Friday, May 30, 2008

The Pat Ford Post Agenda Series, Part III: Who's Running Things?

Mr. Kraus: Who do you report to in the administration, I guess is what I'm asking? Who gives you direction? Who's your direct supervisor?

Ms. Ismail: It would be Pat Ford.

Mr. Kraus: Pat Ford would be your direct supervisor.

Bruce Kraus paused as though he did not expect to actually hear it.

But Pat Ford is not a City employee?

Ms. Ismail: Yes.

Mr. Kraus: He is the director of the URA?

Ms. Ismail: Correct.

Mr. Kraus: Do you know who was giving the planning department direction at the time the LED sign negotiations were taking place?

Ms. Ismail: I was not involved in the discussion.

Mr. Kraus: Ms. Tymoczko, I'm going to ask you some question about your chain of command as well. Do you answer to the mayor's staff directly?

Ms. Tymoczko: Well, I believe the zoning administrator does answer to the mayor.

Mr. Kraus: Being that Ms. Ismail said that she answers directly to Pat Ford and the URA as opposed to someone directly in the administration, would you say then that you too as well answer to Pat Ford and not someone in the administration?

Ms. Tymoczko: Yes, I would agree.

Mr. Kraus: Do you find that to be unusual?

Ms. Tymoczko: Not necessarily...


The Comet is not convinced that it is somehow illegal or impossible for a Mayor to appoint a figure like this -- a close confidant who is highly involved in at least three city authorities -- to a position of strategic command over the long-term agenda of city departments like City Planning. That may be a kosher practice.

Yet to do so while cutting the actual department head so far out of the loop it seems like she is not even allowed to know about certain things -- that reveals a lack of confidence in Ms. Ismail (for one thing). Certainly in comparison to Ms. Tymoczko.


Mr. Kraus: In 2004 there was a negative recommendation from the planning commission for similar signage at the same location. Are you familiar with that decision?

Ms. Tymoczko: No; I am not.

Mr. Kraus: I have it here somewhere. This comes from the Department of City Planning, and it says, "A review of the Grant Street Transportation Center." It's from the Design Review Committee...

There is all kinds of confusion over what the review ought to mean to anybody.

It has been alleged that City Planning never issued an actual negative recommendation -- it simply warned of a negative recommendation if changes were not made to the development plan.

Changes that included the removal of the LED sign. Changes that were made.

Mr. Kraus: Knowing the normal process and that there was a previous negative recommendation from the planning department, why as the zoning administrator did you agree to approve the sign without going through the proper process?

Ms. Tymoczko: Again, I believe it was a separate issue from anything to do with the building itself. I wasn't involved with the review of the building at that time and the design review committee. I believed the application for a sign was a separate issue.

And even had I been aware of that, I don't believe it would have -- it would not have changed my interpretation.

Even if she knew that specific history, she would not have changed her opinion about the "minor" nature of the alterations being proposed.

Hey. New mayors, new administration.

Tymoczko felt inclined to allow Lamar to put the sign up. Since the rules about making "minor" changes were vague, and she had an ostensible reason for disregarding the applicable case history, she felt empowered to approve the sign permit all by herself, without any public hearings or public votes.

So she did.

The Mayor was acting through his agents to institute a strategic, long-term agenda to find ways to put up new advertising signs in the City of Pittsburgh -- both to demonstrate that we are "open for business" and to display some "cool new technology" -- and to enforce the basis of a Memorandum of Understanding between Lamar Advertising and someone involved with the City of Pittsburgh.


Mr. Kraus: We are stewards of the public purse, and I never take that lightly, and I am afraid that this will possibly then go to the courts to hear, and I would have liked to have seen something like that been avoided at the cost of the taxpayer had we just been a little bit more prudent in laying the foundation for this. I find it to be highly irresponsible on someone's part that a legal opinion was not sought before permits were issued and licenses were signed.

Mr. Motznik: If you guys would just let Pat come to the table.

Reverend Burgess: Mr. Motznik, we are going to follow this form. I do hear you. I understand your interest, and I understand that you perhaps--

Mr. Motznik: Is there actually a councilmember who didn't want Pat to come to the table at its first round?

Reverend Burgess: At this time -- yes, at this time, yes.

Mr. Motznik: Who was that? Can I ask, Mr. Chair?

Reverend Burgess: We will talk about it during the break. Right now Mr. Kraus has the floor. Let him finish his line of questions. You are out of order. I'm sorry.

Mr. Kraus: I'm also increasingly concerned about the amount of time always being questioned that we spend at this table. This is the job we do. We are charged to represent the people of the City of Pittsburgh. I don't find it difficult to spend time to do the job in which I was elected to do.

Mr. Motznik: But we have someone who can answer you question sitting in the audience. You are wasting our time. He can answer your questions. Bring him to the table! [This was real yelling.]

Reverend Burgess: Gentlemen, point of order. This process may be -- this process was decided upon to try to eliminate any [pauses, makes disgusted face] adversarial activity. What I would like to do is Mr. Kraus will finish, then Mr. Dowd.

So when Bruce Kraus objected that the Law Department ought to have been consulted at some earlier point, Jim Motznik erupted to suggest that Pat Ford can explain why that was not necessary or desirable.


  1. Double talk alert from above.

    Bram, you are right. A "previous negative recommendation" from the past, what two mayors ago, means zip when the new kids on the block are trying to be 'open for business.'

    Kraus wants to stay in a rut of dispair?

    Because the city failed in the past -- it should fail in the future -- it seems to him.

    Alert to Bruce: Things change. We are fine with change. We don't want 'changes for the worse.'


  2. p2

    "Mr. Kraus: We are stewards of the public purse, ..."

    Why rush to hire additional lawyers then? (to attempts to hire, one rushed)

    City bureaucrats should be able to do their jobs without the pre-approval by clearing things with lawyers in advance. That's nuts. That's EXPENSIVE. That's NOT good stewardship nor prudent. That's living in the bottom of a rut.

    Bruce: "I am afraid that this will possibly then go to the courts..."

    Bruce lives under and spreads FEAR. FUD.

    "Mr. Motznik: If you guys would just let Pat come to the table."

    Exactly, Jim. That was another 3 hour meeting, or more, just on this topic. Folly. That isn't stewardship. That isn't being respectful of the public purse. That's the creation of civil war -- pompus too.

    KRAUS wanted to squander time, by design. He climbed a soapbox and wasn't going away.

    "Mr. Kraus: I'm also increasingly concerned about the amount of time always being questioned that we spend at this table. This is the job we do. We are charged to represent the people of the City of Pittsburgh. I don't find it difficult to spend time to do the job in which I was elected to do."

    The JOB Kraus was elected to do is NOT to represent the kittens and puppies in the animal shelter -- at the start of every committee meeting, on TV, generally 20-30 minutes late. Kraus is DOUBLE-TALK personified.

    "Mr. Motznik: But we have someone who can answer you question sitting in the audience. You are wasting our time. He can answer your questions. Bring him to the table!"

    Bingo! Motznik is right, again.

    Kraus generally makes Motznik look to be on the high road.

    BTW, IMHO, Rev. Burgess was sold 'down da river' by being called as the chair for that meeting. Burgess, as chair, showed his in-experience.

  3. "Bram, you are right. A "previous negative recommendation" from the past, what two mayors ago, means zip when the new kids on the block are trying to be 'open for business.'"

    I'm explaining the thinking, not defending the practice.

    If I was a resident or part of an organization that participated in the public hearing process on the GSTC buiding, and that process resulted in the rejection of the LED, and THEN that decision I had participated in was reversed unilaterally by a Zoning Administrator a few years later, I would be justifiably upset, not to mention discouraged in my government.

    Also, the way it was done -- not just unilaterally, but doing so by using interpretations of the Code that were sketchy at best (while conscientiously abstaining from seeking any real legal advise) -- left the city open to legal challenges.

    That's fine if you're Lamar -- why not roll the dice and shake the trees after that unfortunate Monroeville incident. But if you're the City, it's hard to see the advantages of inviting those challenges when you could just as easily have gone back to the Planning Commission, or proposed new legislation.

  4. My often used slogan, and seldom heard, yet brilliant, theme song is called, "Think Again."

    It is okay to "think again."

    Changing from the old ways is not only desired -- it is MANDATORY. But, there has to be 'good change' -- because there is 'bad change' too.

    They said they'd close schools. Rightsize plan hit against 22 schools. Fine. But we said we wanted to close poor performing schools -- and not Schenley HS because it was NOT an elementary school.

    We dodged bad decisions four years ago. Now we face the new decision this year. Still bad logic prevails.

    Few would get upset if they said we're going to close the WORST school and offer a better plan for education.

    Pat Ford was flying high. He was doing redd up with over the counter biz dealings. He was getting the city 'streamlined.'

    The city administration has the right to tinker with operations.

    Even closer to home, the city approved a 'fence' that was put into the sidewalk for Tom's Diner. Bruce didn't like that. He went back and changed the existing ordinance. Koch had changed it prior. The city flip flopps. But, when it is about moving a pimple from the nose to the chin -- is is folly.

    We can deal with change. But, it has to be for the best. Good change, not bad change.

    As to 'democracy' change -- think again of the stadium vote. The people said "NO" in a wide victory to NOT make the construction of the stadiums. But Tom Murphy and those pals made it happen despite what the people decided.

  5. By definition almost, yes, an administration is empowered to "tinker with operations" in order to make changes for the betterment of the city. Provided it is legal. Otherwise it is neither operations nor tinkering.

    On another topic, Mark, you say:

    "Pat Ford was flying high. He was doing redd up with over the counter biz dealings. He was getting the city 'streamlined.'"

    The People of the City of Pittsburgh are to be regarded as something greater than refuse and overgrown weeds, as clearly indicated and provided for in several sections of the Code of Ordinances and the Home Rule Charter.

  6. No doubt. Pat Ford was 'out of control.' He was over-reaching. He was -- and is -- a danger to the citizens, the city, the mayor, and himself.

    Pat Ford should not be getting a pay check.

    He should have been fired, IMHO.


    Likewise, the director of the city's law department. Mr. Specter should have been fired long ago.

  7. This was at the Burgh report - worth repeating:

    "So the city has over $1 billion in debt and Dan and Luke want to eliminate the city but make everyone who is stupid enough, poor enough or unfortunate enough to still be living in the city to pay the $1 billion tab"

    The city debt is not $1 billion. It is about 780 Million Dollars according to the city's 2007 audit.

    The city is also one of the most liquid governments around, with a fund balance of over $130 Million, thanks to the "intervention" under Act 47.

    Let's not forget who and how the city was placed in the crapper in 2003.

    Mayor Tom "we are growing the city" Murphy.

    Aided and abbetted by:

    The Allegheny Conference (republicans)and monied real estate people, who buy and sell Mayors, were BIG $upporters of Tom Murphy.

    The Allegheny County Labor Council, centered primarily in the building trades, endorsed Murphy. They don't give a sh-t about the city except that they expect it to publicly subsidize every construction project in town no matter how much the long term cost and damage to city residents.

    The Allegheny County Democratic Committee, who supported Tom Murphy, (despite the fact that he was killing the very neighborhoods they live in) as long as they, their kid, wife, cousin, friend, brother got a job somewhere doing nothing all day for PWSA, ALCOSAN, city Public Works and so forth.

    This very same trio now fully $upports Luke the Fluke and Dan the TAX Man.

    Doing the same thing and expecting a different outcome? No, they all expect the outcome to never change at all. As long as they are being taken care of at the expense of the city taxpayer why change anything?

    cut his deal with the A-hole Conference. Back the dissolution of the city and we (the A-hole Conference) $upport you for Gov.

    same deal with the A-hole Conference, hence his recent "revelation" that eliminating the the city is a good idea after all.

    Follow Murphy power retention rules: Give away whatever you must to the Building Trades (thank you Jack Shea) and real estate developers. Hire as many City Dem Committee members and their significant others to keep them on your team for the party endorsement. Who cares if they can contribute anything to the productivity of the workforce.

    This is not about political parties. This is about monied interests - republican and democrat alike - maintaining control of the goose that lays their golden eggs.

    Oh yeah, some twenty something dolt of a mayor sure makes things a lot easier for the BIG THREE too.

  8. A no-bid contract - with NO vote by the Board, chaired by Pat Ford, between the Parking Authority and LAMAR for an illegal sign on the Parking garage.

    State Authrorities Act: any no bid over $10K is a felony.

    A no-bid sale of prime riverfront land to the Rooney's at $0.80 per sq. ft. Again, no Board approval from Stadium Authority for said sale. (and they want $4 Million subsidy from the state for the development there.)

    Give away of development rights to Arena site to Penguins.

    What's in your wallet?

  9. Having just read the "Pat Ford Post Agenda Series", I might pontificate to get the discussion back on topic. I would be concerned if I were any one of a number of elected and appointed officials - a quick review of recent years shows that Mr.Ford served a number of them. He was removed, it seems, because it was politically expedient. If the "Pat Ford Post Agenda" was any indication, it appears as if he possesses detailed notes of activities and possible rewards (to him and others). Word has it he is being approached by State or Federal officials. I imagine he is being sought after by a number of State and Federal officials. The question is, will he talk?

  10. "He was removed, it seems, because it was politically expedient."

    He was temporarily removed because he wanted to be. (Unless you're talking about previous administrations.)

    The Series isn't over. I anticipate about another four volumes.

  11. How golden is your parachute?

    Isn't there a series of books on that?

    When one branch of government screws another -- they have all the fun and the taxpayers have all the remorse.

    Above note about 'no bid' is interesting.

    Keep your eye on the ball. All no-bid contracts should end. This saga unfolds with enough smoke to make that fire.

    And, UPMC was able to buy riverfront land at South Side Works at discounted value to rent to the Steelers for practice facility. I've seen this unfold before. And, the property managers there now are Oxford.

    Go figure.