Saturday, January 6, 2007

Save the Penguins

KDKA's Andy Sheehan adds some much-needed perspective to the whole Penguins arena imbroglio. Most of us forget that Mario Lemieux is not the majority owner of the Pens -- that honor goes to billionaire Ron Burkle, pictured. Not only is Burkle described as a friend of former President Bill Clinton, but also of Governor Ed Rendell, to whom he has made significant campaign contributions. So although Lemieux (R-Sewickley) might be getting a little fed-up with the prevailing politics and politicians of our region, there is reason to believe, as the Comet has insisted, we should all calm down and let the little dance play out.

GOP Redistricting Proposal

Pittsburgh Republican Committee Chair Bob Hillen (pictured) frames his party's City Council redistricting proposal as a way to bolster African-American representation in city government. He assures Christian Morrow of the Corrier that “It would be political suicide to eliminate council’s two African-American districts in the process. They won’t eliminate Black districts—not if they want to walk the streets.” If one of the two at-large districts is won by a black candidate ... he suggests a GOP candidate would be a shoo-in, and the Comet wonders if he already has a brother in mind ... that would make for 3 out of 7, a definite gain from the current 2 out of 9. It would also improve the Republican presence from 0 of 9 to 1 of 7, and the first Republican on Pittsburgh City Council in SEVENTY YEARS!!!

Friday, January 5, 2007

"Morning" Line: Already in Motion

Save Fort Pitt: The Fort Pitt Preservation Society has concocted a plan that would preserve much of the Music Bastion at Point State Park, yet still provide for a large, flat festival grounds, reports the Trib's Allison M. Heinrichs.

In what seems to be the first hint of a glimmer of positive news for preservationists, State Sen. Wayne Fontana (D-Brookline) says he will ask the state to look at the plan, saying, "I'm glad (the preservation society) brought something forward. I think their opinions and outlook should be considered. If there is a good compromise plan that will not hurt the (renovation) process, then it certainly should be looked at."

Meanwhile, the PA Dept. of Preservation, deigning to respond only through email, continues to cite deadlines and budgets. The Riverlife Task Force and Allegheny Conference declined to comment. Heinrichs, now perpetrating like an activist, includes a link

Save the Penguins: Lemieux describes his meeting with the Rendell-Onorato-Ravenstahl troika yesterday as "very positive" and says he's "very optimistic." But only the Trib's Andrew Conte & Rob Rossi have found "sources" willing to say the talks went so well, there could be a deal as soon as next week.

The McNeilly Case: Here is how it all allegedy went down, and I use the term "allegedly" as a big, thick wool blanket over all of the following:

Dennis Regan was employed as a prick on behalf of the late Mayor Bob O'Connor. Regan would, for instance, threaten to demote police commanders to beat patrol if they hassled persons or businesses with city-hall-caliber pull. Regan's girlfriend was city Senior Secretary Marlene Cassidy, whose brother is a certain Officer Francis Rende. Regan "ordered" Police Chief Costa to promote this well-connected girlfriend's brother to the position of Detective, although Regan, as Operations Director, was outside the purview of Public Safety matters.

Upon his ascension to Mayor, Ravenstahl nominated this useful Regan fellow as his Public Safety Director, which would give such "orders" to the Police Chief considerably more weight. But this is where Police Commander McNeilly intervened, objecting to this rascal Regan's elevation. Part of her complaint to City Council was Officer Rende's well-filled, undeserving-of-promition disciplinary file, which revealed Rende's habit of calling off work "sick" to do side jobs for profit.

Something about the exposure caused Dennis Regan not only to withdraw his nomination for Public Safety Director, but to resign from city employ altogether. Yet Mayor Ravenstahl retaliated by demoting McNeilly to Lieutennant. She is suing to be reinstated as Commander under federal whistle-blower protection.

Today's P-G coverage by Rich Lord & Paula Reed Ward plays up McNeilly's admission that she broke rules in revealing details of Officer Rende's disciplinary record to City Council and others. They have Ravenstahl saying, "My understanding was that Commander McNeilly admitted today that she broke the rules, and I think that says it all. I think that speaks volumes as to why the decision was made to demote her to lieutenant." Only much later to they have a quote by an ally of McNeilly, which in effect says, "If you want to make an omlet, you have to break some eggs."

Conspiracy Theory

Do you think Ravenstahl somehow prevailed upon Bill Cowher to make his big retirement announcement on the day of the McNeilly hearing, in order to bury coverage?

(I want to make a distinction between my conspiracy theories and my predictions, which are far more accurate. I actually predicted, for example, that the state gaming board would award the license to the PITG / Majestic Star / North Shore jalopy, which no one will believe because I did not so much write it down beforehand, an unfortunate circumstance which motivated me to launch the Pittsburgh Comet to begin with).

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Let's Contemplate Prepations to RUM-BULLLL

Zach Braff as Bill Peduto, courtesy K-Blog.

What we know he's no longer thinking: "Should I run for mayor against Luke Ravenstahl?"

What we think he must now be thinking: "Should I run for mayor against Dan Onorato?"

"We need to bust up the political machine, that won't plan ahead and keeps Pittsburgh behind!" (applause)

"You can't move forward if you're not willing to think forward!" (laughter, applause)

"We need to send a message to the good old boys AND the good YOUNG boys that this city's not their city, it's OUR city!" (applause, throwing of undergarments)

Editorial: The McNeilly Case

Fun fact: a Google Image search for "Ravenstahl" results in roughly three times as many pictures of actress Sienna Miller, than of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

Not for any lack of trying on Luke's part. Let us resolve: The plastering of Master Luke's arms-akimbo stance on billboards, city mailers, and government websites is tacky and unflattering.

Today, a federal hearing will take place as to whether or not Ravenstahl violated whistle-blower protections and acted improperly by demoting Catherine McNeilly, in retaliation for her criticism of his then-appointee Dennis Regan.

There is no continuing mainstream news coverage of this story. Nonetheless, the blurghosphere has been incensed. Wherefore such a discrepancy? Is the media treating Ravenstahl with kid gloves? Is this too inside-baseball for most readers? Do news editors believe there's nothing to the accusations?

I await the outcome of the hearings and I reserve judgement. However, I have a theory as to why we find so much rancor against Ravenstahl on the Internet: haters.

You heard me. It is naturally offensive that such a young man has achieved such success and prominence. I feel it also; I could have run for city council when I was 23. Why didn't I? Surely, I wouldn't be making such a popinjay of myself, either.

Be that as it may, I do not think "Politician Rewards Political Allies" would make a very newsworthy headline, nor would "Politican Punnishes Internal Criticism." If he has violated the law, McNeilly should be reinstated. But I do not expect saint-like forbearance from my public officials, nor do I require it. Even if he lied about motivations, or the details of his internal investigation, I just do not think this rises to the level of scandal.

Ravenstahl arrived on the scene with no recognition, low expectations, and the label of puppet for the powers-that-be. That probably contributed toward the oversaturation of his face, just as it may also have contributed toward his overreacting to criticism. Show who's boss, you know. New sheriff in town.

I'll certainly continue to follow the story, and am glad other bloggers are making it possible. But when Luke proposes bad public policy, when he commits fraud, when he fails the city in some way, wake me up. If he's just being overbearing and tacky, well ... is he being overbearing and tacky on my behalf? Yes? Then, whatever.

Morning Line: Not an Easy Day for Us

Transit Cuts: The Trib's Jim Ritchie quite properly led his story with the fact that the Port Authority is intending to do less, for more money. And to answer your next question, Onorato insists he is not making these proposals to cause mass hysteria, hold bloody public hearings, and thereby shock the PA legislature into action. No, no, no, no, no.

Elsewhere in the Trib, with their trademark class, an editorial calls the transit budget a "cluster cluck," and hails the cuts.

"People are talking about looking for jobs outside of Pittsburgh and no longer coming into Downtown Pittsburgh." That pitch-perfect, pol-frightening quote from a certain New Kensington commuter Dennis Lewandowski kicks off Dan Major's obligatory P-G reaction piece. The Wabash Tunnel and North Shore Connector projects are later questioned as expenditures perhaps better deserving of the axe than so many existing routes.

Meanwhile: Save our Transit needs friends now more than ever.

Wechtgate: George Hollis, former chief histologist of the Allegheny County coroner's office, has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in the case against Dr. Cyril Wecht. Those prosecutors allege Mr. Hollis spent a "significant and substantial" amount of public time doing work for Dr. Wecht's private firm. The P-G story by Paula Reed Ward made no mention of whether or not Attorney Stallings was simply motivated by resentment of Dr. Wecht's massive intellect.

(Histology: The study of the structure, chemical composition and function of the tissue or tissue systems of plants and animals)

Save the Penguins: Oklahoma City, Las Vegas, Winnipeg, Hartford. These cities are cited by the Trib's dynamic duo Andrew Conte & Rob Rossi, who alert us that the scary guy from the Kansas City sports desk is not our only nemesis. The timing of Lemieux's visit to K.C. suggests he's simply gaining leverage, yet a six-way bidding war would require a pretty spectacular Plan B+++.

Am I crazy, or did Mayor Ravenstahl sound kind of downbeat as he discussed this with Larry Richert on KDKA this morning? Note how he slud in that he originally endorsed the Isle of Capri plan. Not a forward-thinking comment.

Meanwhile, a P-G editorial ridiculously chides Bill Cowher for taking too long in mulling over his retirement, in an obvious fit of transference over their real frustration: Mario's indecision. Which the P-G cannot savage for fear of sending the big guy over the brink.