Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Who is Luke Looking Out For?

TONIGHT: Post-Gazette mayoral candidates forum, Heinz History Center, Strip District, 7-8:30.

The Comet submitted several questions, one of which related to the following:

Here is the complete text of Mayor Ravenstahl's statement on the Mega Nonprofit's agreement to pay the City an unspecified amount of money over the next three years -- less than in previous years, and far less than what the ICA boards recommend.

The nonprofit community is a key partner in the City's success. I am pleased with the actions taken by the Pittsburgh Service Fund and am thankful for their willingness to support the residents of the City of Pittsburgh.

That's it?

Local Democrats like Jim Ferlo and Doug Shields, to say nothing of long-suffering Tony Pokora, are advocating for amendments to the state non-profit law to provide a little equity. To date, the Mayor's vaunted "discussions" have gotten us nowhere -- and this pitiful non-statement in reaction to UPMC and the rest proves it.

The nonprofits go on to say they will be monitoring the City of Pittsburgh closely, making sure it adheres strictly to the budgetary pain and sacrifice mandated by the ICA Board.

That is, except for the ICA's recommendation for those nonprofits?

Are you looking out for us, Luke Ravenstahl?


TOMORROW: Four dueling community meetings on community benefits agreements and / or public safety.

The first one to have been widely publicized was the Kimberly Ellis AKA Dr. Goddess meeting, the "critical analysis of the community benefits movement" set up by the Africana Studies department at the University of Pittsburgh.

Dr. Ellis repeatedly attempted to get reps from Pittsburgh United to join on the panel; two spots were available to them. However, it seems the message never got through in quite the right channels.

Pittsburgh United is also hosting its own exploratory discussion of community benefits agreements, somewhere on the North Side, at the same time. The timing of the two events, we are told by Pittsburgh United, was totally unrelated.

Reports have surfaced that Councilwoman Tonya Payne is also holding her own big discussion of community benefits tomorrow night, also by coincidence (it is a busy week). Since Tonya Payne and Pittsburgh United are allied together in the One Hill CBA coalition, this is surprising.

Dr. Kimberly Ellis tells us that she, the Rev. Johnny Monroe, and Marimba Milliones were all recently expelled from the One Hill CBA coalition.

Another great fat data point on this wheel can be found here:

Vocal casino opponents accused of shilling for union (Justin Vellucci, TRIB)

"That's the only thing that was articulated to us, as what they knew they wanted to do," said Joseph R. Lawrence, president of the Leadership Conference. "If it weren't for the need for the union portion of the deal, there really wouldn't be any issues here."


"One of the ways to make sure that casino jobs are decent jobs is to have Mr. Barden say, 'If people want to have a union, it's their choice and I won't interfere,' " said Tom Hoffman, Pittsburgh United's executive director and a former Service Employees International Union employee. "There's no other way to guarantee the jobs will be good jobs."

That is fair to say, Tom. Yet what we don't understand is, once the casino is operating and a workforce is established, it has a normal right to organize. Why not just arrange for open union elections at that point? You should be organizing in advance of that happy occasion.

Why must unionization under SEIU and UNITE-HERE be "baked in" to the development process?

Why shouldn't these communities use what little bargaining power they have entirely for a favorable master plan, economic development funds, and other community initiatives?


Oh yeah, we said four meetings tomorrow. The City of Pittsburgh and its Police Department are putting on its own meeting on public safety, and presumably civic engagement.

This is wonderful, and anybody who accuses them of scheduling against these other meetings is being ridiculous.

However, we expect that over the coming weeks and months, Mayor Ravenstahl gets active in sitting down with these warring parties on the North Side and in the Hill District, and getting them to agree on a few things. These developments are too big and important to "let the chips fall where they may."

It is a leader's job to harness resident's concerns in an effective but realistic way. Not to sit idly by and shrug.

Who are you looking out for, Luke Ravenstahl?


  1. Another data point: we are being told by Dr. Ellis that Ronnell Guy (sp?), a senior board member of Pittsburgh United, has resigned. No telling over what sorts of issues exactly.

  2. After reading numerous of your postings in regards to Pittsburgh United, I have to wonder who your sources are. Because you frequently refuse to cite them, I am left to believe you have a very active imagination. When you make such negative statements about an organization, is it not good journalism (which I realize you are not a real journalist and therefore have no real accountability to anyone but yourself), to allow for un-biased reporting (ie: getting both sides of a story)? You do not credit who it was that informed you of Kimberly Ellis' attempts to get a Pittsburgh United member or staffer to appear that the CBA discussion. You also do not credit your source on her "expulsion" from the organization. I am left to believe your only source for most of your posts are the same woman, Kimberly Ellis. While I do believe her to be someone you should be asking questions for about these postings, I am concerned at the lack of balanced sources. It seems as if your blog is just a way for Kimberly Ellis' views on the CBA and Pittsburgh United to be funneled. I am no way trying to negatively reflect on Kimberly Ellis or her views as I believe these are your actions, not hers; I only mention her role because of the frequency at which you quote her. Also... quoting the Trib as a good source of data? That will do wonders for your credibility! And another also... I do not understand your opposition to pre-emptive union organizing. Are good, union jobs for casino employees not part of the "community initiatives" you suggest? Are they not beneficial for "economic development" (good wages and a stable job encourages home ownership, likely resulting in more home ownership on the North Side) which you also suggest?

    Basically: diversify your sources and credit the statements you make. Without crediting your sources, you are printing undocumented accusations, which is why actual newspapers do not print such things without proof. By printing one side's accusations without first obtaining proof or a balanced account from the other side, you could damage the reputation of all parties involved, including yourself.

  3. OK. Great.

    I was not hiding the information that my source was Kimberly Ellis. I thought that was clear. However, I have now added that data to make my sourcing explicit. Thanks for the input.

    In the past, I would meticulously fact check information that I got from Ellis with "the other side" from Pittsburgh United. It always turned out she was correct; usually it was only after I had to press Pittsburgh United for specifics.

    So now she is a trusted source. When I can not get a straight answer fast enough out of Pittsburgh United, I go with her information and report it as such. If she is wrong about anything she tells us, please let us know through the comments and otherwise.

    Of course your comment was anonymous. I wonder if Pittsburgh United denies that the members were expelled from One Hill? I wonder if they dispute any other fact in my post?

    As to my objection to pre-emptive unionizing; I only object to it as it relates to appropriating and manipulating the specific outrage of specific neighborhoods, in a less-than-ideal fashion.

  4. Bram, you missed the fifth meeting -- Pitt plays Navy at Heinz Field. A fly-over is expected, as well as a giant USA flag. The Pitt Band rocks!

    I think the hitting will be harder in the other four meetings you mentioned than between the lines at Heinz Field (cheap shot).

  5. You are, of course, ignoring several key facts:

    First, and most importantly, the so-called "critical analysis" is far from an academic forum. The Africana Studies department itself was uncertain whether any original research would be presented. The closest they come to being intellectual is the fact that it is "undergirded by the groundbreaking research on racial disparities in the City of Pittsburgh, by the Center for the Study of Race and Social Problems." A critical analysis would seem to be code here for a one-sided, biased forum in the vein of everyone's favorite president.

    I even asked that if papers were to hypothetically be presented, would they be made available to the public, perhaps on a website. The response was that I had a good idea that I should "maybe" bring it up at the meeting. This is common practice at academic forums. Kim Ellis is merely using the Africana Studies department to lend credit to the diatribe she and her stacked panel will offer against One Hill and especially Pittsburgh United.

    Second, did you even speak to the people at Pittsburgh United about these allegations? Dr. Goddess is a self-aggrandizing celebrity organizer. In her blog, she tries to take credit for the casino not being on the Hill - which she is not even from originally - and takes a condescending tone towards her readers. Last I checked, Bram, shameless self-promoters are usually not the most reliable sources. At the last public meeting at the Mellon Arena, she even showed up with a sign saying "Raise your hands no games" and underneath "No casino on the Hill!" The only purpose this embarrassingly outdated sign would seem to serve is to attract attention to her.

    You seem to be guilty less of using a reliable source and more of providing a stage for a narcissist. That's not to mention crass punditry. My advice to you: don't listen to egomaniacs and find better sources.

  6. Bram, you have One Hill's comment on why the voting privileges were revoked. Why leave the accusation out there without the explanation? They, along with anyone else, are always welcome to attend any One Hill meeting, as they are open to the public. But since the individuals you mentioned violated the terms of the agreement they signed they have lost voting rights. Seems simple enough.

  7. Bram, Please provide a direct quote from One Hill as to why these folks were expelled. This is so interesting!

  8. Ok, now I'm totally confused. The invitation to the Oct 10th event that I receieved has that Pittsburgh United and One Hill were invited. Were they or weren't they invited? Do you know, Bram? It seems to me that if they weren't, Ellis is wrong and may be trying to stack the deck. But if they were invited and declined they have nothing to stand on and could be trying to hide something. Right?

  9. Jen:

    Here is the statement I received from you at 7:30 or so, after I published the post at 4:00:

    "Every organization that joined ONE HILL signed an agreement that they would not negotiate for community benefits apart from the group, either alone or with another group. Some members are in violation of our collective agreement and they no longer have membership privileges."

    Duly noted. May note it again in the future.

    We do wonder why make them sign that agreement? What about freedom of association?

    Anonymous of 10:56:

    Everyone is self-aggrandizing. You think the other personalities in this aren't self-aggrandizing? That much is a given.

    The point is, is Dr. Ellis WRONG about any of her claims? If Pittsburgh United finds anything factually incorrect in this account, they certainly are well aware of this post and can provide comments.

    As to the "critical analysis" -- by my reasoning, two spots on the panel were made available to Pittsburgh United and One Hill reps (and yes, Gary_Moore2, I have a litany of emails sent to these officials), as well as the open invitation to the general public to fill the audience to the best of their capabilities. This is about as far from a "stacked deck" as can be.

    In our humble opinion, Pgh United should be taking Ellis's objections seriously and countering them with reason, instead of painting her as a crazy narcissist and thereby shutting down discussion.

  10. One of the nice thing about open source efforts is the ability for others to fill in what is missing.

    When something is left hanging -- don't just be critical of it. Tell all. Spill the beans. Then, advance the discussion. Close the gaps of knowledge and insight.

    The dumb in this world are going to concentrate on discussions about "WHO" -- while the smarter way to go is to talk about 'how' and 'why.'

    Life on 'the hill' seems to be often about 'who' and 'what org' -- and I hope it can be more about priorities, why and how questions / answers.

  11. "good point mark. So that makes me want to know what kim ellis wants One Hill to negotiate for that they aren't?"

  12. why did my request for attribution not show up?

  13. I will try again.

    Please be more rigorous in applying appropriate attribution to comments or information that I give you. The written statement regarding the revoking of membership privileges of several members of ONE HILL is not MY statement, nor is it from Pittsburgh UNITED, but should be attributed to Carl Redwood, Chair of the ONE HILL CBA Coalition.

    Sometimes it takes Pittsburgh UNITED a minute to get back to you because I don't just spin an answer to your questions. I find the appropriate spokesperson for which ever group you need a comment from, be it ONE HILL, Pittsburgh UNITED or Northside UNITED and ask them to provide an answer or information. This can take a minute as sometimes the group has to go through a process of coming to consensus around an answer. Everyone is committed to the Democratic process which can be slow and as Carl stated, Messy. But we operate in good faith to get you information that best represents the consensus of the group/s or community.

  14. "Every organization that joined ONE HILL signed an agreement that they would not negotiate for community benefits apart from the group, either alone or with another group. Some members are in violation of our collective agreement and they no longer have membership privileges."

    You did say tell me that statement attributable to Carl Redwood of One Hill, not to yourself or simply Pittsburgh United. Good that you made me make that clear.

  15. Whoa.

    So much to say, so little time.

    First, let me just say to all of you that if you have any questions, comments or concerns about me, you should feel free to contact me. It's a bit unsettling to see someone write so much about me, after visiting my blog and, yet, never leaving a comment or asking ME questions about ME, MY LIFE and MY decision-making process.

    For the record, both Pittsburgh United and One Hill were repeatedly invited to this critical analysis (as were others). You may put it in quotes if you so choose but with a full discussion of *first-hand accounts* of people sharing their lived experiences from varied, multifaceted and even opposing perspectives, the panel has the potential of being extraordinarily enlightening for all parties involved. If you don't agree with my philosophies on the role of the academy, the need for critical reflection, space for free and open discussion---that's your bag, not mine. The vision that I had would have elevated us all and this will still happen, even with the refusals of One Hill and Pittsburgh United to participate. We'll see what happens from this point forward.

    Dr. Goddess

  16. As for the casino victory, I stand WITH my community members and persons from all across the City of Pittsburgh, the State of PA and all across the country to help bring about that victory. We played a *part* in that victory and it was wonderful. Everybody who knows even an inkling about the "Raise Your Hand! No Casino on the Hill" Campaign has long ago known that; but what you might not know is that I do not take credit for this victory alone. And never have. I see you just skipped right over my mentioning of Bruce Barron and No Dice. But I am allowed to share in this victory, especially after I engaged in all of that hard, exhausting and relentless work, thankyouverymuch. I suppose no good deed goes unpunished.

    Why did I bring the "Raise Your Hand! No Games" sign to the Pens meeting? Because it was the last public meeting before the City Planning hearings that the Pens were going to see. In case you were unaware, Raise Your Hand! No Games (the largest part of the entire sign) was, at the time, anyway, a member of the One Hill coalition. Many people have also observed the keen similarity between the Raise Your Hand! logo and the One Hill logo. Nevertheless, my message is for the Pens. I felt that they needed a reminder as to what kind of public shame they were going to face if they reneged on their responsibilities and did not live up to the CBA process. They are well aware of the power of the RYH campaign, even if you're not. That you might think it's shameful and embarrassingly outdated shows how shortsighted you must be. Further, I put my sign DOWN and I am also the only person to call David Morehouse to task and bring him BACK to the center of the room to discuss next steps, after they dispersed us into groups and bid us adieu. I found that unacceptable and changed the agenda, right then and there. I guess you never got that memo, eh?

    Dr. Goddess

  17. As for my expulsion and the expulsion of Marimba Milliones, Rev. Johnnie Monroe, Rev. Lee Walls, Nikki Hines-Monroe, Momar Milliones and our subsequent groups from One Hill, it is laughable---at best. And I did, indeed, laugh. One Hill cannot really tell you who negotiated with whom, at what point or how. Our summary dismissal is consistent with the slipshod manner in which some of our most contentious issues have been handled. One Hill provided no case, no proof, allowed no testimony and announced that these persons had violated the agreement and been expelled in an extremely unprofessional, unfair and dictatorial manner. After I made a brief statement that they were wrong (before I was cut off, once again), I was told to "bring it to the Executive Committee" but it's the Executive Committee that made this decision before any real inquiry or assessment. The sad part is, it's so typical for One Hill that this would be allowed to happen, there has been no fanfare about it. For the record---I was not negotiating outside of the group, nor were many of the ones ousted. But you can feel free to ask me where my Raise Your Hand! plank disappeared to---the one that would make sure no casino would be put in ANYone's neighborhood in the City of Pittsburgh, ever again. You will learn that this is not the real reason why we were removed from One Hill. It's called censorship and revenge.

    Finally, if this issue were not so important to my neighborhood and at such a pivotal moment in history, I could walk away from this situation with passing commentary on Pittsburgh United, One Hill, etc. But since I cannot, I would appreciate it if you all would consider that I might just be sincere in my efforts and recognize that something has gone wrong here. If I wanted to stack the deck on any one group, I am an organizer and could have done that a long time ago right here in the Hill. Trust me, there are *plenty* of disgruntled One Hill members and for varying reasons and on varying sides. I wanted a BETTER discussion, a CLEARER discussion, a LONGER discussion and a more HONEST and ROBUST discussion and debate that can only be brought about by people being willing to actually engage in it.

    Dr. Goddess

  18. Some of you have curiously twisted the phrase "critical analysis and discussion" into the production of scholarly journals, paper presentations and the like. This is not an academic conference and, in case you've not been to one in a while (I have), there are varying ways to present information and analyses to the public. This is a public discussion about a communal, local, regional, statewide and growing, national movement. What makes you think that someone's reflective, first hand account about their lived experiences is not enough? Do you think Khari or Jennifer (speaking of white girls representing Black communities and speaking, erroneously, for them) could reflect upon their positions and what has happened thus far? Do you think representatives of organizations can do this? You should give yourselves more credit.

    Dr. Goddess

  19. A critical analysis within an academic space is a beautiful, beautiful thing and I stand by it 100%; but I cannot force panelists to come if they don't want to participate. All I can do is invite you, provide an unbiased, fair-minded and clear headed moderator with tons of experience and credibility (Erv Dyer), make sure everyone has equal, uninterrupted presentation time and then open the floor to questions and answers from the audience.

    Dr. Goddess

  20. If Pittsburgh United and One Hill have nothing to hide, then stand in the light of open debate and free discussion. I have written criticisms of all of these processes and were I not in it from the beginning of January (just off of the cusp of the Dec. 20th casino announcement), I would be far less clear about what has happened; but I am very clear.

    By the way, I grew up in the Hill since I was five years old, Jack, and if that is not being "from" the Hill then tell me what is?

    Now, if you think that is condescending, oh well. I really don't give a damn. Say what you will about me but make sure it's accurate---that's all I can ask---and don't try to mischaracterize my work, especially if you have not DONE the work I have done.

    As Public Enemy sang, "I have a right to be hostile. My people are bleeding!"

    See you tonight (maybe)! ;-)

    Dr. Goddess

  21. You lost me at Public Enemy.

    By the way, anyone having trouble leaving comments on the site, try using Firefox.

  22. I had one (maybe it was two, not sure)disappear and I am using fire fox. note my comment "what happened to my comment about attribution")

  23. I have never yet deleted anyone's comments in this thread, or in any thread related to Community Benefits Agreement issues.

    Jennifer, I addressed your "why did my request for attribution?" comment already above. You made that request to me via e-mail.

    I suggested Firefox because someone at the address bramisanass@gmail.com is sending me email accusing me of censorship and deleting comments. If that's the level that some segments of the community benefits movement are sinking to -- fine. Bad choice, is all.

  24. Another possible explanation. Longer comments sometimes are not accepted. Try cutting and pasting into several smaller comments. It worked for Dr. Ellis. Then again, she's craaaaaazy.

  25. I never once claimed to be associated with any side or segment of any of the community groups or organizations involved with the CBA process. I am not involved with any of those groups. My opinions related to the manner of your postings of one sided opinions and facts, not out of any preference for or against Pgh United.

    My issue is not with your or Ms. Ellis' views on Pgh United. My issue is with the frequency you present only one side (which is most definitely a side that should be presented) and call it fact. That is the issue. The issue would be the same if you only presented the side of Pgh United.

  26. Let me guess ... are you Pierre4Pittsburgh?

    Seriously, though. Okay. Because of you, we promise to write nice things about the Pgh United meeting in Manchester last night. Which we plan to. It was a good discussion.

  27. Am I not being clear????? ALL I am saying is that if you are presenting a post as fact, you should be clear about presenting both sides, or else clarify that one side is missing. I AM NOT saying that you should spin positively for either side. I think both sides should be represented in anything that addresses the CBA issue. If you were glorifying Pgh United without mentioning that there were other community members with their own methods (such as the ministers), then I would have the same issue.

    And I am not talking about separate posts to give each side an equal amount of mention, but if you make negative comments about events or decisions you were not present for (I can only assume you were not present for anyone's "expulsion", if I am wrong, then I apologize), then you need to mention both sides' views on such a matter. And if you don't have both sides' views, you need to say that.

    Again. For clarity. My issue is when you post one side of a story and present it as fact. PERIOD!

    Why you assume this means I must be affiliated with Pgh United is absurd! Maybe I'm just someone interested in journalistic integrity.

    And I have no idea who Pierre4Pittsburgh is.

  28. "Again. For clarity. My issue is when you post one side of a story and present it as fact. PERIOD!"

    You still haven't corrected anything factual in my story.

    You haven't even addressed my mild criticism of Pgh United's defense of itself in the Trib. Pgh United did, tonight, which is what I implied I'd get to in good time.

    And don't even give me this "OMG, you're reporting AND your giving us your opinion! WITCHCRAFT!" Anyone who can't distinguish between the two can't be helped.

  29. I am not your editor. I am not your teacher. I do not have the time to make calls or send emails to Pgh United just because you continue to freely intermingle your opinions with facts. Because you continue to present only one side of such a complex situation, it suggests that you are nothing more than an easily manipulated pawn with a mouth. Again, this opinion of mine is based solely on reading your posts. (see how I use that statement to both remind you that it is an opinion and to explain how I formed that opinion?)

    Why would I address your mild criticism? Why is it so hard for you to understand what it is I am saying? I DO NOT care about what opinions you may have for Pgh United. I care when you disguise opinion as fact. Is this clear yet? Seriously, I have no idea how to make this more clear without just writing it Bart Simpson style on a chalkboard and mailing it to you (which won't happen as I don't know where you live and I have no desire to buy a gigantic chalkboard just because you refuse to accept criticism)

    It is not your reader's responsibility to sort through your posts and decipher what is fact and what is a well worded opinion disguised as fact.

    And... as I said in one of my magically non-appearing posts, I understand that you are not a journalist, and therefore have no reason to be accountable to fact. However, I just like to pester deceptive bloggers when I find I have enough time to do so, or when it appears its necessary.

  30. "It is not your reader's responsibility to sort through your posts and decipher what is fact and what is a well worded opinion disguised as fact."

    It so is. Only we do not "disguise" anything. For example, when we called the walkout of the NSLC meeting "pathetic," you should have picked up the switch from reporting to editorial.

    "However, I just like to pester deceptive bloggers when I find I have enough time to do so, or when it appears its necessary."

    Quick! Get thee to corner.nationalreview.com. The world needs you!