Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Mayor Issue

All 45 minutes of an Acklin/Reichbaum interview filmed on Sept. 10th are now on YouTube in five parts:

PART I: The legal challenge of the Dok Harris petition signatures. Later, growing up in a "machine Democratic" family and seeing "the bad part". A bit about having been a Republican in favor of civil rights.

PART II: Raised by "a single mother, on welfare for a number of years." The present mayor is "playing falsely with the hopes and dreams" of neighborhoods. Then his own pension plan, which involves reorienting the URA. Mayor "used the Act 47 process" to "take things off the table" with unions.

PART III: Answers criticism from Rob STEPHany (not Rob StePHANy, sorry) of the URA; remarks of its associated benefits to neighborhoods, "It's not happening". Criticizes a lack of sunshine and how decisions get made. Will restore "basic democratic values".

PART IV: Would grant the Council more formal say in appointing and in removing board members, department heads; would not commit to amending the Charter. Believes "we're in a bad place" if we're discussing ethics issues frequently. Also: public safety and the PIRC.

PART V: More on the PIRC. Forgotten areas like the West End. "I don't know why you'd want to be Mayor, if you're not going to be out there in the neighborhoods." Some campaign strategy. He's lost 25 pounds. Feels he "brings a lot of authenticity".

For the latest on the mayor's race, see the Slag Heap's Chris Potter. See also our two-part narrative about the Dok Harris interview of two months ago: Link and Link.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Just A Thought...

They're called riot control agents.

Not unlawful assembly control agents. Not dispersal aids.

I think we should think about that, and remember that.

We have learned that anarchists are expert at organizing chaos, volatility and mistrust. Most of them probably got away with enveloping everybody else in their noxious three-day game of chicken. My interest is in doing better next time, not blaming anybody for this decision or that stratagem. I blame the anarchists for the whole thing. But we will learn from this. Everything was not "fine" in Oakland.

Roosevelt Wants $15K Raises out into the Future

is what it boils down to.

Mr. Roosevelt was hired at a starting salary of $165,000, and annual raises of $15,000 have boosted his pay to $225,000 for the current school year. One official said the new [3-year extension] also could offer Mr. Roosevelt $15,000 annual raises.

Last year, the average salary of urban superintendents surveyed by the council was about $228,000. (P-G, Joe Smydo)

Without respect to our School Superintendent's execution or leadership: aren't Pittsburgh Public Schools still structurally cash-strapped from an operating standpoint? Isn't the economic recovery post-natal? Would not the belt-tightening and frugality inflicted upon some of our schools seem more palatable if our fearless leader were to be seen to pitch in?

If board members waited until the final year of Mr. Roosevelt's contract, state law would allow them to reappoint him without a break in service, officials said.

But some board members said they want to act now to promote stability and keep Mr. Roosevelt off the job market. (ibid)

It would be nice to know which board members. Is this like the Penguins moving to Kansas City and Las Vegas? Pittsburgh Schools Superintendent is kind of a hot gig right now -- the Pittsburgh Promise, the Gates money pouring in, collaborations on all levels of government and community, a School Board which will improve with two new members who may be better fits. Why leave now?

Roosevelt did not provide a comment for the article, which is appropriate and classy. But if he happens to be concerned about ensuring his continued financial stability, I would suggest starting on his memoirs. Never too early! The dramatic and celebrated turnaround of the Pittsburgh School District should elevate his story to Best-Seller status by the time it's ready to go to print.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

More of Sat. Night, and Thoughts *

This should be the last video I upload of the Saturday night march protesting events over the previous two days. Again, uncensored:

I think the best way to understand this march around Oakland is as a literal "victory lap" for the embarrassment that befell the police department mostly on Friday.

The decision by Chief Nate Harper (or whomever) to declare Friday night's assembly at Schenley Plaza "unlawful" -- and the decision to break it up -- will need to be examined. The impacts of decisions to employ new riot control agents and equipment as frequently as did occur need to be questioned. That those decisions led to a situation in which multiple reporters were getting arrested and City officers were briefly standing off against University officers need to be taken into account.

It all sounds to me as though the Police were eager to bring all G20-related activity and weirdness to a conclusion on behalf of an exhausted City. That's understandable -- but transforming a harmless and contained assembly (if that's what it was) into a conflict is exactly what anarchists, if any exist, would have wanted.

That all having been said, I have not yet seen or read one thing which calls into question the professionalism, restraint and composure of individual officers. They performed as admirably as ever during a week of intense stress and confusion. No "atrocities" have been reported yet, and civil liberty and free speech didn't "die" in Pittsburgh even if one particular crowd was unwisely suppressed and dispersed on one occasion (though Thursday in Oakland is also murky). I give the rank-and-file very high marks, and I look forward to a thorough civilian revue of our new riot control procedures.

*-UPDATE: More accounts of the events are being organized: P-G, Jerome L. Sherman.

Interview: Davin

Davin approached me while I was surveying the scene at Schenley Plaza. After a brief talk he agreed to be interviewed before Saturday's protest march through Oakland (see below and see Slag Heap).

Interview: J.J. LaTourelle

I approached J.J. while he was sitting and chatting with another reporter. He seemed to be the first "protester" to arrive at what had been billed as the "Go Pitt / F@#$ the Police" march on Saturday.

Saturday Night's March (Uncensored)

More to come. This was an interesting event. It's all interesting. Brian O'Neill's column Touching the G-20 elephant is extremely valuable. If you need to know what I think now, keep visiting the comments under this Infinonymous post. For now I will share that Elizabeth Pittinger said the Citizens Police Review Board's report regarding Friday night's events, due out in a week or so, will be "no holds barred".

Other chanting during the 90-minute or so march through Oakland included, "Resist! Resist! Raise your f#$%in fist!", "F#$%in pigs get out of our city, beatin us down and makin it sh@#$y.", and "We love Pittsburgh, f@#$ the po-lice!"