Saturday, April 4, 2009

The Poplawski Shooting

The first lines of something called "Policeman's Prayer"...

When I start my tour of duty God
wherever crime may be,
As I walk the darkened streets alone,
let me be close to Thee.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Zappalas: Influence, Big Business, Exploitation and Vulgar Silence

The Zappala family is best known as a legal and judicial powerhouse encompassing a former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice, the current Allegheny County District Attorney and a present candidate for judge on the Court of Common Pleas.

Its also encompasses family members who deal in sweeping business interests -- not only in Pittsburgh, but sprawling ventures impacting the breadth of the Commonwealth which can best be described as controversial.

One of those business endeavors has just set off a tripwire on the contentious City of Pittsburgh political landscape. Others continue to be alarming.


First let us make some distinctions.

One business and lobbying-oriented family member is Charles Zappala, brother to Supreme Court justice Stephen Zappala, Sr. Charles Zappala, for example, was tapped to be a 9% investor in the would-be Harrahs casino project in Station Square, care of Forest City Enterprises. An occasional business partner, Squirrel Hill insurance broker turned political player and financier William Lieberman, also was accorded a prospective 9% stake. The casino license went to Don Barden and the Majestic Star on the North Shore after former mayor Tom Murphy floated suspicions that "the fix was in" for Harrah's.

Another one is Greg Zappala, son to Stephen Zappala, Sr. and brother to Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen Zappala, Jr.


Patrick Dowd started it. An as-yet unidentified Channel 11 News reporter made it happen.

Mark Ratuerkus & Running Mates provides the video. I don't know if WPXI carried it on-air, or if any of the other news outlets attending the press conference utilized it.

WPXI: Alright. Who's doing the bond deal, who did the deal?

Dowd: The folks who were associated with that: Merrill Lynch and JPMorgan. Go back and look at the names of the people that pitched the deal to the city.

WPXI: No, I want you to tell me. I want you to...

Dowd: I believe the Zappalas and Mossie Murphy were people -- two people among others who were associated with that deal. Greg Zappala, Mossie Murphy, others. (video)

"The Zappalas", he said.

WPXI: Are you suggesting that something was wrong with the deal?

Dowd: I think people need to take a look at it. We need to look in to that. I've called for an audit, I hope we get a chance to review it. I think we need to think about who did that deal and why it was done... but most importantly, my number one concern and I've said this before, repeatedly, going forward. How are we going to solve the problem of that bond deal. It's going to end up costing taxpayers more and more money. (ibid)

The known, potential and likely effects of the deal have been previously covered.

Pittsburgh is only one among many places in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in which public officials are feeling duped and taken advantage of by RRZ and by JPMorgan -- together.

JPMorgan turned to other politically connected friends to win contracts in Western Pennsylvania in 2003. That year, it bought Cranberry Township-based underwriter RRZ Public Markets Inc., near Pittsburgh.

Greg Zappala, the son of former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Stephen Zappala and the brother of the Allegheny County district attorney, brought his local government clients to the Wall Street bank. Along with them, according to two lawsuits, came windfall profits on derivative deals.

Zappala urged the Butler Area School District, in the countryside 40 miles (64 kilometers) north of Pittsburgh, to take cash out of bonds that couldn't be refinanced until 2008. (Bloomberg, Selway and Braun)

The article goes on and on and on. To give you an idea, starting at this point, the ensuing sections are headlined as follows: Bank Got More, Inappropriate Transactions, 'They Assured Me', Conflict of Interest, 'I Can't Quantify That', $5.4 Billion in Swaps, $100 Million More (that one deals with Jefferson County, Alabama), 'We Were Boxed', and 'Overwhelming Greed'.

JPMorgan, which, like other banks, balances the swaps by selling similar derivative deals on the open market, took a fee of $1.23 million, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. That's almost 10 times the fair rate, according to a lawsuit filed by the (Erie) school district against JPMorgan and its adviser in federal court.

There had been no court-filed responses as of mid- October. DiCarlo, Zappala and IMAGE didn't return requests for comment. (ibid)

Two well-placed sources who wish to remain anonymous further confirm to the Comet that RRZ was more generally pushing these bond deals aggressively all over the Commonwealth.


More about that RRZ outfit.

The residents in the neighborhood did not know what was being built at Front and Thurlow streets, and the sign that read Delaware County Resource Recovery Facility gave no real indication of what the facility actually was. They had no idea how enormous the facility would be, or how much it would affect their daily lives. By 1991 the construction of the incinerator was complete. In a feeble attempt to win over the residents, Westinghouse provided free hot dogs, sodas, and balloons at the grand opening celebration.

The towering furnace across the street was an imposing sight for the residents of Front, Thurlow, Booth, 2nd, and 3rd streets and Highland Avenue. As the 300+ trash trucks per day began rumbling down their neighborhood streets on their way into and out of the Westinghouse site, the residents of the west-end of Chester started to feel the full impact of their new unwanted neighbor: the truck traffic from LCA Leasing and Abbonizio was increased many times over, the trash odors began competing with DelCora's sewage odors as the worst in the neighborhood. (EJNet, Russell)

Many other subsidiaries of the interconnected RRZ waste management empire were opening up operations nearby.

On December 18, 1992, all of the City Council members except for the mayor sent a letter to the governor and to the DER asking them to expedite the permitting of Thermal Pure. Holding no public hearing, the DER granted Thermal Pure a permit. State law instructs the DER to hold a public hearing as part of the permitting process when the permit is controversial or there is known public opposition. By not holding a public hearing, DER was saying that there was no known public opposition to Thermal-Pure, in spite of the 500+ signatures they had in opposition to BioMed.

In 1993, Thermal Pure Systems was permitted to sterilize 4 to 5 times the amount of infectious waste produced in the entire state of Pennsylvania -- 288 tons per day. Under state law, any incinerator or other disposer of medical waste can only take in 70% of the waste produced in that section of the state. This law suggests that Thermal Pure should only be able to process about 29 tons per day, or 10% of their permitted capacity. CRCQL sued the state on the basis of that claim, and the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania ruled in their favor. Thermal Pure was ordered to shut down because their permit was deemed invalid. (ibid)

Now get this.

But the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, using its King's Bench Power, snatched the case out of the Commonwealth Court and granted a stay on the order to shut down Thermal Pure. Recently, that same court overturned the Commonwealth Court's decision, re-validating Thermal Pure's permit.

Not coincidentally, one of the State Supreme Court Justices is named Stephen Zappala, brother of the partner in Russell, Rea, and Zappala. While Justice Zappala recused himself from the case, he clearly exercised his influence by convincing the court to use the outdated King's Bench statute.

While the Thermal Pure battle was underway, CRCQL had found out that Soil Remediations Services, a contaminated soil burning plant, was seeking a permit to operate behind Thermal Pure. SRS, the next in a seemingly endless line of waste industries trying to site in Chester, received immediate and intense opposition from the a now more organized CRCQL. Petitions, protests, and testimony at public hearing combined to send a clear message to SRS and DEP that the community did not want another polluter. In a strange twist of fate, the residents were able to convince all five members of City Council to oppose the permitting of SRS. (ibid)

A strange twist of fate indeed. Funny how those work.

The story continues. The community of Chester and Delaware County is obviously desperate to defend itself, and well-enough organized to do so.


Finally, there is the matter of these juvenile detention facilities.

Judge Mark A. Ciavarella and former Senior Judge Michael T. Conahan are accused of taking $2.6 million for sending children to two facilities owned by Pittsburgh businessman Greg Zappala.

Judges Ciavarella and Conahan each could face prison terms of up to seven and three months, according to the terms of plea agreements they signed last week.

No charges have been filed against Mr. Zappala, who is the brother of Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. and son of former state Supreme Court Justice Stephen A. Zappala Sr. (P-G, Tracie Mauriello)

So it is a crime to accept kickbacks, but paying them out is tolerable?

Meanwhile, the state Supreme Court has agreed to review all juvenile cases adjudicated in Luzerne County during in the last five years.

That's good news to parents such as Susan Mishanski, whose 17-year-old son was sentenced by Judge Ciavarella last year to 90 days in a juvenile facility in Carbon County.

She said the punishment was excessive and that it traumatized her son, a first-time offender who was expecting community service or a fine for punishing another boy last year. Instead, he was taken from the courtroom in shackles and brought to Camp Adams, where he was beaten by other teenagers, forced to wear ripped clothes four sizes too big and permitted visitors only twice a month for an hour, she said.

"He was humiliated and he was scared," said Ms. Mishanski of Luzerne County. "I'm absolutely thrilled now that [these judges] got caught." (ibid)

Further allegations emerged as the accused started pleading guilty.

Judge Ciavarella and a co-conspirator, former Luzerne County Senior Judge Michael T. Conahan, agreed in their plea deal to serve a little more than 7 years in prison and to be disbarred. (P-G, Tracie Mauriello 2)

Elsewhere in that article:

Dan Fee, a spokesman for Greg Zappala, said Mr. Zappala had no knowledge of the payments to the judges. Mr. Zappala has not been accused of any wrongdoing and is not a target of the investigation, according to a source close to the federal probe.

Attorneys for Mr. Zappala's former partner in the centers, Hazleton attorney Robert Powell, have said Mr. Powell made payments to the Luzerne judges. But they also called Mr. Powell a victim of extortion, and said he ultimately reported the shakedown to authorities. (ibid)

Again, these are the folks that sold Pittsburgh's Water Authority a bill of goods. I suppose they'll be deserving of a bailout.


Some of this material has recently been discussed on an electornic bulletin board hosted by the Meadville Tribune. Here is how one reader put it:

But the vulgar silence on this issue is revolting. Have we become so self absorbed that we cannot see how those with influence continue to profit from our sheeple mentality, realizing that their crimes will go unpunished because either no one is paying attention, or the masses have become so accustomed to this type of behavior that even a horrific crime like this against children does not cause them to so much as raise an eyebrow let alone ask questions? If we don't challenge this type of abuse of power, then we deserve everything they do to us! (Meadville Tribune commenter)

Remember that Charles Zappala is a business partner of William Lieberman. Lieberman is the former chairman of the Intergovernmental Coooperation Authority (ICA), and has been the primary backer of its longtime Executive Director, Henry Sciortino.

Although I conducted primary interview research during my examination of Mr. Sciortino, I did not reach out to Mr. Zappala (nor to any Zappala, nor a Lieberman) for this blog post. The way I figure it, Greg Zapalla already turned down Bloomberg on this topic, and I wasn't in the mood for frustration. An expanse of information exists, and time is decidedly a factor.

We have the time.

There is much folklore about "the political machine", and certainly the Democratic party committee -- county and state -- is in one sense the machine, along with the elected officials they sponsor. Yet members of these parts of the machine by and large are not the machine operators -- not whom it ultimately serves.

The political superstructure actually accrues to the benefit of surprisingly few individuals -- lobbyists, financiers, industry leaders and power brokers -- roughly a third of which, by some estimates, may be Zappalas.

Lieberman is one example of another prominent figure in this much-discussed constellation of influence. He has the noteworthy and unfortunate distinction of having been a significant fundraiser for convicted State Sen. Vincent Fumo, among others. Among political wags, other local names discussed occasionally as stars unto themselves include John Verbanac and Ed Grattan.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

The song: Angle (sic)

The design: Koy

Comet Twittercast*

Has anyone else noticed P-Diddy seems actually to be enjoying the Twitter? We're getting about five hits from him per day now. Plus, he's using something called "TwitterBerry" -- I think it enabled him to tweet the above, for example, directly from the table.

1,000 doors in one day! Must be nice. Just be careful with that.
(Also, the blog could use some work.)

Yeah, she isn't going anywhere. I assume you have all seen this? And my commentary here? No doubt she is going to hold her own in the debates. We are trying to arrange something soon.

Our Lady refers to this. Also, she beat the stuffing out of Our Mayor in round one. Next up, Billy Mays, for the right to square off against either Mike Lange or the baby Jesus.

*-UPDATE: PittGirl (what?) wins, flawless victory, fatality. Going up against the voice of the Penguins on the radio.

Dang! Missed it! Oh well, more opportunities here, especially if you have a Mac with built-in video capacity.

That's pretty hysterical.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Blotzer Rebellion: Fully Underway

The first leg of the Listening Tour is complete, and Georgia Blotzer's campaign is now kicking it into Phase II.

On Friday night the campaign is hosting a major fundraiser at the Chatham Village Clubhouse (you got a problem with that?) -- in addition to some brand new supporters reached during the tour, we are extremely gratified to have received affirmative RSVPs from some significant and impressive guest stars.

On Sunday, Georgia will host the official opening of her new campaign office in West End's business district. I checked out the joint; it is hard to miss, and it's no broom closet. Many gracious thanks to the well-wishers who arranged that situation.

Next, we have the frustrating issue of arranging some real debates! Blotzer reports that incumbent Theresa Smith is already woefully delinquent in responding in any way to a League of Women Voters invitation to a forum -- this after having ignored outright their invitation during the special election. For that first round, Blotzer was content to converse with then-candidate Brendan Schubert alone, but for this full-term primary she is of the position that it is only fair that Councilwoman Kail-Smith fulfill her obligation to the voters.

Smith did make it out to a couple candidate forums prior to the special election -- though only those hosted by certain friendly neighborhood groups which she (or Matt Hogue) can greatly influence. What Smith's hesitancy is involving the League of Women Voters we are not sure; we know that they excel at putting on good professional forums. Even our three mayoral candidates have already committed to one of those.

Time is wasting. The District 4 candidates, for example, have already met before the voting public. Looks like it's time to start penning some of those amusing open letters we all remember from the Lenny Bodack days.

Finally, although it did not appear officially on her Listening Tour, Blotzer decided to try some routine door knocking in Elliott. Turns out, rumors of that neighborhood's impenetrability to all but ACDC forces are greatly exaggerated. In addition to innumerable pledges of support given the short amount of time committed thus far, no less than three residents of Elliott decided to put up Blotzer Blue yard signs on our behalf, while two have volunteered to act as Neighborhood Chairs. Elliott is definitely on our list for Listening Tour Part Deux.

Dowd vs. Schenley: For All The Marbles

This is the last. Worthless Schenley post. That you'll have to read.

From our first significant post urging the cash-strapped School District to make significant investments to restore that irreplaceable civic treasure, to our penultimate Schenley post wherein we came face-to-face with all the public skepticism for that noble cause, we did our level best to help keep the old school open.

The Post-Gazette was against us, most other city bloggers were against us, and in the end, 5 out of nine School Board members were against us. The massive building was shuttered. The Spartans and their allies who "got it" howled in frustration, while most of Pittsburgh shrugged -- maybe shedding a crocodile tear or two.

Yet there it stands. It has not been sold, nor has it has met with the wrecking ball. Like the New Granada Theater on the Hill, it lies in dormant potentiality -- a superior feature of an ancient and far more advanced civilization, waiting for us to learn again what we have evidently forgotten about the power of architecture, of place, and of classical liberal education.


Since the shuttering of S.H.S. and the closure or reformation of other public schools is at once Patrick Dowd's most important achievement and the source of his most intransigent public opposition, he needed to address it near the outset of his campaign. He did so. For those of you who missed it and who actually care, here's the least we can do:

This is the danger of Patrick Dowd. He has the desire -- and oddly for Pittsburgh, the capacity -- to bring change. Most of us today greatly desire change in the abstract, but when the rubber hits the road we can discover a surprisingly strong attachment to certain aspects of the status quo.

The comforting thing is, Dowd is politically wedded three times over to principles of proper processes and transparency -- so at least we'll have a fighting chance in a dogfight. The discomforting thing is, he has the political skill to get his way even in a fair contest.

However, and much more importantly, in the case of Schenley High School Dowd demonstrated that he can get it wrong. He came too late, if ever, to the realization that something special was up with that school. The School District administration was too belligerent in its approach and too stingy with the data for too long. The rationale shifted too many times under pressure. Clearly Dowd believes that between the District's finances, its overcapacity, and the building's real issues with asbestos that the mission was worthwhile, was necessary -- and clearly enough of Pittsburgh was satisfied by these arguments. But most of us out here know better.

That is why he still owes Schenley something. Whether he will get around to addressing it as a Mayor or as a Council member, the building sits there still -- the story is not complete. It will remain incomplete until Dowd or someone else articulates a vision for that plot of land.

"We ain't selling Schenley", Dowd assured me once. I remember it clearly, because Patrick Dowd used the word "ain't", and that was ludicrous and clearly intended to leave an impression. What he would have us do with Schenley is as yet up in the air, but it gives us hope.


This all illustrates a larger problem Dowd must attend to, and quickly: the vision thing. Remember, Dowd came out of the gate insisting that a Mayor must have the vision to lead, and that he alone in this contest posesses that vision.

His campaign thus far has been about eliminating waste, utilizing competitive and politically neutral processes, following correct procedure and measuring performance. In actuality, running Pittsburgh city government rightways and by the book really is a revolutionary and laudable vision. Yet to the greater voting public, it will not suffice.

Of all the trite cliches Team Ravenstahl has lobbed in Patrick Dowd's direction, "He has no vision of his own" is the one that will resonate. When people think "vision", they don't want improved processes -- they don't even want healthier finances, although they would benefit greatly from both. They want to know, "What will you deliver? How will things change? What does your vision look like, feel like, what will it do for me?" And they will be right to hold out for examples of that brick-and-mortar vision.

I don't suspect Dowd can deliver these answers with respect to Schenley over the next seven weeks. He is running for City office, and although a Mayor would be able to surreptitiously influence the Schenley question, that issue is likely too complex and too divorced from City politics to be soluble during the sprint to the finish. Though Dowd owes Schenley a resolution, he will have to return to it.

Something, somewhere, somehow will need to replace Schenley High School as the archetype of Dowd's concrete vision. Something to show he cares about people. Something to show he cares about spaces. Something to show he cares about more than budgets and procedures, but the city part of a city. Something to show he can solve actual living civic problems.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Tuesday: Politics, Politics, Ethics, Ethics**

It's getting heated out there.

"Taxpayer dollars are being wasted through mismanagement and cronyism," Dowd, who is challenging Ravenstahl in the May 19 Democratic primary, said as he stood over one of 250 steel trash receptacles the administration purchased for $1,010 apiece without seeking competitive bids. (Trib, Jeremy Boren)

Criticize "mismanagement" all you like, Patrick, but going after the opposing candidate's religion is out-of-bounds. If Luke practices Cronyism that's his personal choice.

"We have a desperate candidate with no plan of his own, showing himself to be just ridiculous," said Ravenstahl campaign manager Paul McKrell. (P-G, Rich Lord)

Hmm, so we have a campaign manager acting as the attack-dog. That is a new thing for our political landscape I believe -- I wonder if it will be effective. Let's see if we can get him on camera in action; people deserve to become familiar with this chap.

*-UPDATE: I should say, on camera more. (WTAE) The reason we have had "three balanced budgets" is A) the oversight boards have long made it the law to balance budgets on a piece of paper and B) the budgets are not actually balanced. Remember, the Finance Director said the five-year plan is "only a piece of paper"? It's a shell game between the "City" budget, the Authorities budgets and where we choose to notate our debt. Look at the condition of our streets and neighborhoods, total up all the vacant positions throughout city government, and tell me again we have a "balanced budget".

Thoughts on Schultz carries the chart detailing the cost of the waste. I have to believe we can add things to it if we think about it.

**- UPDATE: Oh yeah! Holy cow, KDKA is hosting a mayoral debate in which YOU (we, us, people) submit video questions a la the YouTube debates. Details on how to do that here at KDKA. Or, let the League of Young Voters help you submit a question here.


The P-G Edit Board ran a lengthy editorial on Sunday entitled "Trail of Influence".

I love it when politicians argue that there are no "dots" to "connect" but rather coincidences -- and that they personally are never influenced by money. Maybe other people are, but not them, never ever. Come on guys, it's MONEY. It's influential. I don't care if you're a "good person" or a "bad person" -- to claim that large sums of money and significant gifts do not influence you over time, is to argue that you are something more than human.

Let's ask this -- why are they giving it to you? Again and again, year in and year out, people offer you stuff. What do you suppose motivates them to do so? Do you think it is because you are charming? Good looking? Lucky? Do you think you do a great job and it is out of appreciation? Lots of people in every industry perform great work that is appreciated -- rarely are ten thousand dollar checks slid under their door.

I've never received anything from Millcraft Industries. I've been sitting here waiting, and not one dollar, not one ticket, nothing. Why not? Maybe it's because I'm powerless to do anything to help them. Maybe it's because, contrary to popular (among politicians) belief, they only give stuff away whenever they feel it will become profitable to them, when it will influence the course of their business. Which makes perfect sense. For them.


I embark upon this tangent because I just viewed Council's post-agenda on new Ethics legislation. First of all let me say that I'm positive lots of earnest people worked really hard on this, and probably without twirling their mustaches and cackling evilly even once.

However, the meeting was so chock full of mutual admiration -- the working group was wonderful, the Ethics board was wonderful, the Law Department was wonderful, we are all so wonderful -- that I feel a little balance and frankness is in order. Sorry, that's the job I've taken on; I don't mean to sound like that fellow who's been offering public comment hollering about "Solicitor Sphincter", but it doesn't really seem like what is being offered is significant reform. I'd be happy to learn more about it if I am mistaken.

Meanwhile, here are some notes on the meeting:
1. The Ethics board endorses the proposal of the working group.

2. The new rules detail what is acceptable in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh was verbally italicized on at least half a dozen occasions -- apparently what is ethical in Pittsburgh differs rather significantly from what is ethical elsewhere, or from what appears in the City Ethics model code.

3. Often in close proximity to this Pittsburghism, it was noted that "at the neighborhood and city level", attendance at public events is "expected and encouraged".

4. There are updated, specific and "realistic" dollar figures of what defines "nominal" value.

5. For most categories of gifts, it is "recommended" that public officials "seek" "voluntary" "advice" from the Ethics board before acceptance.

6. Doug Shields now concedes that Ravenstahl's acceptance of UPMC's and the Penguins' offer to attend the Lemieux Invitational charity golf tournament was AOK. Bill Peduto disagrees on this point, saying that if the event host invited him it would be okay, but the minute UPMC writes a check to pay his way that event admission becomes a gift.

7. Ricky Burgess was taciturn and generally unenthused throughout. He said his "personal ethics" are "higher" than this and indeed one must do more than what is required. Yet at the same time he "wholeheartedly supports" this measure, it has his "complete and utter support".

8. Related to this, I think at some point it was implied that the Council is shooting for and expects unanimity on the measure.

9. Shields and Peduto seem to want to add penalties for the interested parties who offer things to, or "dangle things in front of" public officials.

10. As to penalties for public officials who accept untoward gifts, this seems to reside almost entirely through a "transparency mechanism" -- that being, gifts are "encouraged" to be declared officially, so that the public can make up their own minds. This is because elections happen so frequently, the public pays such close attention to city government, and what is ethical and what is unethical depends on whether or not one gets caught and can retain 51% of the vote.

Again, if I'm way off-base here I hope to be corrected, but this is what I gleaned from the meeting. A public hearing will be held on Monday the 6th at 1:30.

Desperate Times....

Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday: Flabbergasted!

At City Council's recent special meeting on campaign finance legislation, mayoral Manager of Policy Gabe Mazefsky sat at the table to represent the Mayor's office. This is how he started:

"Mayor Ravenstahl has long been a proponent of campaign finance reform."

I try to keep my comments policy-oriented here, lively for certain but always in good spirits. Nonetheless, readers must continually sense something because from time to time it is suggested to me that boy, I must really hate the mayor!

"Hate" is both a strong and a wrong word, but in the future I think this would be an excellent item to stick a pin in -- if in the future readers should ever notice a degree of anger.

Patrick Dowd must have felt similarly, because he looked for all the world like he was fixing to take a swing at the mayor's Manager of Policy. That's dangerous -- I think it must be a tactic by now for the administration to be so glibly and punishingly mendacious that one cannot summon an adequate response. Even still, Dowd gamely plowed ahead with his prepared questions, barely concealing his outrage.

First Dowd asked: the Mayor wrote in his veto letter of last summer's CFR legislation that he objected to the effect CFR would have on challengers to build campaign war chest capable of knocking off incumbents. What had changed over the months to alleviate those concerns?

Mazefsky's only response was to point out that Dowd himself had raised $80 thousand during his campaign for Council, and to quote him on one occasion saying he was proud of that. He did not address why the mayor dropped that concern.

Then Dowd asked: the Mayor also wrote that it is important CFR be enacted only statewide, so as to "level the playing field" for everybody. However, not only is this new bill the mayor and county exec submitted not statewide, it does not even address the many municipalities and governments within Allegheny County -- it only address City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County officeholders. So again, what happened to the Mayor's previously stated concerns?

Mazefsky's only response to this was to point out that Dowd failed to propose campaign finance reform for the School Board while he sat on that body.

You can check the video.

After this was concluded, Councilwoman Harris opened her turn at questioning with the observation that "there's a lot of politics in the room" -- and certainly there was. However, it was clear that Dowd was playing politics at least with a set of verifiable, real-world facts and interesting questions. Gabe Mazefsky, by contrast, was playing politics with ... I don't even know how to describe it.

Those members of Council who voted against campaign finance reform back in June reiterated their skepticism and their objections once again -- with Theresa Smith now filling the role of Dan Deasy. Of course I disagree with their positions, and the City can debate all of that on its merits. Yet none of those individuals pretended to have been "long time proponents" of these particular reforms, none of them were wild about the current measure, and none of them veered off into abject childishness like Mr. Mazefsky.

Assuming Mayor Ravenstahl has or ever had convictions on the subject, all he is accomplishing by proposing these weak and tentative reforms is to sell out the colleagues with whom he shared some convictions last summer -- for the sake of play-acting like a progressive reformer immediately before an election.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Continuing Education; Lifelong Learning

I'm thinking of taking some classes in West Virginia this summer.

Get Involved: Driving Change in Your Community
When was the last time you spoke with your Council representative? While it might sound like a strange question, you should be making your voice heard. Each of us is responsible for the place where we live. Learn how to protect and improve the quality of life in your hometown. Where you live shapes every aspect of your identity. It is time for you to create the changes you want to see in your community.
Instructor: Patrick Ford
Pat Ford, a skilled and passionate public speaker with a genuine desire to see communities, organizations and local leaders achieve their best, has been a town and city planner as well as a consultant to several city projects in West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Florida. He has also worked with both young people and adults in planning processes such as "Teen Leadership Fayette County," and the Pittsburgh "Intern Shadowing Program." He earned both baccalaureate and master's degrees in urban planning at the University of Virginia.

Wait. It gets better:

Leadership Tactics of Attila the Hun
Attila the Hun was not even 13 when a king sought to break his spirit through tutelage in the Roman courses. By staying true to his ideals while learning customs of the captors, Attila was able to emerge as a leader of diverse peoples, skilled in policy making and diplomacy. How might you incorporate the leadership tactics of Attila the Hun? You'll learn how to manage responsibility, run successful meetings, create agendas for different audiences, deal with dissenting opinions and delegate responsibility.
Instructor: Patrick Ford