Friday, May 9, 2008

Friday: Just One Last Thing's Been Bothering Us...

Pittsburgh's long-strapped government has a healthy surplus, but shouldn't lower its guard against overspending, city Controller Michael Lamb said yesterday in presenting the yearly audit. (P-G, Rich Lord)

Those of you who picked "It's time to overspend" in the pool are out of luck.


To Pittsburgh City Council. In a preliminary vote -- 5-2 -- it's agreeing to pay the $11,000 legal bill of four council members who, on their own, sued to stop a questionable electronic billboard project. Indeed, the suing council members were on the right side of the issue. But they sued without the full council's consent. Taxpayers should not pay for their freelancing. (Trib, Edit Board)

Minor factual inaccuracy: they joined a protest appeal with the Zoning Board of Adjustment, which is a routine and process-oriented approach. It was only when they got hit with a SLAP suit by Lamar that they counter-sued as an (effective) strategy to rid themselves of the annoyance.

All the same, the Trib does not approve. Feel shame.


Former councilman Sala Udin questioned the transfer's legality because of a previous licensing agreement between the URA and the Hill Community Development Corp. that allowed residents to build a civil rights memorial on the land. (Trib, Bonnie Pfister)

It would be more instructive for Udin to speak out publicly on the circumstances surrounding the controversial draft Community Benefits Agreement, which is being voted upon tomorrow by the membership of One Hill. He can hardly avoid it.

Many Hill residents linked to Mr. Udin in some fashion have had their voting privileges formally revoked in One Hill, for having allegedly broken coalition rules, although One Hill continues to have no written bylaws. Bomani Howze, son of Mr. Udin, has been stripped of his elected role as Vice Chairman of the coalition, ostensibly for a conflict of interest regarding his role with the Heinz Endowments.

This would seem to be in keeping with Councilwoman Tonya Payne's statement to the Comet that, "Carl [Redwood] and I basically started One Hill", and did so to provide an alternative to the leadership of the insufficiently democratic "minister's group", now formally the Hill Faith & Justice Alliance.


The Comet is further troubled by two facets of the draft agreement.

First, it states that all development funds garnered from the Neighborhood Partnership Program will be administered through the Hill House EDC. Evan Frazier, lead negotiator for One Hill, is the executive director of the Hill House EDC -- and Ron Porter, hired last year as the Penguins Senior Consultant in charge of negotiations with the community, is doing so only on a temporary leave of absence from its board.

Second, the CBA would require the community to stand down not only from protesting construction of the new hockey arena, but from protesting development upon the 28 acres on the site of the old civic arena. There are as yet no plans publicly available for the 28 acres, which would link the Hill District to Downtown. How that land is to be intelligently planned without active and at times necessarily contentious input from Hill District residents is an enigma.

The vote will take place over the course of the day tomorrow, not at a large community gathering, and will be overseen by One Hill leadership. We'll have to wait to see what happens.

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