Saturday, February 14, 2009

Saturday: I Like Things That Are Great.

"Prosecutors"?! Who the hell are "prosecutors"? (P-G, Jonathan D. Silver)

This little essay gets better and better and better every time I read it. And I am continually reading it. (Pgh Is A City)

The Rad-Mid has totally hit its stride:

Baby Boy? They had to clarify? What other kind of Bris is there? Am I in Pittsburgh, or the Sudan? (P-G, Radical Middle)

Let me also forward this post along for your consideration: a gambit that was always one of my favorite features of the old TWM.

Blogger Chad Hermann is also taking upon himself some lengthy prose. I find it a little hard to concentrate on -- Hermann still tends to angry-up the blood something fierce, and besides which we are living in the age of progressive ADD -- but those parts of this one that I glimpsed through my fingers while I was partially obscuring my view of the monitor looked good. As a bonus, he embedded what is now one of the top ten fiction-based YouTube vids I've seen so far this year.


As you know, Teh Blogrolls are being tinkered with as usual. If you are enjoying what's been going on over at Chris Schultz's Thoughts on Government ... and other stuff, bookmark it now, because pretty soon I'm replacing it on the top tier with THE HUDDLER.

Null Space is TOTALLY WAILING! With the Mon-Fayette Expressway seemingly as weak as its ever been, Smallstreams chimes in to tell us it's time to revisit the Citizen's Plan for the MVX (LINK). Also, some of us are wondering whether leasing the parking garages is even going to come close to "saving" the pension funds, while others of us are wondering whether we can do anything more profitable than continuing to operate the lots ourselves (LINK).

Richard Florida is totally relevant -- he's not automatically right about anything, but he's more relevant than ever. These excerpts that Madison provides have me thinking that Pittsburgh should be promoting its incredibly brilliant, tightly packed constellation of universities (tm). (Pittsblog 2.0)

I didn't see very many Steelers standing around here:

Once Harrison ran up the backside of Deshea Townsend (thereby informing him of his intentions) I saw a bunch of blocks getting thrown, and exploding Cardinals.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Notes from URA Board Meeting: 2/12/09

Kuhn's in Hill District granted tentative approvals, very positive rhetoric; final actions on track for March/April

See also: P-G, Mark Belko; Trib, Jeremy Boren

2:02 PM:
Quorum of board members present. Board chair Yarone Zober calls meeting to order.

Agenda Item #1: Hill District Grocery Store / Kuhn's project.

URA 'designated pitcher' officer: We had granted Hill House CDC an "exclusive three-month period to negotiate" -- "Here today to provide a progress report" -- "Complex financing arrangement" including tax credits -- CDC has engaged Massarro Construction; has secured funding offers for $4.6 million -- URA is considering two "significant actions" today: the approval of $580,000, and "commitment" of $1 million called for in CBA.

Evan Frasier (pictured), Hilll House CDC: There was a "$2 million concern from December". There's been progress toward "filling that gap". $750,000 through Allegheny County, that is Dan Onorato. There's been money committed by State Rep. Jake Wheatley, or that at least has come "far enough in the process". There's been money offered by the Richard King Mellon Foundation, some other non-profits. Councilwoman Payne has been a "huge advocate". The mayor has provided "solid support behind the scenes".

Zober calls upon board members Payne and Jim Ferlo for comments. Payne defers to Ferlo. Ferlo asks 'designated pitcher' about status of lease arrangement. Pitcher: we have a "square footage lease rate we believe we have a lock on".

Ferlo asks for clarity on Wheatley funding. URA director Rob Stephany clarifies that the URA has received "no letter" from Wheatley.

Ferlo: We are contemplating "not a dispensation agreement", but "an intent to contractually commit". Stephany: approval will mean "the site is yours" if you "meet certain thresholds." Ferlo: Who'll be the owner? Frasier: For at least 7 years, the Hill House Development Corporation, so as it stands, "The community will own the site; we won't know that 'till you sign the lease."

Zober: "Ms. Payne? Comment?" Payne: "So this will be [run] like the Family Dollar?" Frasier: Yes. Payne: "Hats of to the community" that's been "struggling" for this; "pleased".

Zober: "Luckily, this seems like the right one." [One meaning grocery store, meaning Kuhn's] "What happens next?" Frasier: get a "lock on New Market Tax Credits" today. Ferlo, Stephany: Looking at signing that lease in March/April once design elements are finalized. "March/April" murmured around table in assent. Payne: "I would say May..."

Zober: "Am I gonna be shopping there in 2010?" Frasier: "That sounds good". Payne: "I'm guaranteeing them" operation by 2010 [appreciative laughter all around].

Ferlo: Building Trades Council has what is called the "Erect Fund". May have funding available. May come with certain strings attached in regards to labor relations. The CBA "speaks eloquently" about intentions regarding labor already. Kuhn's has collective bargaining in place already at its Rodi Road location.

Zober: Public comments? Speaker self-identified as Freedom Fighter for All: Supports the "team over there" (Frasier, etc.). "We want a health(y) store"; and are "praying it works out, thank you." [applause].

Zober: calls for vote; motions carried [more applause]. "Let's keep rockin' and rollin'."

Agenda Item #2: National Aviary, grant $1.625 million -- an increase of $500,000 over previous. Discussed concerns about employee who resigned in protest over accessibility issues. Aviary rep: A few specific changes have been made; Aviary is now "most accessible". Ferlo: "We're not gonna see picket lines, are we?" Aviary rep: "No." Payne: "Been there 3 times" now. Motion carries.

Next agenda item: Residential project near Children's Hospital (31st Street Lofts?) Using for the first time "UDAG Program Income Fund (UPIF)". Ferlo: "Very excited". Developer: "No other apartments in the city like it, I guarantee it." Building's pink coloration somewhat controversial: this situation may or may not be abated. Motion carries.

Departed meeting. Later on the agenda: several items regarding Beechview. Staff representing State Rep. Chelsa Wagner in attendance. Informed speculation: probably matters pertaining to Bernardo Katz.

Discussion Question: So much agonized talk about the unfortunate necessity of including some public subsidy in the grocery store project -- so much soul-searching, grudging acknowledgement, and slow coming around. Is it always this serious? Do not many projects benefit from far larger subsidies almost routinely? Do they all receive this appropriate degree of skeptical scrutiny prior to approval?

Recommendation: State Rep. Jake Wheatley's piece of the financing arrangement seems to be the most tenuous element at this point. We may as well send to him some positive reinforcement.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Thursday: Crazy News, Man.

Senator Fumo admits that his public staff performed campaign work, but does not admit to any wrongdoing.

"It's also a violation to spit on the sidewalk, but I don't know that it's enforced," said Mr. Fumo, who gave terse and often feisty answers to Assistant U.S. Attorney John J. Pease during the first day of what is expected to be a long and blistering cross-examination in Mr. Fumo's federal corruption trial. (P-G/PI, Lounsberry & McCoy)

Together with yesterday's depiction of the Fumo household as a state-funded laboratory and think tank, what we see developing is a lot like the case against Cyril Wecht -- only seemingly at least a little more serious, and without Fumo playing his cards nearly as well.


Patrick Dowd is needling Mayor Ravenstahl in regards to The Sign -- though probably not in any way that you'd like him to.

Dowd's letter reiterates much of the legal history of this case, in which the city solicitor's office argued from both sides of its mouth. On the one hand, George Specter opined, the process Lamar used to obtain an electronic billboard Downtown was of dubious legality and should be ceased. On the other hand, Specter also noted that the process had been used previously -- and that Lamar had a good-faith reason to believe it would be followed again. (City Paper Slag Heap)

One of these days, Pat Dowd, the folks at the Pennsylvanian, George Specter (or somebody other than Specter), Lamar Advertising, Pat Ford and a judge are going to get together in a room and sort this all out. In all probability, it's going to be surprisingly peaceable.

Pat Ford was hired for his passion, his determination, his Reaganesque commitment to the free market and its attendant faith in a certain kind of Providence. He obviously had a tragic weakness for the symbolic trappings of power -- but by no accounts yet did he ever accumulate or procure for himself anything of significant substance. That is, until his handsome severance package -- but that only once he was cut loose.


As you know, today at noon is the time for County Executive Dan Onorato's second Cyber Town Hall. During the first one, Onorato defended the equity of his "base-year" property tax schemata by reference to the fact that almost all property values rise from year to year -- so he is really keeping everyone's property taxes low.

Pgh Is A City wrecked that argument:

Let's get something straight. Housing prices (in a normal society) increase. It's perfectly natural and expected that prices will increase. In fact, if housing prices didn't increase we'd be in trouble. HOWEVER, the increased value of an assessed house SHOULD NOT mean increased property tax. When values go up, the county or the city or whomever, SHOULD adjust the mill rate DOWN so that the net result for them is about the same. Is there a law against that in Harrisburg???

By combining regular property value reassessments with corresponding millage rate decreases, the working class and those in struggling communities benefit from generalized increased prosperity. A rising tide would then lift all boats.

There can be no doubt that reassessments entail serious work and significant costs. However, I do not see why reassessments can not be scheduled for say every other odd-numbered year, and millage recalculations can not go into effect every other even-numbered year, resulting in a manageable four-year cycle. And/or sectional rotation can be employed, with manageable-sized portions of the county being updated continually on a pinwheel. Either way, this would at least be an effort to confront what are clear challenges, rather than bury them in a time capsule or pass the buck until someone else fashions a solution.

So we hope Onorato takes another stab at that particular question -- but the rest of the show was great. We're looking forward to this next webisode. UPDATE: It was awesome. I got two questions in. I'd give the overall performance a B+, we'll post a breakdown eventually.

Reality Check

(h/t Allegheny County, Dept. of Elections)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Understanding Federal Stimulus

I'm not sure I get all the satiric elements -- in fact, I strongly suspect the folks at LandlineTV punted on political satire about halfway through -- but this seems like the kind of thing that merits circulation on classy blogs such as this one. (Huffington Post)

Best day ever? Best day ever. Savor these moments.

The Time: 1985

The Song: Take On Me

CORRECTION: Rudiak Interview *

In a write-up of an interview with D-4 candidate Natalia Rudiak, I included this sentence: She suggested setting up desks for public officials at some sporting events for interaction with the community.

She suggested no such thing. The notion of informational desks at sporting events was mentioned to me by Councilwoman Darlene Harris on the following day.

The Comet regrets the error very much. Go read the Hoagie to learn more about Ms. Rudiak's actual ideas.

* UPDATE: Oh, and this.

weblog 2.11

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

Greetings, Pittsburgh Comet readers and friends:

Hope this finds you well. We're now 97 days away from primary day:

May 19th.


Today's Pennsylvania politician is reduced to arguing that there's nothing all that wrong with corruption. (P-G, PI, McCoy & Lounsberry) UPDATE: Doubly-recommended.


It's interesting that the necessity of draconian budget cuts was revealed exactly as the federal government announced it would be dispersing mad money to states. (P-G, PI, Angela Couloumbis)


Another grassroots community group coincidentally settles upon "good, stable, family-sustaining jobs" as the solution to its problems. (P-G, Team Effort)


Remember the good old days, when we bloggers helpfully pointed out on an hourly basis what an immature 'shnozzle His Lukeness can be? I feel like that stuff doesn't faze anybody in these parts anymore -- we've long given up, given in, moved on to things like political cronyism and a total lack of follow-through on any stated goal project or intention ever ever ever EVER. Yet in recent days it seems to have dawned on the P-G that Our Mayor lacks a certain gravitas. Well, better late than never! In another few years, their disapproval may grow to such an extent that it will appear somewhere in the print edition, where it can be noted by persons other than bloggers. (P-G Early Returns, McNulty & Norman)


It doesn't seem like these fancy audits intimidate anyone. (Trib, Tim Puko)


Although they may pull it off anyhow, please tell me someone put this project on their Obama list? The project is slated to receive a fraction of the subsidy that the Steelers will no doubt receive for their hotel. (Trib, Jeremy Boren)


I'm not calling for a halt to objective coverage and analysis -- praise the incumbent, question the challengers as necessary -- but the eagerness of Pittsburgh's pundit class to prematurely talk-down expectations of a competitive mayors race is bad for the City and the textbook definition of a self-fulfilling prophecy. (Slag Heap.) If it is genuinely your opinion that Pittsburgh is incapable of change, first of all I think you're wrong but more importantly keep it to yourself -- who are you impressing and why exactly? In the future, any writings or utterances by any actor that discourage the good citizens of Pittsburgh from taking a keen and excited interest in this last opportunity to alter our civic destiny will be met with the kind of furious, rude, uncalled-for barrage of ad-hominem insults that can only be generated by the Pittsburgh Comet any underemployed blogger.

And, scene.


See, somebody thinks it's a good message. (Courier, Christian Morrow)

Monday, February 9, 2009

Shields: Answering Questions Today After 1:30 UPDATE: Sike, Made You Look!


UPDATE: This just in:

With the encouragement and support of many people, I have seriously considered running for Mayor of the City of Pittsburgh. At this time, the right choice for me, for this Council, and for the people of Pittsburgh is to continue to serve as Council President.

City Council's positive image and strong record of accomplishment is very gratifying to me. Leadership means being willing to serve the bigger picture over personal ambition. In these difficult economic times, we have serious financial and governance issues to work through. As we face these many challenges, I believe that leading Council is how I can best serve the city.

What the citizens in Pittsburgh most need is a productive common agenda, not a divisive political campaign. I pledge to continue working in the best interests of the people who elected me.

EDITORIAL: What the citizens in Pittsburgh most need is strong, ethical, competent leadership. However, we don't need distraction after distraction and gratuitous infighting -- so we salute Mr. Shields on his principled decision.

And now, onward with greater clarity.