Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Band: Procol Harum

Spontaneous SAVE SCHENLEY Event!

This evening. 8PM.

Schenley High School.

All Shook Up -- The Musical. (The final SHS performance of its senior school musical?)

"GREATEST SHOW you'll see this year, I promise" ... Mark Rauterkus.

Wear leather.

Friday, May 2, 2008

URA Pro Calls it Quits

The engineer who oversaw the city's role in projects such as the Pittsburgh Technology Center, Summerset at Frick and South Side Works is retiring today, officials said. (Trib, Bonnie Pfister)

Oh my goodness. Those were the good ones!

Coyne of Bethel Park was not available for comment yesterday, [URA spokeswoman Megan] Stearman said. In a statement, Coyne said he was lucky to work in Pittsburgh with a "tremendous" staff.

We hope there was cake. We hope he photocopied a bunch of stuff.

Coyne's successor will be announced at the URA board's meeting on Thursday.

Any chance of simply shedding the position by attrition? Shift the pot of money (back) over to City Planning?

The Audit: Numbers on Paper

That puts Mayor Luke Ravenstahl in the enviable position of sitting on an $89.5 million fiscal cushion, plus another $61.2 million set aside for city improvements, as he heads into an election year. (P-G, Rich Lord)

Heads into a what now?

"The mayor's financial philosophy is working," said Finance Director Scott Kunka. "It's a positive trend. Everything the mayor's able to control, he's done."

Oh my goodness, are we campaigning? Do we have to fact-check this? Will anyone care this time?

Mr. Kunka said that five of the city's six biggest employers are tax-exempt, exemplifying the problem it has providing services while much of its economy is free from property and payroll levies. He said the administration is entering into negotiations with the Pittsburgh Public Service Fund, a consortium of nonprofit groups, to reach a voluntary donation agreement to replace one that ended last year.

Ah yes, the "conciliatory approach."

At the most recent Act 47 hearing, most Pittsburgh officials demanded action from the state Legislature to directly address statewide municipal debt problems -- specifically prescribing commonsense reform to Act 55, the Purely Public Charities Act.

Why aren't we all talking about Act 55 every time we step in front of a microphone? This issue needs more than ceremonial leadership.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Thursday: The Freedom to Speak Prophetically

Good that the vasectomy of City Planning is being reconsidered. (P-G, Rich Lord)


Kevin Evanto, Mr. Onorato's spokesman, yesterday called it "nothing more than an effort to raise property taxes and the county executive is not going to do that." (P-G, Karamaji Rujumba)

Really? Gosh. When you put it like that, we are quite fond of our local restaurant industry lobby all of a sudden.

"(Onorato) is standing by his executive order and we are not going to provide any revenue ... until Port Authority and the union get a competitive agreement," Onorato spokesman Kevin Evanto said. (Trib, Justin Vellucci)

Tough to play "starve the beast" when the beast is sitting down at the Chinese buffet.

ESOTERICALLY RELATED: Jim Ferlo spoke with KDKA radio's Kevin Miller, and comes across sounding more measured and reasonable than he did in the Tribune-Review article. And of course we briefly misidentified him on Election Day as a supporter of Hillary Clinton, when in fact, true to form, he has been on the Obama bandwagon for some time.

The Comet is a relentless advocate for city officials keeping all of the juice to themselves when it comes to vital city interests. Let's just leave it at that.


The Troy Hill Citizens Council, the Brightwood Civic Group and the Brighton Heights Citizens Federation stand to get $5,500 each, which Ms. Harris said is enough to buy four cameras. The groups would choose their vendors, run the systems and provide crime footage to police. (P-G, Team Effort)

"The groups will run the systems". Nothing against these particular groups, but why does that give us a screaming case of the heebie-jeebies? Still, if it keeps the peace...


"I respect the Allegheny County Health Department, and the lung association supports what the health department and U.S. Steel are doing to clean up the place," Mr. Stewart said, "but the importance of the report is to get the word out to the general public about these serious pollution issues." (P-G, Don Hopey)

Green buildings alone can never a good environment make.


This was an interesting and excellent article: Trib, Mike Cronin.

Check out the videos of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, linked through from the Pittsburgh Pist-Gazette. We obviously have different assessments of the impact of Wright's remarks than its editrix, which you will see in the comments. Yet we are both in agreement that Rev. Wright and Sen. Obama are demonstrably two different people.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Wednesday: Omnibus Primer

"This will be money the company will spend to spur economic development in terms of architects, planners, engineers and that sort of thing, feasibility studies, analysis. So the benefit will accrue to the people in the community of the Hill District," he said. (P-G, Mark Belko)

You know what, Mr. Barden, that is a nifty idea! The trick of course will be in the execution, and then in the getting anybody to pay attention.

"He's continued to be a good partner in this effort and I think it's important for us to reciprocate with a letter to the gaming board," Mr. Ravenstahl said.

Our Mayor and Our County Executive are right to bank away from Sen. Ferlo on this. They should consider the option more frequently.


That gap prompted the city to bring in The Reinvestment Fund, which has also studied Philadelphia and Baltimore. (P-G, Rich Lord)

We were just saying!

Rob Stephany, interim executive director of the Urban Redevelopment Authority, said that the key is not "what the color of the neighborhood is" but what the underlying data says and where an area fits into the city's tapestry.

Awww, bummer! We bet they put a lot of thought into their little seven-color schemata! Can we still have a looksee?

The study cost $35,000 and was paid for by the URA and the New York City-based Surdna Foundation. The Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group oversaw the process.

Thirty-five grand, all things considered? If the study is any good at all, that's a bargain. We aren't interested any of your negative comments about "another expensive report gathering dust." Good on the URA for once.


Anything's possible, Port Authority board members surmised at recent committee meetings, where they endorsed the idea of selling naming and promotional rights for the 1.2-mile light-rail extension and other assets to increase revenue. (P-G, Joe Grata)

Sure, why not. As long as "anything" gets vetted through the proper processes, go ahead and outfit Steve Bland as an organ grinder and put him in subway stations. Let Dan Onorato deal hands of Three Card Monte on the side.

Strike that, actually.


The Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation has joined forces with N&P Properties to control the development of almost a block of buildings along Market Street between Fifth Avenue and Market Square. (P-G, Diana Nelson Jones)

So what, now they're going to put up four houses, and then a hotel? Let's put this one on the 'watch' list, especially with the PDP lurking about. Speaking of:

A town hall meeting is set for 5 p.m., May 5, at the Harris Theater, Downtown, where drawings will be available and landscape architect Dina Cole Klavon will speak. The public will be able to make comments, which also can be submitted to till May 15. (P-G, Edit Board)

That's a Monday. Excellent.


"I don't think that it's been the policy to bid these [refinancings of debt] out," said State Rep. Don Walko, the [Pittsburgh Water and Sewage] authority chairman. "I think you just try to find the best team." (Trib, Jeremy Boren)

Okay, possibly. Fine.

Ergo, PWSA came before council, contrite and full of excuses, asking for a last-minute life extension. But also warning council that time was of the essence because of the shakiness in our present financial markets. A delay of even a week could cost $2 million or so, PWSA worried. So council was told their preliminary approval to the extension had to occur at that moment. Right then and there on the spot. Because final approval had to occur on Tuesday. (Burgh Report, Char)

If that depiction is at all accurate, the whole thing is still offensive, and the need for it should be abolished in the future. There may be new paradigms worth considering to carry out this function, and it would be best to keep as many options on the table as possible. Savvy?

We're Gonna Find Out. Next Time...

Okay okay okay okay okay. What's done is done. (P-G, Patricia Lowry)

"How on earth could the owners of the Penguins replace an iconic piece of architecture [Mellon Arena], one that was groundbreaking for its time, with one that looks like it belongs in an office park along the Dulles Toll Road in suburban Washington?" writes Mt. Lebanon native Jim Hiscott of Washington, D.C.

Our bad for not asking the tough questions a year ago, and for not paying enough heed to George Moses and Evan Frazier back in December.

"The real issue right now is money -- it's fine for me or the Planning Commission to pick at the design, but there is little chance that HOK will be able to make radical changes without increasing the price tag (already more expensive than Heinz Field) or delaying the schedule."

The focus now should be on civic design on and around the already iconic old civic arena site. One would assume this falls naturally to the Department of City Planning -- not to HOK Sport, Lamar Advertising, UPMC or Kellogg's. The Penguins needs should be given all due consideration, as should the needs of the neighbors.

That would have to apply no matter what.

Dr. Kimberly Ellis AKA Dr. Goddess expressed some concerns to the Comet about a provision in the tentative community benefits agreement that would seem to give the Penguins the opportunity to "opt out" of commitments after a certain interval.

Although Ellis was apprehensive that this clause could be "lorded over [neighbors'] heads," she did find cause for optimism within other portions of the negotiated and proposed CBA, which will be submitted to One Hill membership shortly.

The Comet believes it would be appropriate for the Penguins to exercise just such a cancellation option under certain circumstances -- AKA to enforce legitimate articles of a legitimate agreement. However, there are some inalienable rights (and responsibilities!) which can never be negotiated away.

A spirit of partnership and understanding would have to endure from any agreement for it to work. The question is, do we now have enough of a foundation for that to happen, or will this require at least another round of (inevitably public) negotiations.


Dr. Goddess blogs on recent elections results:

And it's a shame because Ms. Washington is probably a good person who got caught up in all of the negativity and mayhem Tonya was swirling around her. The reason for the division in the Hill District within the last two years is mostly due to Payne's poor leadership, petty politics, grudge-holding and a fanciful imagination. Certainly, there was division beforehand but she exacerbated and exaggerrated it.

Angry Drunk Bureaucrat.

FOOTNOTE: The Comet fervently desires that more voices emerge that are intimately knowledgeable of, and opinionated about, Pittsburgh's Hill District, as well as Pittsburgh's other 87 neighborhoods.
UPDATE: Here is one. (Blog of Josh Hall)