Monday, September 29, 2008

Monday: Shock Therapy

Norman Harrison (sic) fears Hill District landmarks like the Crawford Grill and the Granada Theater might eventually fall prey to a wrecking ball.

"The Crawford Grill is like Stonehenge or the Blarney Stone. It's a shrine," said Harrison of Shadyside, a retired clinical psychologist who was among 40 "Heroes of the Hill" (sic) recognized Saturday at the Build the Hill community conference. (Trib, Rick Willis)

A fundamental point of contention during the movement towards the Community Benefits Agreement conjoined with the erection of the new Penguins arena was whether and how to address the root shock suffered when the neighborhood was decimated during 1960's "urban renewal", and further aggravated by riots sparked by the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King.

Did the Penguins "owe" the Hill District community for affronts in the past? Did the City of Pittsburgh? Did the city's Urban Redevelopment Authority? If "owe" is not the right word, was there any special moral obligation entailed in this next arena-induced neighborhood transformation?

If obligations or imperatives do exist, how best to address them? Job guarantees? Economic empowerment? Strategic reinvestment? Creative city planning?

Are we trying to heal wounds? Are we trying to manage trauma? Or is redemption of any kind an illusion -- will it be enough to avoid "repeating the mistakes of the past" and move forward with new development? (It's a serious question.)

One concrete thing to consider is to what extent does the CBA that is now all but fully ratified enable, facilitate or encourage the kinds of things which will address the specific historic malady of Pittsburgh's Hill District.

It is one thing to arrange for a tranche of public benefits to justify public subsidies, or even for public rights-of-way and considerations. It is another thing diagnose a specific problem and prescribe an appropriate remedy.

It is also interesting to consider (and hard to avoid noting) that this Build the Hill conference seemed to be organized by folks more associated with the Hill Faith & Justice Alliance, formerly the Minister's Group, formerly the "Hill District leaders" who had taken the lead in advocating for and negotiating for community benefits prior to the inception of the One Hill coalition.

The Hill Faith & Justice Alliance did not sign on to the contract, which pledges the parties to support arena construction as long as its enumerated obligations are met. Preservation Pittsburgh and the Black Political Empowerment Project (B-PEP), both significant member groups within One Hill, according to our information (we do need to fact-check this) withdrew shortly before the signing of the contract.

Justice. Preservation. Empowerment. Root Shock.

Carl Redwood of One Hill was clear that this CBA is an important step in the right direction, but there is still work ahead -- and much left to be determined. That seems like a fair assessment. It will continue to be a very interesting story for all to cover.


It's too early in the morning to think about this shit. (P-G, Rich Lord)

If this guy doesn't win his case, there ought to be a law. (Trib, Jason Cato)

A life sentence without parole is a long time for a minor -- that's all we're saying. (P-G, Moriah Blangit)

Revenue is hard to raise. Money's too tight to mention. Are we the only ones who would rather Our County Exec did the politically unpalatable thing on this occasion as well, and found a use for that little windfall? (P-G, Edit Board)

Everyone who's worth their weight in salt has discovered already that this election over. (


  1. Hey Bram,

    Lots to say here but I'll have to refrain for the moment (not enough time). But for the record:

    1. It's Dr. Nelson Harrison

    2. The Conference is / was entitled "Build the Hill". I could never see myself creating or being an organizer of a "Heroes of the Hill" Conference. LOL. As for the awards, Community members nominated other Community members who are often times "unsung heroes" in the community and whose names are not well-known at all.

    3. The CBA is limited in its capacity, good start or not. The problem is, CBA's were not created to produce "a good start". They were created to produce real results. There's a real reason why the majority of the groups in One Hill *and* many of us outside of it knew not to sign that CBA.

    4. The creators of the Build the Hill Conference were the young people involved in these affairs who wanted to create our own vision for how to "Build the Hill". There are ministers and others who have supported but it was our event to create. We did it and it was a wonderful success with much more to come.

  2. Nice to hear from you again, Kimberly. Why do you suppose news organizations so frequently make factual errors about stories involving Hill District organizations?

    Did you really say *the majority* of groups in One Hill did not sign the CBA? Where I come from, they call that a "no vote" or a "failure to pass". If the majority of One Hill really didn't sign on and the other, rival, whatever you want to call it group in the Hill didn't sign on, what were we celebrating a couple months ago? What was that signing ceremony all about? Please tell me you were exaggerating.