Monday, June 16, 2008

Monday: The Urban Redevelopment Authority, the Stadium Authority, and the School Board

She'll be comin' round the mountain when she comes...

Approached at his Butler Street office Thursday, Mr. Edelstein pointed out a wall of awards, across from a walk-in closet full of keys to the scores of properties he manages. He would not answer questions for the record.

A year ago, WTAE-TV reported that Mr. Edelstein was giving the URA and the Bureau of Building Inspection sharply different estimates on the cost of his facade work. The reports generated a city controller's office audit. (P-G, Rich Lord)

So we're still waiting. It's been a little over a year.

The URA had required that Streetface grants be based on three bids from registered contractors. In recent years, it dropped that requirement for developers that use what Ms. Straussman called "their own contracting companies."

It seems like most of the dubious transactions must have taken place before Pat Ford's reign of terror at the URA, and before his wife Alecia Sirk's spokespersonly reign of terror at Streetface -- correct? -- despite the fact that Edelstein is another anointed "best friend" of Ford. (Maybe that's just how Ford describes people?)

The recent policy changes at the URA outlined in this article clearly point to an increase in the likelihood of government waste. The whining about having to pay "prevailing wages" is a whole 'nother political issue on top of that one.


We just can't get over how good this Ruth Ann Daily column is. (P-G, Ruth Ann Daily)

Honestly, we're like, numb.

While "there's a master plan showing the footprints" of all the longed-for developments, says Stadium Authority Executive Director Mary Conturo, "no schematic drawing" of what a finished North Shore might look like has been produced. Not many of us are very good at extrapolating a finished visual from a mere blueprint -- not even some pros. For instance, the artist's rendering of Continental's contested amphitheater-and-hotel proposal shows a building of uncertain height apparently situated in a meadow surrounded by old-growth trees.

Oh, you know. Shiny buildings. Benches. Children holding parents' hands, eating ice cream. At nighttime, it will glow brightly.

Seriously. Now that the land is once again ours to control, why not figure out what we most want to do with it? Even if the answer does turn out to be, "sell it to the highest bidder and let the Adam Smith's invisible hand fulfill our wildest dreams", how about we shop around for that highest -- or best -- bid?


In regards to Schenley High School, the "spend money on kids not bricks" argument just got a whole lot thinner.

Vivian Loftness is university professor of architecture at Carnegie Mellon University, where she served as head of the School of Architecture from 1994 to 2004. (P-G, Vivian Loftness)

She praises the building for natural lighting, high ceilings, good natural ventilation, thoughtful social settings -- a demonstrably positive place to learn.

This reminds us of some reform notions put forward by the first wave of Save Schenley activists -- if the District wants to improve performance, why not take advantage of free federal government programs to serve a breakfast of fresh vegetables everyday, which has shown to increase performance by so-and-so percent?

It's as though the efforts of the administrators are less about educating children, and more about marketing the District. Which is ironic, because something like Schenley can be hugely marketable.

Once asbestos is abated, the solid materials and craftsmanship in the Schenley High School building will ensure that maintenance, replacement and repair costs are lower than all newer schools with less durable construction.

"Abated" is a key word. The industry standard of asbestos encapsulation would be less costly and every bit as safe as a ponderous removal program -- that's why it's the industry standard. Take that lower figure ($40-$50 million), and try to shave some more frills off the renovations (does that still include air conditioning? Why, in my day...), and then finally look for some creative funding sources.

That way we get a lot closer to a School District we really want -- one that is financially responsible, and that also offers the best of what a first-class city ever had to offer.

Is Penguins Bannergate still leaving a bad taste in your mouth? This is an issue worthy of every Pittsburgher's consideration.


  1. First let me say I LOVE RICH LORD! I love that he stays on top of the unbelievable escapades of "Wylie Joe" Edelstein, unlike WTAE who broke the original investigation then never followed up. I love that he has the balls to go to Joe's offices and walk out unscathed! I love that he points out that to "fix" the problem of Wylie Joe's faked bids, he just made up his own contracting company...interesting that rules are in place to help criminal masterminds and continue to hand them free money!

    Don't miss this fact....Pat Ford came to URA AFTER the Team here you have a guy who is blantantly misusing the money of a bankrupt city, so to correct that you hire his "best friend"...Ford and Sirk readily admit they were friends well before Ford's appointment to much does that cost???

  2. Bram;

    I forgot to say, I LOVE YOU TOO!

    Without blogs like yours, articles like those of Rich Lord might just be missed. However, you give people the opportunity not to miss the outrages of our misguided city, plus allow the people to give their opinion.


  3. Sirk & Ford lived in Lawrenceville when Ford worked for then mayor Murphy. I think they rented from Edelstein.

  4. and ford had connections as the economic development czar with the ura and the power of the mayor's office behind him

  5. Was he czaring a year ago, plus however much time before the WTAE report? Was it even under O'Connor or Ravenstahl? Would that matter?

  6. Butler Street in central Lawrenceville was the czar's and czarina's old address. It was not a "holding" of Edelsteins.

  7. Ford became head of URA in October 2007, months after Edelstein/URA Team 4 investigation. Edelstein was released from Federal Prison in August of 2000. Edelstein started with his fraud within 5 years of release and should be in violation of parole. Ford did rent from Edlestein, that's a fact that both Ford and Sirk admit. Lets not forget that before Ford came to URA, Sirk had been there to "help" Edelstein. Still getting help apparently with the BS that he no longer needs bids because his wife has a "contracting company".