Saturday, February 24, 2007

The Blogging Sabbath is Upon Us

Expect the return of a re-tooled Jack Kelly Countercolumn by Wednesday at the latest. Click through our blogroll; we've put a lot of effort into it, and we think it's finally where we want it to be. Have a wonderful weekend. See you on Sunday.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Catherine Baker Knoll: Not Jack Bauer

We posted a comment to this item over in Pittgirl's domain, but it is so outrageous, we just had to blog about it ourselves.

Pittgirl gets playful with the whereabouts of Gov. Rendell and Lt. Gov. Knoll during the Blizzard of Interstate Shutdown. She links to an article by Brad Bumsted of the Trib. That article says:

Knoll was in Harrisburg on Feb. 14, according to her aide, Sal Sirabella. "The lieutenant governor is not involved in incident command and control," he said.

Hello. Not involved in incident command and control. So if something ... occurs ... arises ... pops up ... do not look to this elected official to take any initiative.

The Comet has no expertise in Pennsylvania constitutional law. But if the Governor were to pass away (heaven forbid), the Lieutenant Governor would take over, right? And if there's an emergency, and the Governor cannot be found ... the Lieutenant Governor would be in the hot seat? Correct? Even if it involves an incident?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Good Rauterkus Post

It does not seem to be linkable. It is now about a dozen posts down. It ends with this:

Back then, Luke Ravenstahl may or may not have been on the Stadium and Exhibition Authority Board. Did that board have any hand in the cover up?

A question for you, Mark: Why not run for just one thing? Focus all your energy and maybe win?

Besides: what would we do if you won three or more offices? You'd have to pick one, we'd have to hold all these special elections, the cost to the taxpayer would be enomrous ....

Masters of the Pittsburgh Universe

Rich Lord of the P-G does the deed, laying out the status of the new regime in police officer secondary employment. Whether he acted more like Cringer or Battle Cat while doing so, will be left for historians to judge.

To the eyes of the Comet, this article contains new news. The city is proceeding with plans to centralize the assignment of all of the details at Steelers, Pirates, and Penguins games, and at various bars and restaurants. The duty, and the considerable perks, will be stripped from varying bands among police officers.

No mention from the Mayor's office on this continuation of progress.

Lord also confirmed that the cost-recovery program (by which the city would recoup lost wage taxes, recovering costs for equipment and administration) is still dead.

The Comet holds that the former issue, of deploying the security assignments, may have been paramount (and there may still be devils in the details). But the cost-recovery program is still significant.

Now it's time for the analysts to take over.

Will the Honzman be our He Man? Will Ruth Ann be She-Ra? Will Potter be our Man-at-Arms? Will Eric Heyl continue to play Orko?

We don't know who, in this alternate universe, would be the mighty and evil Skeletor. But we can tell you two things. Due to their mutual affinity for water, someone from the firefighters would have to play Mer-Man. Which would make Beast-Man someone from the police officers.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Civic Duty Preview

So people have been asking me, what's with this Civic Duty?

This video should give you a pretty good idea. [The Comet regrets that YouTube and Blogger are requiring an additional mouse-click.]

Our guests will be John Fetterman, mayor of Braddock; Debbie Todd, the New Pittsburgh Courier; Nish Suvarnakar, of the Pittsburgh League of Young Voters; and, as always, DJ Carazmatic. This Sunday the 25th at the Shadow Lounge, 9:00 PM.

No Representation Without Taxation

The P-G's Rich Lord brings us yet another substantive divide between our mayoral candidates. The City of Pittsburgh has an overabundance of land owned by nonprofits, and we have been trying to cajole them into offering some form of tax-like substitutes. The split is over whether to continue cajoling, or to begin to coerce, even compel.

Acting (and hopeful) Controller Tony Pokora wants to devise a lasting formula by which to guide nonprofits on their contributions. An umbrella group representing the nonprofits is not enthused; it regards any contributions as a sheer gift.

Councilman / Candidate Bill Peduto wants to go even further, asking for state-mandated payments -- but only from "universities, hospitals and insurers, period. Not churches, arts organizations, or the Girl Scouts."

Meanwhile, Luke Ravenstahl is only luke-warm to Pokora's proposal. "Whatever they feel comfortable with, to enhance the current system as it stands, that's something we'll look at," the mayor said. "But I don't want to set any goals that may not be attainable."

If Peduto can be accused of using rabble-rousing rhetoric to lift unrealistic expectations, Ravenstahl can be flagged -- once again -- for failing to make any tough choices.

Arguing for state-mandated payments ... calling for the feds to take over the investigation of the convention center collapse ... you would think Bill Peduto is in danger of getting tagged as a big-government liberal. Yet he continues to enjoy modest praise from conservative outfits.

During a recent interview with KDKA's Fred Honsberger, the Honz man tried to nail him for demanding payments from nonprofits, while offering tax breaks to outfits like PNC. Peduto pointed out that he was the only city councilman to oppose tax increment financing for PNC ("Mr. Rohr, give back the public money"), thereby earning considerable conservative stripes. By the end of the segment, Honsberger was so charmed, he was inviting OSHA (OSHA!) to take charge of things in Pittsburgh.

One Down, Ten to Go

K. Chase Patterson, 23, has withdrawn early from the race for District 9 City Council, reports Elwin Green of the P-G's My Homewood Journal. He says that the eleven candidate race has become a "circus" that is "less about policy and public service and more about popularity and personal interest." Welcome to politics, kiddo.

The Comet finds this disappointing, because we were charmed by Patterson's poise and incredible media-savvy, as shown in this WTAE clip of his campaign kick-off.

Patterson has thrown his support behind the Rev. Ricky Burgess, not fellow youth candidate Rachel Cooper. We hope this is not an insincere gambit to earn patronage in the potential Burgess office, but simply an insincere ploy to position himself as a serious civic leader in anticipation of future battles.

The Garden: Dueling Editorials

The freedom-hating communists at the Post-Gazette hail the city's acquisition of the Garden Theater as "a fair deal all around," and anticipate that a renewed Garden "is now going to take its place in a development project that promises to remake this part of the North Side into a symbol of urban progress."

Meanwhile, the market-worshipping cave dwellers at the Tribune-Review savage another dubious purchase by our cash-strapped city for the purposes of "redevelopment" -- scare-quotes theirs. It also assails the corruption of eminent domain for ultimately private projects.

CORRECTION: Both this P-G editorial, and a quote from Yarone Zober in a previous Trib article, point out that even if the city had seized the Garden by eminent domain, the original owners would still need to be compensated in some way. The Comet regrets this error.

McNeilly: Not About Money?

Our reading of the KDKA Jon Delano report on negotiations to settle the suit by Police Commander Catherine McNeilly against the Ravenstahl administration differs from the rest of the 'sphere.

We have heard much about the monetary aspect of the settlement. Conventional wisdom somehow placed a figure of $25,000 as indicative of a respectable non-embarrassment, an amicable burying of the hatchet. Reports that the buy-off could approach $100,000 have been interpreted as a costly indication of serious wrongdoing by the mayor.

However, McNeilly's lawyer seemed to indicate that the crux of the matter is an acknowledgement that city workers are protected under federal whistle blower protection. Mayoral challenger Bill Peduto has already seized upon this aspect, stating "It's obvious that her constitutional rights have been violated by Luke Ravenstahl."

Even if the McNeilly faction is being somewhat disingenuous in holding out for that kind of apologetic submission, this is not the ground on which Team Ravenstahl would wish to fight in the coming weeks.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Emporer Is Not Exactly Wearing a Tuxedo

Upon our first reading, Sunday's offering by the P-G's Rich Lord stopped us cold in our tracks. A second and third reading yielded nothing remarkable. So we read it a fourth and fifth time, trying to recapture our Beginner's Mind.

The article focused on the Mayor's penchant for featuring himself on billboards, city mailings, and the city website. Old news on the 'sphere, of course.

Jerry Shuster, Pitt professor, framed the analysis thusly:

He's in a very unique position ... He does have all of the perks of an incumbent, and runs like one. The only deficiency here is, by the time the election comes, he probably will not have had time to satisfy some of his critics with regard to his ability to make hard decisions.

Over the Mayor's objections, Lord insists that his prominence on the website is unusual when compared to other cities. He allows City Democratic Committee Chair Barbara Ernsberger to posit that the race to win the endorsement is going to be a close one. And he selects this decidedly uneven quote from Ravenstahl to wrap a bow on his piece:

Certainly, somebody as young and fresh as I am, I think has an opportunity to show [leadership] and be a leader ... I believe I'm a good mayor, and the more chances and the longer tenure I have to show that, the more successful I'm going to be.

In summary, the Luke Ravenstahl of the blurghosphere -- unsteady, vapid, and and a little egocentric -- actually made an appearance in the mainstream media -- in the very central stream, in fact. It was a jarring realization.

The Comet is reminded of a late January interview with KDKA's Jon Delano, in which the mayor is asked the perfunctory softball, "Why Luke Ravenstahl? What do you want voters to think about the Ravenstahl administration when they go to the polls?" Ravenstahl responded thusly ...

Luke Ravenstahl, in my opinion, is a man who is working for the people, who has come into this situation listening to the people, and doing the people's work. That's the kind of person I've always been. That's why I got involved in public service -- following in the footsteps of my father, and my grandfather -- is to simply help people. Nothing satisfies me more than helping people. Obviously, there's a lot that goes along with it that doesn't involve that, but that's at the root of me. That's the root of why I like to do what I do -- and interacting with people on a daily basis is really the most exciting thing for me. And I think people in Pittsburgh can relate to me; they understand me. I'm genuine, I'm honest, I'm upfront, and I'm optimistic about our future.

We are not saying this particular Rich Lord piece in Sunday's P-G is the turning point in the election. We are saying that with 85 days left until the primary election, the above just ain't gonna cut it anymore.