Friday, January 24, 2014

USAir Scuttles Moon Program

Renke's World of S&A

Well, if the federal government is finding it to be of limited use, and we have problems on Earth...

US Airways has decided to close its $32 million flight operations center in Moon and move the work to Dallas-Fort Worth, where the new American Airlines will be based. 
The move will affect about 600 employees at the center, according to Matt Dinkel, press secretary for U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills. Most of the employees will be offered the chance to transfer, said Todd Lehmacher, a spokesman for American Airlines. (P-G, Mark Belko)

Wait, what? Oh, this is the Airport, or related to it. That old thing. Circa 1992.

It was built at the height of the big airport mall craze, in fact it is an AIRMALL. In the Comet's own modest sample experience, the major airports of the world are not much into that these days. The major airports of the world are for running, being herded and examined, and fueling up. The major train stations of the world, now, there you will see some malls.

Plus, Pittsburgh International has a somewhat absurd people-mover, which is now integral to the system. It must have seemed like a good idea at the time.

So it was already in somewhat funky overbuilt shape when air travel profitability collapsed. Now it's allegedly getting shabby.

But let's look on the bright sides: At Pittsburgh International Airport, there is surely a lot of space available to make customs and security to flow sensibly. Because truthfully, a lot of airports in North America are confused about that. We can help you build a next generation international terminal from the ground up.

Additionally, we can exploit that airport investment with American-made, cleaner-burning natural petrochemical energy.

In a letter to operations center employees, Tim Campbell, senior vice president of air operations for American Airlines, said the transfer of employees won’t begin to happen for several months. (ibid)

Nice work. The Comet wonders what those waylaid employees think about… everything.

MORE: Trib, John G. Oravecz: Union president says workers are sad, feel as though they have done a good job. It would be hard to leave home. Null Space on airline bashing. Speaking of radio golf.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Reprieve? Wilson Center twitches.

An epilogue to this production in the cycle:

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said he and Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto have been quietly trying to broker a plan to salvage the debt-ridden August Wilson Center for African American Arts and expect to make an announcement within the next few days. (Trib, Debra Erdley)

We are all agreed the Center still needs a strategic plan, and a center with community confidence. Anything from having to do with public schools to air rights seems up for debate.

RELATED: We should probably be reading more Wilson and building him less, but c'est la vie. Then again, why fight it?

UPDATED REFLECTIONS: The only visual design note in Radio Golf was a Tiger Woods poster. That's not nothing. Also there was a solid menu note if the financial sustainability package includes food service. We have refined our preliminary exterior design notes for any new vertical construction thusly: "Brightly painted and well-crafted old home, artfully run down, with Play-salient art pieces adorning it baroquely, as well as a metal fire escape somewhat conjuring a treehouse atmosphere."

More importantly: the insistent message of the actual play -- the culmination of the entire Pittsburgh or Century cycle -- seemed to be:

Conduct your business ethically. Yes, you know what that means already. Yes that can be hard, unfair to you personally, or seem unimportant compared to the great important things you are working on. But there is just no other way besides knowingly living as a total crook. And wherever that puts you, that puts you. (And depending upon what the viewer imagines happens next after the curtain falls, that might not be such a bad prospect.)

We do not feel comfortable describing why Radio Golf was so named. It has to do with the idea that when one works for and then experiences success, it becomes easy to convince oneself that one knows a lot more about achievement than one actually does. It can actually make one a bit dumber about it.

There must be considerably more to the whole Pittsburgh / Century cycle than that, but we have yet to read the preceding nine plays.

NEWS UPDATE: AG Kane and the board recommend a certain new conservator.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Yinz Town Land Bank: Who shall run it?

Six Revisions

The loyal opposition gets a gold star today for seizing an opportunity to open a ripe discussion.

City Councilors Lavelle, Burgess, Kail-Smith and Harris (in that chronological order) voiced concerns about Councilor Gross's proposed ordinance to supplement the City Code.

The four explained that the proposal may cede too much "Land Bank Power"* to the Mayor, or that it may not sufficiently address the inequitable distribution of "Bankable Land"* across the city (it tends to collect in hard-luck tracts and pockets). These sorts of difficulties they suggested might necessitate more of a Council role at the code or general level.

There remains a special session and a public hearing to be scheduled. Burgess motioned to hold today's considerations, having established that we ought get hype*.

*- Editor's terms

BONUS: Transition buy-outs and position eliminations: this looks like the ticket.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Introducing, the Dollar Bank Center for Pittsburgh Political Culture


Having gotten to this point, it was fairly unavoidable:

"Thus, the conservator is left with an impossible task; that is, to conserve an entity that has no strategic plan and insufficient cash to operate -- and has run out of time," she wrote. (P-G, Mark Belko)

The organization truly did not seem to have any viable strategic plan. It certainly did not have a sufficient communications plan, and sometimes that reflects on overall strategy.

Now we have 1) a sizable, shiny, odd looking building at a nice location Downtown 2) that we had named after local playwright August Wilson and 3) said would be a center for African-American culture.

Actually, we don't have any of those things. Dollar Bank has those things. A local bank, mind you. When it opened, Pittsburgh didn't have an "h".

MORE: On the ailing center's mission as that of a real and metaphorical bridge, from the piping hot Duquesne Whistle. See also Null Space.

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.