Friday, May 23, 2008

The Artist: Gary Glitter

The Performance: UncleJerome (from Pittsburgh, PA)

Friday: A Banner Week

Looks ugly, anyway. (h/t Channel 4 Action News Artists)


"They were great people and I enjoyed them immensely," developer Susan Eastridge said yesterday. "However, the thing is, they don't know how to make something like this happen." (P-G, Timothy McNulty)

Ooh, burnnn.

"We still clearly believe in this project. It's a fantastic location. When the credit markets rebound, that will allow us to move forward again. But we have to re-evaluate," [Pittsburgh Cultural Trust CEO Kevin McMahon] said last night.

We may be waiting for some time. As we understand it, credit markets are collapsing because for too long, too much money has been lent by creditors with too little diligence. Eastridge's scathing analysis may in fact be a case in point as to why this unfortunate market adjustment must occur. New normal, anyone?


"We're thinking of filing unfair labor charges against him," Mr. McMahon said, claiming Mr. Onorato has "backed himself into a box" by insisting upon contract cuts to help justify his support for a controversial 10 percent drink tax and $2-a-day car rental tax to subsidize transit. (P-G, Joe Grata)

Standing in a dimly lit corner of The Carlton restaurant yesterday, Michele Burchfield, executive director of FACT, outlined the "top 10 untruths," that Mr. Onorato and supporters of the drink tax have put forward since the levy was proposed and approved last year. (P-G, Karamagi Rujumba)

It just seems like Onorato has more than his share of enemies, doesn't it? No wonder he's branding himself as a fighter. Little choice.


After initially asking the city Law Department for a ruling on whether he could accept free tickets as part of the trip, Mr. Ravenstahl decided yesterday to pay for all expenses out of his own pocket, spokeswoman Joanna Doven said. Tickets to the first two games will cost him $350 each. (P-G, Mark Belko)

Once again, brazenly stealing ideas from rival Bill Peduto.

Phone calls and e-mails made by the Comet to the office of Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, inquiring as to whether or not he plans on attending any Stanley Cup Finals games in Pittsburgh as a representative of the City of Detroit -- and if so, how those junkets will be furnished -- have as yet gone unanswered.


It sure looks like he's running to us. (P-G, Diana Nelson Jones)


BONUS GAME: Tell us what to think about this story, and we'll buy you a sandwich.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Shot at Team Spirit Ricochets off Crossbar of Law

"I didn't feel comfortable unilaterally making that decision" to permit the Penguins banners, he said. (P-G, Rich Lord)

A breakthrough! We are on the road to healthy living.

It's all moot now. Penguins spokesman Tom McMillan said the team abandoned the banner idea over the weekend, even before the meeting. "We decided that it just wasn't practical," he said.

Obviously the Penguins were playing politics, pulling the plug on their own sign before Monday's nonexistent city hall showdown.

Penguins fans expressed disgust over the flap.

"I have never heard of anything so absurd," said Joseph Lettrich, who has a home in New Kensington but moved to Lake Worth, Fla., three years ago. "One of the few things Pittsburgh has left is (its) pride for its sports teams and again, as usual, the politicians are ruining it."

Mary Anne Kramer, a Penguins fan from the South Side, guessed that if the Steelers wanted the banners, they would be put up without a problem.

"Sometimes this city really disappoints me," she said. (Trib, Jeremy Boren)

And now, a special comment. What is it with you people.

It's not enough that we handed over $350 million and 28 acres of prime Downtown real estate because the franchise brazenly bluffed one weekend that it might move to -- snicker -- Kansas City or Las Vegas.

It's not enough that we sell out Mellon Arena every single home game, pack sports bars during every game of every kind, send television and radio ratings clear through the roof and wear, hang or eat all the merchandise the team can produce.

No. Although no one ever heard of giant building-sized banners before yesterday, and although the Steelers won five Superbowls and the Penguins won two Stanley Cups and the Pirates, legend has it, enjoyed some kind of success in the past, all without giant superbanners, and although during those years and many others we have been assured, and rightly so, that Pittsburgh has the best and most supportive (and most pliant) sports fans in all Christendom, all of a sudden -- outrage! Scandal! Horror! Humanity!

The things we did not know existed until yesterday must go up, or else it will ruin -- somehow ruin -- the Stanley Cup Finals!!!

Seriously, news gatherers. Did not one of your interview subjects say, "Banners? Huh? Whatever. Just bring home the Cup, and I'll be happy."

Find and print some of those, and next week, we'll work on reporting upon the activity of a sports team without riddling your lede paragraphs with incessant sports puns. Loose puck? Who are you, Mark Belko?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Wednesday: All This Crap Out Of Nowhere

A Pittsburgh police commander said Tuesday she's afraid her superiors are transferring her to squelch a criminal investigation into a city public works "redd up" crew that ruptured a Brighton Heights gas line and left without reporting it. (Trib, Jeremy Boren)

Here we go.

"My fear is that -- with my transfer -- this whole issue will 'disappear' and maybe even worse -- there may be repercussions for the detective who investigated this incident," Catherine McNeilly said in an e-mail message.

E-mailing with impunity.

Harper said he is transferring McNeilly to the South Side station because she effectively has used "saturation patrols" of police to quell hot spots of violence in North Side neighborhoods.

We hear that Cmdr. Brackney is being moved to the North Side because Harper wants her to bring to that location the most excellent work that she had been doing for the East End.

Which is not to say that all three dimensions of the three-way swap necessarily cannot have solid explanations of their own at the same time. Yet each facet to the transaction seems to be fraught with a healthy share of political intrigue also.


Zoning Administrator Susan Tymoczko told the commission that the Stadium Authority had given the hotel its blessing, and Planning Commission Chair Wrenna Watson reminded members that the panel isn't supposed to consider the absence of a community benefits agreement. That logic won the day. (P-G, Rich Lord)

We must have overlooked that change of heart by the Stadium Authority. Besides which we are surprised it can legally offer blessings whilst it lacks representation from City Council.

Planning Commission member Barbara Ernsberger was the lone vote against Continental's plans. She expressed concerns that the developer doesn't own the property. (Trib, Jeremy Boren)

When the revolution drops, hands off Ms. Ernsberger.


In announcing that Standard & Poor's Ratings Services has raised the county's debt rating from A to A+, and Moody's Investors Service has changed the county's fiscal outlook from stable to positive, a combative Mr. Onorato challenged a lobby of restaurateurs and bar owners who are trying to eliminate the drink tax to take him on.

"If you know me, and you know how I govern, you also know that I know how to fight," he said. (P-G, Karamagi Rujumba)

Hillary's been rubbing off, we guess.

Allegheny County gets things done (P-G, Rich Fitzgerald)

Oh, touché or something. We don't even have the time to write about what we want to write about. We already flip-flopped on Dan Onorato, in a manner of speaking.


"The theaters and four of the top 10 restaurants in Pittsburgh are within walking distance. Even the gym is walkable. All these little things we don't have to get in the car and drive to," he said, adding that he'll still have to drive to a grocery store -- though Downtown did get a smaller market recently. (P-G, Kevin Kirkland)

It's nice to see some things seem to be working out.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dan Onorato is a Brilliant and Visionary Leader

If the General Assembly passes a law this year allowing a voter referendum on the merger of the city into the county, the two will try to get it on the ballot in November 2009, said Mr. Onorato. (P-G, Rich Lord)

Um ... yeeeeessss. Commit to getting that measure to dissolve city government ready for the ballot by 2009. That's the ticket.

He said that "obviously our goal was to do it by November of [2009]." But he'll have to see the "politics of how that goes forward" before determining "when that [vote] actually happens."

Green light, Dan O! Full steam ahead! U CAIN DO EEET!!!

Monday, May 19, 2008

The Precedent Before the Precedent

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust is planning a 20-by-40-foot flashing electronic sign that it hopes will transform Pittsburgh into the "City of Light."

The sign, which will be on the roof of Penn Avenue Place, the former Joseph Horne/Lazarus Building, would display a series of white triangles floating on a blue-gray background.

This plan is the first thrust in a series of architectural/light projects that the trust announced in 1996. (P-G, Donald Miller, 4/23/99)

Did anyone ever gaze up at that queer thing facing the North Shore and not feel a palpable sense of foreboding? Didn't we all ask ourselves, Why?

In Curating the District, the Trust notes that "Light Panel" has a much higher profile. Built atop the old Horne's department store, "It is positioned to be seen from ... PNC Park and from the air, visually linking arts, sports, and tourism," the Trust asserts. If that sounds ambitious, consider that the artists themselves claim to be linking not just elements of Pittsburgh's latest revitalization, but the very fabric of the universe itself. The Trust's promotional gloss quotes Wilson saying, "Everything begins with light," and that "Without light, there's no space. And space can't exist without time: they are part of one thing." (C-P, Chris Potter, 4/22/04)

What rube could dare protest such a thing?

Not only was this definitely art -- but how dim and modest, how unobtrusive and slow-moving -- almost soothing. You are getting sleepy, Pittsburgh...

What can be said, and happily so, is that this new project is emblematic of something far more important than just light and color for Pittsburgh. The new work would be a visible indication of a willingness by the community to innovate, to try something new and dramatic, to work at presenting a new face to the world. If it is controversial in the process, so be it.

Controversy is not necessarily a bad thing for a city. It shows energy -- for heaven sakes, something is actually happening here that is noteworthy. It wakes people up, invigorates them and sparks public dialogue. Those are good things. (P-G, Edit Board, 5/08/99)

We are not saying it was wrong for some forces on or involved with the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust to take deliberate steps to jazz up the night skyline, or to attempt to acclimatize Pittsburghers to the the concept of glowy things -- even to do so with some cleverness. Loosen the pickle jar a bit.

After all, this sign was what they said it was. They did not do or say anything false or misleading during the public vetting process, so far as we know. They played by the rules, and the public was willing to play along.

Maybe it's the former art teacher in me, but I'm tempted to see the jumbo screen at the Pittsburgh High School for the Creative and Performing Arts as an electronic painting for the 21st century, one that could animate the city in a positive way.

But can Pittsburgh allow it without opening the door to a riverfront crowded with galloping Marlboro men and screaming Oven Mitts? (P-G, Patricia Lowry, 9/24/03)

CAPA sign, eh?

There is some precedent here for the screen, in the Robert Wilson/Richard Gluckman triangle of light that rotates on a rectangular screen facing the riverfront, initiated by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust. Two years ago, when that LED screen was launched atop the former Horne's building, the Trust was promoting Pittsburgh as the "city of light," especially light that moves in space and time to define the Cultural District.

While the abstract Wilson/Gluckman screen carries no text, it could be argued that it promotes, in a broad way, the work of the Cultural Trust, which recently plugged in Austrian-born artist Erwin Redl's red-hot, mesmerizing "FLOW" on the Liberty Avenue side of its wedge-shaped Wood Street Galleries building.

If it could have been argued, most likely it was argued.

The point of this story is that interests that stand to gain enormously from the weakening of regulations are capable of being very subtle, very collaborative, very creative, and extremely patient.

All of which also is fine -- but those who may have different policy perspectives have the right at all times to be able to see what is going on, and to sound off about it if it involves changing existing regulations. That's what we call transparency and accountability, and those are more than the buzzwords which they have become.

O Danny Boy: Trying Times Ahead

[Friends Against Counterproductive Taxation] plans to roll out a full-fledged campaign called the "Whiskey Rebellion II," with a kickoff party tomorrow at the Church Brew Works in Lawrenceville. (P-G, Karamagi Rujumba)

Are the goose people invited?

Mr. Onorato, who easily won a second term last year, has consistently said he has not yet determined whether he will seek the governor's mansion in two years.

But if he does, Kevin Joyce, proprietor of The Carlton restaurant, said the local hospitality industry will make its case to voters in all parts of the state that Mr. Onorato has not only been "a bad chief executive," but that he has "failed to lead on the tough issues."

That is so the crux.

Mr. Onorato has presided over a period of fatalism and malaise in our county. "Holding the line" is not a huge resume enhancer, and that North Side charisma may not take him so far outside the region.

Having punted on the opportunity to shake things up on behalf of his former allies in the Hill Faith & Justice Alliance, his last opportunity to generate a little electricity will probably be this city/county merger. That strikes us as a hail mary pass thrown across a mine field.

At the conclusion of his term, the pertinent question might not be whether Onorato gets into the Governor's Mansion, but whether he is viewed as culpable for the County Executive's Pad slipping out of Democratic control. In 2011, which party will seem like the party of change to you?

Monday: The Haircuts Give 'em Away

To call attention to its "Stay & Play Fridays" promotion for Market Square merchants, PUMP wants as many people as possible -- "you and everyone you know," according to its publicist -- to show up at the Market Square stage at 6 p.m. today for a dry run of a mass freeze-in-place stunt. (P-G, Diana Nelson Jones)

Now you know. However, we've got to go to this:

Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent Mark Roosevelt on Monday is expected to recommend whether the district should permanently close Schenley High School or spend millions of dollars to renovate the historic building. (Trib, Bill Zlatos)

The suspense is just killing us, you see.


Emily Nordquist describes her work as "a found interest." She didn't start her internship at East Liberty Development Inc. burning to be a neighborhood organizer.

Dustin Stiver expected "to get a job in corporate America" after school, he said, but a series of internships turned his head, including one with Neighbors in the Strip.

The Strip District and East Liberty nonprofit groups are community development corporations, or CDCs, a genre that, traditionally, has not inspired people in their 20s. (P-G, Diana Nelson Jones)

Just bear in mind that UPMC also calls itself a nonprofit, and it's a good read. Rob Stephany, our Acting Executive Director of the URA, was on sort of the leading edge of this trend.


h/t A Bag Full of Health and Politics