Monday, July 30, 2007

One Hill: Unanimity Emerging

At the Hill House Kaufmann Center [this last Sunday], the coalition unveiled 37 preliminary recommendations for a benefits agreement.

The recommendations hung on the wall, and the 100 or so people in attendance indicated their preference by placing colored circular stickers by them.

That's what Ron DaParma at the Trib says happened.

If there are any forces within the One Hill CBA coalition that wish to drastically tamp-down or amp-up community demands, this is the last week for them to operate.

Jennifer England, communications coordinator for Pittsburgh UNITED, says that One Hill plans to spend about a week analyzing the data, and probably doing some horse-trading.

What will emerge will be a white-hot phalanx of community consensus, which will be regarded as a blueprint for contract negotiations with the city and other stakeholders.

"A huge public subsidy for the Penguins requires huge public benefits," says Carl Redwood, leader of One Hill. (P-G, Milan Simonich)


The Comet has some reason to suspect that these eleven items out of the 37 represent a sort of rock-bottom, line-in-the-sand nucleus around which Pittsburgh UNITED (the faction of the movement that draws roots from organized labor) wishes to arrange a CBA:

Revolving Loan Fund
Home Preservation Fund
Economic Anchor (Grocery Store)
Tourism Path / Historic Preservation
Community Economic Development Fund
Financial Literacy (Homeownership / Credit Repair / Foreclosing Counseling)
First Source Hiring
SEIU keeps jobs and contracts
Unite Here keeps jobs and contracts
First Source Hiring for Post-Construction Jobs in SEIU and Unite Here job areas
Job Training to increase access to Apprentice positions in construction jobs

Of course, there were many other items on the ballot, and not all of them were economic in nature. Here is a sampling:

Scholarship Fund
Youth Support Systems
Hill District Uptown Cultural Assets
Monies for Drug Rehabilitation
Integrated Holistic Human Service Delivery System

Cheese and crackers! If somebody is ready to roll on an integrated holistic human service delivery system, let's find some different money for them.

Landowners who operate against wishes of the community barred to participate on 28 acre development.

Ah, that's interesting. Some negotiators within One Hill are feeling aggressive. How the Penguins could have won sole possession of those 28 acres of parking lot, worth maybe a billion dollars over the life of the arena deal, is beyond us.


Here is how the Trib described the outcome of the stickering:

Recommendations getting the most votes included a grocery, which has been long-sought as an economic anchor in the Hill. Other ideas finding favor included funding for community groups to provide tutoring and mentoring programs for young people and for rehabilitation for people with drug problems.

Voting was heavy for giving Hill District residents preference for job openings created by the development.

Pittsburgh UNITED also told us that the grocery store did well, as well as "a lot of the union labor issues."


We asked Kimberly Ellis aka Dr. Goddess about Pittsburgh UNITED, and if there was a problem of differing agendas within One Hill.

After acknowledging "obvious commonalities," she says:

Pittsburgh United wants the Hill CBA to be the first in a regional model and they have been pushing a Union model. I would like to push a Hill model because this is not just about a labor negotiation. It really isn't. It's about the accountability of the entire city, county and the Pens to our collective history, something that can't be quantified in terms of jobs.

Pittsburgh United is welcomed, as far as I'm concerned, to assist. But they are not welcomed to lead in my book.

Of course, Pittsburgh United does not lead.

Carl Redwood is the executive director of the One Hill Coalition -- and more importantly for our purposes, he is a respected and long-time convener of the Hill District Community Consensus Group.

Who among you has as a respected and long-time convener of a consensus group in your own community?

For that matter, who among you has an Alma Fox, whom we all know "won't jerk anybody?"


  1. "Ah, that's interesting. Some negotiators within One Hill are feeling aggressive. How the Penguins could have won sole possession of those 28 acres of parking lot, worth maybe a billion dollars over the life of the arena deal, is beyond us."

    Excellent Point, Bram. That's a hell of a perpetuity.

    The URA and the SEA. What a team!

  2. Best of luck to the organization(s) involved in prying some public benefit from the new arena. I hope they can old it together long enough to see things through. However, if past experience is any indicator, someone in "leadership" will get their ego bruised, causing the coalition to fracture and the whole thing ends up a splintered mess of multiple competing organizations all vying for the same funding. Yes, there have been many outside forces at work in the past, but a lot of recent hindrances to community development efforts in the Hill have been a result of weak consensus building and competing agendas amongst often self proclaimed community leaders.

    Let's hope the center can hold this time.

  3. "Let's hope the center can hold this time."

    I feel like I read your review of Dr. Goddess Goes to Jail. If so, we can certainly understand holding the work to a very high standard, but we think you overlooked the fact that the show was a very good time.

    The aplomb with which the white cast members seethed condescension and self-serving expediency was particularly delicious for white audience members to enjoy (endure).

  4. I’m not sure how they got there, but the residents of the Hill District have certainly been given an odd task. The city and county have decided that their neighborhood is the ideal center of professional ice hockey in the region, and they’ve worked out a deal that virtually makes that happen, a deal they’ve paid for dearly with significant direct and deferred public investments. With all of this public money one could reasonably assume that these elected officials would want to be seen as bringing forward the best deal possible to all of their constituents, including those in the Hill District.

    Instead, the residents have been asked to come together and work out their own deal on negotiating a “return” on this significant public investment. Even the existing elected officials representing the Hill don’t seem to have a formal role in the process. (The Governor, County Executive and Mayor also “technically” represent the Hill. For some reason, though, this notion of a two-stage community benefits negotiation has been instituted.) The residents and local business owners have to come to consensus of what benefits they want to extract from this heavily subsidized developer, and they are being represented in their negotiations by a non-profit group funded with big money by the Ford Foundation and other nameless local philanthropies.

    Now the Hill has certainly had its difficulties with public sector investments. The mid-century efforts of neighborhood modernization didn’t quite work out very well – actually they were pretty disastrous - and neither did much of anything else since. Hill residents have quite naturally been somewhat conflicted when any new development strategies have come forward, seeing both the need for improvement and the potential for things to get worse. There has always been a suspicion on the part of the Hill residents, and, well, everyone else, that the Hill has a higher and better use than a lightly settled, highly segregated home to some of the region’s poor. But oddly no one has been able to figure what that might be or how that might be accomplished, so the neighborhood is back to being reinvented into its traditional role as the center of professional ice hockey and home of the poor, but better this time around.

    Maybe it’s me, but I’d think that the Hill residents would be more concerned with how they fit within an evolving regional economy than how they fit with an upgraded hockey rink. And rather than use $500,000 to negotiate with the developers of the arena, I’d think they’d rather use the money to encourage elected officials to promote the economic mobility of Hill residents in any economic development investments region-wide. It’s like everyone is trying to figure out how to do 1959 better, and that era is being defined rather myopically as the construction of a hockey arena and public housing. What folks in the Hill were looking for at mid-century was entry to the economic opportunity offered in an expanding post-war economy. If there is something that the region should be getting right this time, shouldn’t that be it?

    By the way, will kids from the neighborhood get to go skating when the hockey team isn’t using the rink?