Thursday, October 30, 2008

Thursday: The Life Could Be Worse for Kevin Miller List*

Photo Barsmart (h/t PittGirl)

Bruce Kraus will clean up Pittsburgh until we make him stop.

"I was just surprised at how many open container violators there were," said Councilman Bruce Kraus, the bill's creator. "It seemed to me that there was almost a cavalier attitude about open containers, that it's only 50 bucks, and they just pay it." (Trib, Jeremy Boren)

Mayor Ravenstahl cites Steeler Sundays as a concern. Someone ask Dan Rooney for his thoughts.

Steelers owner Dan Rooney crazy up into Barack Obama.

This Thursday, October 30th, please join Pittsburgh for Obama for a Get Out the Vote Kickoff at Heinz Field, featuring a special musical performance by Rusted Root. (Obama spam)

Think there is a cabinet position or ambassadorship on the horizon?

New voting machines are a total crap shoot.

A company that tested the software of Allegheny County's electronic voting machines this month is about to have its federal accreditation suspended by a U.S. oversight commission. (Trib, Tim Puko)

Would you like us to start a panic? We can easily start hammering away at this stuff and more.

Transit union decries scabs.

The authority said it acted appropriately, and that the decision will benefit the city's tourism industry without creating competition with the authority's service. (Trib, Team Effort)

We take liberty with our headline -- but could they have pulled this without the Port Authority budget scare?

Rich Lord throws cold water on anti-straw purchasing ordinance.

Neither Ceasefire PA nor other anti-violence or gun control groups contacted could name a city that has aggressively enforced a lost or stolen gun reporting law. (P-G, Rich Lord)

Gun law: 3rd down and 12 on the NRA's 47 yard line.

Money falls on region.

Hooray for remaining state legislators! (P-G, Joe Grata)

Post-Gazette undorses two for state legislature.

Dom Costa "is well-informed"; Dan Deasy is also acceptable. (P-G, Edit Board)

Post-Gazette salutes City of Pittsburgh Police Bureau.

Ready for prime time, or anything else. (P-G, Edit Board)

CONFLAGRATION!! Tribune-Review endorses Anybody But Poopy Head Tim Murphy.

No mention of his opponent. (Trib, Edit Board)

Meanwhile, Camp Murphy has two sites to recommend for our readers: LINK and LINK.

Schultz endorses Anybody But Doody Breath Jack Murtha.

How easy it is to rail against pork, when one is not the one holding the pork sword. What? (B-R comments)

Go see Electile Dysfunction tonight.

A panel discussion featuring L. Cullen, C. Potter, T. Norman, and J. Brabender hosted by J. McIntire describes an ideal night of intimate salon conversation. Unfortunately, the event is held in a sprawling banquet hall with the participants on stage about nine feet above everybody else. Just ignore that mess and crowd into the front corner with the rest of us. G. Bonesso promises 7-10 minutes of new stand-up material for the first time since around when Gen. Abizaid was in charge of Iraq. (Gab Bonesso)

Halloween party proceeds, if any, to benefit charity.

Our hosts inform the Comet that the sponsoring venue suggested neighborhood charities, yet details are still being formalized. Some reluctance among nonprofits to affiliate themselves with events that might be construed as political is referenced. Hosts further attest that few if any local political events until now have volunteered to donate overages to charity, i.e., no good deed goes unpunished. (PghLesbianCspdt)

*-UPDATE: Beneficiary will be the Urban Impact Foundation.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

PA-18: We've Got a Live One!

We first got to know behavioral health and investment executive Steve O'Donnell as a mild-mannered, bookish policy wonk in a field of five candidates for the Democratic nomination -- as described in a hysterically presumptuous Comet endorsement.

On Monday we saw him as the Democratic nominee debating Republican incumbent congressman Tim Murphy, for the first and only occasion.

"Oil companies. Drug companies. Insurance companies," said O'Donnell, ticking them off with his hands, listing the problems as he sees it with his opponent. "He voted against letting the government negotiate for drug prices."

He even dropped the H-bomb at one point in the program -- something I had not heard in what seems like years.

"Haliburton," he added to the list.

Murphy for his part presented himself as a maverick -- someone willing to take on his own party. As one recent example he cited his opposition to the bailout. The first plan was bad enough, and the second, the one which ultimately passed, was the same only festooned with pork.

O'Donnell supported both the first and the second recovery plans.

"If we didn't pass it, the dam would have broken on Wall Street and would have washed away both Wall Street and Main Street." O'Donnell criticized Murphy for not "bellying up to the bar" and voting to approve the measure.

Questions were submitted by the audience, which were organized by a panel sitting at a desk, and then handed in short stacks to the moderator. On health care, the moderator chose a startlingly worded question.

"Do you support a single-payer health care?" She added for the audience's edification that "single-payer" plans involve the government paying all health care bills, but not taking over the apparatus of doctors and hospitals and health care providers; it still entailed a free market albeit with government intervention, and so it is not what most would consider socialism.

O'Donnell said he is on record supporting single-payer health care, and still favors it. He did not make reference to the fact that neither Presidential candidate is proposing a single-payer plan.

Murphy opposed a single-payer system, favoring measures to bring down the cost of health care or to help citizens save for their care, and cited a record of supporting technocratic, largely conservative measures.

O'Donnell criticized this as nibbling at the edges. The system is broken, he claimed, and it needs to be fixed.

On energy, Tim Murphy said he wants America to open new lands for drilling for oil and to exploiting this region's vast coal reserves. Use the money that we make from this, he says, to clean our power plans, and for next generation technologies, wind, solar, nuclear, everything. We can pursue it all at once.

Steve O'Donnell pledged allegiance to coal, absolutely. He said it is a big part of our region's economic future. However, he criticized the idea of pursuing such a broad drilling and fossil fuels regime, at the expense of aggressively pursuing new energy solutions now. Murphy said he didn't understand O'Donnell's position on fossil fuels, then.

Murphy was well-rehearsed and never at a loss for words. Twice he touted his own experience as Congress's only PhD in psychology, saying, "I've seen the worst of people come out, and I want to continue that mission," specifically by cleaning up the mess on Wall Street, and by drilling for resources so we don't bankroll our enemies overseas.

O'Donnell admitted frankly during the introduction that this was his first debate, and was grateful for the opportunity. Still, he was forceful throughout, and scored the biggest laughs. "Let me give you an idea about my background," he said, just as the warning light turned red. "I grew up in Homewood ... uh, and that's the end!" he shrugged happily.

During the last question, Murphy made reference to what he calls O'Donnell's "Ten Point Plan to Raise Taxes," citing examples like the inheritance tax and upper brackets of income, Medicare and Medicaid taxes.

O'Donnell didn't respond directly to this, but expressed displeasure at the "desperate, negative, false" attacks Murphy is running about O'Donnell's supposed business dealings, stressing that he can do so because of contributions from oil, drug and insurance companies for whom he does business in Congress.

The Democratic challenger frequently criticized his opponent for voting with George Bush "from 80 to 97% of the time" from 2002 through 2006; scaling back from the President since then he says is "too little, too late." Murphy again cited differences with the President and rocky relationships with fellow Republicans, though sometimes these play out behind the scenes.

O'Donnell assured his audience that as the next member of Congress, "if the next President of the United States is wrong" or mistaken about something, he said with a nod, "You're going to hear about it."


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Tuesday: Our Own Sort Of Skewed List*

Mayor declares wish for an Allegheny river front plan.

"It's almost like, 'Hey, now it's our turn,'" said state Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park. (P-G, Rich Lord)

No! How... ?

Despite global jitters, there's reason for optimism on the Allegheny, said Urban Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Rob Stephany.

"I see really vibrant housing markets in Lawrenceville unfolding," he said. "I see the Strip continuing to be one of the most interesting amenities the city has to offer. I see the Cultural District really maturing."

Our Cultural District is immature in some way? Never mind. The north shore of the south bank is as viable a place as any to do some redevelopment. It's certainly underutilized enough.

Today's point is, if the Mayor and the URA director are casting about in search of a plan, you can be sure there is a plan on the way.

"You're talking about something that will take 20 years to do maybe," said Mr. Ferlo. "It starts with the master planning, laying out the vision, looking at the obstacles."

Results won't be immediate.

Proposals are due to the URA by Nov. 14, and the winning team would start the planning process in February.

Long-range master planning, strategic vision, and an analysis of possible obstacles due in 17 days? That is not a lot of time! Are we on the Apprentice? Who's our project manager?

Someone should clue in our Department of City Planning. Is it even allowed to bid on the RFP?

Pittsburgh enjoys the Obama.

"I like Bill Clinton, don't get me wrong, but I've never been inspired like with Obama. I see something in him I've never seen in the others -- integrity," Carter said. (Trib, Wereschagin & Tolmeri)

Protesters were mainly of the anti-abortion variety -- the toughest nut to crack. Many of the youthful McCain voters I encounter rely on a pro-life stance more than anything else to justify their choice.

Some West End residents desire not the strip club.

"Whatever you have going on in that club is going to impact everybody who is in this room," said Debbie Whitfield of Sheraden. "Once your clean establishment gets dirty, it's going to be the responsibility of everyone in this room to clean it up." (P-G, Sadie Gurman)

What the aspiring owner needs to do is to provide a concrete argument as to why his proposed strip club will be and remain cleaner and better regulated than existing clubs -- replete with research on "best practices" and the such -- and argue that he should have the right to open a business and compete with the truly foul clubs that exist, hopefully driving them out of business.

McCain campaign denies role in local race-baiting hoax.

Spokesperson Jeff Sadosky says the campaign "had no role in this incident." (Trib, Mike Wereschagin)

Keith Olbermann disagrees. (MSNBC, h/t 2PJs)

Rumor Has It: Ravenstahl got booed at Obama rally.

I received two different text messages from two different numbers around 5:45 PM yesterday that said so. In addition, 2 Politcal Junkies Maria Lupinnacci reports:

First, I missed the warm-up acts -- I got in just as Barack started his speech.

Second, yes, mention of Lil Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's name drew many boos along with applause. A woman standing next to me even asked if he was a Republican. She added that she wasn't sure about him. I said I thought of Sarah Palin as Luke in lipstick and she nodded.

For this business, we call upon our friends at Early Returns. Younz had people at the Arena. Younz are one of us now. What did you witness? Was it the sort of uneven crowd reaction that can send a political thrill up one's leg?

*-UPDATE: Obviously the Toledo Block Blogger isn't going to be any help. We would have assigned this work directly to Trib Whispers, but sadly they only whisper on Sunday mornings.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pittsburgh Councilman Requests Apology of McCain and Palin for "Incendiary Story"

Pittsburgh city councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess just released an open letter to Sen. John McCain and to Gov. Sarah Palin.

After making reference to reporting by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Talking Points Memo and the events described therein, Burgess writes:

All too often in the halls of justice around the world, people are accused of crimes they did not commit. That one of your campaign spokespersons would spread such an incendiary story before any confirmation of the facts is both irresponsible and runs counter to our nation’s Constitutional guarantee that no one be denied life, liberty or property without due process. Moreover, that a representative of the McCain-Palin campaign would be so careless and in the process of doing so, cast aspersions on African-Americans, is unfair.

On behalf of the City of Pittsburgh and its’ African-American community, I respectfully request an apology from your campaign to the city for the conduct of your staff and volunteers. Both of you wasted little time in sending your wishes and prayers to Ms. Todd when the news reports were initially circulated, and so I trust that neither of you will waste anymore time leaving this issue unresolved. I would also ask that you send my personal prayers and well wishes to Ms. Todd and her family. I am certain these are trying times for them.

Monday: Listshakes

Comet media advisory:

Tune in to Money Talk 1360 AM today at 5:00 PM, when your humble Comet narrator will be discussing the Net and politics and whatever with 2PJ's David DeAngelo, Chad Hermann formerly of TWM, and moderator / referee Mark DeSantis.

However, it's unlikely most of you will be listening because you'll be at...

Barack Obama is arriving today.

Link here and everywhere.

D-Steve O'Donnell gets his one shot to close with R-Tim Murphy

Debate tonight at 7:30 PM, Jefferson Elementary, Mt. Lebanon. City Paper analysis; P-G edit board endorsement; comments by Chris Schultz. UPDATE: Mr. O'Donnell is also having a "visibility" outside at the same location from 5:00 to 7:30. UPDATE II: Hey, if somebody can point a YouTube camera in the direction of this debate, that would be great!

Costa suspended another four days, but he apologizes.

"Regarding my actions and comments last Friday, I regret having made the comments I did. It was inappropriate and I apologize. I will gladly serve the additional suspension time, and look forward to getting back to work," the statement said. (Trib, Conte & Kerlik)

See? Everything out of everyone's system.

Port Authority management declares impasse in negotiations, forces contract on union.

"It's the same old game -- pointing fingers and blaming the union," said union President Pat McMahon. "I believe what they just did is illegal." (Trib, Jim Ritchie)

What is Dan Onorato's role in facilitating a good outcome to negotiations? Is it limited to threatening to refuse to allow $183 million in state money to be released into the local economy, in order to precipitate this breaking point?

Judge quashes North Side United's appeal of North Shore land deal.

Judge James wrote in his accompanying opinion that to pursue an appeal, the groups, under law, had to show that they were personally affected by the sale of one North Shore parcel and portions of three others to Continental Real Estate Cos. (P-G, Mark Belko)

We imagine community benefits agreements per se are best sought politically, not legally. However, there were real procedural concerns at this meeting of the Stadium Authority board. How are "the public" and "the taxpayers" supposed to demonstrate standing whenever they are robbed of proscribed representation and adequate notice of public business to be transacted?

We remember board chair Debbie Lestitian, the lone dissenting vote, complained that the sale of land to Continental Real Estate at roughly a tenth of the market price amounted to a considerable public subsidy -- especially when one considers the lower property tax assessments that will come about on those parcels due to the minuscule price for which they were sold.

The words were barely out of her mouth before the Contintinal rep assured us, no, no no! This was not anything like public subsidy! This was a way to get development going and get people working already, constructing what will be a much-beloved outdoor amphitheater (with another amphitheater to arrive near the casino shortly, and similar to the one recently improved at Point State Park. More bread, less circuses please!).

It wasn't until literally several days later that Continental would announce its intention to seek actual, literal monetary subsidies from state government for the project, on top of the quasi-subsidy of free low-cost public land in Pittsburgh -- subsides that were always part of the plan, and that we should have known about.

Continental spokesperson Regina Phalange explains:

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Confrontation: Joe Biden VS. Barbara West

We first saw video of this interview wrapped in a fairly typical Wonkette post.

Later, Drudgy McSleazestein pointed us to some post-game revelations available in Hal Boedeker's "The TV Guy" blog at the Orlando Sentinel:

Biden so disliked [WFTV-Channel 9's Barbara] West's line of questioning that the Obama campaign canceled a WFTV interview with Jill Biden, the candidate's wife.

"This cancellation is non-negotiable, and further opportunities for your station to interview with this campaign are unlikely, at best for the duration of the remaining days until the election," wrote Laura K. McGinnis, Central Florida communications director for the Obama campaign.

McGinnis said the Biden cancellation was "a result of her husband's experience yesterday during the satellite interview with Barbara West.

Boedeker's written account of the interview attempts to link to the actual video, but it appears to be unavailable at WFTV-Channel 9 at this time. (UPDATE: it's up.)

The unanswered question: Really? Was she joking? Because Stephen Colbert could use a sidekick.

Now, fairness doctrine in effect: David Frum VS. Rachel Maddow.