Monday, September 20, 2010

Monday: On Your Horse!

Check out the way I segway around to everything that needs blogged!

"They're amiable. They're charming. They live lifestyles that are enviable," [Mike Dawida] said. (P-G, Lord N1)

Oooh, didn't that one part just sing to you! Bad enough the Network is out there donating to campaigns and parachuting operatives in to key races, but they're also fostering feelings of lifestyle-covetousness and privilege-envy in our elected leaders!

Ravenstahl was out of town when the institute-related controversy broke, attending a three-day forum on public funds in Laguna Beach, Calif. He said the forum "was very beneficial," given the city's pension problems. (Trib, Tom Fontaine)

Now, I know what you're thinking, but that Corporate Library public funds forum actually looked pretty legit. I don't know what Tom Brokaw and Condoleeza Rice are supposed to know about public investment, and Ben Stein just scares me, but anything with Warren Buffet is worthwhile even if he's joining via video conference -- and there were many more, professional speakers. If the Mayor even asked one person in a suit, "So, what would you look for in a parking lease proposal?" it was probably worth it.

For the conference's heavily encouraged "networking activity" (they just came out and said it!) they offered a choice between golf and sailing -- depending on if you are a Ravenstahl or a Dowd I guess. If you don't know how to golf or to sail, I guess you could have gone to hell remained unconnected.

Anyway --

The mayor's office on Monday will announce the high bidder for a proposed 50-year lease of the city's parking garages and meters. (P-G, Joe Smydo)

So we got that going for us, which is nice.

Mrs. Harris has suggested floating a bond to boost the pension fund, while Mr. Dowd and city Controller Michael Lamb have proposed giving the pension fund certain parking garages as an ongoing revenue stream. Mr. Ravenstahl has said both of those ideas are unworkable. (ibid)

Somehow the new Dowd-Lamb phlebotinum has been acquiring a faint aura of realness. Unknown whether the Finance Scholars Group study is looking at any option like that.

Mr. Peduto said the study will be council's baseline for making decisions.

"First and foremost, it will be independent of anybody who has an interest in the deal," he said. "It will be an expert opinion." (ibid)

Sadly, nothing in life is truly independent. Finance Scholars Group, as expert witnesses in litigation and as previously discussed, specializes in making credible arguments to support those positions which its interested clients want advanced. Its client in this case is Pittsburgh City Council, 66.6% of which desired political ammunition to support doing other than relinquishing management control over the city's parking business. Data is data and many persuasive arguments can stand on their own merits, but FSG's offices are not on Mt. Sinai, and they do not communicate via burning bush. Take it with at least some salt.

But when it comes to eventually unifying any opposition to the Mayor's preferred pension-funding option, things could get viciously dicey due to old wounds with new stress fractures:

What that means is, Councilman Doug Shields has proposed a flat-out ban on drilling in the city which is legally very assertive -- whereas Councilman Patrick Dowd has proposed fairly tight zoning restrictions on city drilling which are legally unremarkable (the kinds of things only very dense cities can do). To most Pittsburghers, this means that one of those individuals is a bad person who is crassly pandering to either bad or stupid interests, and must be shamed.

We'll deal with this in greater detail this week, but this blogger has two Guiding Principles on Drilling Regulations to throw out here:

1) Since Pittsburgh, on this one issue, is unusually dependent on activity taking place in other municipalities and at other watersheds, in order to protect its own citizens it must leverage its advantages to advance the football statewide in a game-changing manner, and...

2) While I agree we need to "fight the drillers", that doesn't mean I'm anxious to just throw our head at their fist.

More later. I will have time available, because it looks like we can file this project where we all knew it would get filed:

... to illustrate the perils of flouting federal law, the NTHP cited the Port Authority of Cleveland's continuing inability to obtain dredging permits along Lake Erie because it unlawfully demolished four historic iron ore unloaders -- structures far less attractive than the iconic Civic Arena. (P-G, Ruth Ann Daily)

A nifty little column, but on the other hand, the P-G Edit Board thinks it would be wrong for any Pittsburghers to exercise their rights to due process for redress under settled federal law, because of hockey development, which will occur exactly, as grandiosely, and as swiftly as recently touted because of hockey.

WHICH BRING US finally to education, I suppose, and a lovely puff-piece lacking a significant news hook in the Tribune-Review:

Arita Gilliam considers herself an advocate for parents who can't be as involved as she is.

She keeps an eye on Pittsburgh Public Schools as a volunteer with A+ Schools, a Downtown-based watchdog.

"I wanted to understand how the (school) board operates and offer feedback so that we can all begin to work together for the betterment of children," said Gilliam of Manchester... (Trib, Jodi Weigland)

There are probably worse efforts with which to join up.

Deputy Superintendent Linda Lane said the district values the information it gets from A+ Schools... //

She said having an outside organization critique the district and recommend improvements is an asset.

"If you can't defend against criticism, you should be asking yourself questions," Lane said. (ibid)

Are you hearing this, Pittsburgh? All legitimate input for the School District should be channeled through the foundation community certain temperate politicos A+ Schools -- "The Downtown Watchdog". They'll handle the actual activism for you, and inoculate against that unseemly urge to get political with your elected School Board.


  1. Great post Bram. Too bad no comments.

  2. We only comment when he gets stuff wrong.