Monday, December 17, 2007

The Mayor's Position on The Hill

The P-G and Rich Lord tell us just about everything we did not know or care to speculate upon concerning the mayor's neighborhood gathering.

The Hill District should get a grocery store, a community center and jobs as part of the new arena deal, but not a development fund to spend as residents see fit, said Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl yesterday.

His comments during and after the taping of "KD/PG Sunday Edition" mirrored the position Penguins' representatives outlined Tuesday, after some 50 Hill residents and advocates packed a city planning commission hearing on the arena.

Mirrored the position. Check.

Scroll down to the bottom of this very long post for a link to the KD/PG footage.

We will now examine everything Mayor Ravenstahl says he supports in the Hill District.


One is that he supports the master plan.

Since the master plan was conceived, designed, and presented to the Planning Commission by the Pittsburgh Penguins organization, it is easy to suggest that he is not going above and beyond on this one.

Two is that he supports a Resource Center, with information about job opportunities and community resources that are available.

So there will be a place to pick up pamphlets. It would be nice if there were some computers and maybe some computer literacy classes -- but at the end of the day, this sounds like an underwhelming concept in terms of rejuvenating a whole community.

Third is the "concept" of a grocery store. What kind of a grinch do you have to be to oppose the very concept of a grocery store in a neighborhood?

Fourth is the YMCA -- presumably a different YMCA than the one planned for UPMC Tower -- and it seems to be contingent upon outside funding.

Fifth is some talk about "the block on Center Avenue" that seems contingent upon going back to Harrisburg for more cash.

In conclusion, the mayor says he opposes investment in any organizations or projects that emanate from the Hill District itself. Everything else has been or will be worked out amongst major developers.

Ravenstahl then gestures to Marimba Milliones, mentioning her by first name, and cites her as an example of someone whose initiative is unworthy of consideration for public funding related to this project.


Suddenly, Ravenstahl veers into the Pittsburgh Promise, now a mechanism to aid minority neighborhoods.

The Pittsburgh Promise was conceived of in some measure to generate political capital for both Mayor Ravenstahl and for UPMC, given some of the negative chatter that is out there about the both of them.

We all knew the Pittsburgh Promise would be used as a shield -- just not this reflexively.


We need to define some terms.

A community benefits agreement is an agreement between a developer and a community. When Milliones questions Ravenstahl on "joint sign off," we presume that a CBA does not become a CBA until agreement is reached ... hence the "A", and hence "joint" sign-off.

The "CBA" that Ravenstahl is willing to sign appears to be just what he discussed -- the Pens' version of a master plan, the resource center, the grocery store, the YMCA and/or the block on Center Avenue -- complete with all the verbiage about "concepts" and "contingent upons".

More terminology.

The Comet will hereafter define the Hill District coalition as that coalition presently taking shape among Hill District leaders -- self-appointed and otherwise (are there any other kind?).

The major constituent elements of the Hill District coalition are the One Hill CBA Coalition, the Hill District Ministers, and the Hill CDC.

There are many other organizations, and the relations amongst them are confusing. But those three units are the important independent units. There are also individuals.

One individual is Tonya Payne -- City Councilwoman, ACDC Ward Chair and URA Board Member. She vowed once at a contentious meeting of the URA in June to support only the One Hill CBA Coalition.

Another example of an individual is Dr. Kimberly Ellis, AKA Dr. Goddess, AKA The Ministers' Imp.


I do not support any funding going to any organizations in the Hill District, whether that's a CDC, whether that's a creative organization -- I don't support that. I think the government infrastructure on all those initiatives that we talked about should be the mechanism.

If the government infrastructure was all it was ever cracked up to be, we would not be having this discussion.

Read Luke's examples. He does not support funding to a CDC, or to a "creative organization." Marimba Milliones, of the Granada Theater and of the arts movement and of the Hill Community Development Corporation, is again being called out.

The One Hill CBA Coalition has Tonya Payne, and it also has Big Labor. So it has many friends.

The Hill District Ministers have each other, and their imp.

The Hill CDC is relatively isolated. While Marimba's great concern on that day was getting in on the Master Plan that will guide the whole process, she is better known for arts and culture initiatives.

Not so high a priority for some.

By singling out Milliones, suggesting she requested "cash payments", Mayor Ravenstahl seems to be villifying the whole idea of community members requesting support for their own initiatives and organizations ... even though a portion of the public subsidy et cetera was earmarked for economic and community development.

He is also stirring up trouble within the coalition.


You mean --
to do the master plan? I'm sure you could, but I don't know that you'd be -- usually they're done by engineering firms and professionals that -- sure you could submit it, I don't know that you'd be selected.

That part speaks for itself.

KD/PG Sunday Edition Part I: Reflections, Public Safety Vehicles, Casino Groundbreaking

KD/PG Sunday Edition Part II
: The Pittsburgh Promise, the Hill District and the New Arena


  1. How bad does your neighborhood have to be that you can't get anyone to open a grocery store there (even if the city agrees to bribe a grocery store owner to open one)??

    Maybe the Hill District Coalition needs to look at its own residents as the problem instead of the mayor/government not just willing to hand over money blindly.

  2. It is time to plan the protest so as to rain on Luke's parade on Dec 20.

    The Pittsburgh Promise is now seemingly getting a tax credit tied to UPMC's gift. Go figure.

    Weirness has never been more weird.

  3. Can't wait to come home for winter break so I can be back on the inside of the madness instead of just observing from afar ;)

    If Luke isn't interested in giving money "blindly", wouldn't that be incentive to work with these programs and groups more closely to find the best way possible to allocate these resources?

  4. So the Mayor is going the paternalism route: you can have what government says you can have, because you are not capable of making wise choices for your community.

    First the Pens are put in the drivers seat of the CBA, then UPMC might get away with contributing no PILOT. Five weeks after the election, It's *good* to have played golf with the Mayor in the summer.

    But as the Mayor told the Ethics Board, there was no "quid pro quo".

  5. Mark, yes, let's do it. You organize your people and we'll organize ours. It's time to support everybody in this process. Make it rain.

  6. TrolleyRider,

    Thanks so much for your thinly veiled racist comments. You're right, we should look at the residents to determine why we can't get a grocery store. Our neighborhood is 'bad' because the city displaced hundreds upon hundreds of residents from the Hill out of public housing and did not provide the 1:1 placement they claimed they would. Our neighborhood is 'bad' because many of those families have not been able to come back yet. And because of the population decrease, store owners pretend that we don't have the numbers to sustain a grocery store. But we have the numbers to sustain Southside's grocery store. LOL.

    Try learning a bit of history before you go spouting off at the mouth and revealing your ignorance.

    Blind, my behind.