Sunday, January 13, 2008

Making Conversation

Fred Honsberger of KDKA-1020 interviewed Dr. Kimberly Ellis AKA Dr. Goddess this last Friday.

No, you won't find the audio.

Chris Schultz of Green is Good reports that Dr. Ellis "kicked Fred's [redacted]" so badly that the Hons Man felt he had to hang up.

According to Schultz anyway, Honsberger was not yet prepared to hold a meaningful conversation about the subject -- whereas Dr. Ellis clearly benefited from her exchanges with Char.


Your Comet editor/author was an invited guest on the Mark Rauterkus Program. We suppose it merits your attention.

We have some egg on our faces. During the interview, we opined that our Mayor was perhaps unlikely to attend Friday's negotiation session with Hill leaders. Obviously, Mayor Ravenstahl did attend that session, and was fully engaged. The Comet regrets the false assumption.


Dr. Ellis and the pseudonymous Ed Heath from Cognitive Dissonance had an interesting exchange deep within the Comet comments.

Mr. Heath said,

So, 350 million dollars disappeared because no one wanted to let Don Barden have any part of property around the arena? The Ravenstahl administration is willing to let 350 million dollars worth of investment just evaporate? Meanwhile, Ravenstahl said, during the campaign, that he was at every community meeting, he was in continuous contact with community groups, that the community groups were happy with his level of involvement. African American neighborhoods did vote for Ravenstahl in huge numbers, though I can’t quite figure out why. Ravenstahl now talks like a man who has found a new religion – stinginess – saying that not one dime of anyone’s money will be put in the hands of private citizens. Barden gets to save 350 million dollars and the city gets to renege on any promises it made by claiming the community groups are asking for things never promised and illegitimate anyway. Impressive.

Dr. Goddess later responded,

Ed Heath: You hit the nail right on the head and I actually yelled at both Onorato and Ravenstahl at our April 2007 meeting because of how casually they treated the Barden promise / development rights issue. I told them that the city was broke and that THEY do not have $350 million to spare, so why did they think this was something to sneeze at, by robbing us of a willing investor in our neighborhood who has also demonstrated much more neighborly qualities (even with a CASINO!!!) than any of the other applicants?!! Onorato claimed his hands were tied and that's what sports teams were doing all over the country. Luke sat there silent. And then Onorato promised that something substantive could still come out of this, so they promised to allow for six months to engage in a CBA process. That was a hilarious meeting because Marimba Milliones also told them to "elevate the status of their conversation" because they all broke out in laughter when we mentioned Barden and his promise. Obviously, we didn't and do not find it funny at all.


  1. Let's be realistic about Barden's "promise": he did not give a hoot about the Hill District and was happy to be rid of his development "rights." He did not promise $350 million in development on the Hill. He promised to help "spur" development of that much, by hiring the Hannah-Murano architectural and planning firm, but he did not go further on any details. And he made that promise -- along with the much more clear and direct promise to fund the arena -- for competitive reasons, because he was up against the Isle of Capri (and Forest City) applicants for the casino license.

    But Don Barden is a businessman -- a businessman who runs casinos. He is not interested in much else. He made his clear promise to the Penguins and his vague promise to the Hill District because he thought it would help him get the license. That's all he cared about. Once the new deal was struck with the Penguins, should there have been any doubt in anyone's mind that Barden was happy to wash his hands of the affair?

    Fact is, the Hill District is not a part of town where private capitalists are fighting with one another to come in and do investment. It is a neglected part of town that capitalism has spectacularly failed. That is why people have been forced to go out of their neighborhood to do simple grocery shopping for forty years now. It is a fight with any developer just to get some investment that will actually benefit the people of the Hill, and that is what this community benefits process is about.

    The final agreement over the arena back in the spring says only that the Penguins are required to "negotiate in good faith" with Barden about development rights in the area. Is there anyone in the real world who things that Barden is interested in doing much negotiating? He's happy to let the Penguins have it all. Meanwhile he just wants to build his casino. Unfortunately the low-income residents of the North Side haven't been as well-mobilized as the folks on the Hill.

  2. Certainly all $350 was not going to go into community centers. My impression from news reports is that much of it would have gone on that prime real-estate (which may have resulted in a more sensible street grid), but there was still a bunch left over for "fingers" reaching into the neighborhood.

    Who knows what he would have to say. Might be a good time to ask him.

  3. Once again, Barden did not even promise the $350 million. Read his original license application if you want details. He promised a much lower sum, to pay for an architect and planner who would "spur" development supposedly amounting to $350 million. He gave no details, and he certainly did not pledge any of that money himself. It was basically just a bullshit offer to put him in a better position to get the license.

  4. Felix,

    You are wrong. First, I believe that Barden does care about the Hill District. Do I think his caring is prioritized over or equal to his business on the North Shore? Absolutely not! Everytime Barden is mentioned, somebody wants to come along and tell us that he's a businessman. You don't say?! David Morehouse, Ron Burkle, etc., are businessmen, too. So, why is it that Barden (who is not even from here) knows how to be a good businessman AND a good neighbor (to the Northside and the Hill) and the Pens (who have been here for over 40 years) don't? Aren't they businessmen, too?

    Barden's people CAME TO THE HILL and gave a FULL presentation on what a part of the Lower Hill's masterplan could look like. Barden's people *responded* to the idea of direct reinvestment of the Hill above Crawford Street. Barden promised to spur $350 million just like the Pens promised to spur $350 million. They all wanted to SPUR.

    The DIFFERENCE (and this is a big one, so pay attention) is that ONLY Barden was even *remotely* responsive and responsible to Hill residents' concerns and he made specific promises to work with Hill residents in that capacity.

    I didn't know anything about Barden (never even heard of the man) before gaming came to Pennsylvania. But what I did find out about him is that he and Jerome Bettis are *well known* for reinvesting in communities in Detroit and in other areas. They have long records, so although he's done nothing in the Hill (or Pittsburgh) just yet and despite the fact that he owns a casino, I believe that he was (and probably still will, in some way) fulfill his promise to the Hill, even outside of all that spurring.

    Don Barden did and I'm sure still would like the development rights. There is no question about that and you can google some old articles and hear what his spokesman (Bob Oltsmanns) had to say about that. He's not happy to have gotten rid of them. But his priority is to build his casino, first and foremost, so the fact that there's been little attention to this issue now is no surprise.

    They have been trying to block Barden's enterprise in any and every way ever since he won the slots license.

    And while I recognize a part of this as just the hard core nature of unbridled capitalism, I also recognize what has been happening as Pittsburgh's own fire-brand version of racism and white supremacy.

  5. Goddess: No one has suggested that Burkle and the Penguins are good guys. In fact, they are pigs, and only a hell of a lot of pressure has been able to wring anything out of them at all. The difference between the Penguins/Burkle on the one hand and Barden on the other is that some people seem to have illusions in Barden, so that's why I pointed out that he is just a businessman. And so is Jerome Bettis, Bush supporter.

    In the hearings during the application process, Barden explicitly stated that he was making his Arena offer and his token Hill District promise for competitive reasons -- that he was doing it for the sake of getting the license. I take him at his word on that.

    So neither Barden nor his competitors promised any ancillary investment in the Hill, only to "spur" development? You don't say. Sounds to me like any investment that would benefit the people has to be wrung out of the capitalists; they will not give it.

    What is it, exactly, that makes you think that Barden is interested in making investments in the Hill District? If he's interested, then why has no one else been interested for decades? The Hill has been victimized by capitalism, and anything its residents get from developers is going to be the result of a fight, not some rich guy's magnanimity.

  6. Where's Don Barden now? He's gone, because if any of you Hill residents actually read up on his past you would have know he is well versed in making promises he had no intentions of keeping.

    "Don Barden" + "Gary Indiana"

    Put that in your search engines.

    Let us know what you pull up.