Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama Spells Out the Obvious**

There were a variety of things that President Obama wanted to put to bed immediately on Day Two for some reason.

Let me say it as simply as I can: Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.

Our commitment to openness means more than simply informing the American people about how decisions are made. It means recognizing that government does not have all the answers, and that public officials need to draw on what citizens know.

The Huffington Post has all the details on the day's bloodshed.

The executive order on ethics I will sign shortly represents a clean break from business as usual. As of today, lobbyists will be subject to stricter limits than under any other administration in history. If you are a lobbyist entering my administration, you will not be able to work on matters you lobbied on, or in the agencies you lobbied during the previous two years. When you leave government, you will not be able to lobby my administration for as long as I am President. And there will be a ban on gifts by lobbyists to anyone serving in the administration, as well.

*-UPDATE: I wonder if Obama would be okay with Superbowl tickets being sold to his officials through privileged channels at "face value", instead of the price you and I would have to pay.


The Post-Agenda session of council regarding the fund in the nature of an irrevocable trust, the draft defeasement agreement, and the nature of oversight in the City of Pittsburgh has been rescheduled for Monday, Feb. 2 at 10:00 AM. No word yet on whether ICA Executive Director Henry Sciortino is going to elect to, or be required to, attend. In the wake of this adverse ruling, there may be a feeling that this could turn into another one of these circuses.

However, it's easy to interpret that possibly all that occurred precisely because Mr. Sciortino didn't seem to be present at that session personally. This post-agenda could be a good opportunity to set records straight, get a menagerie of festering small issues out into the open, and put Pittsburgh back in a position where it can again invest with confidence.


A must-read from the P-G's Brian O'Neill:

People are beginning to get that we can't have it all. A week ago, I asked Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato whether his transportation priority would be a light-rail link between Downtown and Oakland or completion of the Mon-Fayette to Pittsburgh and Monroeville, and he answered, "I think we need 'em both."

That won't do with a president who says we need to make hard choices. Yesterday, he said if he had to pick, he'd opt for the light-rail extension in Pittsburgh.

Thanks for pressing him!

*-UPDATE: Transit agency leaders say those unforeseen costs added $117.8 million to the North Shore Connector's $435 million price tag and threaten to shut down the project without a bailout from a proposed federal economic stimulus package. (Trib, Jim Ritchie)

C'mon. Really? Or do you just see money on the table and are coughing loudly? Because if this diverts money away from the Oakland spine line or, say, the green restoration of Schenley High School, that would be extremely unfortunate.


  1. Onorato's MFX shunning is major, and probably speaks to UPMC's power. What a great thing it would for Pitt students to be able to take a train to Heinz Field for a football game, or for UPMC employees to be able to easily shuttle between the USSteel Building and Oakland. And what a way to clear up bus traffic Downtown; just dump Eastenders at the Oakland train terminus and turn the bus around. And on and on. No way the MFX could ever bring so much benefit to the region's largest population center, i.e., The City.

  2. It was Al Biehler who shunned the MFX; Onorato was taking the politician's angle of "spray and prey" economic development and "having your cake and eating it too". Remember, he's our next guv'nah.

    However, having the state transportation secretary colorfully arguing FOR mass transit, is a win for everybody.

    I lol'ed at "...hallucinogenic easy-credit days..."

  3. It is a sad state of affairs that Obama needs to spell out the obvious. But is great that he did. Hopefully, it is not just lip service and this transparency will flow downward to state and local politics in PA and Pittsburgh.

  4. Gee, one week digging is finished on the Connector tunnels, word gets out that more money is needed. Now what can happen? The city has to pony up out of the bailout money, or the tunnels will sit there, an unused underground mockery of Pittsburgh.

    It's kind of reminiscent of the Simpsons' Springfield, with its defunct monorail and the escalator to nowhere and the giant magnifying glass that just happens to be next to the popsicle stick skyscraper:

    A city full of ill-conceived, never-finished projects.

  5. Or that amusement park in Flint a la Roger and Me.

    President Obama must've had a few tense days over Gov. Blogojovich's proximity to his Chief of Staff. The potential pay-to-play and / or machine politics of the infrastructure bailout cannot be underestimated. Let's hope that he's built in some sort of snare into that bailout money.

    Am happy to see the Hoagie bashing has ceased; welcome P & G and N'at.

  6. Didn't catch Roger & me yet.

    Know what else your comments make me think of? The new Parking Authority building (are we still going to have a Parking Authority?) which started out as an exciting multimodal transporation hub -- so some folks thought it'd be neat to festoon it with digital effects and gliteratti. Then the actual multi-modal part of the concept got lost in the shuffle (it's now a parking lot, and an adjoining Greyhound Bus station), but they maintained focus on the electronic bells and whistles. And somehow, that's a crisis.

    Simpsons Springfield.

  7. Roger & Me is a pretty quality post-industrial examination that bears at least some relevance to Pittsburgh (and even more so to what Syracuse has become and will continue to become over the next decade). And the young Michael Moore has all the grandstanding of Bowling for Columbine, Sicko, and Farenheit 9/11, but somehow the Moore of Roger & Me is more innocent, and by extension, more likeable. Abrasive all the same, but likeable.

    Definitely merits a viewing as much as any of Moore's other films do, if not more.

  8. You said it - P & G, esp. about Moore seeming like a nicer guy then.

    and yes Simpsons Springfield
    and whenever I pass the bus station - especially at night - I cannot help but feel a bit smug. Those flaps on top w/ the Parking Authority logo! The rainbow light show! Pat Ford! The Hello Kitty notebook!

    Do you the mean The Walnut Capital Schenley High School and the UPMC Spine Line projects won't get those yummy pre-Obama fed and state funds? Beause we have to actually finish those other things? Can we make sure we can call Fema, say, in early July? Beginning of the 3rd quarter maybe?

    There is poop where it shouldn't be in our fair city.

  9. For some information on the true cost of a green restoration of Schenley HS, see PURE Reform's reports at and

    Schenley HS was unfairly tagged with an $80M+ restoration cost, based on a standard that only removal of virtually every piece of asbestos containing building material would do. Never mind that in countless public buildings in Pittsburgh, in Pennsylvania and throughout the country asbestos containing materials are successfully managed through maintenance programs and/or a combination of remediation and encapsulation. For Pittsburgh public schools, only full and unaffordable remediation and renovation would be sufficient.

    Now we learn that there are other Pittsburgh public school buildings with a history of problems with asbestos containing plaster apparently more serious than what took place at Schenley. The same type of events that led to the closure of a 100 year tradition at Schenley resulted in business as usual at the other buildings.

    With this information in hand we should move forward in seeking a more realistic figure for the cost of renovating Schenley and with having the building placed on the state's "wishlist" for the economic recovery package. A good start would be the proposal by the Schenley Building Task Force which for $42M would bring the building up to a higher standard than other PPS with extensive asbestos plaster by minimizing asbestos hazards and installing new, accessible mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems.

  10. I'm not entirely sure the School District would accept Schenley back into the fold if you paid them for their troubles, PURE.

    They couldn't abide having a comprehensive, socioeconomically diverse, richly beloved high school standing in the way of their Specialize and Segregate agenda. At least that's what I think, honestly.

    The idea of sinking money into a facility occupying such lucrative real estate was simply the straw that broke the camel's back.

  11. Still, the administration said many times how much it would love to have the building, and even vowed to continue to search for government funds. So the question is, can we hold them to that- if not for Schenley as it was, then as a centrally located building ideal for any program that seeks to draw students from verious parts of the city? Why not, if enough of us join together?

  12. Oops, please ignore the typo above.