Monday, January 6, 2014

Pittsburgh, Forever! New officials sworn in.

Haggard and Halloo

Mayor-E….. Mayor Bill Peduto more or less perfectly trod that tricky line line between stating his positive intention that the City is going to work hard, deal squarely and in good faith, say its prayers, eat its vitamins and be a real American -- without looking askance as though to say, "For a change folks, am I right?"

Peduto before speaking more or less bathed himself in former Mayors -- Ravenstahl, Murphy, and fitting representatives of O'Connor, Calijuiri, Lawrence. It was nice how outgoing Mayor Ravenstahl stayed through the entirety of the program. Seemed not even to have any entourage.

There was a reminder late last week in the Toprani report of some of the scandalous issues that helped bring this leadership transition to pass in the way it played out. As we remind ourselves of what is on the record and remember the scope of failures in oversight and culture, we will find a lot of characters in that story besides Mr. Luke Ravenstahl. He was a character -- and that's for sure! -- but Pittsburgh was truly the main character, and it was an anti-hero my friends. Pittsburgh did all that, and now Pittsburgh is looking itself in the mirror and getting psyched for change.

First would needs come some sort of montage. Peduto delivered on the montage. Next comes the bell, and if it's a good movie, a whole lot of punishing rounds.

Check out what somebody at the Tribune-Review did:

It's lovely! It's also interesting, in that stupid kind of way. "New wealth generations today; office stale." "Much place know, especially take love reform. Many measure sustainability!"

Three cheers to Chris Potter of ye olde City Paper picking up on a signal in regards to Councilwoman Deb Gross earning the Chairwomanship of City Council's Zoning and Land Use Committee, in this stage of development along District 7's own Allegheny Riverfront and proposals by the Buncher Company.

It looked like new administrative transition legislation was introduced in Council. Do any of you journalists know the last time Council submitted legislation at its initial swearing-in and organizational meeting? Submitting legislation is merely handing over an envelope, it takes weeks to process preliminarily -- but I wonder how bold a stroke it is in terms of prodding the City to attention. Are we looking at a Kraus Means Business meme? Funny how that could overlap.

There has been some meditation on "New Pittsburgh" and "Next Pittsburgh," not to mention #NewPittsburgh and #NEXTpgh.  Let the Comet proffer at this time a focus on


Pittsburgh deserves MOAR Pittsburgh. As long as this community is feeling all high-minded and civic and whatnot, let those of us who publish or broadcast, yak, fiddle or entertain, devote a certain MOAR of our time, sweat and treasure to Pittsburgh -- whether that be the region, or the municipality, or a cherished neighborhood or community.

And as we in our many informal and commercial forums examine, deliberate, and contemplate Pittsburgh, let us not only feel that weight of intergenerational responsibility to build and sustain, but let us exult MOAR in the lifting of it. Let us host forums wherever we are hosting forums with excitement and optimism. And as we do so, let us be sure the general welfare of the Pittsburgh community and its denizens and constituents inhabits our hearts.

We "do Pittsburgh" in all ages, usually quite well. The Comet simply proposes that we all according to our capacity "do Pittsburgh," and do it right, just a little MOAR for a couple years -- and see how it feels. Give the weighty aspiration of the project a full head of steam.

Because heaven help us if our Mayor has to do it alone.


  1. "Councilwoman Deb Gross earning the Chairwomanship" she earned it? No. She was handed it just like her election, most likely as a reward for voting for Kraus like she was told to. It's funny that you bring up the Buncher plan. The one is which our esteemed councilwoman sat on the fence so as to not upset any potential constituents only to turn around and make up her mind moments after being sworn in. Hopefully before she starts making decisions as the development chair she actually commits some time to learn about all those quirky neighborhoods she claims to understand.

  2. From afar, it's hard to tell the difference between this Inauguration and a Wedding.

  3. Bram, any thoughts on why a 'new day' in Pittsburgh begins with Mike Huss? I cant think of anyone who better represents the indifference of the previous administration and even if he wasn't culpable in the bureau scandal he looks asleep at the switch.

    What's the thought process behind keeping him on?

    1. Is he being kept on, permanently? It must take a while to find a new public safety director, and in the meanwhile the need for one that knows the basic stuff cries out.

      Plus, we (I) don't really know what contributed towards the apparent dynamic in the previous admin.

  4. More Pgh?

    Or, Roar Pgh?

    So Moar Pgh as the #hastag, right?

    Cute, sorta.

    I'd be happy with #Pgh so as to avoid confusion and allow more characters (Pgh) and content within the actual messages.

    One day the cheers, the hype, the chest thumping and intimidation turns to lockstep single voice need to unanimous votes and act that are fully against day 1 speech concepts of being true to self for every neighbor.

    #Pgh gets poor grades in creativity, but being aware of the poor is just what us needed here. (Another pun I think.)

    Go #Pgh.

  5. And here I thought it was an acronym:

    "... MOAR is an expression of interest and desire, indicating the poster wishes more of the same or similar type of content thus provided.

    More of a demand than a polite request, sources indicate it’s not just a throwback to the heady days of 1337speak when deliberate mispeelings were all the rage, but rather is a roar for more."

  6. Firing the ward chairmen that were against him and giving raises to the ward chairmen that were for him. It's a new day in Pittsburgh.

    1. Who is getting raises? Were they better at their jobs, and / or have they been employed at real ones?
      Because all those special assistant positions at DPW were a joke.

    2. I'd like to know which Chairs received raises also! do tell....

    3. Great idea firing the DPW guys during the coldest weather we have had in decades...
      Why not wait a couple weeks until the city is back on its feet and see how well they performed when we need them the most? Then make a decision -

  7. Anyone notice whose campaign the new "Sustainablity Manager" happened to serve as a "volunteer" consultant for.........

    1. Sorry, I can't locate my decoder ring at the moment. Tell us.

    2. I just googled Grant Ervin. On paper he seems extremely experienced, educated and qualified (10,000 Friends of PA, PCRG, Sustainable PGH, Morningside Community Council, Union Project, 10+ yrs of all that) for what really ought to be a complex job of sprawling scope.

      Given those facts, I'm not prepared to begrudge him also volunteering some of that knowledge for a local candidate.

      Meanwhile I think the shift from a "coordinator" to a "manager" is a good one, and hope what is implied by it is made manifest.

    3. No one ever said Grant was unqualified!

      His "sudden" loyalty to Gross struck many folks' curiousity a few months ago but now it makes sense. Showing up to MACC events, as President of the 501(c)3 organization with Gross Campaign Pins / Stickers made me wonder in September and October but its clear now.

      The New Machine is the same as the Old Machine just new names.

      The ironic thing is that I think its ok!! Its just insanely frustrating that people just can't call it like they see it. Nepotism will NEVER go away! Just embrace it!

    4. Anon 2:54 - Thank you for the back n' forth, but I'm going to be a tad merciless...

      1. Nepotism refers to family members. Which has also been a problem in the City, so the distinction is necessary. I believe you mean patronage.

      2. Who are these "many folks"? Did anyone really think it was so inexplicable that an environmental activist who sat on the board of the Union Project in Highland Park got excited to support the Peduto progressive in the race?

      3. To the extent that you have any point, what makes the "Next Machine" (haha) better is that we expect to see a higher caliber of "crony". A workaholic idealistic wonk Mayor should attract workaholic idealistic wonky hangers-on. I can live with that.

    5. Be a "tad merciless" about how many of these 501c3 rules were broken.

      Some activities that the IRS has found to violate the prohibition on political campaigning include:

      •inviting a political candidate to make a campaign speech at an event hosted by the organization
      •using the organization's funds to publish materials that support (or oppose) a candidate
      •any statements by the organization's executive director, in his or her official capacity, that support a candidate

    6. If you're claiming those things indeed occurred Anon 3:48, by all means follow through. This blog has already noted with sympathy the general public and the media's curious penchant for being otherwise interested in that instance. I wouldn't think you could lay the blame at any "machine's" doorstep, it's just a product of the whole civic circumstance. Or maybe the group caught a glance at some polling data and concluded there wasn't much of a race. But perhaps it is more sinister. If you think so, go ahead and forward your grievance clearly, directly and accountably.

    7. "workaholic" That's hilarious!

    8. I know. I love how no one picked up on the article in PG that "Peduto came to work at 10:16 am." That is par for the course for him and everyone on Grant street knows it. This whole idea that he is a hard worker and demands excellence is literally comical. Tick, tock, tick tock

    9. I think Acklin spun things for the PG: Coming into work at 5:30, staff meeting at 8:30, etc. Meanwhile, Trib says Bill came in after 10, which of course is reasonable and human, since he was at his party late the night before and just came off of two full days of events. Let's hope Buzz Acklin simmers down a bit, lest his betters on the team (senior folk like Guy and Valerie) start pushing back. In fact, looks like Guy is already taking a stand by removing his coat during a staff meeting.

    10. Coming in at 10 after a party when you are the boss? How is that reasonable on the first day of work? Actually, I think it sets the tone completely. Sets the tone that this is all a bunch of fluff. So long as you spin and fluff, that is all that matters.

    11. Anon 8:09 - Results will matter. That is for sure.

      It occurs to me we must pass through a period in which the can of worms that is the question, "How bad Peduto had it when he came in" will become a bone of political contention. To spin the short-term results, and fluff an imaginary alternative.

      I should like to approach those questions as a collection of distinct obstacles and apparitions, and view each situation one at a time.

      In regards to finances, debt is now under control, but the costs of having done business are growing and our capital budget is sinking. All non-controversial.

      Beyond that I would imagine that yes, a few things need fixed and some information needs processed and shown. Probably a rocky uphill battle. But we'll be seeing those financial debates forever.


    12. Results? Are you serious? The results are in and Pittsburgh is awesome. It keeps winning awards every week. All that happened under Raventahl, while I might add, Peduto was the primary objector to everything Ravenstahl did. Was Ravenstahl responsible? Who knows and probably not, but Bill certainly wasn't. Will Bill now try and claim credit? You bet.

  8. Peduto just announced another police class for the fall (PG).

    That is not going to be enough.

    Losing 60-70 officers per year and growing (due to the 93 & 94 hires) causes a big gap that will not be filled with 40 recruits per year.

    The March class does not even catch up with the losses from 2013 and the autumn class will come no where close to filling the gaps that will be created by the 2014 losses.

    Needs to plan for another class in January 2015 and probably May 2015.

    This will get the Bureau close to filling the losses.

    With the projected losses through the next few years, Peduto could wind up staffing about 30% of the Bureau in his first term.

    Also, it is nice that he is trying to attack the projected losses; but, it still does not answer the bigger question: Are we using the officers that we have in a wise manner?

    I would suggest that the answer is no.

    Whomever he picks as Chief is going to have to have the fortitude to make fundamental changes to how all branches of the Bureau are staffed. More officers are needed in Operations and less in Administrative or Investigative roles.

    Current police leadership keeps increasing the size of the two latter at the expense of the most important one - Operations: serving our citizens and visitors directly.

    1. Anon 1:09 wrote - "Are we using the officers that we have in a wise manner? I would suggest that the answer is no."

      I am amenable to that suggestion. What do you think of my suggestion (just looking at it as a layman) that that's 1) a bigger problem right now even than numbers and 2) it makes sense to make headway on that issue first, before we flood the Bureau with rookies and sophomores?

    2. I concur with you completely.

      Reallocation of branch resources should be immediately addressed. Included with this study/implementation should be civilianization of administrative positions. There are at lease 50-60 positions in the Bureau that can be turned over for civilians to fill so that officers can go back to the streets.

      That will have to be done in a matter of weeks (not months).

      Unfortunately, flooding the Bureau with rookies is something we cannot avoid due to the '93 & '94 hiring (this was when the City hired about 450 new officers in a two year period following the last retirement incentive to get some of the senior police leadership off of the street).

      Although the Bureau has been telling the politicians and the public for years about the potential mass exodus of veteran officers (re. Bureau annual reports published on line which lists retirement eligible numbers), much of the time, the police leadership has been treated like chicken little by the past administration in this regard.

      There should have been a systemic 20 year plan (some years you would have more officers and some years you would have less) in which a standard number of officers were put on each year.

      Doing that would end the bubble of a large number of officers eligible at one time.

      Now, it is too late to for this to solve the problem; but, we need to address it so that we can smooth out the loss curve so that this does not happen again in 20 years.

    3. "That will have to be done in a matter of weeks (not months)"

      That strikes me as a tall order, Anon 1:50. First there is the design of a strategic plan (I am assuming there would have been some pre-transition difficulty in collaborating fully) the implementation of it, and then the analysis and the fixing of its inevitable bugs so as to stabilize it. I don't ask for long but ballpark, that sounds about like 2-3 months before we can really step on the gas with respect to training. If we are to grow the force that significantly, it should set the tone. I almost want to say, don't we want a permanent Chief to lead that charge... but I understand your argument, the ranks are only being depleted through attrition.

    4. Can a police class be more, say double or triple, the norm?

    5. Sorry for the confusion --- the weeks not months was referring to getting a structural reorganization plan in place not in the immediate hiring of recruits.

      To answer Mark's question, Pittsburgh does not have the logistical capacity to handle a basic recruit class of greater than 40.

      This is due to lack of classroom space, physical training facilities (for training in defensive tactics), state qualified instructors to handle multiple classes at one time, field training officers once they are put on the street for final training and severely limited range space that recruits and all veteran officers have to use.

      The best that Pittsburgh can do on its own is train two classes a year with maybe 40 basic recruits and possibly 20 veteran officers (coming from other agencies).

      Anything beyond that would have to be sent to the County academy if they have the capacity.

      The academy, beyond recruit training, must a
      So conduct yearly required state mandated training and any training being required/demanded locally.

    6. I'd figure we could convert empty schools into training facilities (gymnasiums, fields) but the instructors, field trainers and range restrictions sound dispositive.

      What all goes into a sufficient police training facility, in your opinion? I assume all the gadgetry can come with the Bureau, as long as there is reliable power. Perhaps a satellite dish.

    7. Not as easy as just taking over an unused school building.

      Anytime that a building changes hands, it must be brought up to code (rather than just meeting the code that was in place at time of occupancy) such that a certificate of occupancy can be issued, must be brought up to current ADA standards and (if it is to be used as a police training facility) must meet MPOETC standards.

      This in itself is time consuming and $$$$ consuming.

      A better approach (and investment of precious dollars) is (should have been happening under last administration) is to plan, build a Public Safety Training Academy to meet police, fire and emergency medical training needs.

      This will require SIGNIFICANT investment of funds from the City but will pay off in long term use by public safety and could possible be used as a revenue generator by providing training (with costs attached) to local public safety agencies in western PA.

      The last time that Pittsburgh put in real money into a training academy was in the 1950's when Slusser worked out there prior to his being made Superintendent for the Bureau. Ironically, after the City let Slusser go in the 70's, he also put the County's training academy together.

      Anything that has been done since has essentially been "band aids" to fix problems or meet new training needs. The band aid approach will no longer work.

  9. I love, love, love Bill.

  10. bill needs to cut huss lose.

  11. In Trib and PG photos of Bill's first day on the job, Guy Costa was NOT wearing a coat at a staff meeting. Does that mean he has to clean the erasers after school?

  12. What happens when Bill is late for the staff meeting? Or is tieless??

    1. The boss is never late for a meeting and if he is tieless --- so what?

      People are making much ado about ties and coats and meeting times.

      At least he and Acklin are showing leadership and management on the 5th floor. This has sorely been lacking for the last 8 years.

  13. The Mayor really needs to make moves in the Police Bureau.

    It has been floating like a rudderless ship on the ocean for the past 10 months.

    It needs leadership that is respected throughout the law enforcement community in western PA and by the officers that the chief leads.

    The current acting chief has none of those qualities.

    The police are begging the mayor to make a change in this regard.

  14. Given the very first, anonymous comment, i think it's more like SOREpgh.