Friday, November 9, 2012

With Federal Elections Settled, Pittsburgh Returns to Transformation Agenda

"Let's get ready to rumbllle..." The Guardian

As Our President was earning reelection with a vague national electoral mandate to invest in the middle and lower classes and to continue Obamacare...

And as most in the Congressional majority earned reelection with crystal-clear district-level mandates for austerity...

It seems as though the nation is about to suffer through its own Pittsburgh City Hall New Year's Eve Takeover Deadline!

Will Harry Reid schedule a Senate session for 11:00 p.m. "just in case"? Will the proceedings entail a "cooperative [-ly prompt] veto"? Will Jacob Lew run over to Our Speaker John Boehner's office in the waning days to hammer out an acceptable arrangement?

More to the issue, what will happen to Pittsburgh and its environs, continuing to weather this uncertain economy? What courses will it chart in this volatile era, swollen with the future?

1. The sewer projects alone...

The Allegheny County Sanitary Authority should rewrite a $2 billion plan for keeping sewage runoff out of area waterways to include less infrastructure and more “green” solutions, county Executive Rich Fitzgerald said on Friday. (Trib, Bob Bauder)

Well, that's just great. County officials have indicated that there exists the brain trust to "get this done", despite obvious concerns about logistics and cost.

“Quite frankly, we are at the 11th hour,” said Alcosan spokeswoman Nancy Barylak. “What we have is a federal court order that says we have to have this plan in by Jan. 23. If we do not meet this court order, what happens is we start to incur penalties and fines.” (Tribid)

Well now it's time to ask: how does Mayor Ravenstahl, the other public official accountable for Alcosan, approach this question of "rewriting" the plan?

The city of Pittsburgh has said it must install new and bigger sewer pipes, separate lines for sewage and stormwater and add a 6 million gallon holding tank to address stormwater problems. Good says the city’s cost will be between $100 million and $200 million.

“The city’s plans could change. We are holding meetings, at the request of the mayor, to incorporate more green technology,” he said. (Trib, Rick Willis

A "rewriting" would bring physical and significant differences from some of the currently planned projects -- and such green projects would be on a larger scale than that of "demonstration" projects. With so much institutional, global and capital firepower at its disposal, it would be interesting to learn whether Our City's Water Authority Directorship-Services Manager Veolia Water will bring to the public table any aid in assessing these frightful determinations.

2. The administration has gotten its arms around the Hill District grocery store situation before its apparent hopelessness could become a campaign issue.

"What happens to a dream deferred?" URA board chairman Yarone Zober asked. "I don't know. But I don't have to think about it. This is a dream come true." (P-G, Mark Belko)

Much seems now to be in the hands of experienced and connected local developers, now working with selected community leaders. In the Comet's opinion, it's about time. It would have been more ideal four years ago, but life is a journey.

At one point in the meeting, I said to Rep. Wheatley that I thought the governing committee of the fund should rotate members because the membership seemed to me closely affiliated with the Representative’s campaign and the Hill CDC and that this fund was quasi-public because of the nature of the Representative’s position as a political representative. (, Justin Laing)

Concerns about equity and within-reason "fair" access to community resources are important. What I'd like you Dear Reader to do is to start readinging as it publishes about "handout" stigmatization and gatekeeping and accountability and stakeholders and population loss.

If it still doesn't happen this time or it doesn't work... well, maybe it's just like Jim Ferlo and Jake Haulk have been writing. Not quite the same situational dynamics as, say, Lawrenceville. Doomed to fail.

3. Ay caramba, now is somebody getting political?

Another leader of Pittsburgh's Democratic Committee has gone on the city payroll.

Mary Angela Ogg, 62, of Carrick, who chairs the 29th Ward, began work Monday as a confidential secretary in the planning department at an annual salary of about $40,200. (P-G, Joe Smydo)

Why not just admit, "Yes, she's an established neighborhood and city leader, it's not the kind of position that requires advertising, we love her, she's a great fit"? Why pretend even temporarily there was "no mayor's office involvement"?

Unless this doesn't have to do with the Mayor's reeelction. Maybe it has to do with the Councilwoman from Carrick's de-election movement.

At any rate, the list of Committee employees is an impressive exhibit.

Te Papa Atawhai - Dept. of Conservation
4. For the latest of Riverfront development, of course you'll want to check out Patrick Dowd's official website.

The Buncher Co. could be flexible on aspects of its $400 million plan to remake the Strip District, but can’t budge for river advocates who want a larger buffer along the Allegheny River, the company president said Wednesday. (Trib, Bob Bauder)

So now the river is the crucial "hang up". Not the gates, or the access, or the produce terminal, or site clearance, or the idea of a large TIFF.

I envision myself going all Marcello Mastroianni over a cup of strong coffee there someday, and I'd like to be surrounded by happy people. (P-G, Brian O'Neill)

I honestly sometimes wonder. Terribly important stuff we're debating, but it's not like we're up against the Fiscal Cliff. I still believe the best indication of whether or not this development is poised to make progress may be whether or not Michael Lamb is running for mayor.

4.5. What about those mayoral challengers?

Lamb said [at today's hearing] he supports the city’s release [from Act 47], but he warned that it must pump more money into pensions, continue paying down debt and find additional revenue sources.

“The cautionary tone you are hearing arises from the real concern people have about this administration operating without that additional layer of oversight,” Lamb said. (Trib, Bob Bauder)

That is deft and appropriate in light of the firefighters' early and enthusiastic endorsement. Yet it is not money, it's not infrastructure, it's not name and brand recognition, and it is not a sufficiently advantageous ballot.

If we learned one thing from the federal elections, it's that one should not necessarily believe all flattering information being provided to you by people who might wish to curry favor with you or be employed and enhanced by you over the course of a long and expensive campaign. Don't live in a fantasy bubble. Get the facts before suffering what could be a bridge-burning third-place failure in a costly election. 

That goes for both of y'inz.


  1. Bram - thanks for a little taste of real journalism in calling out the ever changing reason for holding up Buncher's development. Now, I would like a journalism in asking the question how the press and Bill Peduto would treat Luke Ravenstahl if he fired three department heads and replaced them with supporters (read Fitz's first year moves).

  2. Staff shakeups upon a new office holder "settling in" are common. I haven't learned that they new staff are "supporters", but it makes sense.

    Is any among Fitz's new hires "campaign donors" or "committee members" or -- wait, what else? Former officials? Campaign staff? What else smacks of patronage?

  3. I agree staff shakeups are common, but the way the press treats them seems to be fickle. When Ravenstahl gets rid of staff or board members they accuse him of bad stuff. When Fitz does it they just treat it as staff shakeups. Kind of like how Ravenstahl is taking heat over the SEA dispute with the Steelers, but Fitz is given a free pass. Doesn't he appoint members of the SEA as well?

  4. tell Fitz to quit wearing that stupid trench coat everywhere he goes.

  5. Is it a plaid or something? If you're wearing a suit, you've either got to wear a trench coat or a top coat.

  6. Good point, Anon 7:54. Fitzgerald should be answering his share of questions about the Steelers lawsuit over Heinz Field. Just as Ravenstahl should be asked whether or not Alcosan needs to "rewrite" the sewer plan.

  7. "At any rate, the list of Committee employees is an impressive exhibit."

    Is there really a list? I couldn't find a link to it in your post. If there is a list, could you let us know how to access it?


  8. Sorry, MG. I meant the list within the news article of Committee folks working for the City. Right now they don't appear to provide a way to contact your committeeperson -- your MOST IMPORTANT and MOST DIRECT link to the party. If you work hard though you can get the name of your Ward Chair, or get in touch with the organization via telephone or web contact form.

  9. Bram 9:58 - I agree. I'm just looking for a little consistency and fairness. That cuts all ways

  10. Peduto suggest landlords be tattooed with a big "L"
    on forehead!! just to teach 'em a lesson!