Friday, July 26, 2013

Friday: Into your Weekend Warmongering...

Engaging Justice JWSS 1055
 by Bram Reichbaum

You can't get into the Special Election in Dowdville, without discussing Buncher Comapny's development plans!

Major riverfront development is rumbling as though to proceed regardless of the landowner acquiring sought-after public financing and regardless of getting to demolish part of a very long historic building.

Shame only in that the setbacks from the river bank for building probably ranked highest on my Buncher Country wish-list. As this comprises part of the public's joyful right-of-way along its rivers at what should be a high-density spot and the environmentalists are raising alarms about river bank erosion... well, they're not making any more land. So that's a cost.

Strategies for how to proceed as Buncher signals its hand are hard to formulate. Ceoffe Jr. took a shot at explaining his approach on his "Neighbors for" Facebook page, and Deb Gross on her own page links pointedly to Pikes Place Market.

Not your favorite type of election issue? I don't know. State oversight is always a fun one.

Speaking of state oversight and our financial situation, yes, in Darlene Harris' possible bid for Mayor...

The Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh board voted today to commit $16.5 million to a $106 million effort to replace or add hundreds of new homes in Larimer.

The authority board's vote comes a day after Pittsburgh City Council postponed, for a week, its own vote to commit an identical amount to the revamp. (P-G, Rich Lord)

Councilman Burgess chairs the city's quasi-independent Housing Authority, which can spend many millions from HUD for such purposes.

Councilman Peduto was among the several weighing whether, from what and how easily the City itself can pony up $16.5 million for this private residential development in Larimer. He took a moment to note that despite the plethora of excellent press Pittsburgh has been getting for not being Detroit, that our financial picture is actually a lot worse than is being reported. And it's true, the core and region are making great gains in addition, while the City's pension crunch will be exponential.

The Council of Nine are going to take another week to look at the $16.5 million.

But not before Council President Darlene Harris was adamant at length during the discussion that "figures lie and liars figure," that Council has always found a way to come up with money when it wants to, that poor communities always get the short end of the stick and that Darlene Harris is all about poor communities.

Councilwoman Kail-Smith, referee extraordinaire, noted the political overtone.

Council members Burgess and Peduto seemed to work through the entire discussion without issue, for what it's worth. Take that week by week.

Which brings us to finally: Council voted unanimously to throw a question on November's ballot about the police residency requirement. I think I had the wrong impression of the likelihood of the arbitration panel ruling to allow residency to be fair game for the bargaining table under present conditions. At any rate, if I'm the only person in Pittsburgh who fancies there are more urgent things on the public policing wish-list, and who doesn't think the residency requirement is proving to be all that determinative, that's fine.

There was also some jazz about police training.

Look alive, friends and neighbors!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Justice is Not Blind

by Bram Reichbaum

Tired of this county's painful living racial history. It's maddening.

The story of the killing of Trayvon Martin and the legal exoneration of his killer on grounds of self-defense should powerfully drive home the point that young black men in this country are not, to put it very politely, treated the same as others or given benefit of doubt. Based on race, and especially based on a certain unfortunate race, age and gender profile, people in this country are regarded differently in a lot of little ways and a lot of large ways that all together contribute to pernicious, heinous results - those of individually destroyed lives, failing communities, and a bitterly divided and limited nation.

Frequently segregated among themselves, many Black communities today require a lot of good work from within to build cultural capital, strength and health. But what a White person sometimes misses I believe, is that it must be a dreadful struggle to build scalable communities capable of fulfilling all aspects of that work, when those who comprise it labor from birth against relentless social, psychological and institutional adversities... to say nothing of withering hostility when any grievances are aired.

How not to turn resentful, to conclude the system is rigged in the ugliest way?

They say the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. Too many in this nation recoil from acknowledging racial privilege and all the contradictions in the social order it entails. The implications are upsetting.

The nation has a problem.


Rhonda Blackwell Siler
The tale of Martin and Zimmerman typifies the exhausting obstacle course facing those lacking societal privilege.

It started with the excited and hyperactive scrutiny of an armed community watchman.

It continued when civil authorities did not immediately arrest the actor responsible for a street killing and threaten to throw the book at him unless he plead guilty to something.

The 44-day delay in the eventual arrest begat the legal defense fund, enabling representation quite a bit superior to that of an overworked, under-budgeted public defender.

Later still came another atypical decision by police to collaborate with the defense, rather than the prosecution.

One might as well also mention what must have been the impact of the closest thing to an eye-witness, Rachel Jenteal, on a jury which we might as well also mention lacked a single Black voice among Trayvon's peers.

Do we even need to conjure the fears which motivated passing a recklessly emboldening "Stand Your Ground" law, making armed confrontation with presumed rogues seem so noble and so necessary?

Does it matter what kind of kid Trayvon was? Why does that topic so frequently arise? Isn't it enough that he was shot in the street? Can you imagine a young black man pleading self-defense so convincingly after any chaotic street shooting in which he pulled the trigger?


Each of us can do something to address these disparities in our daily lives, through reflection and awareness.

Yet in a society of mass and complexity, it is hard at the same time not to turn an expectant eye to leadership -- whether that stems from government, or social activism, or yet another sector.

It is foolish to truly imagine leadership that is so skilled, broad, focused and politically intelligent that it can lift pressure from the weight of this tremendous cultural legacy grinding us down. It is foolish, but I imagine it anyway.

All I know is, we must insist upon illustrating hard truths if we are to become capable of visualizing a better future. And visualization is among the last cards we have to play.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Real Quick: Race for D7 hot like summer

by Bram Reichbaum

And getting litigious:

Tony Ceoffe Jr. of Lawrenceville lost the Democratic committee's nomination for the vacant District 7 council seat in a vote Sunday to Deb Gross of Highland Park, with Ms. Gross narrowly beating him 47 votes to 43. An attorney for Mr. Ceoffe filed a complaint today in Common Pleas Court seeking to throw out the results, arguing it violated Democratic committee bylaws. (P-G, Timothy McNulty)

PREDICTION: My wager is no -- certainly not enough bylaws were harmed, if indeed any.

UPDATE: Chairwoman Nancy Patton Mills calls the injunction request "baseless and highly suspicious," among other things (Early Returns).

UPDATE, THE DUEX: More on the allegations (Pittsburgh's Blogh of Recordgh)

SPECIAL COMMENT: Readers of the Admiral! Of Infinonymous! My brothers and sisters. I sense in your minds the same apprehension that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the politics of our new "progressive" leadership fails, when we must forsake our allies and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of transgressions and broken promises when the Age of Peduto comes crashing down, but it is not this day! Not even particularly close.

We knew (it was telegraphed) that accusations of "dirty politics" were eventually going to come, mirroring those many successfully demonstrated against the "old guard" for years. This injunction request is in part a way to forge and amplify that narrative. The fundamental problem with such an argument here is, this is not the government, this is a political party -- the correct place for Party leadership to do things such as, reach out to the City's new leader, during a time of transition (from concern to invigoration, and from division hopefully to collaboration) and ask, "So, do you have anyone to recommend fill a vacancy on the Committee? Because after all, previous leaders fiercely opposed to you made the last 300 or so appointments. We'd like to make sure that if Pittsburgh doesn't move forward, it's not because our Party is out of step with the City's leader." Or to tend all manner of logistical details within the discretion routinely due to elected party leaders, which always can be interpreted or misinterpreted to aggrieve somebody.

Do not mistake, if political envelope-pushing takes place in the halls of government, or between government and the Committee, we will have a problem. But within a political party, I think some folks are just shocked at their new perspective: that of having lost the majority to another fresh figure.

Though they kept it close enough to justify a day in court. Whether the attendant hoopla surrounding the reactionary maneuver does anything for their campaign will be interesting.