Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sunday Monday: Life Marches On...**

Tomorrow Today -- Monday, April 6th -- City Council will hold a public hearing on proposed amendments to the city's Code of Conduct (i.e., "New ethics legislation") at 1:30 PM. *-UPDATE: Hearing to be rescheduled (Trib). Links:

Ordinance with proposed amendments (PDF)

Commentary on 'City Ethics', and the Council's new amendments

Notes and commentary on the Post-Agenda (mid-post)

This hearing won't be anywhere nearly as well-attended as more notable public hearings have been (Exhibit A, Exhibit B), but all the same if this issue speaks to you, do drop in and avail yourselves of your 1-3 minutes of face time with the Council.


No slight to anyone else -- but if I had to nominate one blog post by which to judge the local Internet's reaction to the awful news, it would be this one.

Meanwhile, in due time, the incident will compel us toward yet another contentious debate about gun control -- one side rightly motivated to demand stricter regulations on assault weapons, and the other side almost as rightly offended by first one's attempt to "capitalize" on tragedy. Infinonymous opens this discussion for any of you who are interested, but only after taking a merciless look at the sick mind that committed these heinous acts.


By way of transition...

But here's a thought. Instead of making what is expected to be a $4.1 million investment that fattens the bottom line of an out-of-state surveillance company, why not invest that money into the hiring and training of cops who are willing and able to work with the people in troubled neighborhoods to make those communities better? (P-G, Tony Norman)

Yes please. I am especially not a fan of those security cameras which will be operated by "community groups". And Tony's right -- we don't really have a ton of evidence on crime fighting efficacy.


- City Council declined by a margin of 3-4 in a preliminary vote to spend $15,000 to audit the $414 million, poorly-understood-by-everyone-at-the-time, possibly legally questionable Water Authority bond deal. Council members Shields, Peduto and Dowd voted in favor; Council member Motznik, Payne, Deasy Smith and Harris voted against. (P-G, Rich Lord)

- City Controller Michael Lamb suggests levying a payroll preparation tax (h/t Ed Heath) on certain non-profits instead of just asking them quietly behind closed doors for a tiny voluntary donation. Almost everyone is speaking positively about the idea. Almost. (P-G, Rich Lord)

- Remember that week we were all concerned about the McArdle Roadway? Well, it's due to get a $1 million fixup, but there's a legitimate question of whether or not that's sort of throwing o.k. money after bad. (

ALSO: I should add that City Public Works Dir. of Operations Rob Kaczorowski informed us a few weeks ago that hillside and drainage remediation AND transition to a concrete driving surface were both actively on-the-table of federal stimulus talks -- though concrete would require driving huge slabs of concrete into the earth, which sounds to me personally like making a burdensome project extra-super burdensome. But hey, if we're being stimulated.

- The URA is considering a $300,000 grant for one of the three hotel projects in the works in East Liberty. Also on the agenda for Tuesday is some business with Millcraft. (P-G, Mark Belko)

- The P-G Edit Board continues not to get it on this issue. I want City/County consolidation also, much in the same way I desire peace in the Middle East. But I'm not about to fly to the Holy Land, sequester the principals in a room, and clunk their heads together like Moe from the Three Stooges. The sooner we forget this whole approach, the sooner we can start building agreements from the ground up. (P-G, Edit Board)

And now...

Let him solve our problems.

The first MAYORAL DEBATE between Luke Ravenstahl, Patrick Dowd and Carmen Robinson is scheduled for TOMORROW, April 6th at 7PM on PCNC. Party time, party time.

**-UPDATE: Debate canceled for obvious reasons. (Trib, Jeremy Boren) Debate rescheduled for May 4th.

PCNC is a strange channel. Fully concluding all three debates a whole month before the election is a peculiar arrangement. The fact that we can submit video questions for one of them over the Internet is truly laudable.


After writing this post, I briefly informed Comet Senior Political Analyst Morton Reichbaum of news that Patrick Dowd publicly implicated the Zappalas, Mossie Murphy, others, Greg Zappala, Mossie Murphy and others in a shady and rapacious municipal bond swap deal.

"Mossie Murphy?" Mort started. "God, I haven't heard that name in a hundred years."

"He was like a -- a political pundit, years and years ago," Reichbaum remembers. "How he ever got involved in stuff like this, I don't know."

I asked him on which television, radio, or print media outlet we might have found him. "All over the place. Kind of like Bill Green," Mort replied.

"You know, now that I think of it, he was real palsy-walsy with a lot of guys in City Hall. A real Pittsburgh character. You know who would know more about him," Mort suggested -- and he enjoys talking like this -- "your friends Bill Green and Jon Delano."

Now, we may well have However, we both fell prey to a case of mistaken identity. This 2006 Trib article makes mention of a this Mossie Murphy that is a "son of the legendary Pittsburgh rainmaker and political consultant".

Complaints originating in Northhampton County, PA in regards to bond "swaptions" tied to Maurice "Mossie" Murphy and Merrill Lynch have been discovered by the Comet here.


  1. Poorly understood votes should not pass city council without objection. I agree that city council got hoodwinked. I didn't. It smelled bad from the first minutes.

    All on council at the time are to blame. They keep the purse strings and are -- or were -- in a slumber.

    However, the job of doing audits fall on the back of the controller. That's Michael Lamb's job -- not that of city council.

    The city got in trouble time and time again with the over-reaching of purpose and by doing things that shouldn't be done.

    Put this investigation into Michael Lamb's court.

  2. Mark - I'm not positive that Controller Lamb has the authority to audit instrumentalities of the State (i.e. Authorities), at least not without some kind of authorization.

    I'll have to get confirmation on that, because otherwise, we really are taking the long way 'round the mulberry bush.

  3. If it was not an assault weapon, would it have made a difference?

  4. Mossie Murphy Sr. passed away many yrs ago--ten? Mossie Murphy Jr. followed in dad's footsteps and did a little politics for awhile around here, helping with Klink and some others. His sis, Mary Murphy Kiernan may have helped on that campaign and on small Onorato campaigns, but def. helped on Casey's gov. campaign and I think Mossie helped a little on that one.

    I think Mossie also is a business owner--a golf pro shop on the upper Northside? At least awhile ago, he was.

    As far as the bond thing, no idea. Sorry.

  5. Mark - I stand corrected: the Controller apparently can and does audit Authority business all of his own accord. The real difficulty him auditing the PWSA bond deal (as stated at the table) is there is already a LOT of scheduled audits backing up the system. Darlene Harris for example is still waiting on her Animal Control (or was it Rescue?). The PWSA itself is due for an audit this summer, but even that is not going to encompass the bond swap deal.

    Now, before you blast Lamb for not being on the ball, Mark, remember that Act 47 has been hacking and gouging at our Controller's office resources; remember our previous Controller went to court for the longest time to try to get the cuts reversed.

    Now. The bond deal audit that was voted upon preliminarily last week and will come up again this week would be conducted by an outside contractor through RFP and on a parallel track, so we could get some answers while we are still young and it might be useful.

    Elaine, thanks for that clarification that we are speaking of Mossie Murphy II. My dad was sorry to learn of Murphy Sr.'s not-so-recent passing.

  6. Of course, Michael Lamb has to work harder and faster and SMARTER.

    The first thing he mentioned, on the night of his election -- over me by the way -- was to call for an audit of the controller's office, a post he just got hired to manage.

    Yep, there is a lot to do. Let's not spin wheels.

  7. Some, I assume most non-profits with hold from their employees paychecks for City income tax. They pay a tax based on payroll now. The tax Lamb wants to levy on the non-profits now is something called the payroll preparation tax. I have no opinion one way or the other on whether non-profits should pay that tax, but let's be clear that the employees of non profits do pay City income taxes (and some non profits pay some real estate taxes).

    Meanwhile, Darlene Harris keeps saying that Dowd's interest in auditing the PWSA bond deal is “politics”. Maybe so, but that doesn't mean there isn't a problem there. Her vote against the audit? Purely apolitical.

  8. Ed, please explain what you mean when you say that some nonprofits pay some real estate taxes.

    I know that the Green Building Alliance folks on South Side on Sarah choose to own a building, sustainable, etc -- and never put in for a nonprofit ownership exemption. But, that might be 1 in 10,000. They are GREAT neighbors.

  9. Well, I remember a discussion I believe on this blog, about UPMC's having for profit affiliates that pay real estate taxes for their faciliates. There was a specific mention of a building on Baum between Negley and Graham that was some kind of taxable thing. Someone was saying there are actualy several of these bilding around the City. That was what I had in mind, but I couldn't find anything on Google to back that up, FWIW.

  10. You raise a good point -- and one I'd be all over if I was on council or as controller. This is at the root of the overall problem -- and the solution too.

    We just don't know.

    And, the first thing to get a grip on is land. The footprint of the nonprofit holdings need to be clearly documented, understood, calculated and figured.

    What is what?
    How much do they pay?

    And, over time, how do we shrink those holdings in terms of raw land.

    Back to your point. I think, say, when the bottom floor of Cathedral of Learning at Pitt had an Arby's (managed by O'Connor's people back in the day) -- that section of the building was called 'taxable' and some property taxes would be applied.

    So, there are slivers of property that might have gift shops and such that are measured and calculated in a different light.

    But, who knows?

    Ain't transparent.

    This is where Michael Lamb should be devoted to detailing -- NOT A TAX ON INCOME.