Thursday, June 20, 2013

The ICA's Journey of Understanding (and a bumper crop of blog links)

Bernard Langraf

Call it one or several changes of attitude, a "misunderstanding," or a moving of the goalposts until "by 2014", but the ICA (the State's financial oversight panel) is now easing off the whip in its drive to get Pittsburgh to implement suitable universalized accounting software.

Administration officials made effective presentations that there are still a considerable number of technical steps to iron out. These include attaining strategic mastery over the present hodgepodge of financial systems and the vendors that will be needed to merge them, as well as addressing hurdles that may be found in collective bargaining agreements.

A status report by what this blog is calling the ICA's "private investigator" was more interesting. While Gleason & Associates clarifies that it has not observed any fraud or cash-skimming, it sounded an alarm that several business processes found throughout the City do keep too wide a door open to that opportunity.

Due to their volume of cash-flow, to what is known preliminarily about their different processes, and to any logistical issues on the part of the inquirers, the following departments were listed by the forensic consultant as proximate "fields for review," and not in alphabetical order:

Department of Public Works

Department of Public Safety
- with an emphasis on the Bureau of Building Inspection

Department of Parks and Recreation
- emphasized very small amounts & many neighborhood ad-hoc processes including volunteers
Treasurer's office (housed in the Department of Finance)

The main things to look out for when it comes to opportunities for fraud and cash-skimming, said Gleason & Associates, is an inadequate segregation of duties -- receiving money, balancing books and receipts, depositing money -- and making these deposits as infrequently as quarterly, as well as a lack of automated card acceptance which would buttress the paper trails.

Some of these departments (DPW and Parks & Rec, as well as City Planning) presently utilize the same accounting software upon the point where the cash gets electronically recorded. City Innovation, Performance and Strategy Manager [CORRECTED] Chuck Half told the Comet that the game plan presently is to add the Police Bureau's Special Events office to that batch, owing to a streamline around building and permitting functions.


That's Church: "The Steelers want more public money. No."

P-G City Walkabout: A foreclosure by Dollar Bank is gifted to something called the Homewood Renaissance Association

Homewood Nation: Calculates 18% voter turnout within its sphere of interest.

Hillombo: Penguins development plan is moving forward, despite concerns including affordable housing in the Lower Hill

PURE Reform: Isn't being principal at Westinghouse hard enough?

Nullspace: Only itself and Jim Ferlo see sense in a merger with the Wilkinsburg school district, for some reason.

P-G Early Returns and PoliticsPA: Each showing trouble for Tom Corbett

PoliticsPA: Must-see politico-celebrity lookalikes.

City Paper Blogh: Byrne is shocked her name was mentioned

2 Political Junkies: Reminds us that Revenge of Gasland is coming tonight.


  1. Gay Pride Flag Complaint Complete Log.

    FW: 311 CALL CENTER - 0414 Grant‏



    Gay Pride Flag Complaint Complete Log.

    Date: Thu, 20 Jun 2013 15:24:15 -0400
    Subject: RE: 311 CALL CENTER - 0414 Grant

    Fact of the matter is: The White House did not fly Gay Pride Flag from flagstaff. Eric Holder would advise against. As there was no Gay Pride Flag this year I withdraw my complaint. I would be remiss however, if I did not point out that flags representing Nations are permitted to fly. This would include Vatican Flag. Please forward this reply to the Mayor's Office.

    Sent from my Verizon Wireless 4G LTE Smartphone
    -------- Original message --------
    Date: 06/20/2013 12:01 PM (GMT-05:00)
    Subject: 311 CALL CENTER - 0414 Grant

    This is to inform you that the City of Pittsburgh has completed and closed your Service Request.
    The 311 Service Request Identification-Number is: 329692
    The CIMS Identification-Number is: 49397

    Summary of action taken:
    the City's hanging of the gay pride month flag was done at the request of the Mayor's Office to express the City's view of speaking for itself (i.e. government speech) celebrating gay pride month. In such case, the City would not be deemed to have opened the flag pole as a designated or limited forum for speech, and we would, therefore, not be required to accept/permit all third party requests to hang flags. As the date for Vatican Independence Day has passed for this year, I presume that the issue is now moot. However, should the question reoccur, just let me know.

    Summary of Service-Request:
    CIMS PROBLEM TYPE: Sign - Request for New Signage
    Over the past several years in the month of June the 'Gay Pride Flag' has shared Flag Pole @ 414 Grant Street Pittsburgh PA 15219. (City-County Building)

    I have no problem with this as long as I have Equal Access to 'Political Billboard'.

    Consider this a Legal Request: "I want to fly The Flag of the Vatican on June 7, 2013."

    "Independence was gained by The Vatican @ 11am on June 7, 1929 when Mussalini, the Italian Prime Minister, and Cardinal Gasparri exchanged the Instruments of Ratification in Rome."



    (Copy and File)

    If you need to contact the city again concerning this issue, please
    reference one of these two numbers.
    Thank you again for allowing the City of Pittsburgh to serve you.

    We appreciate your help!

    06/20/2013 12:59:28

  2. Mayor Speak?

    "Summary of action taken:
    the City's hanging of the gay pride month flag was done at the request of the Mayor's Office to express the City's view of speaking for itself (i.e. government speech) celebrating gay pride month. In such case, the City would not be deemed to have opened the flag pole as a designated or limited forum for speech, and we would, therefore, not be required to accept/permit all third party requests to hang flags. As the date for Vatican Independence Day has passed for this year, I presume that the issue is now moot. However, should the question reoccur, just let me know."

    Please Parse Legal Opinion...


    1. It means the City has the right of free speech upon its flag pole, just as it has rights to free speech upon its walls. Get your own flag pole, Monk, or vote in new city leaders.

    2. What they really wanted to say,,

      "and we would, therefore, be inclined to accept/permit all third party requests to hang flags from those groups we Democrats/liberals pander to."

      Another spit in the eye, just like the q****r-fest 'parade' on Father's Day.

    3. "Queer" isn't a swear word, man.

  3. Hey, how come no news about Fitz drilling in County parks? Where is all the coverage and outrage? I for one can't wait until Pedutes opens up the parks to administrative control of the County. Maybe we can drill in the City too?

    1. If something is owned by a higher level of government, the City ban means nothing.

      So if the City gives up its parks to the County, we can cry until the gas starts flowing and it will mean nothing.

    2. @Anon 9:48 pm

      Thank you for that warning! Do you know if this abnegation of control over city parks is a declared intent or a floating potential proposed for the After-Ravenstahl era ?

    3. That's just a wrong information sandwich, Anon 9:48.

    4. Still, how come no one is calling out Bill's biggest ally? Do we not care? We will look the other way when Bill cozy's up to the corporate and developer crowd? I just want to know so when it happens I know whether to be concerned or not.

    5. Fitz ran on this. And won on this. Hard to criticize.

      I wasn't in love with it. But with all the mass fracking going on in Pa (the real arbiter) I'm on board with a well or two near each airport and certain parks for the sheer rubbernecking spectacle. We can say he's not out there like some public officials of both parties, overstating the industry's positive impact and castigating its opponents

    6. That rubbernecking is not worth poisoning the water table or our air. Water tables and air don't stop at park or airport property boundaries.

    7. Helen, remember the scene in G2 where the paper was poked through with a pen a hundred times? How much better shape would the plate be in with two less holes? In my opinion this has to be about an enforceable ban or moratorium to protect people, or about a robust extraction tax to somehow compensate, or bust. A symbolic gesture of keeping the earth under teensy weensy dots of "county land" unmolested doesn't seem to scale.

    8. I'm all for enforceable bans, which require formidible will to resist payoff and/or intimidation. (Peduto has demonstrated such stubbornness on a number of issues, which is why I volunteered for his campaign.)

      There is no adequate compensation for being poisoned or for ruining our water, a far more valuable long-term resource on this warming planet, which fracking methane clouds will help warm up to widespread drought-deserts much more quickly.

      And refusing to let our County go along with piercing a few more poison pits among the multiplicity of "holes in the plate" would not have been simply a "symbolic" example of long-term enlightened self-interest, but would have been most directly and practically protective of the County voters for whom Fitzgerald has accepted responsibility as representative.

    9. Yes, except he has another responsibility to do what he said he would do. Which is what the voters wanted their county executive to do. The hard-line anti-frackers have a lot of work to do educating people before they can demand anything. And yes, out of tens of thousands, "a few less" poison pits would be almost entirely symbolic.

    10. I need to see some evidence that the voters wished Fitzgerald to make these decisions and when they wished it. Josh Fox asserted that a recent poll reports 2 out of three Pennsylvanians are now opposed to fracking. Do we have polls reporting Allegheny opinion?

      The opinion of the residents nearest the prospective wells has been decidedly, fearfully opposed as they become more aware of information on health impacts, as they finally learn of data not simply withheld but aggressively suppressed both in mainstream press and official DEP publications.

      That change in wider mass position and in more particularly vested opinion, as well as the better info available since his election should sway the present actions that will make a great difference to the people who live within range of damage by those two wells. And water tables can't be fixed once poisoned. And elected officials that have vested business interests in water purification companies should practice more rigorous due diligence as regards protection of common water resources. Otherwise profit motive rather than "responsibility to obey the voters will" might reasonably be suspected as a motive for actions so clearly shortsighted.

    11. According to StateImpactPA there are a little over 2,000 ACTIVE shale gas wells in the Pittsburgh metro area right now.

      Helen you write, "as they finally learn of data not simply withheld but aggressively suppressed both in mainstream press and official DEP publications." ... See, I think we'd better focus on that. And then aim any such knowledge we may eventually assemble & process squarely at the government that is actually in charge of the rules of the game. A game which is 99.7% one of private enterprise.

    12. Your suggestion of focus on getting good info out there about health and environmental impacts of fracking is a worthy necessity. We definitely have enough information right now about health impacts to demand that our elected officials act on that information wherever they have been charged with representing the most basic needs of the voters affected by their actions and inactions. And in light of each set of damages most probably caused by each and every on of those thousands of wells, I don't see how it is in the public interest to imply "getting on board" is somehow a sign of rational realism. Each single refusal to go along with drilling yet another dark star in the constellation of poison pits is a worthy protection of some individuals who would otherwise be hurt, and yet another possible chance to better educate the public on both the science and on democratic processes of resistance to toxic exploitation by private enterprise.

  4. Chuck Half is not the head of the Computer Information Systems Department.

    1. Thank you for the correction. We regret the error. Was I recalling old information, or was I misremembering entirely?

      And it looks as though the City's Innovation, Performance and Strategy manager operates out of the Mayor's office. (Although I hope there's good participation from CIS resources in this project, what with its scope and complexity.)

    2. Chuck is great at keeping all of the key players involved.

  5. The current City drilling ban is not enforceable - and probably not legal. As a gesture, it has had value - both positive and negative.

    Opponents of drilling should ask themselves which is ultimately more preventative of City drilling - a pragmatic approach (Dowd) or the pell-mell, ignorant approach (Shields)? Dowd didn't want drilling, he wanted to ban it in ways that would actually work. However, he was shouted down and called a "whore for industry" by Shields and his folks. Meanwhile, the latter are cool with a ban that would be overturned quite easily, if a company was interested in doing so. If these are the folks leading the charge against drilling, sorry, that charge is destined to fail.

    As for Fitz drilling in City parks...please indicate which company intends to drill in the City? A lease signed in 2008 is not an indication of that, they were signing as many leases as they could in those days...structured to pay only in the case of drilling.

    Moreover...if drilling is entirely, unequivocally bad and inherently unsafe, then City folks are screwed, hemmed in on all sides by active drilling in Allegheny County. I say this because the LAST thing folks should be doing is sitting back on their laurels because they enacted a ceremonial ban.

    It will be interesting to see what happens if and when Peduto's administration needs to take a position on drilling. As others have noted, some spheres will collide, etc.

    1. It's not clear that the important parts of Pgh's ban are any more overturn-able than the alternate route of patently exclusionary zoning, a ban with clever but mendacious semantics. Yet another reason this all gets back to. State. Government.

    2. Excellent points. I thought Dowd was doing his best to build more enforceable codes and that it was a total shame that others attempted to shame him for working within the system as rationally and practically as he could.

    3. And I'm very glad we have the ban, as well. Kudos to diversity of tactics!

  6. Having the ban is fine...crapping on efforts to bolster things via zoning because you refuse to take the time to understand things is extremely lamentable (I can see we agree). Energy policy is tilting very strongly towards hydraulic fracturing, this can be seen in yesterday's statements by Obama. Opponents are going to have to be as rational and pragmatic as possible or they will be rightly ignored. UNDERSTAND the system/landscape before fighting it.