Friday, September 4, 2009

PowerPoint Time: Mayor Ravenstahl's Counter-Offer to State Leaders

As is our custom, sometimes we reproduce these for our audiences. This one contains 12 slides.

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl delivered the following in Council chambers to a room full of engaged citizens, which included many city workers and union leaders. The special meeting was called in rapid response to the progress of a state bill which would significantly and permanently affect the city's budget as a whole, not to mention city pensioners.

After he made this presentation, Council President Doug Shields and City Controller Michael Lamb sat down next the Mayor. Together all three attested to the gravity of the situation and plead for unity in the days and weeks ahead.

Then there was a discussion.


A sensitive poetry by Luke Ravenstahl.


This might be the most important slide right here. This was originally a bill for Philly's sales tax and Philly bookkeeping. A couple of weeks later, a statewide pensions plan of which Our Mayor was only very recently informed was stapled onto the Philadelphia measure.

This bill did not really take its trip to the sausage factory. This is raw pig.


In which the state says, "If you're only flat broke, we'll solve all your problems while letting you run most everything and keep most everything -- but if you're dead broke, we ride through town and do as we please, assuming you don't speak the language."


Well. This is where the accusations of "predatory lending" style behavior come in. House Bill 1828 is far from predatory lending, but it seems to steer the City of Pittsburgh to jump onto this plan by means of making the here and now look tempting, at the significant expense of down the road. I just think that speaks a little to how this whole thing was envisaged.

It is also true that our workforce has been making some sacrifices. Act 47 has been no picnic.


I think that the thing to take away from Slide #5 is that the City has actually been at work on this. Maybe not so much with Harrisburg (though it seems like at least some in Harrisburg may not have wanted to alert Level III Cities as to what has been going on) but among ourselves, we've been shockingly mindful. Say what you want, Lukey has not pulled a Murphy or a Masloff on our municipal pensions yet.

Can the Ravenstahl Plan work by itself? Can any parts of it be worked in to the state plan as it exists so far? Will there emerge any semblance of a third way for Pittsburgh, a way that is not totally our own yet at the same time has not sprung up out of the swamp like some kind of alien?

The next three slides go together. They describe the one-two punch!

SLIDES 6, 7, and 8:

One! Two!

Next came some bottom-line comparisons and political arguments.


  1. Hear me out as I wander:

    My car experienced a malfunction inherent to make, model and year. It caused the ‘check engine’ light to come on. Diagnostic testing determined the cause to be ‘a random misfire’. This came as no surprise to me having searched the inter-net for others experiencing same problem. Back-yard mechanic, that I am. I determined problem to be a leaking intake manifold gasket at the #4 cylinder.

    Car failed inspection and emissions…technician diagnosed problem the same way as I did: spray carburetor cleaner around the perimeter of the gasket. A leak is indicated by an increase in rpms as engine combusts carburetor cleaner. Indisputable evidence based in numbers.

    Technicians at this particular garage would not tackle repair. Cost of repair could run as much as $800.

    Know a guy…a practical mechanic whose experience is confined to doing jobs know one else wants to tackle. Looked at job as a challenge.

    Did what others where afraid to do with the skill and experience only a back-yard mechanic like myself can fully appreciate. Cost of repair about one-half of what the experts would expect to be paid: $410.00.

    Taking him a case of ‘Bud Light With Lime’ next week as a token of my appreciation. He probably won’t partake as he suffered a heart attack this past June. But, it’s the thought that counts…

    What this has to do with the pension situation here in Pittsburgh…who the hell knows?

  2. Well let me take a stab at relevance:

    I also had an automotive situation some weeks back -- my car battery died, and it wouldn't hold a jump. Everyone said it looked like my alternator was shot, which coincided with what little I knew about cars, and that would cost me a tow and about $400. That is until an angel named Sonny came by, ran a diagnostic on my alternator, told me it was running fine and then discovered corrosion *within* my battery heads that was causing the problem.

    Let me back up. This break-down happened in Deutschtown, and I was dressed at the time in the manner of the Deutschtown stumblebum. Remember I said how "everyone" thought it was the alternator? Well, that's because two Deutschtown neighbors similarly comported were the first to notice my problem, and go out of their way to locate for me jumper cables and/or willing people with cars for a jump. They procured cables but not a car, but then cars started stopping -- enough to tell it WOULDN'T hold a jump for very long. And finally several interactions later, Sonny came by -- an independent mechanic without his own garage who advertises on the web (turned out to be Craigslist) -- who saved me the hassle of a tow, possibly the hassle of having an unscrupulous mechanic replace my alternator ANYWAY just to make a buck, cleaned the gunk out the inside of my battery heads, and pointed out that somebody "played" me in the past by replacing only one spark plug.

    Point being: If one is hard up and in need of help, if one LOOKS broke and ACTS broke (without being a panhandler about it), there is a higher incidence of angels like Sonny and others from Deutschtown coming 'round and offering their time and creativity. Had I been dressed sharply and buried in my cell phone, telling onlookers, "I've got it taken care of!" then I never would have received the aid I did or made those alliances.

    There is pressure always on leaders of cities to make as though they're NOT broke, they're NOT flailing, that they have it all together. It's possible that if the City, on a day-to-day basis, wore its poverty and commonplace desperation on its sleeve, eventually we would be in receipt of more generous treatment and make contact with partners of our scale, and with the broader alliance of struggling outfits.

  3. My Man...

    You get it!

    One minor correction in your dissertation...

    Batteries have terminals, one positive, one negative...

    Ran into same problem on Rt 51.

    Car crashed... bought a alternator and a set of metric wrenches. Kinda set up a MASH Unit in Pep Boys Parking lot.

    Let me pop my hood and I can tell you which battery terminal corrodes first...

    Verdict, both corrode at same pace...

    I am a mechanic and I always tell the young, the bright and recently educated..."always look for the obvious before complicating situation."

    Life is a lot easier that way...

  4. Use baking soda to clean battery terminals with battery terminal cleaning tool. Neutralizes acid...

    Use a dielectric grease, grease that likes electricity...ordinary grease will act as insulator...not good.

    Also use multi-meter and follow directions that come with new alternator...alternator can be returned for full refund if dirty terminals were problem.

    Public Service Announcement

  5. One more thing...

    If you need to change an alternator on a 1983 Chevy Caprice...

    You will need an 11/32 wrench. Not included in most wrench sets.

    There is reason for that, GM wants you to pay them $79/hr to perform repair. Wrench costs $10.

    I stole my wrenches from the engine room of the USS Claude V. Rickettes while in Philly Shipyards in 1977.

    Evoking Statue of Limitations :)

    11/32's is the ticket when doing repair on 83 Caprice!

  6. I can hear your groans!

    I feel your pain...

    Interesting story about my dad trying to climb Cemetery hill, just past Silver Star Meat Processing Plant.

    Up the hill as you leave 5 points in McKee’s Rocks.

    Must have been ten at time (1966).

    Old panel truck towed to house in Imperial with bull rope by my Uncle Butz...

    Dad and brother in-law get busted by State Police...bull rope broke, each chose different paths. It is illegal to tow vehicle that is operating...

    But on Cemetery Hill, panel truck rocks, sputters and stalls.

    Open hood, everything appears to be in order...

    Making a long story short...

    Angle of hill and leak in radiator hose caused coolant to spurt backwards on decaying spark-plug wire...

    On steady ground, not a problem...but pulling hills?

    Monk signing off...

    Thank god! I hear you...

    …just as I sigh every time my dad tells this story...

  7. USS Claude V. Ricketts??

    At least I understand the source of Monk's musings now: Too much Red Lead Primer?

    but the smallness of Pittsburgh never ceases to amaze me. Know a Steve Morris?

  8. We had a name for that red lead primer...can't seem to recall?

    Imagine that.

    Then it was outlawed, went to epoxy...base and catalyst; to paint bilges. Gave us reason to smoke Turkish Hash as we puked...

    Proudly serving Country...

    Used a lot of lead based material, gaskets, lapping compounds...valves and turbine rebuilds.

    Asbestos, now that was a real treat! Guy from WVA suffered collapsed lung after inhalation...

    And then their was tetracycline...used for deck and parts cleaning...

    Now outlawed...good high may be reason. Could really run a buffer with a rag full of that under your snoot! GO NAVY!

    I'm only here to drive yunz it a miracle.

    Knew a Jim Morris...USS Puget Sound AD38. Went to visit his family in Arizona..

    Know a 'Of' a Robert Morris..local guy nowadaze.

  9. I would be remiss if I did not mention Secretary of the Navy Middendorff visted us in Engine Room aboard the USS Puget Sound...

    Got some kind of an award....

    ...thinking it was for most toxic elements consumed by a human being.

    Usually given posthumously!


  10. I ask.

    As I type this, what is so appealing about me that causes 55 year old hottie to glance into my garage?

    Is it merely pity, or perhaps, a women of such experience, likes to gaze upon shipwreck and appreciates perseverance?

    She used to pick me up in blue Rambler...and deliver to farm so I could labor for a dollar an hour on dad's farm?

    Her dad now 80, stopped to chat...

    We talked about my last job before my enlistment...

    We shared experience...


  11. Message for C. Briem;

    What have you accomplished, Unleaded? High on octane and low on performance...

    Following was pasted from email:

    To Bram,

    "Listening to Glen Campbell, splurged on a case of Bud Light w Lime and paid a recent visit to Alpark Terrace. Establishing mindset...

    Public hearing notice poster is still affixed in window of adjacent Boilermaker property (Case #109-09 ZBA).

    Decision is way over due. Also visited 15222 PO Box, no paperwork from Local 154 even though I am in arrears by design.

    I like to call these situations quagmires.

    Most have left park at enormous personal expense.

    Could the City be holding back on decision to make damage assessment? I know ZBA experienced shakeup...

    I told you my appearance at hearing representing residents was nothing more than 'belling the cat'.

    ...believe I was successful.

    Going after Union Goons....Stanizzo Brothers. As a member (Local 95) I understand the resentment of Union Membership against Union Bosses feathering their beds...Using Stinizzo as Contractor while bother is head of trades, can not be ignored from within.

    Jack Shea and I have barked at one another in past...noticed he was rubbing elbows with VP Joe Biden...

    At some point I hope to make Federal Case...

    ...Of course, maybe...I ingested to much lead while serving my Country in Navy. Fought for rights there as well...Tell that to C Briem, Bram...

    Bell the Cat....origin lies in Navy movie...

    GO NAVY!


  12. Transmission unintelligible. Say again. over.