Luke Ravenstahl, Dan Onorato and the Pittsburgh Penguins handed down development terms to city residents, in regards to the new hockey arena in Pittsburgh's Hill District.
The Comet has obtained a copy of the seven-point proposal, which we will review now.
1. A Hill District master plan will be undertaken which will essentially be a planning, basic conditions report providing recommendations regarding...
The consultant team for the master planning process will be selected pursuant to a request for proposals.
Hill District community input will be solicited regarding...
A master plan is no blessing, if the community has no role in its development.
We already know the Mayor's opinion as to whether anyone from the neighborhood itself is equipped to handle city planning.
You would think providing some very modest funding to help get a community-originated master plan off the ground would be a good thing. However, they (Ravenstahl, Onorato, the Penguins) already have a fair idea what the master plan should look like -- and don't need the competition.
Pledging to "solicit" community input says nothing at all.
2. In order to identify gaps or deficiencies in or to identify ways to better provide for human services, recreational opportunities, employment and training services and other support services, an assessment will be made...
First, neighborhood residents already have a good grip on the gaps and deficiencies. They have been working hard to bring them to your attention for about a year.
Second, identifying ways to provide better services is not the same as providing those urgently needed services, so pledging to make an "assessment" after months and years says nothing at all.
3. The City and the County will set up and staff with a trained person, a Resource Center in a central, easily accessible and visible location in the Hill District...
Employers for the arena project will be encouraged to fill all new jobs by first considering for employment, and interviewing, candidates referred by CareerLink...
First, the City County Building is easily accessible to the Hill District and has many trained and helpful persons. Hill District residents already know how to live.
Second, the issue is not that residents don't know how to access available resources, it is that there are too few resources being made available to them through that portion of the taxpayer handout to the Penguins clearly designated for Community Development.
Third, to "encourage" employers to look at CareerLink to fill jobs says nothing at all.
4. The City, the County and the Penguins are in support of the establishment of a viable grocery store in the Hill District and will use good faith efforts to cause that to occur.
First, what if they don't want Ron Burkle's Grocery Palace for Downtown? What if all they've been clamoring for is a reasonably priced Kuhn's?
Second, "in support of" and "good faith efforts" says nothing at all.
5. The City and the County and the Penguins are in support of the new YMCA facility being planned by YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh ... and will support obtaining the state funding needed for its development.
First, what if the community would like something a little different than the YMCA? What if they want to consider other models?
Second, why go for state funding? Once again, millions of dollars of public funds and of Don Barden funds were earmarked specifically to go towards community development. Why must it all remain stuffed in Ron Burkle's pockets?
Third, pinning all of the responsibility on Harrisburg to ride to the rescue once again means this term says nothing at all.
6. The SEA and the Penguins will meet with the community quarterly to update and discuss the project including ...
What will these lectures accomplish? Must we explain exactly why this item says nothing at all?
7. When making appointments, the City and the County will consult a data base developed by the community of Hill District residents interested in serving on boards and commissions...
Now this is interesting -- possibly, the most crucial point in the whole proposal.
What Luke Ravenstahl and Dan Onorato are saying is, "WE R UP IN UR ORGZ, BUYING OFF UR LEADERZ!!"
Point seven is supposed to tempt certain prominent figures within One Hill and the minister's group to sign on, entranced by the possibility of getting into the game on Grant Street.
Of course, these folks already have the ability and the right to get involved in government; many of them do. We guess this offer is geared towards the same residents who need a one-man resource center.
In conclusion, and in the opinion of the Comet, the terms sheet issued by Ravenstahl, Onorato and the Penguins says nothing at all.
It bears no similarity to an authentic Community Benefits Agreement -- which would be developed at least as much by the community as by the developer -- and would also be a binding legal contract, without all this verbiage of intentions to support efforts.
It certainly has nothing to do with what any of the neighborhood residents have been talking about.
Pittsburgh's Hill District wants a piece of the pie that is going around. They want some control over their own destiny. They want an opportunity to partner with developers and local governments -- they want the same opportunities given to many other neighborhoods.
You don't always get a second bite at the apple.