Friday, September 7, 2007

One Hill Inside-Out

Khari Mosley glanced over the news story we had just handed to him: URA agrees to deal on land near arena (P-G, Rich Lord).

"It looks like they're trying to eliminate all risk for the Penguins," he said. The trade-off is that the public (or at least the URA) gets a say on developing these 30 or so acres.

Viewed alongside recent commitments to develop a Master Plan, it looks like city and county officials are scrambling to meet community demands -- as dictated by the Hill District Ministers, at least as much as the One Hill coalition.

"Mayor Ravenstahl and County Executive Onorato are trying to figure out a way to reach -- they want to see a larger consensus" Mosley said.

"I don't think their job is to pick sides in this. They don't want to burn bridges."


Khari Mosley is a campaign coordinator for Pittsburgh UNITED, an organization established by the labor union SEIU, the labor coalition UNITE-HERE, the PA Housing Alliance, the Mon Valley Unemployed Committee, the Sierra Club and the League of Young Voters.

The One Hill CBA coalition grew from a collaboration between Pittsburgh UNITED and the Hill District Consensus Group (HDCG) -- Carl Redwood's outfit.

The multitudinous community organizations that now comprise One Hill share the goal of securing a binding Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) from the Pittsburgh Penguins.

"We feel like we're the community benefits agreement process," says Mosley. "[The Hill District Ministers'] focus has been around an unspecified development fund."

We asked how a commitment to a Master Plan has ranked among the desires of One Hill members.

"There has been some talk," he says, "but that hasn't been the major focus."

The major focus for One Hill has been jobs: specifically union jobs at every stage with SEIU and UNITE-HERE, and also job-training and first-source hiring.

However, other sorts of community demands have gained traction within One Hill as well. There is the grocery store. There is much support for parks and green space. There is also support for a new community center -- although this one would be a "different kind" of center, Mosely says, more youth-oriented, along the lines of the Homewood YMCA.

Through it all, Mosley insists, there has been great unity around the necessity of getting a formal CBA.

"We do feel it's the best tool and the best process."


Pittsburgh UNITED has repeatedly emphasized that it supports Hill District efforts, but will not lead or dictate to them.

Four members of One Hill were elected to the executive committee -- but word spread that Pittsburgh UNITED was flexing its own muscle with a fifth seat.

"Techically, there's four spots" explains Mosley. "But there's an 'at-large' seat held by Pittsburgh UNITED -- held by Tom Hoffman."

Before any elections or formal mobilization, an "ad-hoc executive committee" comprised of Carl Redwood, Justin Laing and Bonnie Young-Laing, and of SEIU labor organizers Rachel Canning and Tom Hoffman, met in order to decide on organizational structures.

Although the President, Vice-President, Secretary and Treasurer were to be elected, a fifth "at-large" seat was accorded to Pittsburgh UNITED.

Khari Mosley explains, "There was a certain level of investment Pittsburgh UNITED had on the campaign -- given the amount of financial capital and human capital" it brought to the table. In addition, Pittsburgh UNITED was on-board "from the beginning."

It rarely exercises that vote on the executive committee, he says. In fact, he cannot remember Pittsburgh UNITED ever having cast a vote.

The committee was deadlocked on the critical issue of devising its "slate" of officially sanctioned negotiators to present to the membership, for an up-or-down vote. The last slate had failed.

Carl Redwood and Bomani Howze supported the inclusion of some key leaders more closely aligned with the ministers, and with previous anti-casino activists. "The kind of people who started in January."

Pearlean Coleman and Twanda Moye opposed these figures as unsuitable, while supporting others.

With Tom Hoffman unavailable, Khari Mosely was pulled in to the meeting.

"They tried to get me in on the vote -- and I was really hesitant to get involved," Mosley admits. "I was kind of like, stalling, and trying to ask questions."

Ultimately, Redwood reversed course, under pressure to produce an acceptable slate. The executive committee gave its blessing to the Coleman/Moye slate of negotiators 3-1.

At Redwood's strong insistence, the new slate won membership approval. The Hill District Ministers and their allies were frozen out of negotiations. At least under the One Hill banner.


News that Pittsburgh UNITED even might have made that decision came as a surprise some One Hill members, who were unaware of an "at-large" committee seat.

"Was it clear?" asks Mosely. "Yes and no. Maybe a lot of the rank and file."

There has also been confusion as to whether or not elected officials can serve as members of One Hill.

"That's a good question," says Mosely.

It would appear there is at least no rule preventing Democratic committee members from forming their own neighborhood groups.

Since each "member" of One Hill represents a different member organization, the problem of how to include ordinary and unaffiliated residents arose quickly. Many committee people filled the void quite naturally, by representing for their various wards and districts.

Pittsburgh UNITED has been unable to produce for the Comet any One Hill bylaws or governing documents as of press time.


As we were leaving, we asked if anybody from One Hill was planning attend the Celebration organized by the Hill District ministers on Sept. 30.

"September 30th?" Mosley asked. "I heard about some kind of 'town-hall meeting'."

Jennifer England, longtime communications maven for Khari Mosley, chimed in. "Well, we know Johnny Monroe is going to be there."

"He's a member of One Hill," she reminds us. "So it'd be accurate to say One Hill members are taking part!"


  1. Last night on Night Talk (PCN) Mayor Luke explained part of the deal. Let me see if I can get this straight.

    The vote was yesterday in the Stadium / err, Sports & Exhibition Authority meeting.

    We own the Civic Arena now. We rent it to the Penguins. The Penguins got to keep the income from the naming rights some years ago.

    Now that the Pens are building a new building with taxpayer money, in ten years, we (the public) be able to buy back the building we already own -- no -- we'll be able to buy back the land that used to be where the Civic Arena sat -- that we already own.

    The Civic Arena will be gone. The renters get to tear it down.

    Some $7.5 Million from the city and another $7.5 Million from the county = $15 million (all of my money as I live in both the city and the county) is going to be set aside now. That $15 M is set asside now so we can give it to the Pens in 10 years so as to buy back the land that we own now that harbors a historic arena. By the way, the Civic Arena still works well for Boss concerts, tractor pulls and high school hoop tournaments.

  2. Is this the same Khari Mosley who is the Democratic Chairperson from the 22 Ward? It would seem this is a very relevant fact that has been missed.

  3. The relevance of that fact is a matter of debate. I'm glad you brought it to our attention, as it further illustrates the potentiality for cross-motivations. Yet I believe both sides (all three sides?) possess ties to the ACDC, and I'm not sure that kind of thing is entirely determinative of anything.

    This is truly a neighborhood quarrel, a big family quarrel. Any way you approach it, the temptation is to oversimplify.

    Then again, Smitty ... the next post I plan on the matter will adjust the narrative somewhat in your direction.

  4. Good work here Bram! I've had to take a (hopefully brief) hiatus from the fishing report and I'm glad to see that you're providing in-depth coverage on this subject matter. It is very important that it's done right.

    As for your comment, Smitty, I'm not sure what would prevent a committee member from participating in a neighborhood coalition. It is a fact, but one that prevents a committee member to participate in a neighborhood coalition I'm not sure. Not sure you were suggesting that in your comment but I guess we'll wait until Bram's follow up post.


  5. skip,
    In the prior dialogue over the make up of One Hill it was brought out that there were many Democratic committee members in the mix.My point in bringing up Mr.Mosley's party credentials is to point out he wears two hats in this drama.

    as for whether or not the large presence of ACDC members is determinative of anything,many of the arguments i hear in favor of Mark DeSantis is the very fact that the Democratic Party has made a mess of the city.Therefore, should any new organization have such a preponderance of ACDC members considering the party's track record.Which goes to my statement about the relevance of Mr.Mosley's party credentials.