Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Ex-Pol Finds New Hope after Losing Drug Habit

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Ex-Pol Finds New Hope after Losing Drug Habit

Article excerpt

The self-confessed, crack-smoking mayor of Toronto got me to thinking of the Pittsburgh city councilman who admitted to a similar familiarity with the pipe back in the mid-'90s. I gave him a call.

If anyone could give advice to Mayor Rob Ford, who had just made himself a continental punch line, it would be this man from the city's South Hills. I left a message on his office voice mail saying as much, but adding that talking about this was entirely up to him.

He called back not long thereafter. We hadn't spoken in at least 15 years, but he was more open than I'd ever known him to be. He joked that he'd given us so much to write about, this newspaper probably had to lay off reporters after he was defeated for council re-election in 1997.

He'd talk about this only if I didn't use his name. I told him almost everyone was going to know who he was regardless, or could find out easily enough in this small town that plays a big city on TV. He agreed, but he wanted to do what he could to protect his employer and family from embarrassment. He has two adult children and another in elementary school.

I had no desire to louse him up. Now nearly 51, he's not the person he was in his early 30s. That hard-drinking, drug-using man, "I don't particularly care for that guy," he said. "I'm a better person than that guy. If you want to talk about my life today, it's great -- healthy kids and a good job. That guy, he never did me any good. He sold you guys a helluva lot of papers but he never did me no good."

In a January 1997 column, written shortly after he'd told some Grant Street colleagues that he was a crack addict, I argued that he should resign or be impeached. The lawmaker had broken the law regularly.

Nobody listened but his constituents. With different ideas about what it means to be a crack councilman, they tossed him in that May's primary. Less than three years later, he admitted to selling jobs and extorting bribes as a board member of the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority to fuel his cocaine habit. …

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