Saturday, March 17, 2007

Civic Duty on YouTube

Our good friend Dan double-the-Man went to Civic Duty, the political discussion event we threw at the Shadow Lounge in East Libery about a month ago. He made a list of notes, to provide us with quality feeback.

Somewhere on Dan's list appeared item, "Take yourself out of it."

Lo and behold, the Pittsburgh League of Young Voters did just that! So we present you with the YouTube video library, Civic Duty: Eight Clips of Nish.

Our personal favorite is The Political Machine, for the audience question, and for the response from Mayor Fetterman.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Midnight: Overview

1. Since when did bar owners become such a powerful lobby? First there was the smoking ban, then cost-recovery, and now the new Penguins arena. The "small, vocal minority" was all over television throughout the drama.

2. Cmdr. RaShall Brackney is black, and heads the local and national chapters of the National Org. of Black Women in Law Enforcement. (Christian Morrow, Courier)

3. We were halfway through our Jack Kelly countercolumn when we heard Bob Pompeani -- who we are told wears goofy shorts behind the anchor desk -- start announcing the new arena deal. Bottom line: the worst thing about Ann Coulter is that she makes dangerous propagandists like Jack Kelly seem responsible by comparison.

4. The Ravenstahl advertisement on finances says we have turned the corner, and are moving in the right direction. Does the arena deal move us in the right direction? Or does it move us ... backward? Michael? Mike? Dougie? Tone? LaMon?

5. The Ravenstahl advertisement on finances assures us that the state of Pennyslvania will take care of our pensions mega-crisis. Does the arena deal help or hinder this process, not only politically but financially?

6. Is Bill Peduto serious or not? WOAH!! ...

... !

Where'd that come from?

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Our New Arena: Did We Get Hosed?

The Trib editorial board takes a very dim view of the deal we just struck with the Penguins, not to mention Trib cartoonist Randy Bish.

Although the P-G's editorial is amiable, its blog Early Returns warns that the "losers" in the deal may not be readily apparent, and credit the "masterful skills of the Pens' public relations team":

Crucially, they created the presumption that the hockey facility should have first claim on gambling revenues. The public bought it without any debate on whether there should be other claimants to the cash the casino operators were willing to throw off to get a license. Potential contenders such as tax cuts, health care, the city's crushing debt never got a hearing.

The Angry Drunk Bureaucrat asks some sobering questions:

1) Is Mario's purchase of the former St. Francis Hospital included in the Pen's "credit" even though it is a sunk cost?
2) How are the "development rights" for the Mellon Arena Site to be handled?
3) Are these municipal bonds? State bonds? SEA bonds? If it is the first or last, is it fair to say that "no local money" is being used if it eats into the City's debt
4) How is the Arena going to support itself over the long run?
5) Where will the cost overrun money come from, really?
6) Is this a wise use of taxpayer ("local" being irrelevant to the conversation) money?
7) What, exactly, do you have to have as an existence value to get the NPV of the project to be positive? A zillion-bagillion dollars?

The Trib's Andrew Conte appears to answer a few of these; we await some learned analysis. Conte also throws cold water all over the fantasy of re-extending Wylie Avenue, and adapting the outer husk of the Civic Arena to some kind of public use.

Finally, a little birdie tells the Comet that the city may have violated its own laws about how and when it can award permits for demolition and construction, by granting these for the new Penguins facility without holding the requisite public comment period. If true, taking this "shortcut" would almost exactly replicate the mistakes made by bringing hockey to the Hill District in the first place.

That Mayor Really Is Busy!!

What do you do if you go to a Ravenstahl shindig, and the Mayor fails to show up? Why, seek out and talk to the hair apparent, Corey O'Connor!

O'Connor spoke to the Comet about a youthful mayor's unique ability to bring the concerns of young people to the table, so we had to push back a little. For example?

O'Connor cited a project in the works to improve transportation options for Duquesne, Carnegie Mellon and University of Pittsburgh students, to help them get around the city. We believe this is set up to be a cooperative endeavor including the universities themselves, and some private organizations. Yes, we used to call this "public transportation," but that ship has sai... is sailing.

He also cited some development possibilities along barren stretches of the 2nd Avenue corridor as another example of youth-oriented policy.

O'Connor confirmed his intentions to run for City Council in district 5, in the event that twin victories by Doug Shields necessitate a special election. Should that situation fail to arise, he's leaning toward pursuing his Masters in education. He is quite sheepish about what WQED Multimedia did for him in January.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Not To Be Outdone ...

An organization called Art From Chaos designed this poster. It had been displayed on the page of another organization, called Artists for Peduto, although they seem to have taken it down within the last 24 hours. H/T Gab Bonesso.


- Speaks directly to Peduto's main perceived strategic disadvantage

- Oddly persuasive


- Irony is lost on most Pittsburghers

There's a bumper sticker lurking within this poster, and Team Peduto could really use a bumper sticker.

I Like Luke: The Internet Campaign

Four (4) Luke Ravenstahl campaign spots have been released on YouTube. The ads were plainly ordered up by the official campaign; the production values are through the roof, and the messaging is strategically on-target. Ravenstahl himself appears stronger than we've ever seen him, and the local news will describe the ads as "long, detailed, and policy-oriented."

Why I'm Running For Mayor

Clean and Safe Streets

Financially Sound Pittsburgh

Jobs and Economic Development

The most interesting, in our opinion, is "Financially Sound Pittsburgh." First he offers good news on the budget -- we're turning the corner, and we have a surplus, or "rainy day fund" -- because he's been able to make tough choices.

Since it's hard for a lay-citizen to evaluate such claims, it would be nice if some candidates for Controller would chime in, seeing as how they all agree it is their job to "translate" the city budget into plain English for the constituents.

The words "No New Taxes" float across the screen, and Ravenstahl touts his lowering of the parking tax, the business privilege tax, and the amusement tax on non-profits. He delivers a sermon on the evils of taxation that would make President Bush proud.

This Week is Going to be Huge

The quality of Ravenstahl-friendly commenting has increased dramatically in the last few days, at least on the Burgh Report.

This from "Shootout":

Where does this leave Peduto? Should he congratulate Ravenstahl for getting the deal done? I think it's the least he should do - Peduto did want the Pens to stay, and he did want to mediate the negotiations, so it's done and he should be happy.

Congratulations would be right out. The entirety of the last newscycle was about how Ravenstahl can not be expected to play a significant role in negotiations, due to the financial breakdown of the deal. If anything, Peduto should congratulate Rendell ... and be happy. (UPDATE: Or maybe not. See our more recent post.)

These from "Comparison," days ago:

Let's see - Luke is sitting at the table negotiating a complete funding and lease package with a governor, billionaire, chief executive and hockey superstar. Peduto was sitting at a desk working on lease agreements 8 yrs ago while the stadium deal was negotiated and finalized by govt leaders and power players. After this deal is done, Luke will have far more experience, expertise and contacts, than Peduto can ever hope for.

Anon - I'm just saying. Luke is at the table getting that experience. Peduto is not. Those are the facts. Luke came into this green. He'll leave a veteran. Peduto can only watch from the sidelines. Will Peduto ever get a chance to do something similar? Who knows.

Exactly, Luke will have participated. Peduto will not. Nope, these deals are not complex, financially that is. These deals are complex politically. Sorry, Peduto doesn't have that experience, and he certainly has not been there and done that. This is a unique deal. The real question for Rendell/Onorato/Ravenstahl is how much of the public's money/land should they put in play. That takes political saavy, and these officials that understand that. Unfortunately, Peduto would probably not.

This is more interesting. However, it begs the question of what is most important in a mayor -- wheeler-dealer political skills, or long-term strategic vision, and the courage to push for politically strong medicine.

Monday, March 12, 2007


KDKA seems to have broken it. We are listening to Bob Pompeani. The arena deal is worth slightly more than the $290M first discussed. The Penguins will contribute $4M annually, plus half a mill for a new parking garage.

Wednesday's meeting is still on, if only to tie up loose ends. Hopefully won't chime in to spoil the party. Major league hockey stays in Pittsburgh for the forseeable future.

Rich Lord on Minority Cops, Firefighters

96% of Pittsburgh police recruits and second- and third-year police officers are white. 91% of fire department recruits are white. The city's total white population stands at 67%.

The P-G's Rich Lord asks around:

"Having a graduating class [of new firefighters] this past fall in which one out of 36 graduates is a minority is an embarrassment," said Mr. Peduto.

True to form, Peduto has a "five-point plan," which includes substituting military service for college credit, in terms of employment prerequisites.

"It's an issue that we want to address, and quite honestly are looking at ways perhaps other cities may have better representation of minorities in their [police and] fire bureaus," Mr. Ravenstahl said.

"So we'll look at ways, for example, that we can perhaps do the testing differently, or look at ways to provide opportunity. Because it is alarming, for example, when you have fire classes of 30 or 40 individuals and only one or two are minorities."

True to form, Ravenstahl seems to want to take his time.

See also this Burgh Report clip of Ravenstahl speaking to the issue at a community Q&A session. Yes, even though it's on YouTube, the clip is full, fair, and in-context -- even if the title of the post is a little amped-up.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Monday Morning Housekeeping

NEW BLOGROLL HEADING: The Man Blogs. The Pittsburgh League of Young Voters will be stunned to find itself lumped in with "The Man." The Allegheny Institute ... perhaps less so. Yet this is a section for "organizational" blogs of all kinds. Be sure to check out the many eclectic Pittsburgh Symphony blogs.

CORRECTION: When you get into a pie-fight with Mark Rauterkus, be ready for a faceful of cherry-lemon meringue and custard.

We had erroneously credited Bill Peduto as Pittsburgh's first blogging mayoral candidate, and then the first blogging "major party" mayoral candidate. Although Rauterkus is now synonymous with the regional Libertarian Party, he ran -- and blogged -- as a Republican in 2001. When he lost the GOP endorsement to James Carmine, the Carlow College doctor and professor, he joined up as Carmine's webmaster. The Comet regrets both the error, and the delay in correction.

ESOTERA: Post-Gazette columnist Brian O'Neill writes a hell of a piece on the cost recovery imbroglio ... eventually. After some throat-clearing. But we understand. All hail Ram-Man, spring-loaded warrior!