Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Motznik: From Sewer to Judge

Pittsburgh City Councilman Jim Motznik leaves office today to become a District Magistrate. Motznik says when he learned that long time 9th Ward District Magistrate Charles McLaughlin was retiring he knew he needed to run. He says he was worried someone would get in the office that would not fight or the quality of life in the district. He says the neighborhoods served by the court need a judge that will be tough on landlords that do not keep up their properties and drug dealers that walk the streets. He says he is not afraid to stand up to the criminals. Motznik has served nine and a half years in city council. He says some of the things he is most proud of are the little pieces of legislation that may not have gotten much attention but they improve the quality of life. Things such as cracking down on the flyers left on resident’s cars, lawns and front doors, changing the way bars and night clubs are inspected to prevent tragedies and finding ways to move money around at the right times to get new police cars purchased and additional streets paved. Motznik says he has also had a few failed attempts at change. He says he was unsuccessful in growing the city’s income by selling add space on baseball fields and reducing spending by cutting the size of the City Council from 9 members to 7.
Motznik says he got into politics when he was in his early 20’s working as a laborer in the Public Works Department. He says he watched as a fellow crewmember that “never did a lick of work” was promoted because he had political ties. He also watched as other streets were plowed and salted after snowstorms while he had to wait 4 days to get a salt truck down the street where he lived. Motznik says he knew right then that he had to get into politics to protect his family and his neighborhood.
Motznik says he will miss the political meetings and events but not the council meetings. For the last month he has had a countdown calendar in drawer of his council chambers desk. When the arguments became heated, as they often did this month, he would often take out that list of days and mark off one more date with a big smile on his face. The councilman says the council is not as civil as it used to be. He says council members used to have heated debates but they did not become personal.
To get ready or his new job Motznik had to take a month long course in Harrisburg where he learned about the laws he would be dealing with as a magistrate. He passed that course earlier this month. Jim Motznik may be most remembered as the councilman who once wore his sewer boots to a council meeting. Motznik says he regrets pulling the stunt but not taking the stand. He pulled out the boots from his days on public works as a way to say the mayor’s 2004 budget was “full of crap.” The budget relied on gambling revenue to stay in balance and Motznik and four other council members feared they would never see the revenues. He says, “people will always remember the boots but not the reason for them.”
Natalia Rudiak will take over Motznik’s council seat January 4th. Motznik says the first thing she will have to learn is how to work cooperatively with the other eight council members and the mayor if she wants to take care of her district.

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