Friday, April 11, 2008

BestFriendsgate: Further Developments

First, thank you to all tipsters who have been writing to the Comet about City and URA dirt. People seem to be in the mood to unload.

We may not have the capacity to investigate many of these matters, but when something piques our interest we will definitely pass it along to those who do. To wit:

An anonymous tipster (let's call him/her "Deep South") reports that in the Fall of 2006, the URA Mainstreets coordinator approached the South Side Local Development Company (SSLDC) about acquiring street "kiosks" from Lamar Advertising.

The URA provided the funding for SSLDC to "buy" them, but Lamar retained ownership of the kiosks. No bids, no RFP's, no compelling reason to accept them, but since they were free for SSLDC (and at the expense of taxpayers) they accepted them anyway.

Although the theory was to provide street maps and other city and neighborhood information, in reality the kiosks were utilized mostly for advertising.

Who was the URA Mainstreets coordinator in Fall of '06 again?

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Speaking of advertising and the URA:

"Personally I'm sick and tired of all the gratuitous advertising everywhere in our face. So, obviously, if I were on that board I would be anathema to this action," [Sen. Jim Ferlo] said. (P-G, Mark Belko)

Well isn't that convenient.

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Do you think more people should know about what's going down here in Pittsburgh?

A colleague posted this morning's excellent Post-Gazette story to Digg.com. The more people who visit the site and "digg" the article, the higher it will climb on Digg.com's rankings, and the more people will be exposed to it worldwide.

If Lamar wants to play hardball, 300,000 can play at that game.

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UPDATE: Speaking of hardball...

Four members of Pittsburgh City Council are attempting to move an increasingly bitter court case involving a controversial Downtown billboard to the federal courts. (P-G, Rich Lord)

So now the litigators have become the litigatees.

Another filing, by Lamar, appears to withdraw any claims of federal constitutional violations by council members against the billboard firm, while reserving the right to pursue them in state court.

Aw! We wanted to hear how that case went!

The case stems from Lamar's contention that five city council members may have met in violation of open meetings laws, used their influence to file their zoning appeal after the usual 3 p.m. zoning administration desk closing time and otherwise engaged in a "plot" to nix Lamar's permit to place a billboard on the front of the Grant Street Transportion Center.

Sources close to the Gang of 5 indicate that they are always extremely mindful never to all meet in the same room, seeing as that would shatter the space/time continuum. We think that sounds kind of sad. They can never all get together to barbecue or anything.

4 comments:

  1. That, Charina, is a very good point.

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  2. Alicia Sirk: "Billboards are art! Just look at the 'We buy ugly houses' sign in Beltzhoover"

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  3. Tracy Myers, South Side DC Board PresidentApril 18, 2008 at 4:06 PM

    As a member of the South Side Local Development Company’s board at the time the events referenced here allegedly took place, I have first-hand knowledge of the situation and want to correct some factual errors. Clear Channel Communications approached SSLDC in August ’06 about installing pedestrian kiosks along East Carson Street. SSLDC understood that Clear Channel intended to install thirty kiosks and bus shelters across the city as part of an exclusive advertising/promotions arrangement with the City. Similar street furniture is owned and maintained now by Lamar Advertising (which acquired the outdoor advertising division of Clear Channel after this deal was done) in Squirrel Hill and Downtown. SSLDC agreed to installation of the kiosks on the condition that they include pedestrian maps and other information of benefit to the public, rather than typical advertising. The URA’s Main Street program funded design of the maps; production and maintenance, as well as of the kiosks/bus shelters themselves, have always been Lamar’s responsibility. No additional Main Street funding to SSLDC was used for this neighborhood initiative. If anyone would like to discuss this matter further with those directly involved at the time, please contact the South Side Local Development Company at 412.481.0651.

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