Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Another Not-So Random Memory

Do you guys remember this? Rich Lord was barking and running around in circles for like a week.

Pittsburgh is on the verge of awarding a lucrative consulting contract to a firm that could help cut the city's $8.4 million utility bill, but it is using a process that effectively excludes competitors and raises questions about fairness. (P-G, 3/28/07)

The RFPs were sent out just prior to, and the submissions due just after, the Christmas holiday.

Charles Zappala contributed $10,000 to the campaign of late Mayor Bob O'Connor. Though a political committee he funds gave Luke Ravenstahl's 2003 City Council campaign $500, he did not give to his campaign fund last year. He is an investor in the group that sought a slot machine casino for Station Square and is now suing to overturn a Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board decision to allow a competitor to build it on the North Shore.

CLT has landed contracts to improve energy usage for Butler County, the city of Erie and various schools. (P-G, ibid)

They are good at landing contracts from Pennsylvania politicians. That seems to be the core and only business competency.

The lack of competition for the job can't be good, said Elaine Sadowski, a former city energy manager and later a consultant to governments including Allegheny County that were starting energy saving programs like the one the city is now launching.

"It strikes me as very odd because there are so many firms out there doing this kind of work," she said. "When we did the county, I believe we had seven" respondents. Ms. Sadowski was fired by the city in the mid-1990s and successfully sued for wrongful termination. (P-G, 3/29/07)

I think Rich was trying to tell us something! What's that, girl? Trouble? Down by the old mill? Let's go, you lead the way!

We'll have to add this material to this post, which I will be editing, updating, polishing and republishing periodically.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tuesday: Admit That the Waters Around You Have Grown.


Not unexpected. The Mayor gets to store 45 million of our hard-earned tax dollars in a glorified petty cash account. I hope you'll enjoy this, City Council -- every time you ask for a widget, you'll hear, "Oh, we can appreciate that, but we can't afford to jeopardize the City's vital debt savings fund!" And when the Mayor asks for ten widgets, you'll hear, "As luck would have it, we just realized some exciting new efficiencies in our other total nonsense account!"

This one's genuinely a surprise to me. Can't wait to hear the excuses. Why stand up for ourselves? Why take action to defend our own wallets? Why do anything to discomfort the city's and the state's owners and masters? "5-6 people blogeting -- no one cares!" they commented. With good cause it turns out. Back to being good little sheeple and Sheeple Representatives. I just can't wait to hear the excuses.

The event was that of Northside United, conducted by its co-chair Michael Glass. The occasion was a briefing to the City Planning Commission by Continental Real Estate / the Steelers about the amphitheater they are building on the North Shore.

To distinguish among our many new amphitheaters: this is the one for which the City sold city land at a tenth of the market-rate -- and for which our Commonwealth is awarding subsidy after subsidy. Today it was straight-facedly described to the Planning Commission by Continental as a "market-driven" development.

Also, miracle of miracles: although the music / sound waves will travel across the river and reach Mt. Washington, they will stop immaculately at North Shore Drive!

So basically we have a playground to attract suburban and well-to-to recreationalists built at our own taxpayers' expense, directly alongside a typically struggling Pittsburgh neighborhood which is already in receipt of several decades worth of promises regarding North Shore development -- that is again getting nothing practical in return.

FINAL ANALYSIS: Let's just relent and dissolve City government away into the County after all -- becoming its Urban Services Ghetto or whatever they'd like to call us -- and thereby hand over our earnings to well-connected private-sector bullies more efficiently. It's not like there's much left in Pittsburgh worth fighting for.


Presently, Things are In a Sorry State

First, some medals for outstanding behavior:

BRONZE: Patrick Dowd - Fine to accuse Mayor Ravenstahl of capitalizing on the aftermath of the tragedy in Stanton Heights to some extent in order to elude a political obligation. And fine to allege that his relaxed attitude towards law enforcement resulted in a death at a club. But throwing them both into the same statement lends the whole thing an air of ugly desperation.

SILVER: Luke Ravenstahl - Seemingly within hours of hearing from KDKA that the event was to be rescheduled, he notified the media that no further time would be available before the election. Yeah right. Some things are priorities.

GOLD: KDKA - You had to have known this would happen.


A few commenters so far have called Luke a "liar" for having ruled out rescheduling debates because of his schedule. One of these submitted a classic video to drive home the point:

Speak, memory...

1. Luke still maintains he didn't lie to anybody about the trip according to his definitions. Nor in denying the Heinz Field shoving match.

2. The Mayor does not regret missing a much-anticipated meeting with Hill District and Uptown leaders the morning following a huge public land transfer in their neighborhood, in favor of a "political trip" in which he could "talk politically with Mr. Burkle".

3. So it's two years later. How has the dialogue proceeded with the Hill District? Where are we in the process? Pittsburgh is on a tight deadline to organize a community-driven Master Plan before the right of submission reverts to the Penguins, correct? Have there been any meetings? Any discussions? Any bullet points? Anybody heard from Carl Redwood lately?

4. Luke Ravenstahl is not worried about his credibility.

Monday, April 13, 2009

End of the Day Thoughts

It occurs to me that Carmen Robinson is the real loser in regards to today's events.

She had the most to gain by being presented to the voters the old-fashioned way at this time -- with her name recognition lowest, and the media not focusing on her as someone who is proposing legislation and launching attacks.

I've also noticed that Luke's argument for reelection remains fixated on one notion: that politics is unacceptable, i.e. that politics can never lead to anything good or better. Local government is what it is, it's just a matter of who's benefiting.

ONE YEAR AGO THIS WEEK: A pattern of special favors? (KDKA)

Dowd: "An Absolute Outrage"*

Patrick Dowd, in reaction to this upcoming Wednesday's video debate on KDKA being postponed by the station, and then effectively canceled by the Ravenstahl campaign (P-G):

That a mayor who has never run in a contested primary is using last week’s tragedies to avoid a discussion about public safety and other critical issues facing our city is an absolute outrage.

Since he became mayor, Luke Ravenstahl has been absent time and time again: absent from meetings on the Hill District, absent from discussions on critical policy issues, absent from important decisions about circumventions of the permitting and zoning processes, some of which have ended in death and others of which have cost the taxpayers. Yet, he has had time to meet with campaign contributors, ensuring that they will continue to procure no bid contracts.

Now, there is no time for the citizens?

I have pledged that as mayor I will make my schedule available to the public. Luke Ravenstahl should immediately show the citizens what meetings are more important than hearing him be held accountable for his record.

Amidst a citywide increase in gun violence, a national economic crisis, and serious questions about ethics in the mayor’s office, Luke Ravenstahl must make time to debate his mayoral challengers.

This is an absolute outrage.

All of this was incidental to Dowd's campaign event on the North Side highlighting pavement management and cronyism (P-G, Rich Lord).

And yes -- there has got to be time to reschedule the debate. There is a lot to talk about; besides which, we oughtn't just toss those video questions from the public aside as though they're garbage.

*-UPDATE: Response, apparently from Ravenstahl campaign, at LINK.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Sunday: Dispatches from Beyond the Random***

The US Navy has a deal on the table** with Somali pirates that would free Capt. Richard Phillips of the private container vessel Maersk Alabama -- in exchange for a "small" ransom.

The process was postponed because “each group suspects the other one” of reneging, said the pirate, who identifies himself only as Daud. (Bloomberg, Hamsa Omar)

The Alabama has made it safely to Mombassa.

"The captain is a hero," one crew member shouted from the 17,000-ton Maersk Alabama container ship as it docked. "He saved our lives by giving himself up. (Reuters, Celestine Acheing)

**-UPDATE: Capt. Phillips jumps ship again and is rescued by U.S. Navy SEALS (CNN); President Obama issues statement (HuffPo)


Yeah -- the Tea Party was just stupid. (Slag Heap, Chris Potter)

It sounds bad -- and that's why we don't talk about it anymore. I'm pretty sure Pittsburgh's plan is to wage sort of a "pensions hunger strike" against State Government, while taking care of the debt side of the equation in the meanwhile. Yes there is a potential flaw in that plan but honestly, nobody has a better one yet. (NullSpace)

It's getting too easy to discredit certain aspects of "The Right". Not just Rick Santorum and not just this one 2PJs blog post, but in general. Tired of blowouts over there. (2PJs, Dayvoe)

Oh yes but this is disconcerting: is President Obama creating new state secrets in regards to wiretapping, or simply continuing to cover up Bush's old ones? (Electronic Frontier Foundation)

You all knew that Lamar Advertising is desiring to bring further information to the Court's attention in order to defend its legal position, and the City of Pittsburgh is arguing, like, "No!", right? (Busman's Holiday)

Pittsburgh: POOR INCOME GROWTH. Also: A cute post. (The Pittsburgh Conservative)

Do you feel like you're waiting for something? I'm starting to feel like I'm waiting for something. And I think that something may be justice. We probably are all waiting pending "a reflection of the serious and far reaching ramifications" of delivering justice. (Allegheny Institute)

*-ADDED: Street cred vs. human capital (Tube City Almanac)


Monday, April 13, 2009 - 10:00 A.M.
Public Hearing
- Bill No. 2009-1039 - Ordinance supplementing the Pittsburgh Code, Title One, Administrative, by adding a new section, Article XIII, entitled, "Campaign Finance Regulations." (CABLECAST)


The Northside Institutional Church of God in Christ is back, baby.

After the fire in January, city officials and community organizers offered assistance to restore the congregation. The church had never sought the limelight. But after laboring in what felt like obscurity for decades, the Thorpes were overwhelmed.

"We are so blessed. My parents served Pittsburgh for 45 years, and Pittsburgh said, 'Thank you.' We really have noticed and appreciated the outpouring from the city. It was something we had never experienced before, in any other situation," Ms. Thorpe-Vaughn said. (P-G, Ann Rodgers; photo Robin Rombach)

Hope everybody is having a wonderful Easter. I am eating crackers and being festive, thinking upon how the Jews got out of Egypt. It took ten plagues -- and even then, Pharoah changed his mind and came out after us. We cut him off at the pass, though.