Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Looking Ahead to Rich Fitzgerald vs. Mark Patrick Flaherty

The most deviously powerful political office in Southwest Pennsylvania is up for grabs this year, and two candidates are going mano-a-mano, operative-a-operative for the Democratic nomination to it.

With three months remaining, here is literally everything I know about the two candidates for Allegheny Cah-nee Executive:


1) Has an Economics degree and a Law degree from Duke University.

2) Elected Allegheny County Controller in 2004.

3) Name appears in a conspicuously large, bold font on black and gold (or black and yellow?) Weights and Measures Division stickers on all gas pumps and grocery store checkout scales.

4) Utilized campaign PAC money to broadcast "public service announcement" commercials stressing the importance of these stickers.

5) From time to time releases audits that have been a bit more critical of the status quo than that which we have heard from his party colleagues on County Council for example.

6) Nephew to Peter F. Flaherty, Mayor of the City of Pittsburgh from 1970-1977

7) Rumored to be the preferred option of the Ravenstahl administration and its supporters.

8) Says he wanted to conduct property assessments "a couple years ago" to "get them over with" and seems to oppose efforts to obstruct them any further.


1) Has a Mechanical Engineering degree from CMU.

2) Elected to County Council in 2000 and is presently its President.

3) Has supported County Executive Dan Onorato publicly in pretty much all things.

4) That support notably includes past opposition to conducting property assessments, and further efforts to obstruct them into the future despite a court order citing inequities.

5) Says western Pennsylvania is poised to become the "energy capital of the world" -- a bit of bravado which reminds me more than a little of "Drill Baby Drill" -- although he also says he favors a "reasonable" extraction tax (though that is an issue of state law).

6) Co-sponsored the county's LGBTQ employment and housing anti-discrimination ordinance.

7) In addition to Congressman Mike Doyle, seems to be endorsed by most if not all of the Harris majority on Pittsburgh City Council.

8) Has at least a couple dozen beautiful red-headed daughters.

Am I missing anything? Is anything at stake here besides how soon we are likely to see property reassessments, and whose political factions will see their fortunes (or their operatives' fortunes) enriched? Is anybody on the Republican side a likely concern going forward?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


Alright, everybody! Ready to dive in? Here we go, back to the Greater Hill District and Uptown and the Civic Arena and Consol Energy Center and 28 Acres and things of this nature...

City planning director Noor Ismail said the zoning pre-application meeting held Monday was designed to acquaint the team officials with the planning process and the various agencies that would be involved.

"This is sort of a one-time thing," she said. "It is just a cursory review of what they want to achieve and what needs to be done."

Joanna Doven, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's spokeswoman, said the pre-application meetings are designed to "cut through red tape" and to make sure the developer and the various agencies involved in the planning are all on the same page. (P-G, Mark Belko)

Some passages are just conspicuously pregnant with meaning. I'd be surprised if the Pittsburgh Penguins weren't already fairly well-acquainted with city government's various subunits and processes along this front. And as we've learned together over the years, one man's red tape is another man's last crucial line of defense. Still, there's nothing exciting in itself about an overview and planning ahead with an eye toward likely outcomes.

The Penguins hope to get approval from the planning commission and city council to designate the 28 acres a specially planned district, similar to those that have been created for the SouthSide Works complex on the South Side and Pittsburgh Technology Center on Second Avenue in South Oakland. (ibid)

This is where it gets juicy. An argument can certainly be made that what happens a few blocks west of Crawford shouldn't be considered in isolation of -- or very much differently than -- what happens a few blocks east of Crawford, if the vitality and livability of city neighborhoods is what comes first. The distinction may not really be so stark, but it sounds like this at least has the potential for being a concern.

Relating to that is what is conjured by "SouthSide Works," and to what extent what we have been shooting for regarding reestablishing connections and building neighborhoods is served by cordoning off real estate for a SouthSide Works / North Shore / Bakery Square style motif. It's one thing to identify a Community Center as a point on a map (and another thing to fund real things to go in to there) yet it would likely be a third thing to plan a community as a community. Of course development and jobs alone make for a forceful-sounding counterargument.


Which bring us to the other piece:

And so it is. This is the thing which was reported to have had trouble getting off the ground last year but now seems to be approaching ferment and fruition. In fact, the train might be leaving the station if you're just finding out about it, but probably slowly enough that you can still hop on with some athleticism.

One thing to look at is the Management Committee (pdf) and its 34 members.

It would probably be a mistake to imagine these 34 individuals sitting around a table and voting on what goes into a master plan which will thereupon be enacted and manifested in the real world. For one thing this is being advertised as a visioning process to guide and inform future activity -- although it's reasonable to assume its results will carry some weight at the old ZBA, planning commission and URA. For another thing, the effects of a Consensus Group or Steering Committee representative objecting to the majority is probably not the same as if someone from the Heinz Endowments or the Hill CDC objects -- and I don't even want to think about what happens if Rob Stephany vociferously objects to the prevailing current.

I don't know the names well enough to evaluate how representative is this committee of the Whole Hill. Time was, that was regarded as being of critical importance in any decision-making body. Right now it's unclear to what extents the goals are to be comprehensively representative of various interests, or to provide continuity with the One Hill CBA movement, or to conform with the eternal law of With the Victor Go the Spoils.


And finally. Most Tribune-Review editorials read as though they are written by an exceptionally intelligent and creative eleven year-old whose parents are Democrats and refuse to buy him an Xbox. But every once in a while that other being grabs the keyboard and takes the words write out of your mouth, only like, you wish:

In arguing for the demolition of the Civic Arena, former Pittsburgh City Councilman Sala Udin says the arena "is more a symbol of genocide than a historic icon." Indeed, the wholesale destruction 50 years ago of the once-vibrant and predominantly black lower Hill District raises a host of questions. But "genocide" is far too strong a word to describe a good-intentioned but far from well-executed exercise in urban renewal. (Trib, Edit Board)

Perfectly expressed. The arrogance with which that redevelopment effort was undertaken did indeed wound hundreds if not thousands of lives and a coherent community. Yet "genocide" -- that's just gratuitously beyond the pale.

The thing is. Udin possesses a canny enough political mind to have known darned well what to expect in terms of a response, and would have understood and appreciated all the objections. The question I can't stop asking myself is: why bang that drum so loudly? It was almost as though he was out to prove to somebody that he's doing everything he can to get that arena torn down.

And it's not even as though the existence or absence of the arena is the central issue.

*-UPDATE: Yes, this was written by some rich Hollywood actor, but it's a pretty fantastic formulation of what lies behind the preservation concept (or what the preservation concept in a sense stands in for).

In terms of the building, the only part I can say with certainty I desire to see preserved is the one big leaf of the dome directly under the metal girders which support it. That by itself is pretty elegant, and would provide space for something to go underneath it. And as Mr. Redwood would say, "We can argue about" what that should be.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Game Day Preparation Video Anthology

Ladies, get your faces right...

Continuing the rich hip-hop tradition of "borrowing" tracks...

Projection by ESPN and EASports...