Monday, March 2, 2009

Do You Feel Doomed To Repeat Anything?*

The Angry Drunk Bureaucrat has an observation worthy of almost full reproduction:

I was thinking random thoughts while walking by the Greyhound Bus Terminal, when it occurred to me that we haven't talked about the whole LED Billboard kerfluffle in awhile. It further occurred to me that we haven't talked about contracts, take home cars, Ron Burkle, street paving, media blackouts, purges, community benefits agreements, tax breaks for non-profits that contribute to the Pittsburgh Promise, Pat Ford, interdepartmental mergers, ethics boards, vacant "interim" positions, operating efficiencies, getting arrested outside Heinz Field, more purges, city sponsored campaign advertising, casinos, missing meetings, demotions, and Dennis Regan in awhile either.

That's a pretty thorough and useful accounting. Don't forget cost-recovery for police officer secondary employment.

I will add that as a reader of blogs, it sure seems like the public is familiar with a lot of these topics. Some of them seem to us like ever-present, why-won't-you-drop-it-already old saws. That's a dangerous dynamic, because the fact of the matter is that the actual professional media covers news as it breaks and then largely moves right on -- hardly ever looking back.

Not that that's an easy job. If my educated hunch is correct, one day there will appear one article in which many of the above topics are briefly listed -- under an appropriate headline like Ravenstahl administration has had its hiccups or Ravenstahl says missteps come with the job -- in which each scandal will get half-a-paragraph's worth of reexamination and perspective. You'd better be in town that day, or you'll miss it.

In a political race it is the challengers' job to make issues out of issues, but there are certain things of which the public deserves to be fully and deeply cognizant regardless. Barack Obama did not have to inform his audiences of a war being fought in Iraq, originally waged to halt Saddam's weapons programs and what have you. The news media continually relayed to the public the several stories of the incumbent administration because to do so was vital in itself. Obama, Clinton, Romney and McCain then offered their own thoughts on how they might have handled things differently, and the democratic process took it from there.

For example, one can't really make an argument that the mayor's own personal hand-selected development, redevelopment, planning, zoning, public housing and parking czar having left the city in scandal to be "investigated" by the state, then blasting the mayor for corruption, and then apparently having his silence bought by the administration isn't something that the voting public deserves to understand as well as possible regardless of the course of the positive conversation about Pittsburgh's future.

And that's just the cheapest example. Frankly the purges, vacant "interim" positions, casinos and demotions all sound like great avenues of exploration. And I really like the formulation "city sponsored campaign advertising". Might as well throw this in.

*-UPDATE: I should add that none of us have delved into this Sunday joint yet, which might have been headlined City's economic situation very very complicated (P-G, Rich Lord)

Tangentially Useful: Busman's Holiday.

Anti-Discrimination Ordinance: Expect Movement

On my way back from that other engagement, I ran into County Councilman Jim Burn. Since he mentioned his wife got a kick out of the last Mr. Burns photo we ran in his honor, here's another.

I asked Mr. Burn what is up with 4201-08.

"Nothin'," he said flatly. "In fact, we're supposed to talk about that tomorrow."

He pointed out that it has been roughly four weeks since the largest public hearing in the history of the Gold Room was held on that topic, and the ordinance subsequently tabled for discussions.

"If there's a language problem," he said, his eyes searching to the left and right, "where is it?" He indicated that one way or another it's time to start moving forward. He remains a co-sponsor of the legislation.

Tuesday's meeting is at 5:00 PM and is apparently being webcast as usual.

Monday Blog Highlights**

We had a post planned for this afternoon, but the schedule of the Chancellor of the Exchequer suddenly opened up and we were accorded an audience that we'd been seeking.

Note: This is the only picture of Michael Lamb that exists on the Internet. We challenge you.

* Update: Show prep.

In the meanwhile, here you go:

The Allegheny Institute has some process questions about how our stimulus money is going to be accorded. As we understand it, currently the plan is to dump it in the Governor's office, wherein he will assort it into piles and hand it out.

The Public Square Project would like you to know about this. They have excellent timing. **-Update: Holy cow!

The HUDDLER makes a pretty extreme pitch for the Employee Free Choice Act. What would this do, again? Card check unionization? How about we have nice deliberative elections, only we streamline and enforce the snot out of labor laws? I want everyone to get organized too, this just seems ... cheap and easy? I haven't made up my mind yet.

Progress Pittsburgh helpfully points out that other people know that cheesy politics are stupid and lame.

Gotta go.

Monday Morning Sustenance

During the course of these two years of blogging, Comet Senior Political Analyst Morton Reichbaum has logged countless hours watching the City Channel with great interest -- when not falling asleep or insisting upon watching hockey.

He asked me to clarify, in response to published reports, which of the familiar individuals is now running for mayor.

"The one with the hair," I informed him, "in the middle. The annoying one."

"Oh! Yeah, well yeah, sure, he seems..." Reichbaum took a moment to think of the right word. "He seems wholesome."


Saturday's print edition carried a response to Patrick Dowd's "Robbing Peter to Pay Paul" issues:

"These payments are not new," the Ravenstahl administration noted in a response to e-mailed questions. "If these payments were eliminated, the additional burden would fall on the taxpayers of our city who would be required to subsidize the authority's share of these costs." (P-G, Rich Lord)

1. Correct: these payments are not new. You are perpetuating the same old mistakes of your predecessors, three years running.

2. We are warned ominously of a tax hike. The oversight bodies exist, almost explicitly, to prevent us from raising taxes. Something else almost certainly would have to occur; a realistic budget might be just the thing to trigger more state aid.

3. When the Authorities run low on cash, many of them simply get to raise rates on residents (the Water Authority, ALCOSAN) so it all amounts to the same thing in the end -- except city government itself is more directly accountable.

4. "The Ravenstahl administration noted in an e-mailed response..." From who? Just curious. Was it the Mayor address, the Undermayor address, the Budget Director -- with whom were we exchanging? This just adds some legitimate information and insight.


And now, ladies and gentlemen, the YouTube stylings of District 2 candidate Rob Frank:

Not wanting to be outdone, Georgia Blotzer, Democrat, says we're going to have to produce a video at some point as well -- but not until the petition drive is over and the Listening Tour is fully off the ground. I'll do my best to make sure we use lots of awesome studio effects like star wipes and strobe lighting.