Saturday, June 26, 2010

ACLU Calling 'Shenanigans' on Mayor

An noteworthy memo from ACLU attorneys flew over to City Hall late yesterday via fax. It reads:

"Recent nominations by Mayor Ravenstahl to replace CPRB board members whose terms have expired do not seem to have been made in accordance with Chapter 662 of the City Code."

It asserts that board members serving on expired terms cannot be treated the same as "vacancies", that Council must in any case submit three nominations per seat formally via Resolution, and that "the most prudent approach" would now be for the City to consider all current board members as having been reappointed by fiat.

The ACLU also embedded a video into its faxed letter:

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

quiz time [answered below]

Just curious, I guess. Can anybody figure out what these twenty cities have in common? Hint: only these twenty share these traits.

Albuquerque, NM (+17.6)
Aurora, CO (+17.4)
Austin, TX (+17.7)
Bakersfield, CA (+33.2)
Colorado Springs, CO (+10.7)
El Paso, TX (+10.0)
Fort Worth, TX (+33.9)
Fresno, CA (+11.7)
Honolulu, HI (+0.8)
Las Vegas, NV (+18.2)
Long Beach, CA (+0.2)
Louisville, KY (+2.3)
Mesa, AZ (+16.2)
Omaha, NE (+11.3)
Santa Ana, CA (+0.7)
Toledo, OH * (+0.8)
Tulsa, OK (-0.9)
Tuscon, AZ (+12.6)
Virginia Beach, VA (+2.0)
Wichita, KN (+5.7)

*- another hint: that one really stings.

ANSWER: The 20 cities listed above are A) among the 60 cities in the US with a larger population than Pittsburgh and B) have managed to achieve this without a single major league sports team to their credit. Not a one. You'll recall how often we've been warned that if we lose any one out of our three (3!) major league franchises, we'd become a "minor league" city and wither away. (If you post comments with links to any specific such jeremiads I'll highlight them). So I find the ability of these cities to attract, retain and employ residents on such a large scale remarkable.

Just to provide a little more context, population trends over the last decade have been added parenthetically. Pittsburgh has lost 6.8% of its population since 2000 -- by which time the economy had already transformed enough that many of us feared the Y2K bug. We were worried about failing power grids and financial systems but not mills and factories as I recall.

What does it all mean? In thirty years, when we are faced again with replacing one of our stadiums ... if you like cheering for the home team and wish to continue doing so, fine. If you want to argue that we can't be a "major league city" or an economic success without a _______ team, maybe someone will still have this post bookmarked and ready to go. Or maybe by then all the drilling will have left us looking like something out of the last few pages of The Lorax. Somebody could scrawl "UNLESS" across the scoreboard at Heinz Field.

(Yes, upon further review, Fort Worth is frequently considered part of the "Dallas / Ft. Worth / Arlington" metropolitan area. Yet all of its sports franchises are hosted elsewhere in that triangle, and more importantly Dallas is the only one with name privileges, which I think is relevant if we're discussing the notoriety and mystique of being a Big League Town and all that which it brings. Besides, Washington, PA is as far away from Pittsburgh as is Ft. Worth from Dallas.)

Monday, June 21, 2010

Oversight Boards Nix Parking Study *

Remember that quarter of a million dollars the Council claimed it found in its couch cushions to pay for its own study of parking issues from financial "scholars"?

The Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority and Act 47 board said the transfer of money "is deemed to be in violation of law," according to a letter to council sent by City Solicitor Dan Regan.

Henry Sciortino, executive director of the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, advised the city to "immediately cease and desist negotiations with any contractors concerning this matter," the letter said. (Trib, Brandolph)

ERP! You know, Council seems to be having a bit of trouble lately in the execution department. I'll suggest again: can we tap our own universities to whip up something FO' FREE? It's to everybody's benefit.

MORE: Infinonymous seems to be implying that this is really going to shake things up this time.

*-UPDATE: Viceroy Sciortino: "I see this (being finalized) in days, not weeks," he said. "The only way that it's problematic is if it's unreasonable." (Trib, Brandolph)

What Happens in Vegas is Journalsim

Anyone recall ever seeing such substantive, persistent television interviewing of a candidate or officeholder in the Pittsburgh region?

That's KLAS Channel 8 in Las Vegas, NV (h/t Wonkette)

Sunday, June 20, 2010


Some lawmakers want to keep the barn door closed to city drilling; others want it open, then to stand in the doorway and wrangle one raging bull at a time.

"On a personal level, as an individual, I might want to see an outright ban," Mr. Dowd said Saturday. "I fear what [drilling] will do to my drinking water, and more importantly I fear what this will do to my kids' drinking water."

However, legislation barring gas drilling "would eliminate our ability to engage in this conversation," he said. (P-G, Lord)

Beg pardon? I do not understand what that means, yet.

"Better to be safe than sorry." "A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." "Conditional Use permitting approvals are an acutely troubled if not endangered species of zoning regulation." These are all familiar old sayings.

*-UPDATE: The whispered / implied difficulty is becoming more explicit (though the claims are still strangely limited to reporters' immaculate gleanings, rather than statements by government officials or industry representatives):

A state Supreme Court decision last year in a case involving Oakmont and Salem Township, Westmoreland County, allows municipalities to use zoning ordinances to limit and direct where wells can be drilled, but ruled that municipalities could not prohibit drilling altogether. (Trib, Brandolph)

For the record, I'm still wondering whether we can buy enough time with an outright or virtual municipal ban in order to reach the era of a statewide moratorium -- but I'm also starting to think it's time to focus on achieving that statewide moratorium.