Know Your Geography

Article excerpt

Ambrose Bierce, author of "The Devil's Dictionary," said, "War is God's way of teaching Americans geography." Oddly, sometime around 1914, he headed to Mexico to watch Pancho Villa wage war and got lost south of the border. Bierce never was seen again.

But Bierce was on to something, even if he failed geography. Who knew the difference between Iran and Iraq before Bush's war against Saddam Hussein? The whole Middle East has come into focus since "the great geographer" launched "Shock and Awe" between the Tigris and the Euphrates.

And while war teaches us much about geography, a solid knowledge of geography can provide the key to political success. On every rung of the political ladder there is no substitute for a thorough understanding of the geography of an election district or ward or city as our civic wars are fought.

When Pittsburgh City Councilman Bill Peduto announced he was running to unseat Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, his political aspirations must have been motivated by geography. The smart money may say that the job is Ravenstahl's to lose but the political geography is simple.

And if Peduto is to be competitive, his strategy must be simple as well. Three campaigns are natural and necessary in any citywide political effort and, in these matters, our rivers uncomplicate things for once.

What some still call "the old city" -- all that land between the rivers stretching from Point State Park to the eastern borders -- is one distinct target. Peduto must win those densely populated, high- voter-turnout neighborhoods in the east.

Peduto's City Council district and top supporters are in the east, so he has an established base that gives him an advantage. And his campaign style, taking full advantage of e-mail and text messages, has been customized for his current constituency.

In the south -- across the Mon -- Peduto must hold Ravenstahl even. …