Monday, September 13, 2010

Monday: We All Knew There Would Be Dots

It will take some time to process everything the P-G is delivering, but here are a couple thoughts right off the top:

We have waited long for such an exploration of our region's power politics. The accounts are fascinating, particularly because they are presented (usually) in the spirit of pure anthropology. It sure seems like there is more than a little truth to this idea of there being an informal "network" of key players.

Yet at the same time, we encounter frequent reminders that the political jockeying is all quite legal, if florid and a little foreign to us -- and yes, the major participants are shown to lose their share of battles. There was even one passing reminder that there are other, competing "networks" of professionals.

So far, so interesting. And yet, wwhhooaa....

Bids Day for that potential leasing of parking assets that is intended to resolve our pensions crisis is this Wednesday the 15th.

These funkadellic exposes will have exploded above our folds precisely on Sunday the 12th, Monday the 13th and Tuesday the 14th.

That's pretty scandalous, no matter which way you slice it.

The ominousness of those files-folders alone could persuade me to drop straight out of the bidding process entirely. The sheer size and insistence of the stories together could make me think twice about placing too much stock in this fetid town and its notorious henchmen.

And maybe most significantly, there's a sneaking thought ... it's actually been on my mind for a little while, now ... if Pittsburgh is really going to shoot the curl and jettison our way out of these financial straits, and if we require a bit fancy footwork and opportunity-generating to do so, how much sense does it make to cut our best and most experienced assets out from underneath us at precisely this juncture? Yes, "The Network". Those folks with which I suspect I will rarely agree on developmental policy or certain aspects of electoral politics. In the final analysis, on issues of mutual civic importance: are they not also Pittsburghers? Did they not cheer for the Steelers yesterday? Do they not desire to be lords of a strong, proud region rather than a weak and pitiable one? Are they not more likely and capable than anybody else to jerry-rig some contraptions to squeeze the best deal out of these out-of-town infrastructure investors?

I would be dead shocked, seriously, if several among the P-G's very active "Network" professionals were not already involved in ginning up and goosing along at least three of these competing lease deals. Frankly, they had better be. It stands to reason. Sure they're plutocrats, but are they're our plutocrats.

How did CLT get the traffic lights contract? In the way one does, apparently. Meanwhile, is it saving the city oodles of cash and making it a greener place? Sure looks like it.

It's going to take a long time to reckon with the List-Makers or the Network and what they mean to civic life. I suspect some new regulations will eventually have to come into play, and meanwhile increased scrutiny of the known universe is always a good thing. But when it comes to the drive-by ambushing of a titanic public-private partnership -- one embarked upon with intense transparency -- and so coyly, at the last possible moment: pretty scandalous, man. I hope the City doesn't do anything it regrets. It shouldn't have to.


Which kind of brings me to the next thought:

Asked about Mr. Verbanac's role with his administration, Mr. Ravenstahl said the reporter was "confused, and I'm not going to participate in your pursuit of something that doesn't exist. I'm insulted by it, to be honest with you.

"So I'm not going to respond to something like that. And if you want to quote that, feel free to. That's all I've got to say." (P-G, Rich Lord)

Oh man, THIS IS WHY IT'S NO FUN TO STICK UP FOR YOU! Always with the grave personal offenses. Ask a tougher-than-average question about Verbanac's conspicuous but obviously appropriate public role, or about billboards, or where he was in the snow that one time, and "HUFF! HUFF! YOU'RE OFFENDING ME!" and "SNIFF! IT'S PERSONAL!" Surely this can't be a genuine personality quirk so much as a chapter in the same PR handbook which demands polo shirts even in cold weather. But the point is, it reeks of panic and surrender. Try something else. Try answering the questions coldly and factually, THEN insulting the reporter. Seriously.

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