Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Wednesday: Hands Down ... MA' PANTS!

Good news: Pittsburgh soon will become home to the winners of the 2009 Darwin Awards.

Steve Shaw planned to spend this afternoon like he does every other -- at his Woods Run Avenue home near the Davis Avenue Bridge in Brighton Heights.

Despite warnings to evacuate, Shaw insists he and his wife, Christine, are staying put today when the span is demolished.

"We're not going anywhere," said Shaw, an unemployed ironworker whose home of 20 years sits about 50 yards from the bridge.
(Trib, Cherry & Santoni)



Moving right along...

On the way out are sky's-the-limit campaign contributions, clandestine lobbying, unreported gifts and the hand-picking of awardees for lucrative contracts, if the ordinances are enforced. (P-G, Rich Lord)

Emphasis ours. C'mon, Rich, tell us how you really feel. :)

Separate legislation that council approved would require lobbyists to pay $100 a year to register through the city Controller's Office. They also must report the names of their clients. Those who don't register, but try to influence city officials on behalf of their clients, could face fines of up to $2,000. (Trib, Jeremy Boren)

That answers one question.

However, knowing who is a lobbyist and knowing for whom they lobby reveals precious little about who they are lobbying (follow along here) let alone how often and what precisely it is they lobby about.

This brings us back to the issue of public officials making their public schedules public. I at first thought that to be a bit of an overbearing demand, but then I reflected more upon it.

Controller Lamb is tearing down walls in his office so he can see what his employees are doing. Many offices have glass walls so that the boss can look in and see what's going on. When you think about it, why shouldn't We the Bosses know with whom our Chief Executive Employee is spending time on official business? It would be great for government.

Too bad we never even received a trademark fatuous rationale for why that's not going to happen in a Ravenstahl administration.


There are statistics, and then there are similar things:

Last year, reports of the most violent offenses -- homicide, rape, arson, aggravated assault and robbery -- fell in the neighborhoods that make up five of Pittsburgh's six police patrol zones, on average at 5 percent each below 2007 numbers. (Trib, Carl Prine)

So a five percent decrease in 5 out of 6 patrol zones merits an announcement and a subsequent headline that "violent crime is decreasing". That seems a little tenuous.


This Onorato guy is more creative than Spielberg.

Allegheny County may file a federal lawsuit that would seek to force a change in state law concerning property assessments if a statewide legislative remedy can't be found, according to a spokesman for Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato. (P-G, Amy McConnell Schaarsmith)

OMG. Just give us justice. Just fix a problem.

"Because Allegheny County residents are being treated differently than residents in the other 66 counties, we're tackling the problem on the local, state and potentially on the federal level," Mr. Evanto said. (P-G, ibid)

I think Allegheny County residents are being treated differently because several of them sued and won. I encourage residents of Butler and Beaver counties for example to act similarly, but in the meanwhile think of it like this: you haven't had to deal with investigative journalists and bloggers demanding campaign finance reform and an end to no bid contracts. So you see, we all have our particular crosses to bear.

My counsel: solve the problem in your own backyard, hold it up as a model, become Governor -- and smoke 'em if you got 'em.


  1. One might suggest that a dip in violent crime of 30-some percent in Homewood, Terrace Village and downtown might be significant.

    One also might suggest that the dip in crime of more than 10 percent in Zone 1 might be significant, just as it is significant that it dropped by nearly as much in Zone 2.

    It didn't drop so much in the neighborhoods composing Zones 4 or 6, but there's far less violent crime there, a fact readers in those neighborhoods would readily understand.

    Criminologists would suggest also that when a major US city reduces violent crime stats by 5 percent, it means something that's a bit more than tenuous.

  2. Ah but we didn't reduce violent crime by 5% as a city. We reduced violent crime by 5% in approximately 5/6 of our territory, whereas in the remaining 1/6 it rose 19%.

    I might also have mentioned again the well-circulated information that homicides were up.

    However, your points about some-30% reductions in Homewood, Terrace Village and Downtown are very well taken.

    My point was not to castigate the city or our public safety services as failures. My point was to cast a degree of realism on some very interestingly timed and somewhat artful claims of success. It only serves our residents ill in the end to offer false assurances.

    Since we are talking about public safety, I'll also point out this letter to the editor. It wasn't written by the most neutral source in the county, but it speaks to a point I think a lot of folks would like to make if they had the authority.

  3. It's probably also relevant to consider the concept/issue of "juking the stats," to use some lingo from The Wire. On some of those violent offenses, it's possible that the official report can term the crime as less than it actually is, i.e. writing a felony as a misdemeanor. Statistically, the violent crimes decrease.

    In the corrupt, politicized world of The Wire, such antics took place when a sitting mayor needed to be able to point to reduced crime in order to trumpet public safety as a campaign tool.

    But that's just on TV...

  4. Is it only on TV? I saw little TV coverage of an armed robbery at a state store on the North Side the other day.