Monday, January 20, 2014

Sacrificing Privileges: ISO Liviousness

The Atlantic

Let's elevate the conversation.

The most pertinent critique of status-quo urban redevelopment policy in Pittsburgh was lodged by a movement which had evolved during a sit-in on Centre Ave.

It later briefly occupied City Hall to circulate fourteen to seventeen demands.

It stopped by the Mayor's home, leaving a message.

Ultimately it presented itself formally to the URA at 200 Ross Street, also bearing a love letter regarding Pittsburgh and "economic violence":

The official response to the demands was perfunctory. Even after time:

Dear URA,
Last month we delivered a letter at your August 8 board meeting calling for a different vision for development in Black Pittsburgh. We asked for a response and we have not heard from you. 
What we did hear were your statements to the press that… 
(9/07/13 Pittsburgh for Trayvon)

In the same vein:

Dear Council Member Bill Peduto, 
We appreciate your detailed response to the Pittsburgh for Trayvon demands. We also look forward to building a relationship with you, and as a part of that relationship holding you publicly accountable to meeting the demands necessary to ensure that the Black communities of Pittsburgh are “Most Livable”. 
READ Peduto’s Response to our Demands HERE  
(8/06/13, Pgh for Travon

Most revealing in matters of economic development is #6 -- both in terms of using public resources to foster "community benefits" along the lines which a coalition amongst labor, faith and environmental groups have been advocating for some time, and in terms of leaning upon community-oriented neighborhood planning.

In Bill Peduto's URA, it is said:

As we build the team to join Mayor-elect Peduto, the vision, skills and competencies expected of all in City government are clear. See the full list of competencies that will guide our City. (Talent City)

Anon, some valued skills:

Educates customer—Proactively shares information to build the customer’s understanding of services, issues, and capabilities; manages customer expectations. 
Remains open to ideas—Listens to others and objectively considers others’ ideas and opinions, even when they conflict with one’s own. 
Determines causes—Identifies potential conditions that contribute to gaps or key variances; explores relationships between conditions and effects; distinguishes causes from symptoms and identifies primary causes. (Talent City)

The URA (in addition to HACP) coordinates with the City and the other Authorities in the transporting of hundreds of millions of dollars from our Federal and State government to development projects within city limits.

There is a sense in which everything the URA accomplishes is at first attributable to community entrepreneurs and partners, and then is attributable to Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society". Although it has been a long time since then.

Not every cockamamie project, grant application or allocation is able to or will get cleared and approved by the higher levels and other branches of government. Yet even playing the game somewhat poorly, Pittsburgh's URA cannot help but to produce public works with deep, lasting ripple effects across the city and region.

But what exactly will it do? With whom, and how? In what proportions? Towards what ends? That is a matter for strategic planning.

Pittsburgh deserves solutions for a host of difficulties in a manner that is holistic, sustainable, and equitable in terms of civic opportunity. Investment and resource allocation are precious powers which must be leveraged to further a whole variety of strategic public objectives. One such objective is the very process of large-scale community building and enfranchisement.

(And on that note…)

COMET RECOMMENDATION: When considering appointments of board members to various civic bodies, whatever we do in the end, let us make sure we are looping the social justice community early into the conversation. There is no substitute for direct engagement with the people out there pushing the envelope.


  1. I really like what the Mayor has had to say about using TalentCity and finding good, qualified people to work for the City of Pittsburgh. However, I don’t think he has actually done that. I would love to see a list of his new staff and how many of them had prominent roles in his campaign.

    I’m not saying these people aren’t qualified to do what they do, but don’t make such a big deal about getting rid of the old political system when you aren’t really changing anything.

    1. My understanding Tom is that it has been negotiated amongst Talent City, Bill Peduto and the rest of the world that a certain amount of patronage is inevitable and even healthy -- but not in positions of immense and direct responsibility requiring multiple aptitudes. The only new hires which really stand out to me on that level are Acklin and Costa, and at that exalted level I think we have to chalk it up to, "the Mayor gets to have a few people she wants, trusts and needs in her inner circle."

  2. I don't get this: "Because Buncher Co. opposed a historic designation, council would have needed six votes to pass the resolution."

    Why would Buncher's opposition require a supermajority?

    Also, this: "Only five members — Council President Bruce Kraus, Councilman Dan Gilman and Councilwomen Darlene Harris, Natalia Rudiak and Deb Gross — voted in favor of it. Councilwoman Theresa Kail-Smith and Councilmen Corey O’Connor, R. Daniel Lavelle and Ricky Burgess opposed the measure."

    Looks like Harris is the swing vote on council, not O'Connor.

  3. Anon 2:30 PM

    I believe it is because the URA Board opposed the historic designation.

    1. Confirmed via sources: Council required a supermajority to approve the Historic Designation of the Produce Terminal today because the owner -- in this case the URA -- objected to the application. Tom is correct. And the URA was contractually obligated to object, due to the option agreement with Buncher Company it had put into place.

      This could be seen as all very interesting to the topic of recent posts, but it's doubly interesting because of the Peduto administration in this morning's papers announced a delay to conduct a feasibility study -- well, to charge a feasibility blue-ribbon commission with studying preservation with regard to the pregnant Produce Terminal development -- and then determine a course and bearing.