Friday, December 25, 2009


Some items of note been coming crost the blag-o-wire:

2 Political Junkies posts a tweet by Sue Kerr relaying an 11 PM KDKA-TV news report that Officer Hlavac has been terminated by the Police Bureau (bckgrnd). I know that's a long way to go but I can't quite believe I don't yet see it confirmed on any news outlet's site. *-UPDATE: Clarification, of sorts.

**-UPPERDATE: This is the story (WTAE)

Infinonymous highlights -- literally and figuratively -- the import of a quote by the defense attorney for state Sen. Jane Orie. The whole idea of a defendant being able to pursue that particular avenue of discovery seems fanciful and a bit impractical. Still -- if the D.A. is seen to back down off of Orie now, after that has been said, then confidence in the D.A.'s office will never be the same. Or will remain exactly the same, depending. So it's kind of an interesting moment.

Null Space
points out helpfully that The Rivers Casino bonds are currently trading at rubbish bond status with no particular cause for optimism in sight. I wonder whether The Great Recession has more to do with the poor performance than anything, and as soon as we experience The Great Recovery along with all its Lagging Indicators then everything will be alright, or at least not quite so scary.


The Slag Heap offers a typically smart post-mortem on the Tuition Tax debacle. The post seems to evaluate the episode's utility along two avenues: how much cash money the City received (we don't know if that's even been worked out yet but we're assured that it's "more") and the degree to which it shook up the system and will provoke further attention (we can't possibly know yet, only predict). And then it reaches the conclusion that both "sides" -- Luke and Good I suppose -- will try to spin the results to suit their own purposes, but the truth must necessarily be somewhere in the middle. Wherever the author is, for example.

Allow me to illustrate two other avenues by which the misadventure did damage:

One is that it sacrificed too much of Pittsburgh's moral high ground in its continuing and very necessary attempts to secure revenue. It ought to have been easy enough for the Little City That Could to win hearts and minds against cash-soaked medical centers and insurers, ever-expanding universities, or even oblivious commuters -- but to choose as our target "students" and "education" and "cuteness" surely soured a lot of neutral Pennsylvanians, and even Pittsburghers, against these efforts. It was as though we attempted to knowingly stake out the moral low ground. And now, folks are ill-disposed towards the Money Grubbing City That Hates Youngsters, just when we need sympathy most.

The second is simply that, according to the Mayor's victory-tale, he bluffed and outmaneuvered the non-profits into making concessions. Yet he did so extremely publicly. And so like the -- like the Grown Man Who Cried Wolf -- this will necessarily erode his political trustworthiness down the line. The next time he rolls out a major initiative, or threatens action, people will wonder, "Yeah, but what's he really getting at? What's his angle? Is he serious this time?" That hesitancy could add real friction to other situations.

I don't want to oversell all that, though. The fact of the matter is, the New Pittsburgh Coalition -- for all its present foibles -- is the best vehicle we have going. What we should do, if we are serious about expanding the city's sovereignty and tax base in the face of these horrendous challenges, is commit this New Pittsburgh Coalition to our memory: editorialize on what a great idea it is, remind ourselves to keep reporting on it somehow, keep asking hard questions of its members, and treat it with anxious hope and guarded optimism for months and months to come. Embryonic as it is, it is nobly enough conceived and could yet grow to do the trick.


  1. Bram,

    I can't believe the MSM isn't documenting the Hlavac story online ANYWHERE. We caught it on the KDKA 11 PM newscast last night. They did a teaser and aired footage of Andy Sheehan talking with Hlavac's attorney who clearly said they would fight the charges, for custody and for reinstatement.

    All I can say is Ledcat saw the story with me. I contacted the various media outlets via email and Twitter to ascertain their silence on a significant twist in a major local story. I guess the rain is more important.

  2. Sue, at this point I need to ask: are you guys POSITIVE you guys didn't misunderstand the report? He IS being charged, so maybe it's that he's fighting the charges and any efforts to discipline him? I'm just sayin'.

  3. The McDevitt statement should be taken seriously -- he'll do it, and K&L blessed the entire enchilada before it accepted the Orie family's deposit -- but the more important statement might have been Law Claus' (the assistant D.A.).

    Zero tolerance, at the Allegheny County District Attorney's office, regarding the obliterated line between public work and campaigning?

    This declaration from an office whose leader publicly and without qualification or prompting pre-emptively blessed the owner of the facility in which innocent children were incarcerated for profit through kickbacks (and happened to be the speaker's brother)?

    I think the "zero tolerance" standard is, particularly in context, silly, unworkable and counterproductive.
    So why did a normally sensible guy like Law Claus say it?

    By the way, Infinonymous has been receiving holiday visitors from IP address "holding acquisition co., l.p. - beaver," which resolves to . . . All are welcome at the holidays, but that seems a curious coincidence.

    Regarding Hlavac the Cowardly, the city may be going slowly because the union contract permits Hlavac to choose his method of grievance resolution, and I heard he picked boxing gloves with his ex-squeeze.

    The personal-level tragedy is depressing and important but the bigger issues -- who promoted this loser, why, and will there be any examination of or accountability for botching that call -- deserve most of the attention.

    Happy holidays.

  4. I just read the final part of the original message and, after the laughter subsided enough to permit typing . . .

    No one who counts takes the "Little City That Could" line seriously, for the same reason underlying the soon-to-emerge disconnect between the not-for-profits and the city government. Pitt, CMU and UPMC are willing to toss pennies toward the city, but any substantial payments would be conditioned on major changes in the city's ways (and the advice toward that end would be counted as much of the "contribution" to city welfare).

    The city, meanwhile, expects a handsome bailout with no strings attached and no genuine improvement required. Much like the earlier pitch for a bailout from Harrisburg.

    Anyone who thinks Pitt, CMU, Highmark and UPMC are going to toss real cash down a remorseless, unreformed black hole probably thought Harriburg was going to bail out the city last time, too.

    The city doesn't deserve more revenue (unless it is prepared to raise property taxes rather than trying to offload its responsibilities on nonresidents and non-city voters) until it stops wasting cash -- or, seen from the flip side, begins to operate sanely.

    And it isn't going to get that revenue until it changes -- at least, not from the major non-profits.

    You don't get to make decisions at UPMC, Highmark, Pitt or CMU by being as inept as a mayor of Pittsburgh, as hapless as a member of city council, or as dumb as the average city voter (you know, the people who think Luke and the city law department intimidated and outsmarted Mark Nordenberg and Pitt's lawyers -- how can anyone who has spent ten minutes with each man misunderstand that point?).

    The city's moral high ground? Santa is a more realistic story.

  5. Some of us "polar bears" are going to try to swim to city's moral high ground on New Year's Day at 9:30 am at the Mon Wharf. If is all downhill from there.

  6. This was buried on the Trib site, but it says the city still not be out of the woods. Don't forget, the NPC isn't $15 million in the banks.