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!"

Trading Spaces

PittGirl ate some bad mushrooms, and thought she was writing for the Comet.

The results are phantastic. Although there are a few countervailing arguments she failed to address, her insights toward the conclusion spot-on.

UPDATE: She totally missed this: being the "applicant" gives you credit.

All of a sudden we feel the urge to paint our toes and walk to work in open-toed heels.

UPDATE III: When considered alongside other news, taking credit seems to be a real theme today...

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Ravenstahl: Pawn for 2008?

Do you remember the press corps descending upon Mayor Ravenstahl when it was revealed he really did take that midnight flight with Penguins owner Ron Burkle?

All six minutes of it have been posted on the PittsburghTrib Youtube Channel. It is one of 23 videos, and among only two concerned with local politics.

The video has been labeled with the following search "tags":

Pittsburgh Trib ravenstahl Peduto Clinton Hillary hillaryclinton billclinton burke lukeravenstahl 2007 luke

The DeSantis Pension Plan

Mr. Ravenstahl called his opponent's plan "baffling" and said it would drain money from essential city services, such as police and fire protection. (P-G, Timothy McNulty)

We'll get to police and fire protection shortly ... but baffling, this is not.

If you would have told me a week ago that the DeSantis plan for pension debt would be so simple a duck could understand it -- I wouldn't have believed you.

But there it is.

All the money we get from casinos ... goes directly into the pensions.

All the money we gather from nonprofits ... goes directly into the pensions.

If you still need help, here is some background. (Ideas Bucket)


There are a few easy objections we should dispense with quickly.

That casino money is going to save everything! What a crock!

State casino money has indeed been distributed a thousand times over -- but not city casino money. City casino money is being projected each year into the annual budget over several years, in order to make it look nice.

We don't know how much casino money there will be!

Do you think Pittsburgh is not going to gamble? Do you think Pittsburgh is not going to gamble? This is easy money. It is true we don't know the exact amount, so it should not be ... well ... budgetted.

We don't know how much we're getting from nonprofits, either!

True again. Lots of volatility out there.

However, and I tell you this with great confidence: UPMC and the gang will be made to pay something. We just don't know the mechanism yet. In the very worst-case scenario, they will re-up at the same rate with the Pittsburgh Service Fund for another three years. That's what, $14 million? Let's say $10 million. Let's say they have some lean years.

Our debt burden is huge! It is structural, do you hear me, structural! This solves nothing!

My man, you are on your game. However, it does two very useful things:

1) It is a solid, simple way to demonstrate to state officials our seriousness about exercising discipline. That is the kind of help we need.

2) It is the beginning of training ourselves to actually act with discipline. This will be helpful, down the road.


Mayor Ravenstahl more fully explains his objections:

It's really robbing Peter to pay Paul ... It's something you can certainly do, but at the same time you have to then reduce expenditures by $23 million, and I didn't hear that [in Mr. DeSantis' plan] today. To me that is fiscally irresponsible. (ibid.)

You're worried about $23 million?

Your budget gives us something like a $90 million surplus, right? We're turning the corner, we're moving in the right direction. I remember hearing something like that. This is a way to devote some of the budget surplus to Pittsburgh's future.

If you're saying $23 million would threaten the budget ... threaten police and fire protection, as you say ... then we're really in a heaping lot of trouble!

Aren't we?


Unintended consequences. The best laid plans of mice and men, gang aft agley.

What we need right now is to brainstorm for any and all possible negative unintended consequences of funneling gaming revenues and nonprofit PILOTs directly into the pension fund.

Think meteors, people. Think D-War.

The DeSantis Pension Plan is both so simple, and so politically viable, that if it is indeed a sound plan, we should be embracing it. All of us.

Showdowns Brewing

The womens groups are getting organized for the post-agenda session of council on the matter of recent promotions within the police department. (2PJs)


Any changes to Pittsburgh's rules of conduct "must not have the effect of restricting access by public officials to charitable events," Mayor Luke Ravenstahl wrote in a letter to the city's Ethics Hearing Board.

Other than that, they can do whatever they want. (Rich Lord, P-G)


A modest article posted to WTAE clarifies what happened yesterday.

"I think both groups have stressed the opportunity that is here and we agree: to not repeat what happened in the 1960s when Mellon Arena was built," said Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

Both groups.

"You are going to see a development plan well in excess of $10 million that includes private money, probably state money and some infrastructure money and that the development plan will be developed," said Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato. "We can't tell you the price, because there is not a master yet. The master plan will drive the development, and we don't have that yet."

Regardless of everything else, there should be unity of purpose around the need for Master Plan approval before the Penguins get to break ground.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

This Is Not Unimportant

Jeremy Boren, TRIB: DeSantis proposes pension reform

Timing of Master Plan at Issue

Hill District Ministers emerge from meeting with commitment to a Master Plan.

The story you will probably see is:

Dan Onorato wonders where the heck we got the idea of a $10 million demand. What's the big fuss over a number?

The meeting with the Hill District ministers was productive. If we have to negotiate with one organization or with two or three, who cares?


The major story:

The Rev. Johnny Monroe said that the City and the County agreed to develop a Master Plan for the whole area, with community involvement.

He was asked about statements made by SEA director Mary Conturo that there would be no master plan contemplated until the arena is built and occupied. (Trib, Pfister)

The Rev. Monroe did not appreciate the tone of the question, and told the reporter he was "trying to call somebody a liar."

Another minister chimed in to explain, "That's old news." Today's news, he said, is that a master plan will take place.

Yarone Zober, the mayor's chief of staff, confirmed to the Comet the city's commitment to a Master Plan.

He said that the lack of any real unified Master Plan is a big part of what has been holding back the Hill these many years.

We asked him about the timing of the process -- would the plan be approved before construction begins?

Zober said he did not personally have those answers yet. He did say something about there being no need to put hard and fast timetables into place.

We also spoke briefly with Marimba Milliones, an active business and community leader aligned with the group of Hill District ministers.

She confirmed to the Comet that the timing of the Master Planning process was "a major issue in the room."


The ministers and the community will hold a "celebration" on September 30 at 4:00, at the Central Baptist Church.

Wednesday Morning Data Points

The Incredible Jake Haulk finds common ground with Chelsa Wagner on transit funding -- at least to a point. He wants the "massive legacy costs" and "operating efficiency issues" of the Port Authority to get addressed. (Tribune Review)

County row office consolidation was supposed to help, right? (Mark Rauterkus)

Same blogger endorses David Adams for District 9. (Mark Rauterkus)

The P-G Ed Board hated on Luke for sassing the Ethics Board, and it is now hating on Luke for botching the Pittsburgh Promise:

The idea is still simmering, though. Mr. Roosevelt said that "very significant talks" were being held about getting the program funded. The consulting firm McKinsey & Co. is helping to define the details, and a couple of temporary employees of the district are devoting some of their time to it. That would seem to be the key to enlisting support for the plan.

Editorial Comment: That does not sound encouraging.


The Mark Belko P-G article and the Bonnie Pfister Trib article must both be set aside for intensive scrutiny. Here is a selection from the latter:

But Gamrat was skeptical that the Penguins will pay much attention to development beyond the arena walls.

"People tend to forget that the goal of an arena or stadium is to get people to spend as much money inside as possible -- not outside," he said.

Here is an even better one:

A master plan for the surrounding land will not be contemplated until the arena is built and occupied, Conturo said.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Breaking News

Diversity an Issue in the YDAC

The Young Democrats of Allegheny County held a meeting last Wednesday. It was to be the final meeting before an election of new officers on Sept. 19.

Breen Masciotra was heavily favored to unseat incumbent president Brian O'Malley.

However, Shawn Carter, the only African-American in the room, voiced some objections relating to diversity.

He urged the YDAC to postpone the election until October 24.


Carter laid out his argument once again in an open letter. Here are some selections:

I'm not here to judge the current or the past leadership of the Young Democrats, merely to make the argument that diversity is a goal worth pursuing...

All too often, as liberals, as progressives, as a group of people who want positive change, we are faced with scenarios where we are asked to "trust us, we'll invite you to the table later" and then people wonder why we don't trust them and question the motive.

I didn't ask for an indefinite postponement. In fact, I asked that the election only be delayed for the length of time it took to a.) reach out to other demographics, and to b.) set up a couple of events at venues more amenable to a broader cross-section of our demographic...

In that same meeting on Wednesday, I admitted my culpability in this having not happened sooner.

Carter forswore any intentions of standing for office himself.


Matthew Merriman-Preston, an active supporter of
Breen Masciotra's candidacy, responded to Carter's missive by circulating a letter of his own.

Preston explained his position to the Comet via internet chat:

Membership building is a long term venture

not something that can be done as an afterthought.

The lack of diversity is one of the biggest problems at the YDAC right now

but pushing elections back for a month with no real plan to increase diversity does not serve anyone.


For those readers who like to keep score:

Shawn Carter and Matthew Merriman-Preston worked together on Bill Peduto's 2005 mayoral campaign.

Carter went on to assist the Rev. Ricky Burgess in his successful bid for a city council nomination. He took a job in the office of State Sen. Jim Ferlo early this summer.

Preston went on to manage the victorious general election campaign of Chelsa Wagner for the State House. He later re-joined Councilman Peduto for the mayoral primary of 2007, and seemingly beyond.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Great Blog Posts

Are some of the things on there "artificial dates" and arbitrary deadlines? Sure. But anyone who's ever managed anything has learned pretty quickly that if you don't set deadlines, work doesn't get done.
... Alik Widge, on Metroblogging Pittsburgh, in Bob O'Connor's Vision

One of the pages lists the city’s debt, inclusive of Authorities, at one billion six. I do not believe that includes healthcare for current and retired employees.
... Ed Heath, on Cognitive Dissonance, in November's coming....

Taking a slightly different tack, students from the Engineering College suggested "nuking it from orbit," adding, "it was the only way to be sure."
... o, on The Angry Drunk Bureaucrat, in Penguins Unveil Plans for Mellon Arena Site

Monday Morning Quarterbacking

The P-G's Bill Tolland just had to talk about the momentum that organized labor is gaining in the casino industry.

Dan Onorato has some big decisions to make, as far as jobs go. (P-G, Ann Belser)

If you didn't already read this, and notice how Judy O'Connor totally cuffed Luke Ravenstahl across the back of the neck -- then you're just hopeless. (P-G, Rich Lord)

Phillip Murray, first president of the United Steelworkers of America, honored by a dedication of the 10th Street Bridge. (P-G, Ann Belser) From Wikipedia:

Murray was working in a coal mine in 1904 when he became involved in the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA). Feeling that a manager had purposefully altered and lowered the weight of the coal he had mined, Murray punched the man and was fired.

We gotz ta biggest Labor Day Parade up in dis joint. (Trib, David M. Brown, h/t BR)

Labor Dabor. (LINK)

Trib columnist Dmitri Vassilaros tries to rain on the Labor Day Parade.

Editorial Comments: About this "right to work"? Do we have the right to work at the Trib? That'd be sweet. Just march in and demand our right to work.

In real life, we have the right to work for ourselves, or apply for a jobs. If hired, we have the right to consent to the ground rules existent within that organization. Set by management, and if applicable, by those already working there.

It's called an organized workforce. We've got nothing against the right to own, nor the right to manage -- but we're in this world together, Jack, so you better understand that if your workers decide the union model is the way to go, it's the way to go for everybody.

If anybody doesn't like it, they have the right to work elsewhere -- but do you know what? The workers totally end up liking it, because the bosses try to cheat them constantly!!!

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