Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Buncher Co. Gets Strip District Zoning it Wanted

The Vantage Point: Dr. W.J. McKibbon

Who could possibly have doubted it?

Councilman Patrick Dowd has raised numerous concerns about the project, including the possibility of gated streets in a residential part of the development and what he described as an inadequate buffer between proposed buildings and the riverfront.

He has also raised concerns about Buncher's proposed purchase of the historic produce terminal, now owned by the city's Urban Redevelopment Authority. Buncher wants to demolish one-third of the building to extend 17th Street to the river, and Mr. Dowd said Monday that the developer would use at least part of the building as a "crappy strip mall." (P-G, Joe Smydo)

In response:

"He seems to be angry about a great many things recently. He usually gets that way around election time," said Yarone Zober, the mayor's chief of staff. (Smydo, Something completely different)

This was a tough one for this blog. On one hand, the opportunity for good things to develop on those parcels was always clear and tempting. And there was an extent to which we really wanted to demonstrate that we here are more than reactionary nay-sayers.

On the other hand, as time and the public discussion wore on, that very potential started to work against the urge to move quickly. It became less about breathing fiscal life into some barren asphalt, or cramming residents into a shopping district, than it was about pivoting Downtown and setting the tone for a whole riverfront expansion of it.

The revelation about private drives did not help matters. The extent to which surface parking will be tolerated came as a surprise. Assumptions were made as to the degree to which river life and riverside recreation would ultimately be accommodated. And former Mayor Murphy's recollections about warring with the Rooneys on the North Shore yet later being thanked by them was illuminating.

Why was a majority of City Council so intent to press forward?

"I guess I just don't have as many issues with the development as you do," replied Councilman Corey O'Connor to Dowd's presentation of proposed amendments. One of the few who spoke directly to them. Because that's how these things typically work -- listen politely to all the facts and arguments provided, remain silent in response and vote the other way anyway.

I'm not quite sure how it's possible, to have no issues with the development. There was a lot to improve, and one would think, a lot of leverage to do it with.

That was the alarming part of this process.

"It's their land! We can't tell them what to do on their land!"

Well, to an extent we absolutely can. That's what zoning is. It is really, honestly nothing else but that. Every time we hand over a ton of land or development rights to a sports team or another developer -- we can't tell them what to do on it, but we should be able to tell them categorically what not to do. The extent to which the "We have no choice!" argument was cavalierly put forward was a little disconcerting.

There is no turning back, once zoning is done. If they are permitted to do something at the outset, they can do it for all time, period.

Council President Darlene Harris mentioned to the Comet how this is all going to return to discussion of the Produce Terminal. The Produce Terminal. But if the mayor's Historic Review Commission recommends demolition of it on Buncher's terms, it would take six votes on Council to gainsay that. I'm not liking those odds.

Harris also insisted that development will begin with only the northeastern-most parcel and continue east, up the river. That nothing is going to be built on the majority of the land we have been looking at for at least several years. That interpretation has been disputed.

The question remains, why negotiate so little and move so quickly? It's uncomfortable to contemplate, but was the argument that Mayor Ravenstahl couldn't get something done for the business community that terrifying, that they pulled out all the stops? Raised all the sails? Made all the deals? Frankly, given the rhetorical bombs being dropped on Buncher's vision and the lack of any vocal defense of it, I didn't see a way the thing could pass after a certain point. I underestimated them.

Dowd's many rejected amendments still exist, somewhere. On canary, or perhaps goldenrod paper. Mayor Peduto said he didn't see in them anything that came out of the "Dowd playbook" (not sure if that was an insult or a compliment) but from the Allegheny Riverfront vision and others, and supported them all. Councilor Kraus said he was deeply impressed with Dowd's work and his exhaustive knowledge of the issue. Councilor Rudiak was plainly flabbergasted that something so wonderful appeared on the Council's table.

But no more votes. Not piecemeal, not for any single one of the scores of them. Nada.

The whole affair places Dowd at an interesting political crossroads, incidentally. He has gone quite far criticizing Mayor Ravenstahl for this, not to mention for the pensions strategy implementation and on character issues, or at least leadership issues. And suddenly Council members O'Connor or possibly Harris have supplanted him as the new swing votes.

It seems Councilor Dowd can either "reset" his political posture over the new year's break, seeking to recapture the middle and all that comes with it. Or he can press forward as part of a faction whose members' style and whose strategic capacity are not everything he desires -- but where his own politics seem most naturally to belong. Stand where stands and let the chips fall around him.


I guess he's going with Option B.


  1. Irritating as he sometimes is, that is what I like about Dowd and his mayor candidate Lamb. They say what they think and let the chips fall where they may. I don't agree with either of them all the time but trust their opinion as genuine.

  2. You can tell Mr. Dowd's heart is in the right place. You can feel that his heart is as well. Mr. Zober's comment hits the mark, though...what you really see most is that Mr. Dowd is angry, and what follows is that his message becomes more difficult to follow. Sure, that would be true of most of us - but nonetheless, it's something to work on moving forward, because it limits Mr. Dowd's effectiveness and the possibility that his messages can resonate.

  3. There is quite a bit of truth to the statement about this being Buncher’s property and you can’t go too far with zoning regulations. Municipalities have to follow the guidelines in place under the Municipal Planning Code (MPC) and often times the courts side with the MPC when it comes to severely impacting property rights. (This is the same reason the city is stupid to ban drilling all together. There is a way to essentially ban drilling under the MPC regulations and not have to pay the legal fees associated with defending a zoning ordinance that won’t stand up in court.)

    No matter what extreme spin is put on this topic about the waterfront, at the end of the day I see a lot of good from this plan. It will essentially save and reuse a historic building that is falling apart and has no running water to most of it. It will open up most of the Strip towards the river with public access. The reality is that everyone stops at the produce terminal because the heart of the strip is west of the terminal. People don’t walk through the sea of parking lots to see the river and from the drawings that I have seen there will be at least one large open walkway to the river.

    Has anyone from the Strip District Neighborhood group spoke out about this project? I feel as if the neighbors would have more of an impact on stopping this project then a city councilman that doesn’t represent the Strip District.

  4. Council District boundaries are changing, District 7 gets the Strip - to go along with virtually all of the south bank of the Allegheny in Pittsburgh. Viddy the new map:

  5. Anon 9:21 - Would sticking with the zoning that had been in place for years have run us afoul of the MPC? I don't see how. We weren't contemplating changing the zoning to make things harder for them than they were before.

    A handful of Strip business owners spoke out against aspects of the project at the public hearing. Not a whole lot, and no immediate residents that I can recall -- and they didn't go the extra mile of showing up to comment before committee or legislative session. Then again I was surprised no pro-project neighbors were organized to come talk positively about the development, for all that's worth.

  6. Anon 9:21- Imagine you are a strip business owner, NITS leader...are you going to cross Zober or Buncher? That is the problem in this town right now and the anger is warranted. Zober is truly a nixonian character. On Zoning: When you choose to CHANGE the zoning the community has a very parge right to input and approval. When you ask for a TIF (taxpayer loan), the community has a right to input and approval. When you SELL a community asset (The Terminal), the community has a right question it and its terms. Buncher has a long track record that should be more carefully revealled by the PG. Its hidden in plain site, along with some very ugly buildings and developments.

  7. thats "every right" and "plain sight" ;)

  8. Bram:

    I don’t know if the old zoning would have run afoul, but I’m guessing the old zoning would leave the property as sea of parked cars like it is now. I believe that if you create setbacks that seriously affect the value of the property when the lawyers argue it in court is when the property owner can prevail as I understand it.

    Anon 8:17:

    That is real conspiracy theory type talk. Lots of community development organizations have come out strong against developers, property owners, and the mayor’s office over the last six years and those community groups are still thriving. If the Strip District Community group, (that’s what NITS is!) which appears to be funded by a bunch of resources, didn’t want anything to do with this, they would be speaking out.

    I’m not saying that we shouldn’t question the development; I’m just saying that I don’t think there is as much opposition to this project as it appears in the media. I think the people that are loudly opposed to it are opposed to it for political reasons and are bringing up issues to for the sake of argument. I’m not saying they don’t believe that the issues are important; I’m just saying that some people wake up every morning and find a reason to hate our President. If you search all day long, you can find a way to convince yourself that facts led to the hatred for the President. I think that seems to take place by certain people in Pittsburgh in regards to any new development.

    I just don’t see the terminal as a community assist when people don’t know the real story behind it and what it looks like on the inside. It is never going to be used for a produce terminal again because times have changed and you really need running water to be able to wash the produce. I just think that in 10 years many people will believe that this project added to the Strip District’s charm.

  9. and you really need running water to be able to wash the produce

    You had me going until there. It isn't as if they'd have to dig a well or run miles of pipe to tap a city main.

  10. I think a few comments and Dowd are missing the mark here. Yes, of course government limits land use through zoning. No one disputes that. The issue about Bunch though is that the land is currently zoned for industrial uses. That means that right now, as it stands today, under the government regulations that everyone loves so much, Buncher can build millions of square feet of bland big box warehouse space, parking lots and other things deemed unfavorable by the elitists. There is nothing the government can do about that and any attempt to down zone the land would be illegal. The new regulations can only be done with Buncher's approval. If they don't like what is being proposed, they don't have to push forward with it and can just go back to the current zoning.

    As for what people in the Strip think, I am pretty sure the neighbors in the strip came out in favor of the project, as did most people in the strip. Rather than ask other people to show proof, maybe some bloggers can start acting like real journalists and go find out this kind of information.

  11. I just love being put to work by anonymous hecklers. I can tell you the vast majority of Facebook comments on the PG articles were against, much more so than usual, as were the public comments at the hearing. But maybe those cranks don't suit you; fine, maybe there were others, better informed by you with various "legal"-istic arguments, "nightmare scenario" arguments, and "doesn't matter anyway" arguments that never made it into the public conversation for fear of public vetting.

    "Buncher can build millions of square feet of bland big box warehouse space, parking lots and other things deemed unfavorable by the elitists."

    Maybe, but they didn't, and they haven't for all these decades; they invested heavily in all these other plans. I suspect the "nightmare scenario" of warehouses (and once I heard "factories"!) was just that. The Strip might be warehoused to the max already.

    The question to me is, whether we saw anything that should give us confidence that the administration/URA tried to aggressively cut the best deal possible vis a vis the river front, public access and non-gentrification. Even a little pre-arranged good cop / bad cop with City Council as the bad cop would have been indicated. But we didn't hear anything sympathetic to those values, which is no surprise as it's not exactly in their history or stated "open for business" policy to muck around with developers' plans. If the Mayor & Co. anguished over hard bargaining with Buncher behind the scenes, evidence never came through.

  12. MH:

    The point is that there is no market to continue to use a falling apart shell of a warehouse as a produce terminal. I'm not a fan of more store fronts for big box type stores, but what other use will be used for the terminal? Does the Strip District really need more truck traffic? Or should the Strip evolve into what it has never been, a thriving residential neighborhood with awesome places to shop adjacent to downtown?


    I am Anon December 21, 2012 9:15 AM and December 20, 2012 9:21 AM. I just wanted to say that I love your blog. Your blog offers more of a critique and often times raises questions instead of just offering scathing commentary like many other blogs out there. I don’t think you handled this topic wrong at all as some commenters have suggested. I just liked adding my two cents to the comments for what it is worth.

    My general feeling about the project is that this is generally a good thing for development and will help more people use the riverfront on that side of the river. It’s not perfect, and I don’t trust Buncher, but I also hate driving over the 16th Street Bridge and seeing a sea of parked cars. I would like to see something else there and find a way to utilize the riverfronts with a mix of public space and residential building.

  13. This zoning change process leading up to the Council vote has been going on for a long time. The Buncher Company and Noor Ismail team in City Planning worked for about 1-1/2 years on the SP zoning that was presented in the Preliminary Land Development Plan in May 2012. The bulk of the property, prior to this recent vote, was UI (Urban Industrial) which is often called the "wild west" of zoning. The portion of the land closer to downtown was Golden Triangle A & B. The Cork Factory was developed under an AP zoning which was the predecessor to the SP zoning. Remember that like any zoning, SP zoning, is based on current laws and ordinances - it isn't "special" zoning that allows the developer to do anything they want. I am sure that in that 1-1/2 there was a lot of back and forth between Buncher and the City. I remember that the Hampton Inn (which has had a huge economic impact for the Strip) started out looking much different than what you see today. But after back and forth, negotiations and input I personally think it mirrors the History Center well.

    At any rate, during this process it has been interesting that media, and thus the general public, weren't more informed on the "whole" story. Many people, from their comments, didn't even realize it was "private" property. And, it is obvious that many didn't take the time to review the Preliminary Land Use Plan the was completed by DLA Architects, Klavon Design Associates and The Buncher Company. That may have answered many of the questions that have been being debated in this process. The SP zoning has been approved and there will be plenty of opportunities for input as we move towards development of the Buncher property.

    The TIF will be entering the arena soon and before people immediately say they don't want a TIF in the Strip, I would suggest they find out as much as possible about it before they speak. Traffic safety is a big issue in the Strip and it can be TIF funds that help fund the improvements - lights, bike lanes, etc. Also, it can be TIF funds that improve the river trail (and amenities) and finally it can be TIF funds split the sewers and improve that infrastructure, so when you are sitting at Kaya after a big rain you won't smell the sewer. These are all things that will help the Strip.

  14. To echo a lot of other folks, this certainly isn't the last opportunity for the public and its representatives to have an influence on what happens in this development. I might note if there was only one issue I could address for the northeastern (tentatively planned to be residential) parcels, it would be to up the height minimum from four stories to eight, or at least six.

    As for what happened in this round of negotiations/concessions--I seem to be in a minority on this issue, but getting the concession that pedestrians and bikes would have access on the cross streets/"private drives" was a big deal to me. In fact, I don't really care at all about whether non-resident cars can use those streets, and it could well be better if they can't.

  15. Great information Becky. One quibble though: It's a heckuva burden to place on the gutted local media and the public to do things like "take the time to review the Preliminary Land Use Plan" and generally to be zoning experts and devote as much time to development issues as development professionals do. That would be the ideal situation, but in reality, it's all many of us can do to raise Cain when issues come to light. Maybe in the future you could visit this blog on a regular basis and let us know when there are important zoning and development issues that need attention.

  16. Thanks Anon 12:34 of today, can I just ask what are these other "scathing" blogs out there? Feeling kind of lonely these days.

    BrianTH -- That's a worthy reminder and I agree, the Bike/Ped access is not for nothing. Dowd did raise a valid concern however that there shouldn't be any signs which read "private drive" (at least not which are non-counterbalanced by equally noticeable "Bikes / Pedestrians Welcome" signs) and there should not be any gate-like structures or portcullis to suggest people away from using the drives.

    Becky -- Thanks for chiming in. I suppose there's no helping downloading the 141 MB PDF for the PLDP. As far as TIFs go, I've already heard controversy over whether or not this really is the "biggest TIF in the history of the City / State", would you have any insight on that? I agree TIFs are not necessarily bad / a giveaway but they also comes with risks.

  17. Yes, Becky, please do come back - and thanks for contributing to this thread.

  18. Although I'm not sure those are zoning issues, I definitely agree that the final design of the streets/drives should make it immediately clear that pedestrians/bikes are welcome.

    Personally, I like the retractable bollard approach. I think they can be very effective at communicating that only unauthorized cars are prohibited from entering the relevant space.

  19. Why is Becky getting all kinds of "kudos to you" for saying the exact same thing that the Mayor's office and lots of anonymous comments on this blog have said? do we pick and choose whether we like the message depending on who the messenger is? It has been well publicized for anyone that cared to look that the land is private property, that Buncher went through a lengthy pubic process, that they could (not saying they would) do a lot of stuff on that land under current zoning, that the private drives argument is baloney and that this is only a PLDP - every single road and building that will ever be built has to go through a public process.

  20. Cockroach 3:38 - 1. She left a real name together with an indication of whereabouts she might work, which is deserving of some special polite consideration. 2. "Thanks for chiming in" and "please visit again" is not quite the same as "kudos" and "you have convinced me of everything you say" 3. Once zoning allows something even hypothetically, as you know the Planning Commission and ZBA are mere formalities. They haven't hindered any development (outside of traffic, parking and major safety concerns) since the wrong guy won the casino license, and then it was, "Oh my stars! That parking garage is not sufficiently decorated! Stop everything!" 5. The discussion we are having is whether the "lengthy public process" improved anything like it is meant to, given that we own the produce terminal, the people sort of collectively own the river which makes this such a profitable proposition, and the City is apparently a significant part of the financing.

    There was leverage the City could have applied in any direction. We could have done one thing with it. We more or less did the opposite with it.

  21. [sigh] I shouldn't have responded like that.

  22. Zoning is a joke. If I was mayor, I'd seek to push forward a plan to eliminate all zoning laws for a 3 year period. Open up the flood gates for development.

    However, if there was any damage to others in the process, the ones who are hurt could press for damages.

    In the end, we'd air out the options, ponder ramifications and vote on the bold measure of zoning suspensions.

    But you have to know if you've watched what really happens with zoning in Pittsburgh -- Zoning is a joke. It is next to worthless.

    Zoning in Pittsburgh has as much leverage as dry noodles purchased in the strip district, and that isn't much leverage at all.

  23. @Mark

    "Press for damages"? What?! So, are you suggesting that I or my neighbors should try to sue any old well-Networked, Big Old Boy with ocean deep pockets that chooses to develop (tromp) all over long-laid, carefully considered community plans to maintain a safe, healthy neighborhood for not-wealthy working families to raise kids?

    Say Big Boy buys up some foreclosed property in my residential neighborhood, sets up a smelly, loud, smoke-belching factory next to our homes, school, and playground next door, producing highly valuable and marketable goods for the entire state, which will be picked up by loud 18-wheeler trucks day and night, making it a lot harder to find parking and more dangerous for our kids, cats, elders, etc to cross the street that starts to get torn up by all that truck weight. Then, after a few years, if we collect enough evidence of damage, we should then maybe try to get together a suit that will take years to drag through the courts? While we work for a living?

    Give me a break, please. Zoning is a tedious pain in the ass like most daily grind details of maintaining a halfway decent, sorta fair civilization.

  24. @Mark

    Was that satire on your part? If so, kudos on successful trolling.

  25. No Helen, Mr. Rauterkus is a big time libertarian of good standing around here. "Government has NO BUSINESS doing anything but providing for swimming pools."

    You're overly alert for sarcasm, trolling and gamesmanship, Helen. Can't imagine why that is.

  26. Must be my highly mature, rock-solidly secure personality.

  27. Why don't you two (bram and Helen)!get a room and stop meeting here?
    It's like constant!

  28. Maybe they can both move to helens hometeon in missouri so Pittsburgh can be done with them. Maybe they can go occupy kansaas city togtger!!!!

  29. Alright, apparently we need a fresh topic. Discuss.

  30. That might be one of the dumbest articles I have read in a long time, and O'Neill has had a bunch of them lately. Seriously, how does a newspaper pay someone to write about how the Mayor doesn't want to talk about his house and neighborhood? What in the world are people resorting to in order to oust Ravenstahl? Maybe they should talk about the economy in Pittsburgh, people returning to the Burgh and population increases for the first time in like, well a long time, or Pgh being on virtually every "best" list around. Oh wait, none of that stuff supports their arguments

  31. Pittsburgh's resurgence doesn't counter-act "their" arguments either. Even Luke admits Pittsburgh's recent success is thanks to 30 years worth of economic diversification, the work of past administrations redding up the air, rivers and riversides, etc, and Pittsburghers being Pitttsburghers.

    Why do you suppose "they" are so hostile?

  32. Immaturity, in spades. Luke pouts, Mean Girl Joanna gets all snippy n'at, and Tiffany's husband flexes his biceps. These are the callow kids running City Hall. And like irrational teenagers, they are suggestible and prone to peer pressure; that's why the Network lets them hang around the Malt Shoppe. Here's hoping Andy and Barney can convince the rest of Mayberry that Opie's doing naughty things behind the barn.

  33. Afterthoughts after my initial kneejerk response to Zober:

    Happy New Year to all who read and contribute good stuff here at the Comet.

  34. As I understand it, a portion of the Council members believe that they will have the opportunity to address restrictions upon Buncher's plan for development through the TIF process.

    They go ahead and vote for something because they feel somehow that it is inevitable, or because someone with power wants it, or whyever, and then delude themselves that they will have the ability to vary or change things later.

    I note that Mrs. Harris, as a member of the Sports & Exhibition Authority and later again as a member of City Council, voted for immediate demolition of the Civic Arena, "because it's going to happen anyway." Where the developer might have redeveloped the other 24 acres of the property and then demolished and redeveloped the four acres of the Arena building, she went along with the influences that said "demolish now."

    Here again with the Buncher deal we have members of Council being led by some unseen hand - with the same words coming from different members about later having control through the TIF process - without really stating why they would vote for new zoning legislation.

    Remember, the reason to grant a zoning variance is because the property itself (and not the owner or the owner's pocketbook) has a problem that can only be resolved by that variance.

    This was more than a variance, it was totally new zoning legislation particular to that plot of land - although couched so that it was somehow not actually spot zoning, which is against the rules.

    Folks who spend any amount of time listening in at the Zoning Board, or at the Planning Commission, have some sense of how much neighbors and neighborhoods really do care about development in their areas, and they come out and speak. By the time the legislation gets to City Council, that is all done.

    And again, about this posting, after all that, Mr. Zober then refers to the Council discussion and says sniping, nasty things about Mr. Dowd for no good reason.

    Isn't this sort of an indication (it is to me) that he may be the wrong person to lead the URA, which I believe actually still owns the Produce Terminal (a public authority owns it, it is not yet "private property").

    Which brings me to another point, new to this discussion. Why is the Mayor's Chief of Staff (Zober) also the head of the URA? Don't we have enough decent, intelligent, capable persons in this City to spread around the chores? Why is the Mayor's Director of Finance (Kunka) also the head of authorities? How can we control any possible corruption if its roots are so deeply embedded?

    (By the way, why would there be any members sitting on the Zoning Board who also sit on the Planning Commission? Again, don't we have enough folks in the City to choose from?)

    A lot to be fixed in this City administration. We seriously could get rid of the whole thing in one fell swoop. Peduto for Mayor.

  35. Bram, best to not put words into my mouth that are so far from the truth, such as this false quote you posted above:

    "Government has NO BUSINESS doing anything but providing for swimming pools."

    Government has plenty to do, like uphold the freedom of its citizens. That's a big job that gets overlooked often.

    Furthermore, working to create community, caring for our kids and pushing for wellness in our neighborhoods at facilities built decades ago and paid for by taxpayers makes for worthy endeavors. Protecting assets and getting them to flourish is prudent civic mindedness.

    Happy New Year.

  36. None of the Authority Board Members are voted upon by citizens. Same too with Zoning, planning commission, etc.

    Rather than picking different people as a solution -- let's not have anyone picked that isn't confirmed by an election of citizens.

    Sure, I'd go along with appointments as long as they faced regular 'retention votes.'

    But best of all, I'd get rid of all the authorities. Liquidate them. Make their duties part of various departments within municipal government. Then the accountability can rest with the mayor.

    Back in the day, Tom Cox (chief of staff, if not deputy mayor/czar) was head of the URA when Tom Murphy was mayor. So, what we have now is not different from the recent Pgh legacy.

    And to above... Agree. Zoning is a daily grind of details that is halfway decent and sorta fair. Without zoning we'd be free of some bureaucratic mess, always decent and fully fair. Zoning is halfway decent at best and I'd rather live in a place that is 100% decent, not 50%. Hence why zoning is a joke.

  37. Rauterkus - Yeah, you're a special breed of libertarian. I really don't know too much about them, I'm just a fan of intentional, well-though out collective action through government.

    Anon 2:49, you bring up a really interesting field of argument. It is known that in Pittsburgh, as well as most places, authority board seats have always been given to those which officeholders can trust. Trust. Trust. And there are extents to which synergies are good. On the other hand, when elected officials are generalists and "trust" is valued above all else, the hypothetically valuable roles such as "expertise" and "independence" can get lost by the wayside. Authority and commission seats are one place in which a zeitgeist of reform maybe should really take place, but I don't see how to do that and avoid getting laughed at.

    "Hahahaha. You just want to put your OWN obedient cronies in there."

  38. Experts should reside in the market place, first of all. A gov expert needs to figure out ways to stay the hell out of the market place so that the experts can do their jobs well, without gov red tape.

    I'm am also a fan of intentional, well-though out collective action, but mostly without government and to constrain government.

    You don't need a police expert on the citizens police review board. You need a person who knows a mugging, be it from a cop or a criminal, when seen and can still calls evil acts for what they are -- like a crime, perhaps.

    Parking Authority board members need to know how to park their cars, like PAT board members need to know how to ride the bus. That's it -- as far as being an expert. Sure, there are lots of other duties and even some math involved with holding individuals accountable for reports and budgets and reading the instructions.

    When we have have government officials doing redevelopment deals, like trying to build downtown department stores, then we have development people trying to govern. Then the First Amendment gets forgotten.

  39. Flybylight:

    URA Chairs have been high-level mayoral staffers since the very inception of the URA.

    Yarone isn't the first. Or the second. Or the third, get where I'm headed?

    Authority chairs also in general tend to be close colleagues or employees of the Appointing Body.

    Do they have to be? No. Were I Mayor, would I do it that way? Absolutely! Why? No, not merely because every Mayor since the inception of Authorities everywhere has (and Peduto would likely do the same if history is any guide.)

    So let's back off of the St. Peduto declarations, because he would more or less make his appointments in the similar manner were lightning to strike and he be afforded the opportunity.


    I'm open for a much more open discussion about this topic...

    Mark -- Happy New Year!

    Bram -- you +#*! Muckraker!!! HNY!

  40. Shawn - HNY, you old space pirate! I don't know, man, sometimes it seems like nowadays it's either a staffer, OR an industry rep, OR a hooked-up attorney, OR someone from the right ward and precinct... maybe I'm talking Authorities and Commissions. The point is, it's mayor lucas' bad luck he's coming up now, but *now* is when we want to de-emphesize patronage and loyalty if only so we upgrade diversity and capacity. Some functions can be best left to competent people and forgotten about, trusted, professionalized.

  41. And I'm not calling anybody incompetent, I'm just suggesting a general caution of "Many hat ism" and conflicts of intent. Sometimes it seems to go wobbly. See Finance Director Kunka in his days at the Parking Authority for one example; that governing dynamic was sub-helpful to the bone.

    By the way, who's going to be the new Council Critter on the Parking Authority? I predict O'Connor in a modest shuffle. Though if he's cagey Luke will tip his hat in apology for the bureaucracy and renominate Rudiak.

  42. Bram - seriously, how else do you expect any Mayor to select people for boards and commissions? Seriously, isn't there some element of knowing/trusting/have some familiarity with someone in any appointment whether it public or private? Even on non-profit boards, doesn't it go down like this: "hey, I'm on this board and I know someone who would be really good...." I mean just don't get this sort of criticism - unless you have a very specific criticism about someone being incompetent. Seriously, what do you think is the most important quality of someone to serve on any board or commission? The irony is that Luke probably has more people on his board's and commissions that he didn't have a prior relationship with than any Mayor in the past - or future.

  43. Well, aside from the aforementioned flights of megalomania which can stem from "Too-Many-Hat-Ism", there is also ideally a Lincolnish "Team of Rivals" thing which might develop if you collect different sorts of people with different expertises and backgrounds... and then release them from having to do exactly what you want.

    But I want to underline here that Better Board People is not my reason for life, here. I keep getting maneuvered in to that. I'll settle for Better Decisions By Whoever's On the Boards. At the Parking Authority that may mean generating revenue for the City; at City Planning, more demanding riverfront zoning; at the URA, well, perhaps there it really is just a matter of adding someone who works in social justice and community organizing.