Wednesday, January 6, 2010



I don't even know how to begin.

I knew last year that nothing gold can stay and the Comet would have to wrap things up eventually -- its improbable, implausible, ill-defined work largely unfinished. A wise blogger once told me, "Three years is about good," and it's been a very good three years. But news kept happening and it didn't seem worthwhile to think about.

Firstly I have to thank the Burghosphere and its extended community for existing, participating and being so supportive. What we have out here will only get better and better. The prominence that this screwy little corner of the web attained has largely been a function of being in a fertile place during a very fertile time. I hope I have helped to inspire as high and worthy standards in blogging as I have attempted to in government itself. I know I can be a harsh taskmaster and not always remotely perfect, but the important thing is to set laudable goals and to pursue them in good faith.

It's also important to thank all the professional reporters, editors, public officials, candidates for office and tireless community members who may not participate directly but who have expressed their appreciation, either by telling me directly or by consenting to be interviewed or pitching stories themselves. When people are fighting hard for their communities and their idea of how the city should be, and they call me in a bid to try to make it happen, that is truly humbling.

Make no mistake and don't let anyone fool you. We are having an impact. We -- ordinary people living in and around this city with no special ulterior motives except that we live here -- are having an impact -- on people who represent about altruistically lifting up the commonweal yet have mixed and unfinished track records on that score. There is magic in words, in saying what you know and sharing how you feel. The pen is mightier than the dollar bill. It doesn't always win, but it is evolving faster.


I've been asked to relate some of my favorite stories and moments over the past three years. I know that I want to but don't know how much I'll get to. There has been a great mass of things I've intended to do and look into and explore that I've never gotten around to. It piles up after while.

I know where to start though, that is for sure, so I'll start there right away.

For about a week at the beginning of January of 2008, I became consumed by the story of the recreation of the Hill District. I've never done cocaine but I swear I felt like I was on it while I was writing that week. By the end of it, it all turned out to have a theme and a direction and even some artistic merit, to the point where it seemed like a series. Here is how it developed:

Please don't construe this as taking anything away from the many, many people who organized and spent far more time in pursuit of that same cause than I did. But given the reception that the push for public benefits to be delivered along with the new hockey arena had received until that time, when the mayor of the city suggested at the end of that week that "Seed Money" and support for a grocery store could be forthcoming -- I felt somehow that my yammering away at this keyboard was actually tipping the scales. If only to provide heart and inspiration to those directly involved.

Of course, that grocery store is in grave peril, and the "seed money" come to think of it was never spoken of again. And who knows what's up with the Master Planning process really.

That is the danger, and gets back to some of my guilt. Last night I congratulated some officials with whom I have had occasional differences, and most of them were extremely gracious, philosophical and convivial. I occasionally offered the line, "Congratulations, you outlasted me!" I hope I am not out of line when I report that one of them who was not so gracious responded, in chilling seriousness and perhaps before thinking, "Yeah I know, we like it when that happens."

Two years ago was one time when I outlasted them. Not only did the tone of the public conversation start changing around that point, but four months later, when an episode that is far better remembered occurred involving a development official, an advertising company and a press secretary, an actual formal Community Benefits Agreement was suddenly put on the table. A little more squeezing by all involved, a little luck, and it became a decent one that was acceptable to much of that community.

Of course, there were major problems with it -- problems which are only becoming more apparent. Let's keep looking at that and see if we can't get ourselves back in that frame of mind. Back to where we are demanding that our government treat us fairly and squarely, living up to its stated intentions beyond when cameras are rolling.


I would have liked every week to have been like that one week. Not Pat Ford week, or the other Pat Ford week or the one after that, but that Hill District week in early January of 2008. I would have liked on that and on all other occasions and issues to have been forever relentless, following up on every detail over months and years, keeping the pressure on and the masses entertained, and having the results be pyrotechnically apparent on the front page of the newspapers.

That's not the way it usually works though, and I want to impart that it doesn't have to at all. I've learned this. Even when we fall short or work slowly and deliberately, in the background, in the atmosphere, in the ether, we are having an effect.

If there's one lesson I want to impart, that is probably it. Thousands of people don't need to read you, you don't need to rack up tens and hundreds of comments, you don't need your name in the paper. You there, at your computer, knowing only what you know and feeling only how you feel: you are good enough to change your city, you deserve to be heard, and you can have an impact!!!

Indeed, for those in power who are less than perfectly scrupulous, it is ordinary people like you who are potentially most vexing of all.

PS -- Lots of people are also asking me what I'm up to. I'd love to answer but I can't. Right now the answer lies somewhere between "I don't know" and "I can't tell you." When that changes you'll be the first ones to know.


  1. Hope this isn't going to be one of those (too) long goodbyes.

  2. Refresher: The first bit of advice to anyone, even Bram, and others like him or not, is this: "Don't burn out."

    Or, at the other end of the spectrum, the same message can be put into a positive way with the advice: "Show up."

    You can't win unless you show up. Winners in life are not always those who are the most swift. Plug away.

    Churchill said, "Never give up."

    You are free to quit. Then I'll think less of you for not following the first bit of advice. Oh well. :(

    Better yet is to shift gears. Go in other directions, but stand on your past.

    If everyone did what they could, and didn't burn out, we'd be much stronger as a community. Sadly, too many have not only 'checked out' but 'flamed out.' They over-heated and hit the wall, bonking out.

    Thanks for listening.

    PS: Darlene Harris could be the 2010 poster child for "just showing up." Her secret for not burning out might be "smoke eaters." ??? :)

  3. A 2010 tribute. I owe my interest in blogs to The Comet and the cast on my leg for three months that gave the the opportunity to be interested. I offer the highest praise to Bram by saying... if he ever wrote while sailing with Cap'n Morgan and Dr. Pepper, it never showed.

  4. Bram,

    First off, thank you for the Comet. It has helped me immensely in getting to know Pittsburgh, and I would have infinitely more digging to do, were it not for your efforts. You have preserved months of my life, so that I may better squander them reading other things. For that I thank you.

    Secondly, I don't believe for a damned minute you're retiring. Politics and news are like herpes. Deny it all you want, but you have the infection. You will be back. You'll try, but one day you'll wake up unawares in a distant neighborhood peripheral to a SWAT team, miscellaneous bastards, and me. Questions will be asked. Truth will be shouted. Then you will realize: this is the news. There is no escape.

    Third, it was via your tweet that I got news of the city council on the 31st. Your tip got me down there. Thanks.

    --Michael Bagen, Pittsburgh Non-Partisan Examiner

  5. Bram,

    I am going to miss your blog. Really. Truly. Sincerely.

    P.S. not wild about Cap'n Morgan, but I do dig his cousin, Seaman 1st class Bacardi.

  6. "The Wind"
    By ------Cat Stevens ( A Monk)

    I listen to the wind
    to the wind of my soul

    Where I'll end up well I think,
    only God really knows

    I've sat upon the setting sun

    But never, never never never

    I never wanted water once

    No, never, never, never

    I listen to my words but
    they fall far below

    I let my music take me where
    my heart wants to go

    I swam upon the devil's lake

    But never, never never never

    I'll never make the same mistake

    No, never, never, never


  7. I'd hoped you'd change your mind and keep at it. Bummed.
    - Rich Lord

  8. Alright things are a bit slow...

    A Rich Lord...can do that To Poor Pheasants.

    Saw a picture of Bill Gates on another Blog...

    Tell me, if'n I'm wrong...

    Bill Gates looks like Darlene Harris...

    Just say'n...

    Blog worthy, Bram!


  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  10. geez loueeez Brammer! and the orie thing is just getting really hot! with Senator Jane "holy shi-t" Orie versus the ENTIRE f-cking Zappala family.

    ...and you wanna quit? with all that bustin lose? whoa dude.

  11. I am truly sorry that you have chosen to shut down. Over my past two years at city council i have enjoyed and hated your blog. I wish you luck in whatever you plan to do in the future and you will truly be missed.

  12. Are you giving up your blog to join forces with Matt H and take on the HACP?

  13. Bram:

    You have made a significant contribution to our city’s political dialogue. Since the first time we met on the Northside, I have been impressed with your keen insight. As you know, I don’t read nor comment on the blogs much, but I want you and your readers to know how much I respect your work. Also tell your father I said Hi!!

    Rev. Ricky V. Burgess

  14. All members of Council read the blogs, well at least their offices do. That's a fact.

  15. Anon 8:39 - Only the longest and sappiest possible! Thanks for tuning in for it.

    Rauterkus - I'll be showing up to something, and I can't imagine I'll stop commenting and tweeting. And man, I forgot about the Smoke Eater!

    deegazette - Always loved having you around. Glad you could never tell, and a little amazed.

    M. Bagen - I admit freely I'm crawling with second thoughts. Who knows. I'll be reading you at the Examiner, I really enjoyed your wrap-up of that meeting.

    Gloria - Thanks. You've been a great contributor.

    Pete Wagner - Thanks? I think? :)

    Monk 3:21 - At least that's a short song. I'll have to download it.

    Rich Lord - I know, I'm sorry, you and Jeremy are going to have to find a new talent agent. Thanks for chiming in and for everything you do, old cat.

    Anon 5:27 - Love these kinds of comments best of all, clearly!

    Monk 6:30 - I hate you, Monk.

    Anon 8:56 - DELTETED!

    Anon 9:22 - Unfortunately, I think those kinds of stories are going to keep coming forever! How did that benediction go? "Lord, bless us with corruption, so that we may blog to oppose it." Well, our cup runneth over.

    Ken Wolfe - Thanks for chiming in. You know, in a sense you've been one of the major protagonists. Enjoy working at the state level, and for the love of Pete keep your nose clean.

    Anon 10:04 - Um.

    Rev - That interview we conducted long ago played a huge role in my starting to take the blog more seriously, so in a sense, thanks for helping to make this all possible. And for having continued at all times to be forthcoming towards my inquiries and directing your staff to do so as well, thanks again. I look forward to watching the District flourish under your leadership.

    Anon 12:57 - You think all? I hope they're not wasting too much time here. One of my favorite days, the day CIS forbade blog access. That didn't last long!

  16. The Huddler has been exceptionally busy recently and is long over due on his return from hiatus.

    Bram you have exceptional talent. Talents that I hope you continue to utilize and eventually be compensated for.

    In Solidarity,


  17. I don't know what I would have done without your posts and links through the final days of the 2009 mayoral campaign. If I ever see you at Hough's (or elsewhere) again, I'll be sure to buy you a drink. Thanks again for the great work.

  18. You're going to go stalk Pat Ford in WV, aren't you??

  19. Some dude named Matt thinks Pat Ford is a good person.

    Don't be talking smack on Pat.

  20. You think Byrgesss' district is flourishing?!?

  21. When are you going to finally tell people that you were The Burgher?! Best of luck to you!


  22. Um, I guess I have to ask, are you going all the way and pushing the delete blog button? I can understand not having the energy to keep up the staggering unpaid job you set up for yourself, but I really wouldn't understand that.

  23. Yes! Please do not delete the blog all together.

  24. HUDDLER - Thanks. Miss your blogging. It was very nice to get a slightly different take on things.

    Hough Girl - Ha! Thanks, Hough Girl. Happy trails.

    CarolN - Hopefully the next time I see PF we'll just have a straight-up chat about regionalism. From what I understand his BDC has some involvement with the whole Power of 32 excitement. He never really went anywhere.

    Schultz - Don't tell me this "greatest trick the devil ever pulled" crap is actually working! :) Thanks, Schultzy.

    John, Maria - No, the blog will stay up and the comments will even remain open, just in case anyone ever has anything "on topic" to broadcast.

  25. Will you still censor comments?

  26. 9:54 - Since the only comments I've had reason to censor are constant inane jabs at Matt H and rambling diatribes by Monk, I imagine yes I'll come through once in a while to uproot some weeds.

  27. i will leave you with the wisdom passed down to me from my sainted italian gramma,

    "pillage first, then burn."