Thursday, June 19, 2008
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Kraus was on KDKA this morning. Marty Griffin played his show's version of city council's theme song, If I Only Had a Brain, as an introduction.
Marty was upset that council is concerning itself with a "gay registry" when there are serious problems in our city like failing schools, guns on the streets, and council members that do not get along with the mayor. He also thought it was a dumb idea to ask gay people to register as gay, and to ask them to hand over personal information to the city like utility bills in the process.
Kraus dealt with all that as best anybody can.
"Obviously, it continues our agenda to advance green investment in Pittsburgh, and we felt it was really important to demonstrate that the city government is serious about being green," Mr. Ravenstahl said. A staff member and a trust fund dedicated to the concept should help link efforts going on in various departments, and bring about business buy-in and foundation funding, he said. (P-G, Rich Lord)
Wow. Parlay this together with the Department of Public Works' Green Team and the auto pool formerly known as Flexcar, and it's like, Holy Progressive-Looking Mayor, Batman!
The 2-year-old task force, which the mayor co-chaired with Councilman William Peduto and state Sen. Jim Ferlo, is expected to make its recommendations to council next week.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
(It is hard to look at this week's City Paper without thinking of this oldie but goodie.)
The Trib's David Brown had a nice little article over the weekend about the new wave of young Republicans doing battle in the region.
County Democratic Chairman James Burn said he doesn't feel threatened by the GOP push. Among Allegheny County's registered voters, Democrats outnumber Republicans more than 2-to-1.
"It's going to be difficult to generate excitement with young voters when there's nothing on the Republican side to get excited about," Burn said. "We haven't even had to cast out a net. For the last 10 months, young voters have been jumping in the boat."
Yeah, that sounds about right.
Too bad, because we need a healthy Republican party to absorb all the conservatives; otherwise we don't know who and what we're voting for, and we get stuck with personality politics. Unfortunately, today's Republican has become less conservative and more anti-rights and anti-global fellowship, so hopefully this new crop can get things back to sustainable.
[Elizabeth Yorio] sums up the GOP's appeal to young voters this way: "Less government and keeping hands out of the taxpayers' pockets.
"Limited government really resonates with young Republicans," she said.
Whatever you say. If we liberals didn't get this lecture every once in a while, we'd probably socialize footrubs or something.
Meanwhile, the Comet got to chatting with Elizabeth Emery Rincon, newly the state director of the League of Young Voters, and asked her what's news.
"Rauwr", she replied.
"I don't understand what you're saying."
Oh! Rural! That makes a lot of sense. Obama is monopolizing all the arable land in the city and even in the suburbs for the moment, but when it comes to Pennyslvania's heartland, there may yet be virgin doors awaiting their first knocking.
Not quite as easy as canvassing Highland Park again, and maybe not as gratifying as revolutionizing city politics directly. Yet if things like transit funding and public school funding rely on the state ... shoot, even our city politicos pass the buck off to Harrisburg with regularity. It would be nice to have somebody chasing down those issues over there.
In addition, the cost of preparing other buildings to accommodate Schenley students came under intense scrutiny. The $11 million originally quoted to repair Reizenstein, for example, was "wildly underestimated" by the School District administration, say activists, raising the usual questions about the rest of the District's preliminary numbers.
The notion of a full-blown asbestos crisis was flatly rejected by activists. Airborne asbestos particle levels, which are measured every two weeks, have on every occasion measured lower than the legal limits to be adhered to even after asbestos remediation procedures; moreover, damage to plaster is not so widespread as reported, being limited to a few areas that were rapidly "patched" at some point years ago.
The group demanded that 1) the School Board vote no on permanently closing Schenley High School, that 2) the School District move to immediately create and present a workable, cohesive, comprehensive plan for high school reform, and that 3) a committee comprised of both citizens and School Board members be convened for the purposes of exploring all possible methods and revenue streams for preserving Schenley -- including the possibility of a partnership with Carnegie Mellon University.
That last "offhand" notion seemed to take on a bit more gravitas when Vivian Loftness of CMU's School of Architecture stepped forward to make her own presentation, centering around the superior long-term cost efficiency of investing in the Schenley building, as opposed to lesser buildings or new construction.
Monday, June 16, 2008
It has been created in a long labor, open to all citizens and participated in by many.
The purpose of this charter is a responsible city. A responsible city is one which seeks to ensure that all of its citizens' needs are met, whether from public or private, city, county, state or national sources.
A responsible city is one which expects aggressive action from its officials toward the achievement of dignified housing, useful employment, pure air and water, efficient transportation excellent education, health, safety, recreation and culture, and the other conditions conducive to human growth.
It is one which provides equal protection of the law for all citizens, with no one denied the enjoyment of civil, economic or political rights, or discriminated against in the exercise thereof because of race, color, creed, national origin, age, handicap or sex.
It is one where all citizens have reasonable access to records and officials and where police power is under civil direction at all times.
It is one where citizens generously accept service in government, participate thoughtfully in public decisions, support public employees in the performance of lawful duties, avoid frivolous use of their rights and supply their government with sufficient resources to meet its responsibilities.
The achievement of the purpose of this home rule charter depends upon the constant interest and concern of citizens.
According to the forward, "The Pittsburgh Home Rule Charter was approved by the voters on November 5, 1974."
1. "The achievement of the purpose of this Home Rule Charter depends upon the constant interest and concern of citizens." We are fortunate that the technology is finally catching up to the need!
2. The need for achieving "dignified housing" is the first specific imperative laid out in the Charter, and it demands "aggressive" action.
3. This can fairly be classified as a liberal charter, what with all that clatter about the government being there to provide for "conditions conducive to human growth."
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.