Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Today there was a fire drill at City Hall, right in the middle of ye olde Knights of Malta conversation. The Comet got to talking to some folks standing around outside of the building:

BRUCE KRAUS: Very relaxed, except that he's wondering if he's ever going to get approached for questioning.

BILL PEDUTO: Thinks that the Continental Real Estate issue at the Stadium Authority could be bigger, badder, and deeper than the Lamar/Liberty/Wylie/HACP issues.

The Authority has not met since March 13, when he was still on that board, and the administration proposed a sweetheart deal on the land that violated the terms of a court settlement reached only in November. The Stadium Authority acted to block that move, and Peduto was promptly removed from the board. The transaction lies in limbo.

DARLENE HARRIS: Is as concerned as can be that laws are either being ignored, or not being followed. She wonders if Council is going to have to do something not simply in terms of oversight, but in terms of enforcement.

TONYA PAYNE and ourselves continued to challenge one another regarding the "minutia" of Hill District politics, following up on a conversation we had months ago.

We asked Payne today whether there was a chance that any individuals from the "other faction" -- the Hill Faith & Justice Alliance, the Milliones or the Udin camp or whatever one calls it -- might be able to secure just one of the four committee seats reserved "for the community" on the nine-member panel outlined in the "Community Benefits Agreement" enjoined by One Hill and the URA.

She said it's up to a majority vote -- it would be inappropriate for her to overrule or unduly influence the community process. Carl Redwood and Evan Frazier would be in a better position to discuss such things.

We then appealed to the Councilwoman that One Hill, in her own words from last time, was started by Carl Redwood and herself with the intention of supplanting the leadership of that other group. We again mentioned our concern that so many One Hill members who sympathize with that rival group have had their voting privileges revoked, making it difficult for them to be heard through this new representational planning and development process.

Payne responded by protesting that the previous leadership was plenty high-handed and not sufficiently representational itself, and there were good reasons for establishing what she defined as a more "democratic process." As to why voting rights were suspended, she again appealed to a requirement that all members were to sign an agreement pledging not to negotiate outside of One Hill's process, and they broke that pledge.

That put us right back on the core of so many of these frustrating issues. In the Comet's opinion, nobody needs to agree to or sign any pledge in order to be counted as a voice in their community, and nobody should be prevented from speaking out on behalf of their community in whatever way they see fit.

We can only wonder how this One Hill qualifications rule came about?

Was it voted upon by the membership?

Did it arise before or after the leadership was elected?

If it was in place before any leadership was elected, what sort of "ad hoc" procedure brought about that requirement and by whom?

Should it be seen to have any democratic or moral legitimacy, moving forward?

The way we see it -- we utilize boards to transact business because boards allow for a variety of points of view around the table. The ability to include one or even two voices from the faction of concerned dissenters to sit among the four available board spots would go a long way toward making the Community Benefits Agreement pretty darn exciting, and a cause for celebration.


  1. Where can I join the Faith Hill & Justice Alliance, she's hot.

  2. I'm dying to start calling them that, but that would be disrespectful.

    Not that that's usually a problem for me, but I'm learning there's an extra importance to these things when it comes to the Hill saga.

  3. Faith Hill & Justice Alliance ---I just laughed right out loud here at my desk somewhere in the city government.

    It's after 5:30 so no one is here to hear me!

    Keep up the good work.

  4. My $.02:

    The Knights we all came to know and love sat at 'round tables.' That saga with The Hill is exactly UNLIKE that. They play games. They create folly. The use big words like 'democracy' when they are really hide behind power grabs and in-fighting.

    Bram, when you come to realize that these neighborhood groups are NOT places where real solutions are crafted it will be a good day. They are not democratic and all the elections are fixed. When real hot issues come up -- with guitar or otherwise -- votes are not taken and meetings are not held. Hey, sounds like the stadium authority's plan: don't meet.

    Recap: KRAUS = reactionary.

    PEDUTO = sky is falling. And he is right. But, few care.

    HARRIS = enforcement wishes. Golly, they can't even legislate. So she wants to over-reach and further fog the lines of responsibility and duty.

    PAYNE = power grabs and folly.

  5. Sorry. I'm kinda ignorant on the whole thing. Doesn't mean I'm not interested. Confused, though.

    What does it mean to "negotiate outside of One Hill's process"? Does that mean that other groups/individuals who are members of the coalition can't cut side deals of their own? Only the URA is allowed to do development in the Hill? If that is the case, then it does seem rather silly. One Hill can accomplish its goals while others invest in the area as well, and still keep a degree of control over what happens in the hood, which is what I thought was one of the points of the whole endeavor.


  6. Rauterkus - Great comment.

    Schmoltics - I guess it is a little unclear on its face. I know it involves not being allowed to negotiate with the Penguins ... but did they mean, not with any government as well? Any developers?

    The original idea was that the rule was supposed to keep the community united -- it was said to be so important to have a unified bargaining position, to not have internal squabbling. Problem is, the impossibility of the proposition just made the squabbling about 100 times worse.

    It's my hunch that the rule was Pittsburgh United's contribution, from back when One Hill was in its incubation phase, but I'm sure it appealed to the city council rep as well.

  7. Bram,

    You keep respecting everyone and getting all the good stories.

    Leave the occasionally funny smart-assery to other like me.

  8. As I think about it, there are other interesting angles.

    Conventionally, CBAs have been between communities and developers, and government entities have been brokers of a sort. This CBA thus far has been signed by a community coalition and an Instrumentality of the City.

    When you think about it, there IS a place where EVERYBODY'S voices can come to the table, and everybody can lobby in the way they desire, such that the strength of their arguments can be judged on their merits -- it's called the city's planning and zoning process and much of its starts with the Dept. of City Planning.

    There's also a place that has "staff" to support the development of a master plan, and in fact already employs professional master planners -- that's also the Department of City Planning.

    There have long been indications that the URA has been "gutting" the Department of City Planning by draining it variously of its function or its personel. In fact, further exciting changes were in the works until.

    Has the URA apropriated this CBA idea in order to justify taking over a major downtown development master plan AND a comprehensive neighborhood plan which impacts the Golden Triangle, in order to relieve the Dept. of City Planning of any responsibility in the equation? The entity with all the open public processes, direct accountability to public officials, and whatever professionalism still there remains?

    Be that as it may. I still think, given we are where we are now, that if the four board spots for the community on the strategic planning committee can still be said and be seen to be compellingly representational of that community -- that will make this CBA a victory.