Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Wednesday: A Great Day for Governing

"Will this particular store, as we're seeing it, be full-service? Full-service is what they're looking for. They need a pharmacy that's included, they would like to see a bakery that is included," said (George) Moses, a member of the Hill District Consensus Group. (Trib, Jeremy Boren)

With respect to that sentiment, let us also look at the sunny side. Secure a good 24-hour pharmacy next. Secure a good bakery next. Secure a good diner next, and hopefully boom, you've got a nexus of something.

Besides, there is something to be said for offering value at the cash register.

Hill District leaders may want a stake in a potential new Save-A-Lot grocery store as part of an overall package of community benefits linked to a new arena, they said yesterday after the chain's executives made an initial sales pitch. (P-G, Rich Lord)

Hill District leaders and followers, belonging to One Hill, the Hill Faith and Justice Alliance and others, really need to hold a stake in things. The Comet has no opinion at all on whether they should have a stake in this hypothetical Save-A-Lot.

By all means, the company executives sound accomodating, so feel them out!

The thing is.

Why ask for this support as part of the community benefits package regarding arena development?

Why, indeed, should the Penguins suddenly join negotiations with Save-A-Lot, when they have been shunning One Hill itself lo these many months?

Save-A-Lot came to the Hill District on its own initiative. If the community need for a grocery store is somehow satisfied by Save-A-Lot, transfer those governmental resources and any possible Penguins investment to other critical initiatives. There are many.

Councilwoman Tonya Payne said that for the neighborhood to have partial ownership, its leadership "would need to be in a position where they could assume risk ... We have to be careful that we're not putting in so many roadblocks that it never happens."

Councilwoman Payne: believes in her constituents.

Save-A-Lot executives said they want to be sure that the Hill wants their store. Ms. Payne said she will conduct a community meeting on that.

She will conduct a community meeting? We thought she was a strong supporter of the whole One Hill process.

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Speaking of which, the Historic Review Commission and City Planning Commission both approved the boyhood home of August Wilson for historic status. The petition was sent to City Council for final approval -- on October 10, 2007.

There it sat until last week, when Mr. (Paul) Ellis complained. The city code indicates that if council doesn't act on a historic designation within 90 days of its introduction, the application is denied and can't be resubmitted for five years, said Council President Doug Shields. That deadline passed early this month. (P-G, Rich Lord)

Paul Ellis is, among other things, lead attorney for One Hill's negotiating committee, nephew of the late playwright August Wilson, and brother to Dr. Kimberly Ellis AKA Dr. Goddess, who herself happens to be affiliated with the Hill Faith and Justice Alliance.

Mr. Shields said the legislation stalled after it went to the chair of the Planning, Zoning and Land Use Committee. Last year, that was Councilwoman Tonya Payne, of the Hill.

Ms. Payne said she didn't "know what happened to it," but when she found out it had fallen through the cracks, she "started chasing it down."

Would have been embarrassing if the grant money for restoration got fouled up.

Ms. Payne said historic designation is "a slam dunk."

It is now.

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Boy, what an awesome news day!

If he wants to win re-election, Democratic state Rep. Jake Wheatley first must fend off a former aide he dismissed in 2003. (Trib, Carl Prine)

The shades of Udin / Payne in 1997 are unavoidable in this one.

Wheatley, also a Hill District resident, said he let Washington go after "a couple of months" in his freshman term because "it was the best thing for both of us." He called her candidacy "serious" and said he welcomes the challenge from the longtime resident and Pittsburgh Housing Authority worker.

Housing Authority? Washington works for the administration presently?

9 comments:

  1. Hey Bram,

    Is Sala Udin somehow connected to One Hill? In the background somewhere?

    I ask because of One Hill's persistence and seemingly myopic quest for cash payments directly to them. Money in a bank account they can control which sooner or later equates to spreading around as they wish.

    The grocery store thing just seems to underscore that stores, jobs, services, etc are secondary. Cash directly to them is what they really want.

    What does this have to do with Sala? If you remember, Sala was one of the politically connected awarded Casino Middleman licenses back when they were worth something. The state pulled the plug on that scam because of public outcry and Sala was royally pissed. Ever since then I hear he's been looking for another big pot of government-subsidized profits to replace the lucrative Middleman venture that went poof on him.

    Maybe he's part of the driving force insisting on cash above all?

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  2. The issue of where the "cash" goes is a complicated one. My understanding is that both One Hill and the Faith Alliance want a development fund to be controlled by a board that includes community representatives, but is not dominated by them.

    Actually, my understanding is that One Hill wants all four community seats on that board to be controlled by One Hill, whereas the Faith Alliance never specified or excluded any community leaders from its seats on that board. However, I only know one side of that story.

    Sala Udin was outsed by Tonya Payne. Before that, Sala was Jake Milliones chief of staff. Since Milliones was such a beloved public figure with many children, there is some speculation that he has great influence over everything; specifically, over the Faith Alliance (of which Marimba Milliones is an outspoken leader), but also One Hill, of which Bomani Howze is vice-chair and existing pretty peacably.

    On the other hand, there has never been any particular evidence to suggest that he is "in the background somewhere" -- except as a memory that in the old days, city councilmen tried to ferociously represent for their constituents.

    As to this "driving force insisting on cash above all else" -- I honestly don't know where you're getting this, Char. I don't know where you're getting this conception. Yes the Hill wants a development fund for their neighborhood that they have some control over. Yes the org known as One Hill tends to get a little overly-defensive and overly-controlling about its own positioning as representing the ENTIRETY of the Hill.

    But I honestly don't know where you're getting some of your impressions.

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  3. In a nutshell:

    Both groups want a neighborhood development fund controlled by a sort of Super New URA: Five appointees of public officials much like the URA, plus four appointees of the community.

    One Hill we think has more specificity as to the selection of the four community reps, whereas the Hill Alliance is leaving those details purposefully, meaningfully vague for now. Other than that distinction, the "two groups" are great accord about the development fund, which is a huge pillar of any cb agreement.

    For what it's worth, we think the Super New URA model sounds like an EXCELLENT idea for targetting purposeful investment in troubled neighborhoods.

    Also, we do not think $10M for example is some kind of enormous, unspeakable sum, compared to public and private sums being invested towards Downtown.

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  4. Char,

    What, in your mind, did Sala do to you and/or others?

    For the record, you say you understand and then make silly statements (still!) about cash payments? Amazing.

    The "cash" goes directly to set programs and needs the community has already outlined for itself. They are called "planks", they were established and then a cost-analysis was projected onto them.

    Maybe you should check out how Los Angeles did theirs with The Staple Center: http://www.communitybenfits.org

    Sheesh.

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  5. Oh and there is no secondary. It's called "no one settles until we all settle", which means that everyone gets their needs met. This way, you don't have politicos picking off specific services (and favorites) and leaving others high and dry, as they are wont to do.

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  6. Until Char chimes in again, I'll mention that on her blog she goes after Udin a little for being all caught up in the casino equipment licensing "middleman" racket. My only answer to that is, EVERY retired and bounced politico across the state tried to get a piece of that casino equipment licensing "middleman" action. Not sure if Udin did anything to make himself special on that score.

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  7. Char, help me to understand your thinking :-(February 1, 2008 at 12:15 AM

    Char, I've never met you, but your comments are well...kinda *myopic*. Sala's sin was that he wasn't a typical Pittsburgh bootlickin', grinin', dancin'....NEGRO! Sorry, but I have to tell it like it is. Easy Char... go and attack the plenty of *real* shady characters in Pgh and stop trying to debased an entire community via one old school politico. By the way, I think Sala is successfully working as the CEO of www.coro.org, so he probably doesn't have much time to weasal money out of the Pens (God forbid they re-invest anything toward those low lifes in The Hill, right?) between his shifts of developing the next generation of leadership. Next topic please...

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  8. My profuse apologies to all up front for how long this is going to be, but trying to answer everyone…

    1)I don’t (personally) dislike Sala at all. I don't personally know Sala at all. But when he was on council, he was smart, articulate and always presented himself as a civilized gentleman … kinda the complete opposite of Motznik. I disagreed with Sala on various issues because Sala was tight with Murphy and I very often disagreed with and distrusted Murphy.

    And yea, Sala did get caught up in the middleman thing … Along with Roddey and others. I remember reading that Sala was so pissed when the Middleman thing fizzled, he threatened to sue the state to recover the legal and other fees he paid just to apply for the license. And for the state changing the rules after the fact, rendering his investment (in the middleman business) worthless.

    Couple that with the fact that from day one newspapers reported that the Hill wanted large cash payments but would never say specifically who they’d go to or who’d control them. (Secrecy always breeds suspicion) And then there’s the Hill’s priority of not just having a grocery store, but being given part ownership in a grocery store (more on that later), translating to cash from the grocery store (I presume). And considering economic stimulus in this town consists of throwing out large sums of public money, causing a feeding frenzy among the many shady characters we do have … I wondered out loud and asked (Bram) out loud if any of these dots could be connected. Not because I think Sala is a “typical bootlickin’, grinin’, dancin’ Negro.” Or a “shady character.” But because this is unfortunately the way dots are usually aligned in this town. Whether it is Roddey, the Rooneys, the Penquins …..or yea, maybe even Sala.

    I asked Bram because I know he has spent a lot of time on the Hill negotiation details and I’ll defer to Bram’s opinions for the same reason.

    2) The grocery store. Here’s the thing about the grocery store … It drives me crazy for a number of reasons. In no particular order:

    *The government can offer tax abatements and other perks as incentives to lure a grocery store to the area, but can’t pass laws or otherwise force some grocer to open a store if they don’t want to. (Refrain: Unless you’re Cuba or Bolivia, of course.)

    *Absent someone they can force, the government can’t run a grocery store themselves. (Refrain)

    *Requiring a business to pay a percentage of their profits directly to another party, in return for “permission” to run their business in the first place … This is how the mob operates. This is not how any government should operate. (Refrain)

    *A store opened due to huge taxpayer incentives should be less desirable than one coming in because of legitimate market reasons. Because “legitimate market reasons” equals sustainable progress and sustainable should be a top priority.

    *Ravenstahl is just the latest in a long line of the white ruling class to shit on the Hill. He’s distinguished himself from the others by being obscenely, flagrantly rude. But the Hill votes him back in office by landslide proportions anyway.

    *A bona-fide grocer is actually finally interested in the Hill. Offering jobs for locals to boot. The Hill’s first response is “not interested.” Because there’s no bakery?? Because there’s no cash payments?? How utterly unreasonable is this? And how maddening that the Hill is offering that insufferable Ravenstahl a legitimate reason to call them unreasonable.

    That’s why the grocery store drives me crazy.

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  9. Char I'll just comment to this for now:

    "Couple that with the fact that from day one newspapers reported that the Hill wanted large cash payments but would never say specifically who they’d go to or who’d control them. (Secrecy always breeds suspicion)"

    Honestly, I blame lazy reporting. From day one. The ministers' PR was never all it could be, but the information was always there. I will be writing about this soon and it looks like there is documentation to back up the fact that early newspaper reports were complicit in white Pittsburgh's dismissal of their intentions.

    As to the grocery store driving you crazy, I haven't absorbed all you say yet, but you know I'm not gung ho about One Hill's early statements on it.

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