Friday, August 22, 2008

Friday: Comedy

Word has hit the streets.

Ever since Le Magnifique confessed he was never seriously considering leaving town, everyone now assumes there is nothing to lose in overestimating the gullibility of Pittsburghers.

Profits at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center took a nose dive last year, falling to $5 million from $612 million a year before, officials reported in financial statements being released today. (Trib, Luis Fabregas)

Executives are markedly sanguine about it.

We assume the one-year, 100% decline in profits will be replenished by the sale of a large number of bridges the medical giant owns in the state of Florida.


The initial McTish, Kunkel bid was an overestimate, Stearman said, and the firm's contract with the authority now is for a sum not to exceed $425,000, lower than the Trumbull bid. (Trib, Mark Houser)

It's not too often someone gets caught with their hand returning a cookie to the cookie jar.

[Jim Ferlo] said the authority's staff did not tell the board in March that other firms submitted lower bids.

Backing away from this too, eh? We always thought the ADB was pure gold, but maybe we'll have to downgrade them to sterling silver.


While $2 million is a relatively small sum to kick off such an enormous endeavor, it is better understood as a down payment on a brighter future for the community. If people of good will are able to develop a master plan for the Hill District, more investment -- and a better day -- will surely come. (P-G, Edit Board)

Talk about damning with faint praise! We just ran the happiest version of the happiest song to be found on YouTube. Why is this not doing anything for anybody?

Hill business owner Cliff Christian called the agreement a sham and that negotiators, including Redwood and Frazier, did not do their job.

"They negotiated in their own self-interest, not the community's interest," said Christian. "Whose resource center is it -- Evan's. Whose grocery is it -- Evan's. This is a travesty. We got screwed... talk about a slave mentality." (Courier, Christian Morrow)

Is Cliff moonlighting at the P-G?

The Comet just received the full text of the 17-page agreement; there is obviously much more to it than the two-page opener handed down from Mayor Ravenstahl and Big Chief Onorato in January. Negotiators were still hammering out language as late as Monday of this week, says Jen England of Pittsburgh United, a key player in the coalition -- a sign of serious engagement.

This has been a 20 month ordeal fraught false-starts, flare-ups, cast changes, loose ends and long, agonizing pauses. It's been enough to exhaust anybody -- the desire to advance to a more productive phase is legitimate already.

Let's cut everybody some slack, and look to see what's in the agreement, who's in the agreement (it appears initially that B-PEP and Preservation Pittsburgh are not), what it can enable and what it does assure.

At the end of the day, it couldn't possibly hurt.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Loose Ends

PittGirl wants Dan Onorato to read this letter very badly, so we'll up the chances of that a smenth. Maybe Kevin Evanto will read it.

Michael Lamb owes Pittsburgh's Lesbian Correspondent $500. The Comet will begin compounding the interest immediately. Did anyone else catch that Chelsa Wagner played a helpful role abating the illegal dumping?

Emboldened with news like this, we're only going to start making more crazy and outlandish statements. To wit: Does anyone take the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership very seriously?


The P-G has some video up on the One Hill / Penguins / City / County CBA signing ceremony.

(Quick question -- given the relatively infinite quantity of time and space available on the Internet, why not film and post events like this in their entirety -- from soup to nuts? Just a humble suggestion)

Carl Redwood summed it up best, and frequently: this is not the end, this is the beginning. Or rather, this is a notable landmark along a continued journey. David Morehouse of the Penguins absolutely and explicitly agrees, which frankly is encouraging.

We all know what we have in front of us today is a better piece of paper than the one we had eight months ago. It's still parchment. There's only less reason to burn this one.

The nature of our agreement is such that many of the details must be worked out still further down the road. For example, we know approximately how the community is going to have input on the Master Plan -- but we haven't remotely discussed the nature of that Master Plan yet. We know approximately how the community will apportion development funds -- we just don't know where those funds will come from.

Mr. Onorato said that development "just can't stop" at the Mellon Arena site, which will be redeveloped by the Penguins, but must extend deep into the Hill.

He envisions development on a par with that taking place around Heinz Field and PNC Park on the North Shore. (P-G, Mark Belko, whose absence is always felt with regret)

That should be read as a cautionary note. As we know, development on the North Shore ends starkly at the railroad overpasses, and there are few if any arrangements for inflow / outflow. Furthermore, the development arriving to that shore has not and does not seem like it will cater to the nearby residential element.


There is a good amount that is in fact in this agreement -- and assuming good faith, everyone is on the same page as to how to proceed. The grocery store most definitely will happen (and it's looking like it will be the good one), thanks to URA and Penguins funding. The Penguins are chipping in other funding as well, though as yet only to targeted initiatives. Critical concessions having to do with labor and wages are set in stone.

More importantly, everyone participating has come to a consensus that things are going to change. Everyone has spoken to a shared vision. No one should be able to deny a sense of urgency, a true sense of priority. There is our great debt, there is our ambitious Promise, and there is the Hill District -- the core obstruction and the great opportunity of our region.

Finally, this should generate among Hill residents and among all city residents the confidence that things can be made to change if we shake things up, leave our comfort zone, engage in the drama of our community -- if approach our public officials with both a spirit of cooperation and a willingness to confront -- and if we do it patiently and faithfully, so that we can learn how to do it as we do it. The best parts of this movement thus far have been the unplanned ones.

The results that this parlay will ultimately yield -- not on paper, but on the physical landscape and in the lives of city residents -- will depend upon how hard everyone is willing to continue to work, and how creative and open everyone can manage to stay. Now is not the time for cynicism. A major community benefits agreement was just signed in Pittsburgh. This is the time to prove such things can work beautifully. This is time to celebrate.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Behold, the power of the blogs...
(awaiting confirmation... partial: NYT)

Monday: Crunch Time

Hoping to help families during a rough economy, the Pittsburgh Public Schools this school year will offer free breakfasts to all district students, plus free lunches to all students at 41 schools and early-childhood centers. (P-G, Joe Smydo)

Inwardly, the Comet has cued the balloons and jazz music! This is the kind of performance-oriented reform we've been agitating toward.

In a memo, Mr. Peck said students who eat breakfast at school may behave better, have fewer health problems and score better on standardized tests.

"School breakfast really is the most important meal of the day," he said.

Great job, Mr., uh -- Mr. Peck, School District food service director.

Mr. Peck said the expanded free-meal program the district is introducing this school year is not uncommon among urban districts with high poverty rates.

We guess that's what we are, huh?


The Pittsburgh Police Bureau does not have statistics on car-on-bike accidents. Mr. Ravenstahl said it will start tracking such incidents. (P-G, Rich Lord)

How about car-on-car accidents caused by bikes?

Whoa! When did we become Lou Dobbs on this issue?


Suckers that most public officials are, they bought the threat -- skates, sticks and pucks -- and came up with a mix of public, gambling and private dollars. Ground was broken Thursday for a new $290 million arena. There's a Penguins-benefiting multimillion-dollar development sweetheart side deal, too.

Lemieux calls the moving threats a negotiating tactic. But let's call it what it was -- a lie.

And we would remind Lemieux and public officials who rationalized his remarks of this remark by a fella named Cicero, the Roman orator and statesmen:

"What is come by dishonestly vanishes in profligacy." (Trib, Edit Board)

Okay, this is light-years beyond the Post-Gazette's sanctimonious boosterism and eager complicity on this particular subject -- a subject which does raise its head in our city in various forms from time to time.

Yet the Trib actually places too much blame on Mr. Lemieux for our taste. Businesses must negotiate, and it is going too far to call negotiating postures "lies".

It's our public officials, who bought the threats as though crossbows were being pressed against their chests, and who then rolled over like cuddly kittens onto their backs, who are to blame.


414 Grant Street connects a couple of dots and makes some wild allegations involving this story.


The One Hill Coalition, along with the Penguins, the SEA, Mayor Ravenstahl and County Executive Dan Onorato will take part in a signing of the Community Benefits Agreement on Tuesday morning at 9:00 a.m. at historic Freedom Corner in the Hill.

A fitting backdrop for a laudable and historic arrangement, that is markedly imperfect and incomplete.

The appointment of a planning board that is genuinely representative of the Hill District in all its contentious and well-meaning splendor -- that would carry a strong likelihood of a political reunification of the Hill under its present leadership -- would make it perfect.

Prevailing upon both the Penguins and the City and its Authorities to identify some very modest funding by which we can get the Neighborhood Partnership Initiative off to a good start; wishing it bona fortuna -- to demonstrate to other potential donors that placing real responsibility in the hands of Hill residents is an idea actually worthy of confidence and investment -- would make it fully complete.