Friday, March 14, 2008

The Following Takes Place Between 6:00 PM March 14th and 2:00 PM April 8th

A community meeting to discuss the latest plans for the new $290 million arena will be held Monday at 6 p.m. at the Church of Epiphany, Centre Avenue and Washington Place, Uptown, in advance of a formal review by the city planning commission.

There will be presentations on the latest drawings of the arena and the 500-space parking garage to be built next to it, and results of traffic and parking studies involving the new facility and a proposed 28-acre development at the site of Mellon Arena.

There also will be time for questions and discussion.

The session is sponsored by the Penguins, the city Planning Department and the city-county Sports & Exhibition Authority.

Information about the project is available at and

The planning commission is scheduled to hear a briefing on the arena's project development plan March 25 and will hold a hearing April 8 at 2 p.m. (P-G, Team Effort)

Surely nobody thought we were dropping this.

Earlier this week, the Penguins came to the table for the first round of negotiations in some time. A representative from Pittsburgh United characterized this as a significant and necessary occurrence, however, no further details could be made available, and there are no further negotiating sessions currently scheduled.

The four keys to victory are still in effect, however, our previous characterizations of most of these keys are now significantly outdated. Collapse, revise, and adjust the time-frame according to the new paradigm and new, enlightened terms of engagement.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Barack Obama: The Carefulness of Discouragement

Chris Potter describes an Obama conference call:

But although Pennsylvania is the only game in town for the next several weeks, our state barely came up during the nearly half-hour long phone conversation. As he did last week, [campaign manager David] Plouffe downplayed expectations for the race.

Clinton was a "prohibitive favorite" in Pennsylvania, he said, and "should win by a healthy margin." While promising to campaign hard -- "we don't cherrypick states," he said, in one of several swipes at Clinton tactics -- Plouffe noted
a recent KDKA poll that showed Clinton up by 19 points.

Also, although we never heard of Al Giordano of The Field, he sounds like he knows what he's talking about:

Simply put: If Obama (and supporters) set expectations for a knockout punch in Pennsylvania, they will be giving oxygen to a gasping Clinton machine on its last breaths. But if they keep Pennsylvania in perspective (no single state has determined the nomination, although New Hampshire, Nevada, and Ohio were all frantically seen and spun as such in their moments), they’ll emerge from the coming Pennsylvania Clinton victory – a kind of Last Hurrah for the politics of the last century – to cross into the 21st century beginning in early May.

"Pennsylvania: The Last Hurrah for the Politics of the Last Century." Lovely -- and it juxtaposes so well with the emerging c/w on Geraldine Ferraro. (Attytood)

The Comet has been mulling over a rousing "Why Obama Will Win Pennsylvania!" blog entry -- simply to go against the grain, take cheap shots at Terry Madonna, and remind everybody of the fact that professional punditry has generally been for crap since Iowa.

However, the idea of "giving oxygen to a gasping Clinton machine" gives us great pause.

Maybe we should just write straightforward posts about why we personally plan on casting a vote for him. Besides, that would be the Barack Obama thing to do.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Depends on What Your Definition of "Dig" Is...

(P-G, Team Effort)

Police Chief Nate Harper said he was personally intervening to address concerns in his bureau that Public Works was slow to hand over names of workers on the site.

"Personally intervening to address concerns in his bureau" -- duly noted -- but all in all, the whole P-G statement today comprises sort of a pop fly to short.

(Trib, Jeremy Boren)

Public Works Director Guy Costa said yesterday that a foreman's report -- written by [Redd Up chief Kevin] Quigley this week -- was sent to [Police Cmdr. Catherine] McNeilly.


"We feel it's pretty clear-cut -- that criminal charges are appropriate -- but without further investigation, that determination is premature," McNeilly said in an e-mail message.

Then it is good that Chief Harper is personally intervening to address concerns within his bureau.


said Monday that Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's administration did not provide Varner with crucial details of the incident five weeks ago, including the names of the public works employees involved, which he needs to advance the investigation.

McNeilly has a stack of Get Out of Jail Free cards from here to the moon.


A copy of the report says high-lift operator Rock Pastin was asked to retrieve a bucket of dirt from a hillside near the Termon Avenue overpass abutment where the gas line was ruptured.

Camptown Ladies sing this song, Doo-da, Doo-da...

The dirt was used to spread on areas along Verner Street that the crew had cleared earlier that day of trash, trees, overgrowth and other debris. Quigley wrote that the crew thought the hillside belonged to the city.

The land is owned by Jason Watkins...

Camptown racetrack's five miles long, Oh, de doo-da day.

[DPW director Guy] Costa said he believes the 1 1/2-inch gas line was buried at too shallow a depth, but he was uncertain how deep it was at the time of the incident or how deep it is supposed to be.

Columbia Gas spokesman Matt Pitzarella said such lines should be at least 18 inches below the surface, but erosion and shifting land can make them deeper or shallower.

"That's why you're supposed to call (Pennsylvania One Call) before you dig," Pitzarella said.

Goin' to run all niiight, Goin' to run all day...

Quigley's report acknowledges the One Call system wasn't notified "as there was no digging to be done on this job."

The P-G dutifully reports that DPW reports that Rock Pastin was working in a closed machine that requires hearing protection -- and that the other workers were at least 400 feet away. Hence the overlooking of the rupture of the gas line despite the noise and the smell.

What remains unclear is whether or not that "closed machine" was some sort of digging apparatus, and whether or not it was engaged in digging-type activity as it was transporting and distributing the bucket of dirt.

We bet our money on a bob-tailed nag. Somebody bet on the gray.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Bill Clinton in Washington County, PA

"I am great to be here ... I mean, glad to be here." ... Bill Clinton, introductory statement.

The Comet stepped in line directly in front of the gymnasium on Washington & Jefferson University campus -- facing the opposite direction.

In front of us, the line stretched down past our sight horizon, looped around, and came back again to the front entrance. Behind us, the line took a right turn and faded over yet another horizon.

Those in attendance sported just a modest amount of Hillary paraphernalia; the mood was one of great interest but generally not of much excitement. Someone carried a sign that read, "McCain Supporters for Hillary Clinton in April!" Behind us was another clique of Republicans. Who knows how many at the rally these accounted for?


The smallish basketball arena eventually filled to capacity, including standing-room only space on the court itself. One homemade sign read, "Hey Mista, Vote 4 My Sista." Another read, "It's About Time", with the female symbol as the I in "time." American Girl played over the loudspeaker.

The harshest negative swipe of the afternoon's program was issued by the Vice Chair of the Washington County Board of Commissioners, who gave one of four introductions. His long speech was peppered with "Doesn't America deserve a president who..." rhetorical questions, and he slid in, "Doesn't America deserve a president who doesn't need Oprah Winfrey to pay his bills?"

At length, the former president took the stage.

Bill Clinton is still very tall -- generally huge in nature. If everybody in that gymnasium were just meeting for the first time, as total strangers, and if for some reason we needed to elect a leader, we would surely have turned to Bill Clinton.

Due to some loud applause, we did not catch exactly what song played him on -- it sounded a lot like If the House is a Rockin', Don't Bother Knockin', but that could not possibly have been it. Could it?

Don't. Stop. Thinking about tomorrow.
Don't. Stop. It'll soon be here.
It'll be here, and better than before.
Yesterday's gone. Yesterday's gone.
Ooooh, don't you look back.

The Comet was really hoping to hear that again, but we suppose we understand.


The theme of these rallies is Solutions for America, and Hillary Clinton seems to be prescribing five of them.

1. Stop giving money away to the top 10%. He didn't spend much time on this one. Pretty self-explanatory.

2. Energy independence, which also provides jobs. As in, can you imagine if you changed every light bulb and altered every heating and cooling system in this building? Not only would we be protecting the planet and shoring up our national security, but we'd be providing work for all kinds of architects, engineers, technicians and laborers. Think public works.

3. Health Care for All. This was the only time in which "Hillary's opponent" was called into question directly. Senator Clinton thinks "It's time to stop making excuses." Bill asked how many people in the auditorium know someone without insurance; everybody raised their hands. He pointed out that we are the only wealthy country in the world for whom that is true.

4. Increased access to secondary education. Clinton 44 would raise the level of Pell Grants every year. She would also do something about exploitative student loan practices, which drew the greatest applause of the afternoon.

5. A Balanced Budget. This is "one issue on which Hillary is more conservative than George Bush." He spoke at length on how difficult it is to be tough on other countries, diplomatically, when we need those other countries to loan us money constantly.


"Hillary does believe the time has come to bring us home from Iraq." [Applause]. "So her position is -- look what America has done!"

Former President Clinton started ticking off the list of accomplishments -- removing the tyrant Saddam Hussein from power, getting the Iraqis to ratify their new constitution, electing leaders, et cetera et cetera.

However, five years in and with stretched deployments, the time has come to pressure the Iraqis to make "the tough decisions" about oil revenues and long-term power sharing. Telling the Iraqis we may be around for a hundred years is counterproductive towards these ends.

"Think about it -- do you make decisions before you have to?"


Bill Clinton did not respond directly to Barack Obama's counter-attacks as specifically as we had hoped he might -- with one exception. Clinton characterized Obama as saying that "if you did good things in the 1990's, you should be disqualified" from leading the country in the coming decade.

Clinton went on to say that "if somebody did more good things through the 90's and prevented more bad things from happening, I think that's an argument that that person should be president!"

He then took us briefly through Hillary Clinton's career. After law school, "she took a low-paying job with Children's Defense Fund, and knocked on the doors of poor people's houses." Several other organizations and initiatives were listed.

Since arriving in the Senate, she has passed legislation for education reform, body armor, veterans benefits, and health care for 9/11 first responders -- often with Republican cosponsors. Although nobody thought the Republicans would let her get anywhere, she proved them wrong.

In other words, she's more than a former first lady.


Bill Clinton says that we, Pennsylvanians, represent the tipping point for America's future.

(We bet he says that to all the states.)

His work at W & J done, and his next campaign stop scheduled in barely ten minutes, Clinton was played off stage to A Little Less Conversation by Elvis Presley.

Tuesday: We're Gonna Do It ... Our Way!

(P-G, Rich Lord)

"If done well, they can be attractive, and in the appropriate setting, even an amenity," said Mark Fatla, executive director of the Northside Leadership Conference. "Unfortunately, most of them are relatively crass."

Sounds like a reasoned opinion to us, and a good argument for public hearings.


(Trib, Boren and Reilly)

Police Cmdr. Catherine McNeilly said detectives requested details about the Jan. 31 gas line rupture near Verner Avenue, but they haven't received a response to their queries from Art Victor, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's director of operations.

Cmdr. McNeilly is back in the news -- and Art Victor is finally a part of it. This article paints no picture we care to think about, but we suppose we must.

BONUS: Rick Earle gets back on the scoreboard (WPXI).


(P-G, Rich Lord)

Executive Director A. Fulton Meachem Jr., though, won't back off of programs geared toward the authority's youth, even as his agency struggles with upkeep.

"People, I guess, want to put the Housing Authority in a box -- 'The only thing you should do is warehouse poor people.' I don't think that's all it is," he said.


The $7,660 cost of the windbreakers was covered by federal money, because they were characterized as educational costs. The goal, said Mr. Meachem, was to give the authority's good kids "an identity, just like the drug dealer who has on his shirt, 'Snitches get stitches.' "


Mr. Meachem said he doesn't plan to shift money from services to maintenance. He said the authority has "cut back" on things like the 78 golf shirts, for $611, it bought for participants in a 2006 resident leadership conference. But such expenses won't be eliminated.

"I think it's important for us to give as much positive reinforcement to our residents as we possibly can," he said.

It would be worthwhile to debate whether or not the mission of the Housing Authority should be so broad as to encompass things like providing positive reinforcement.

Given that it does currently operate in that manner, the Comet wonders whether or not anybody at HACP has any actual education or expertise in the field of social work.

If these somewhat extracurricular, well-intentioned soft initiatives are not grounded in rigorous, scientific social work and social policy theory, then it should surprise no one that the inclinations and intuitions of lay-persons, hired with different skill sets in mind, are resulting in inefficiencies to the point of seeming absurdity.

People don't need embroidered windbreakers, countered Matt Hogue, a former authority assistant property manager who has criticized the agency's spending since resigning in October.

"They need good, affordable housing that isn't falling down," he said.

Has anyone else heard of mission creep? There may be a common thread here with the Redd Up narrative.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Monday: Meanwhile, Down Grant Street...

(P-G, Rich Lord)

"If everything is good, and there is no wrongdoing, then so be it," Mr. Ford said. "But if there has been wrongdoing, then we have to address it."

Wrongdoing is such a strong word -- and a high threshold. How about plain old inefficiencies?


(P-G, Rich Lord)

Mr. Ravenstahl sent his check to the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency with a note from Pittsburgh Public Safety Director Michael Huss saying it should cover "any costs associated with the improper use" of the vehicle.

It's at the point where we don't want to do math. Seriously, this is fine.


(P-G, Joe Smydo)

"Our work is far from finished," said Paulette Poncelet, the district's chief of research, assessment and accountability.

It really, really sounds like it.



(P-G, Diana Nelson Jones)

"I know they have a limited budget," said
[Michael] Stern [chairman of the city's Historic Review commission], "but maybe we could try to talk to Manchester Citizens Corp. and maybe [Pittsburgh] History & Landmarks [Foundation] to see if they could help. What about if we'd ask them to consider funding or working with you on this?"

It's an interesting story.


(P-G, Team Effort)

Somebody cool, like Wade Malcolm.

Battleground: Pittsburgh, PA

So this is what history feels like.

Last night, within the greatly esteemed comments section of the Burgh Report:

The Democratic Party and Allegheny County Democratic leaders overwhelmingly support Senator Clinton. She is the best choice to defeat the Republicans and unite the Democratic Party. The Governor is right when he calls on all Pennsylvanians to unite and support the real change that we need. Senator Clinton, the one candidate with real experience. The Republicans and Republicrats want division so they can defeat the REAL DEMOCRATS. Too many of you, seem to be buying it.

A distinctly local pitch, with a distinctly local flavor.

Ladies and gentlemen, it has begun. The race for the White House is coming through Allegheny County.

Finally, after all these years -- and how!


1. To the extent that we are all Democrats (and let's face it, we pretty much are), let us remember that we are all Democrats.

As we go about like rabid monkeys fighting on behalf of our chosen candidates -- John McIntire has taken to calling them the White Chick and the Black Dude -- let us not score points against each other with bogus stunts, mean accusations, and rank dishonesty.

There are Republicans afoot -- postmodern, fundamentalist, exploitative Republicans. John McCain is a seductively sympathetic figure, who will have no easy time keeping the real fungus-heads at bay.

Let the 2 Political Junkies show us the way. Dayvoe is already on board with the next president of the United States, Barack Hussein Obama. Meanwhile, Maria seems presently to be bent on some kind of ill-fated, freakish Hillary Clinton jag.

Yet eventually, the two of them could settle this for us once and for all.

2. If here at home in our queerly isolated, heavily Democratic and newly wired Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania -- if there comes any massive "tipping-point" on our part in favor of one candidate or the other -- it could well be determinative of a relatively lopsided statewide margin -- which could very well decide the race for the nomination instantly -- concession speech, victory party and all. No superdelegates, no brokered convention, no planet Earth wobbling on its axis.

(At least that's true for one of the candidates. It's good to have the lead going in!)

3. Notwithstanding realdems's comment above, the soul of the local Democratic party machine is very much up-for-grabs. The ballgame is only in its third inning.

3a.This is not to make any statement as to its importance!

Indeed, a strong local party endorsement in one direction or another could easy backfire upon both the party and the candidate -- if not in the short-term, then definitely in the long run. The wisest course of action may be to let the chips fall where they may -- allowing the A.C.D.C. et cetera as such sit it out, and enjoy the ride.

To those ends, Jimmy B is sounding just the right notes.

If it turns out that individuals within the party establishment break in large numbers towards Clinton or Obama -- that will be an interesting thing to learn. But no cause for inquisitions and pogroms! Let's not give Jim Roddey (R-vs. Mistick) the satisfaction.

Let's leave Ed Rendell to his karma.

4. Super Delegates, if called into service, should absolutely vote for the candidate that they believe will make the best and the strongest nominee -- that they personally believe to be so.

If that involves going into a big room and discussing it -- perhaps a "convention" -- so be it. If there are some small "back rooms" at said convention -- and if those rooms happen to be "smoke filled" -- so be it.

When the party is narrowly divided, that is what we do. We should not dismiss the rulebook and our traditions so cavalierly.

Super Delegates should be made to think and to pray hard. They should draw upon their unique experiences, and vote their unique consciences.

We should all know by now that DEMOCRACY -- always and at all times in its purest and most haphazard forms -- is not always such a good thing!