Monday, January 14, 2008

Negotiations Involve City, County & One Hill

Pittsburgh Penguins, Minister's Group Not Directly Involved

Planning Commission Not Accepting New Speakers at Today's Hearing

We just attended a press conference that featured Mayor Ravenstahl, Councilwoman Payne, One Hill chair Carl Redwood and One Hill lead negotiator Evan Frazier.

The mayor began by reiterating the significant progress that is being made, and said that he looks forward to a deal that will benefit "the Hill District entirely," he said, spreading his arms wide.

He also said that he "wants to make sure that the mistakes of years ago are not repeated this time."

That having been said, however, the planning commission hearing will go on as planned.

Councilwoman Tonya Payne took the mic next, thanking everyone involved during the long negotiations -- adding SEA director Mary Conturo to the list. She emphasized that One Hill's goal was always the same as elected officials, and it's all achievable. Again, she said they were very close.

Evan Frazier and Carl Redwood of One Hill reiterated that they don't yet have a CBA agreement, but they are working very hard. Redwood said they are happy that progress is being made, but they are not happy to not yet have an agreement.

When asked specifically whether allowing the Planning Commission vote to go forward today would cost Hill District groups their bargaining leverage, One Hill said today's vote is a separate issue. They avoided taking a position on whether or not they were in favor of Master Plan approval today.

Ravenstahl was then asked whether either the Pittsburgh Penguins or the "minister's group" of Hill District residents have been party to the negotiations that took place late into last evening and this morning. The mayor took a loooong pause.

He said that the Penguins were not direct participants, and said that as far as the residents are concerned, they are working with "a group that was chosen through a process," gesturing behind him to the One Hill officials wearing white caps.

The mayor added that "It's about the Blue Print, it's about the Hill District."

The Blue Print for a Livable Hill is the One Hill coalition's official bargaining platform, approved by the general membership and voted upon through a painstaking community process et cetera.

We have no information on whether or not "joint sign-off" between the two interrelated Hill District camps is still a requirement of a Community Benefits Agreement, as apparently previously agreed upon.

So far as we know, the "minister's group" is considering the attainment of a CBA and approval of the master plan at the Planning Commission to be related issues, that is, No CBA, No Deal.

We stopped into the crowded Planning Commission room. The first thing we heard was Board Chair Wrenna Watson announcing that one of the pieces of business would be a continuation of the Arena master plan consideration of a few days ago.

Since this business is a continuation, no new testimony would be accepted beyond those persons who had signed up to offer public comment several weeks ago.

That's when we headed down to Starbucks to blog. We're headed back.

UPDATE: The P-G Lord / Majors update includes a recent comment by the Rev. Smith, although it did come before today's news conference.

Rev. Thomas Smith of Monumental Baptist Church said today that the ministers will review any agreement that comes out of One Hill's process and determine whether it goes far enough to preserve community assets and redevelop structures like the New Granada Theater.

"I'm quite sure that the One Hill group is working to get the best community benefits agreement they can get," said the Rev. Smith. "We've been pretty much on the same page. We've just gone about it in different ways."

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