Saturday, December 20, 2008

Lamar Story-Arc Update

Lamar's argument that it could trade six vinyl billboards for the right to put one, glowing, 19-foot-by-58-foot sign on the Grant Street Transportation Center, Downtown, didn't fly with Zoning Board member Alice Mitinger. (P-G, Rich Lord)

Yeah it didn't. The beginning of the story is HERE.


  1. Merry Christmas! Are you able to link up the 17 page decision and its 2 page dissent?
    And who heads up the Parking Authority's dept. of undue dilligence?

  2. A print copy of the 17-pager is all that I have available to me right now; and let me tell you that it is a grand masterpiece. Best use of scare-quotes I've ever seen, and best use of the word "redolent". The 2-page dissent seems fairly unavailable.

  3. If you have access to a scanner ...

  4. All "no bid contracts" need to be avoided. All need to be put under a microscope and be open.

  5. Here are some selections from Wrenna Watson's dissenting opinion:

    The foregoing findings and conclusions [Alice Mitinger's 17 pages] are very well written and supported by established case law regarding zoning. However, a review of the totality of the circumstances and of the law in pari materia ["upon the same matter or subject"], reliance on an agreement with three administrations and established by the custom and practice of each of these administrations coupled with the unrecoverable expenditures by Lamar ... create an unnecessary hardship for the Appellant, that he relied to his detriment.

    On the law in pari materia, "upon the same matter or subject", Wikipedia explains "when a statute is ambiguous, its meaning may be determined in light of other statutes on the same subject matter." Chairwoman Watson does not hint at which of our statutes are ambiguous, what "other" statues might apply in this case and what case law might support that -- presenting us with either a foreboding mystery or a bold-faced bluff. If there is indeed any case law which suggests that a "deal" or a "practice" undertaken by a set of executive officials can trump the law as legislated to protect rights of the People, she hasn't chosen to mention it in her dissent.


    I hold a high regard for each of the persons who testified in objection, but found it interesting that Mr. Carter, whom I believe represented the Penguins and the plans for the new arena before the City Planning Commission, objected to this LED board, however, the Penguins had erected a similar LED board for which no permit was sought which broadcast advertising in addition to the Penguin play-off games.

    Again no case law, but a totally irrelevant and personal cheap shot. Don Carter represented the Penguins position as part of HIS JOB with Urban Design Associates -- he represented himself as a private citizen and resident of the Pennsylvanian vis a vis the Lamar sign. It's not "interesting" to equate an LED set well back from Grant St. and outside an arena to one set at the very focal point of our regal thoroughfare and smack up against an historic residential building; yet it does sound like if anyone had objected to the Penguins LED, they'd have been entitled to some due process as well.

    Mean and completely unnecessary.

  6. Wrenna didn't write that (non)opinion. Yaronne Zober did along with help form John Verbanic.

  7. I know Zober is Ravenstahl's chief of staff. Who is John Verbanic?

    Also -- I don't know. I get the impression Watson is capable of rendering a (non)opinion like that without much arm-twisting.

  8. Different spelling. John Verbanac:

    CEO of Summa Development, LLC. He has worked as a political strategist and a consultant.

    Mr. Verbanac. A protege of U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., Mr. Verbanac worked on the O'Connor campaign last year as an informal adviser and shares Gateway Center office space with Mr. Zappala at G&Z Investments. He works as a consultant on the Forest City/Harrah's casino bid. Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato said last week that he talked with Mr. Verbanac while cobbling together a new city-county hockey arena financing plan in July that included financial commitments from two casino bidders, including Forest City.

    Mr. Verbanac made calls on behalf of Cleveland developer John Ferchill regarding land controlled by the city's Urban Redevelopment Authority at the Pittsburgh Technology Center on Second Avenue in Hazelwood.

    Both Mr. Ferchill and Mr. Verbanac said there was no official business arrangement between the two of them, even though Mr. Verbanac said he placed calls to the URA general counsel and URA board chairwoman/ Ms. Leber, to argue Mr. Ferchill's case and ask that the developer be considered for the project, the last buildable site at the technology center.

    "Do I know John Ferchill?" Mr. Verbanac said. "Absolutely. But I have no business interest whatsoever."

    Mr. Ferchill, who described Mr. Verbanac as a "guy who gets things done," eventually won the right to pursue development on the land after the URA let an option from Madison Realty Group expire, a sequence of events that still mystifies that firm's chief executive officer, Blaise Larkin, who said he had met all of the URA's requirements. "I'm still scratching my head as to why I was not allowed to move forward on that project," Mr. Larkin said.

    URA Director Jerry Dettore said his agency let the Madison option expire because of doubts about the company's ability to put up a building without any tenants. He said Mr. Verbanac would call now and then to check on the status of the option, but that Mr. Verbanac had nothing to do with the decision.

    Mr. Verbanac made it clear in an interview that "I don't have a single piece of business with the city of Pittsburgh," nor does he represent any clients who do work with the city. He argued he would never use his personal relationship with the ailing Mr. O'Connor for his own financial benefit. "I have never done that," he said.

    What's more, he played down his influence within the new administration. Mr. O'Connor's decision to fire Ms. Leber, Solicitor Susan Malie and Budget Director Paul Leger had "nothing to do with me. I do not make those decisions. I am not the mayor of Pittsburgh. Bob O'Connor is. People need to start respecting that he is the mayor."

    He chose to work on the Forest City/Harrah's bid, Mr. Verbanac said, because "that is the best plan. Am I not allowed to work on that? Last time I checked, the city of Pittsburgh doesn't decide who gets a license."

    While he admits to hearing rumors about his influence at city hall, he argues that "it doesn't work like that. I am not in city government. Those people are. I helped put them there. There is a difference."

    Article 1

    Article 2


  9. So what does the city do if Lamar appeals to the Court of Common Pleas?

    Luke isn't going to, all of the sudden, forget Lamar's many favor$ he and his cronies have received.

    To date the city's law department has done everything it could to let this slide and didn't lift a finger at the proceedings at the Zoning Board.

    Mittinger, who wrote the opinion has it right - there was a deliberate attempt to "circumvent" the city's zoning code.

  10. That's the $64K question.

    I have the 17-pager scanned in and available in pdf format. I don't know how to upload that onto the Internet. If you'd like me to shoot you a copy, email me at

  11. c'mon bram get tech support!

    i want it and i want it now. email the burgher ...he'll tell ya how or some geek at CMU!!!

    aww fer cryin out loud.

  12. Just sent it to Rauterkus. He says he knows how to do it. He and I will alert y'all when its up.