Corbett Administration.

Pittsburgh City Controller Michael Lamb said Thursday’s board vote to lower the pension fund’s projected rate of return was good financially for the city.

The fund’s assumed rate of return was lowered from 8 percent to 7.5 percent after a 5-2 vote led by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's allies. Supporters of Mayor-elect Bill Peduto then accused Ravenstahl of political maneuvering.

Ravenstahl was opposed to lowering the rate during most of his tenure.

Pittsburgh’s Urban Redevelopment Authority is facing massive cuts under Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s proposed 2014 budget.

At a City Council budget hearing on Tuesday, Robert Rubenstein, acting executive director of the URA, said he was disappointed with the proposed budget’s $2.2 million cut to the authority’s budget.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl released his proposed 2014 operating and capital budget Tuesday.

The $480 million budget and five-year plan is balanced, and it contains no tax increases or layoffs.

Before getting into specifics of the proposed spending plan, Ravenstahl outlined successes of his time as mayor. He said in the last seven years Pittsburgh has received 10 bond rating upgrades, and its investment status has moved from junk to grade A status.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

The Community Builders held a ceremonial groundbreaking Monday at the site of the new East Liberty Place South development.

The building will feature 52 units of mixed-income housing, as well as 11,000 square feet of commercial space. Thirteen of the one- and two-bedroom apartments will be priced at market value, with a tenant income cap of $55,000-75,000, depending on family size.

Six of the apartments are geared toward very low-income residents, including people with physical disabilities who live off disability benefits.

How Will History Look at Mayor Luke Ravenstahl?

Oct 28, 2013
Deanna Garcia

As Pittsburghers gear up to elect a new mayor, a week from now, Luke Ravenstahl seems to be ramping up his public appearance schedule in an effort to clean up his image.

“It’s like he’s almost trying to spin the last seven years into something that reads better on his epitaph,” says Bob Oltmanns, President of OPR Group, LLC, an independent public relations consultancy.

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said he is continuing to do his job and is helping the next mayor transition into office. 

The city's two highest-ranking police officials appeared Wednesday to testify before a federal grand jury believed to be investigating the mayor's use of police-issued bodyguards and other matters.

Acting police Chief Regina McDonald and Deputy Chief Paul Donaldson entered the grand jury room at about 9 a.m. and left about two hours later, declining to offer specifics.

"Can't tell you anything," McDonald said as she left. "We're not permitted to talk."

"We were just here to assist them with the investigation," Donaldson said.

Pittsburgh police say they're reviewing the timecard records of an officer who formerly worked as a bodyguard for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, and who testified against the mayor before a federal grand jury earlier this year.

At that time, the attorney for Fred Crawford said the investigation will eventually show that tax dollars were "wasted so the mayor could have a designated driver ... while he went out to bars."

That attorney, Robert Stewart, didn't return a call for comment Tuesday on the newest information about Crawford provided by acting Chief Regina McDonald.

State Sen. Jim Ferlo (D-Allegheny) doesn’t believe federal investigators will find anything substantial from documents they’ve subpoenaed last week from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA).

Ferlo currently sits on the board of the URA.

The subpoena comes after board chairman Yarone Zober, and the mayor’s chief of staff, testified Tuesday before a federal grand jury believed to be investigating whether Mayor Luke Ravenstahl is involved in funding irregularities.

Ferlo said he’s not sure what investigators are looking to find.

Mayor's Right-Hand Man Testifies Before Grand Jury

Sep 12, 2013
Noah Brode/90.5 WESA

Last week Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s Chief of Staff, Yarone Zober spent more than an hour and half behind closed doors testifying before a grand jury. 

The news follows reports that former Pittsburgh Chief of Police, Nate Harper will plead guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion for diverting funds from unauthorized accounts.  Many believe the federal investigation aims to look into all elements of Mayor Ravenstahl’s personal life.

One in 3 American children is overweight or obese. That’s according to the Children’s Defense Fund, which also says 45 percent of those kids come from low-income families.

Pittsburgh is launching a new program called “Green Up to Grow Up” to try to reduce that figure.

The program is an expansion of GreenUp and Edible Gardens, which turns vacant lots into areas where produce is grown for low-income neighborhoods.

While locally appointed arbitrators will make their final decision in September as to whether the requirement for Pittsburgh police to live in the city should be lifted, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl already has his answer: No.

Ravenstahl said he believes the city police should stay where they are.

“I think it’s important for them to be in the neighborhoods in which they patrol," Ravenstahl said. "The residents feel safer when they have a police officer living in their community. It seems to me that it’s working now, and there’s no need to change it.”

Larkin Page-Jacobs / 90.5 WESA

On March 1, Luke Ravenstahl made the surprise announcement that he would not run for re-election as mayor of Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl met with his likely successor, City Councilman Bill Peduto, Monday for the first time since February.

Peduto was optimistic before entering the mayor’s corner office on the fifth floor of City Hall, saying it was a chance to “bury the hatchet” and “smoke the peace pipe.” Peduto said his number one priority going into the meeting was discussing a budget the two could agree on.

After the roughly 22-minute meeting, Peduto said Ravenstahl looked “subdued” yet “positive” and “professional.”

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said his office has been fully cooperative with an ongoing federal investigation into city financial dealings, and that there have been no subpoenas from investigators in more than a month.

Ravenstahl maintained that he’s done nothing wrong and said he wished the truth could come out now, as opposed to a long investigation.

At an event in Mt. Washington Wednesday morning to launch a program to increase energy efficiency at city-owned buildings, he took issue with questions from the media about his lack of public appearances of late.

Political Commentary on Essential Pittsburgh

Jun 7, 2013

A former Pittsburgh police detective who served on Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's security detail has been approached by the FBI about using debit cards tied to an unauthorized account at the Greater Pittsburgh Police Federal Credit Union. Will his testimony open Mayor Ravenstahl to federal investigation?

Pittsburgh City Council President Darlene Harris changed her party affiliation from democratic to independent in April. Many wonder if she's planning to make a play for mayor

And State Representative Jesse White is under investigation for using a fake online identity to bash his political opponents.

Guests: Eric Heyl of the Tribune-Review and Bram Reichbaum of the Pittsburgh Comet discuss these political topics and more.

The Overshadowing Presence of Mayor Ravenstahl

May 19, 2013
Noah Brode / WESA

In his latest column, Pittsburgh Tribune columnist Eric Heyl gives Mayor Ravenstahl the moniker Captain Distraction, referring to his overshadowing presence in this year's Democratic mayoral primary. On this day before the election we'll discuss how the mayor's travails continue to hold public fascination.

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has turned over a $12,000 check and a contract he has for home improvements to a federal grand jury.

The grand jury is believed to be investigating whether the mayor is involved in funding irregularities as his bodyguards have recently been subpoenaed to testify about city-issued credit cards and now the mayor and a contractor doing work on his home have acknowledged turning over the new records.

Several dozen union members who supported Pittsburgh’s prevailing wage law gathered in the City County Building Thursday to denounce advertisements Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s PAC, Committee for a Better Pittsburgh, has taken out against mayoral candidate Bill Peduto.

Peduto supported the prevailing wage law, and union members feel he has been misrepresented in the ads.

Negative Ads in the Mayoral Primary

May 1, 2013
Heather McClain / 90.5 WESA

Negative ads, like shaking hands and kissing babies, have become a staple of political campaigns. The recent news of Mayor Ravenstahl's link to attack ads has turned our attention to the impact of negative ads in this year's mayoral primary. Joining us for this discussion is public relations advisor Bob Oltmanns, president of the OPR Group.

Pittsburgh's lame-duck mayor is behind ads attacking one of the candidates running to replace him, City Councilman Bill Peduto.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl is listed as chairman of the Committee for a Better Pittsburgh, according to Federal Communications Commission disclosure documents filed by KDKA-TV, which was paid to run the ads which began Monday.

The ads accuse Peduto of voting for things that benefit the neighborhoods he represent at the expense of poorer city neighborhoods.

Pittsburgh City Council unanimously voted on Wednesday to give preliminary approval to a bill that would terminate a $10,000 "imprest fund" used by the mayor at his own discretion primarily for travel expenses.

Though he didn't suggest that Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has improperly used the 18-year-old fund, sponsoring Councilman Corey O'Connor said he thinks the mayor should go through the same process of reimbursement for travel expenses that's followed by all city employees.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

U.S. Attorney David Hickton announced a five-count indictment Friday against former Pittsburgh Police Chief Nate Harper. The charges range from conspiracy and theft of public funds to willful failure to file income tax returns.

It’s the result of a joint investigation with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the FBI and the IRS. Hickton said the first count is conspiracy to engage in the theft of public money through the diversion of funds to the Pittsburgh Federal Credit Union.

Emily Farah / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl announced Wednesday the city will embark in a legal battle against the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's nonprofit status.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court developed a nonprofit test as a result of the case Hospital Utilization Project v. Commonwealth. An organization must act within the following five "HUP" test parameters in order to be considered a purely public charity:

1. Advances a charitable purpose
2. Donates or renders gratuitously a substantial portion of its services