Friday, April 4, 2008

Narrative: Hijacked

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

1. Promote the merger
2. Merge the county into the city
3. Ed Rendell moves on to bigger and better things
4. Dan O becomes governor.
5. Luke becomes the new leader of Pittsburgh/Allegheny County.

That would appear to be the size of it. There is a degree to which this will be the Pittsburgh Promise rebooted -- only different, because this is really big and ultimately necessary.

One does hope Step 2 is not entirely optional in this arrangement.


There is a vast consensus out there that the merging of governments, in some form or another, will be an absolutely necessary adaptive technique for Pittsburgh and for Allegheny County.

The question is, how are we are going to consolidate?

Mergers between governments must be a great deal like mergers amongst businesses -- there are talks, offers are made, negotiations take place over time. Creative minds develop win-win scenarios, skeptical minds guard their own interests, suspicious minds guard against everything. Time will be made a factor at various points.

You can see how mergers are a daunting business -- and how a lot rides on who is in charge of the merging. Ultimately, the final decision will be made by the voters, but that is only in an up-or-down, yes-or-no kind of sense.

The real action will be in how a merger is envisioned.


Mark DeSantis, a longtime champion of the city/county consolidation movement, gave some hints in 2006 as to the kinds of choices we will be making.

An infinite variety of consolidation plans are possible.

Write that on your hand, now.

However, experience across North America in recent decades suggests any proposed plan will fall within a continuum of two extremes. At one end is a complete fusion of all or almost all Allegheny County local governments into one giant “Pittsburgh Metroplex” government. Despite its size, Metroplex would be far simpler to comprehend in form and function than what exists now. However, it would also be very hard to bring about and would come with a big downside.

After a bit of explanation...

At the other end of our continuum is a scheme far more complex in form and function than Metroplex. Though the opposite of the Metroplex is probably easier to bring about, it too comes with a major downside. In our alternative and hypothetical “Pittsburgh Alliance of Governments” some, most, or all local governments would remain intact as separate entities but would be joined through a series of interlocking contractual agreements. These legally binding agreements would, among other things, compel all parties to base all major decisions solely on efficiency and effectiveness criteria and work together in a coordinated way.

Mr. DeSantis went on to advocate for something more like the Alliance; it sounds a bit from Ravenstahl, Onorato and Nordenberg like they are aiming at something in the middle.


City Council President Doug Shields yesterday dismissed the report as "an essay."

"It's history," he said. "We know the history. There's no specificity. There's nothing that deals with legal implications, home rule, you name it." (P-G, Karamagi Rujumba)

That is the truth, no doubt about it.

Pages 1-12 deal mostly with impressing upon us that consolidation is necessary; pages 13-15 provide an outline of recommendations that does little more than tell us, "Start doing it".

Pages 16-19 serve to identify some of the problems that would have to be worked through in envisioning this new government.

1. Meeting the continuing needs of the urban center
2. Ensuring adequate minority representation
3. Dealing equitably with current city and county employees
4. Segregating legacy costs

Depending on how one looks at things, these problems were glossed over, swept under the rug, waved away with vague assurances, or simply left to future architects.

One comes away with a slight impression that the means and methods of coming consolidating overtures must exist at least in the minds of several major players.

Which is fine, because the committee report was submitted respectfully (it pointed out several times), so its highest purpose may have been to help fashion the political will to begin confronting this challenge in earnest at last.

After 17 months of study, looking at places like Louisville, Ky., where the city merged with Jefferson County in 2000, Chancellor Nordenberg issued his report yesterday and concluded that city-county consolidation "is an idea from which good things will flow." (P-G, ibid.)

We are now well and truly moving forward, for which our Mayor is to be saluted.

COMET POSTSCRIPT: By all means, go about your business as usual. We do know we've still got a city on our hands.


  1. For years, I've said we NEED to, in this order:

    1. Replace,
    2. Re-direct,
    3. Reform.

    Steps happen one after another. We need to get new people at the helm before we do this merger of Government(s).

    A reform with the people in there now can't bear fruit.

    What can happen NOW is the building of a NEW Pgh Park District. That's less mission critical. That's where the volunteerism energy resides. That's were we find the glue to our communities.

    That's the bridge to the future and proving ground.... PARKs and AFTERSCHOOL. Here is where we teach our kids how to play well with each other. This is do-able and can be democratic.

    That is a 'winning plan' that all can support in an urgent fashion.

  2. i am sendiing Danny Boy and the boy mayor voter registration cards so they can join the republican party.

    They talk to the Allegheny Conference. The go behind closed doors. They come up with some plan to further their respective power grabs.

    No public input, the "citizens advisory committee" is a select group that began with a "premise" and then wrapped the facts around it. There is no meat in the report. There is no dat no nothiing.

    These Bums from the Northside gotta go.

    I can't wait until onorato and lukey try to explain this to the Democratic Party's Ward Chairs. They are gonna cut thier nuts off.

  3. How does theold Sinatra tune go...

    "All... or nothing at all, half a love never appealed to me...."

    of the 130 municipalities these BUMS are going to consolidate ONE! That is not consolidation.

    That is a power Grab. What a couple of fu-kin goofballs we got in onorato and luke.

    Luke says he changed his mind over the past few weeks. Yeah after the Council shoved his cars up his ass, and got a leagal opinion (finally) from the law dept said what lLamar billboard inc was doing was illegal.

    Oh yeah and he also has a buch of smart Council members - a majority - who basically said we ain't taking your shit anymore boy Mayor. Go sit in the corner.

    That would give Luke something to ponder.

  4. "I can't wait until onorato and lukey try to explain this to the Democratic Party's Ward Chairs. They are gonna cut thier nuts off.

    April 4, 2008 9:20 AM"

    Absolutely...that goes for Jim Burn too,the third stooge in this NC/NS Trio....

  5. Mark: WOW, I think you have those three steps in EXACTLY the wrong order! But other than that -- brilliant! I mean, I wouldn't make parks my very top priority ... but I agree!

    Anonymous 9:20: Agreed. For the billionth time, Luke and Dan are Republicans. I would not diss the Citizen's Advisory Committee too much. Given it had some structural issues. But they had a job and they did it, and it was pretty good for what it had to be. It's in where it gets taken.

    Anonymous 9:26: I have heard it whispered that Ravenstahl finally agreed to do this because without the reliable power of council, he could no longer afford to risk Onorato's wrath. If this were true, my bet is that it was only a bluff on Dan's part; also, we have to watch how Luke moves forward (no pun intended) from here.

    Smitty: Honestly? I've heard this too. But then where are the usual suspects?

  6. Parks may not be the top priority, but, with PARKs there is the expectation that volunteerism would occur.

    Parks present a 'common ground' that can be a lead-up to other more mission critical aspects (such as government).

    And I have the order the right way.

    Otherwise those in office now are sure to 'deform' -- not 'reform.'

    The biggest problems are NOT the framework. Rather, the big problems are the ways that the ones in office do NOT respect their duties, the law and the democracy that is already in place.

    The system is less broken than the people at the helm.

  7. "The system is less broken than the people at the helm."

    And the others who've been at the helm. And the mast. And the oars. And the steerage.

  8. I contend that the helm, mast, oars and steerage is fine.

    The crew continues to ram the ship onto the rocky shore, over and over again.

    The ship is holding up. The executive crew can't navigate.

    Furthermore, some of the 'hands' have leaped off the ship. Swum to shore through the rocks. Others remain -- but -- wait.

    It is simple stuff.... clean up your own house stuff. Sound. Get some captains who can chart a different course beyond the rocky pitfalls.

    Once we get smooth sailing, then we can mend a sail or two amd jettison the deadweight (authorities).

  9. "I contend that the helm, mast, oars and steerage is fine."

    I said THOSE AT THE helm, mast and oars, as well as those of us riding along in steerage, have all been derelict at one time or another. We are in agreement. I was trying to take SOME of the blame off the current cast of officers, which is only fair.