Friday, September 2, 2011

Council Sends Frank & Open Letter to Ravenstahl

In the letter, Council members Harris, Kraus, Peduto, Rudiak and Shields make clear that they will merely be temporarily suspending expanded parking meter enforcement (sorry, Ginny) until such time as the Parking Authority comes around to Council's way of thinking.

*-UPDATE: Mayor Ravenstahl and Finance Director / chief administrative officer on financial matters Scott Kunka each respond in short statements.

Further, the Harris majority is setting out to transfer $1.3 million from the city's 2011 general fund balance [which we all hope will exist] to the pension fund.

That "further" part has us a mite confused. As part of its New Years Eve deal, Council already diverted money from the parking tax (which winds up in the general fund) over to the pension fund. The difficulty has been that this general fund revenue has not been replaced by Parking Authority revenue as Council had intended. Is Council here saying that the Powers That Be have refused also to move the parking tax money over to the pension fund to begin with? Because otherwise, why send more money over to the pensions than previously arranged?

The timing of the nastygram makes this all the more curious. The fact that Councilman Patrick Dowd, a leading architect of Council's New Years' Eve plan and critic of the Mayor's alternative, did not cosign today's missive is only mildly curious.

Meanwhile, just to stir the pot a little further, check out how folks from Harrisburg are seeing these machinations:

The City of Pittsburgh this morning submitted its new municipal pension shortfall estimates to the state, hoping to avert a state takeover of the fund. The submission was the culmination of a two-year battle between council, which wanted to dedicate future parking revenue to the fund, and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, who preferred shoring up the fund through leasing the parking facilities. Council ended up getting its way; now we get to see if it actually worked. If it doesn’t, expect the mayor (after a hearty round of “I told you so”) to re-submit his plan to lease the city’s parking garages. (Triadvocate)

That ain't necessarily so. But it ain't necessarily not so.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Thursday: Department of Innovation Department

62%! Wow! A large number, m-hay! (P-G, Joe Smydo)

Acceptance of this calculation is going to turn on a point such as why the state settled on the figure 50% as being determinative of "severe distress" to begin with. Was it arbitrary? Did it seem like a good round number, or what? Had to draw a line somewhere?



Township commissioner D. Raja (R-Mt. Lebanon) thinks a Department of Innovation is the kind of thing for which we all might clamor. (

County Council President Rich Fitzgerald (D-East End Pittsburgh) responds to this news by painting Raja as a failure, a phony, a liar and vaguely absurd. (P-G, Timothy McNulty)

NOTE TO RAJA: You might want to try critiquing your opponent's record on Allegheny County Council. Call it a random neuron.


New poll: 65% of Pennsylvanians favor the natural gas industry; 23% are opposed to it. (PoliticsPA)

Whatever that question is -- and it's admittedly a different question than, "Are you opposed to drilling in your city, the one that is dense and noisy already?" -- much like the Civic Science survey it should give people a certain amount of pause just to see those numbers. Not everyone is out there all, "It's the People vs. the Corporations!" People like their royalties and signing bonuses and idea of jobs and economic activity. To not take that into account is to appear as something of a weirdo.


Do you count yourself as still confused over what happened in Bloomfield involving gay activists, City police officers and at least some anarchists? Me, too!

In addition to a City Paper article on that incident and a follow-up Slag Heap blog post, blogger Thomas C. Waters was there in the flesh. He has published many ruminations already, which in turn have garnered many comments. The first of five personal dispatches from the rally is right here; his latest, a report on some follow-up with the City is here. Lots to digest in between.

Did you find this post valuable? If so, then please consider voting for the Pittsburgh Comet again today in the Most Valuable Blogger thing.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

POTUS to Address Congress on Jobs Proposals

A week from today: Wed. Sept. 7th, at 8:00 PM. *-UPDATE: Or Thurs. the 8th. "Logistical impediments".

It better be good. We need first-down yardage.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tuesday: Here They Come

State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) is holding hearings today on the Hispanic invasion. John L. Micek at Capitol Ideas has posted a fascinating breakdown of some of the facts surrounding this crisis-for-some. *-UPDATE: P-G

(Las Palmas, the Mexican grocer in Brookline which opened in 2009 seems to be doing well. No reports yet on whether or not they're putting french fries in the tacos. Legal immigration is one thing, but they have to be willing to assimilate.)

Super Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) is reportedly holding a (a) Town Hall Meeting clear on the other side of the state on Sept. 1st. If I'm reading that correctly, that's three days notice to plan a visit to Jim Thorpe, PA -- which sounds absolutely lovely, but it doesn't leave a lot of time to pack and write a little speech.

It looks like Rick Santorum (R-Your Body) is seriously lining up to take down Rick Perry and try to become the natural, notable cultural conservative willing to play attack dog, and to one day testify that Mitt Romney has "steel in his spine". He'll even score sympathy points for his problems with Dan Savage, and who doesn't love milking those? Nonetheless, we're not sure whether that pairing wouldn't exacerbate more problems than in solves.


The Allegheny Institute wonders whether the Pittsburgh School District (amidst the many other changes it is making right now) moving seven teachers from classroom instruction to "making students feel safe and welcome" is a useful or cost-effective idea.

From the School District website:

Learning Environment Specialists are teachers who demonstrate strength in positive classroom management, leadership and peer coaching skills. Learning Environment Specialists will be classroom teachers in high-needs schools, have a reduced teaching schedule and will participate on school teams, possibly leading teams, to ensure that school-based goals for a positive teaching and learning environment are being met. (PPS)

"High-needs schools" and "teachers who demonstrate strength in" seem to be the operative phrases there.

If it's true that the City of Pittsburgh actually leads the nation in poverty rates among working-age racial minorities and young minority children, and if it's true that growing up in poverty and amidst much poverty can lead to a sticky situation as far as schooling -- then it's hard to see any reason for bafflement here. We've got to try something to get these kids feeling more positive about school, right? It sounds like these teachers' roles will be to teach the merits of personal responsibility among children who were especially likely to have missed those memos.

What do our buddies at the A.I. advocate in its place, we are left wondering? Charter school vouchers for everyone, but no special resources for acclimating and acculturating the students, or even for steering all of them into appropriate schools to redeem those vouchers? What?


It is two days until September 1, the deadline for handing in our financial homework to the state. Is it going to be submitted on time by the appropriate administrative officer with all of the T's crossed and I's dotted correctly? Do we think the state will try to take notice of any possible distinctions between pension obligations and pension liabilities? Or are we going to sail right through the 50% funding threshold into comfortable waters -- before being gifted with a new, strengthened form of Super Oversight? In the City of Harrisburg, they're talking about yet another kind of state takeover just because our state can -- and seems amped for the challenge.

Did you find this post valuable? If so, then please consider voting for the Pittsburgh Comet again today in the Most Valuable Blogger thing. Seriously, this thing lasts through the first week of Sept., and one can vote once per day. Stay strong, all you Cometmaniacs out there!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday: And Where Might we Purchase the T-Shirts?

The biggest news over the weekend might have been a sleeper: the sudden discovery of Jasiri X by the Blur-gho-sphere, as evidenced first on What Would Vannevar Bush Blog? and then shortly on Infinonymous.

WWVB has all the lyrics. A sample:

And downtown it's a bunch of new buildings
Glass and steel cathedrals the cost a few million
They make billions to treat a dudes illness
With medicine and pharmaceuticals so who's dealing
But the schools are failing screw children
Just make sure the office has a see through ceiling
Pitt University and CMU killin
classes cost thousands I don't see you fill em (at WWVB)

This contribution by Jasiri X (MySpace) is added to a long history of municipal protest folk music:

Jasiri's last single release garnering significant notoriety was 2010's What if the Tea Party Was Black. He just needs a good hook writer. America's Most Livable Irony, what? How about, "White Pittsburgh / Black Pittsburgh." Come on kid, we'll make a record. Wiz Khalifa, Mac Miller -- these things work best in threes and fours.

No seriously, expect someone of Jasiri's artistic talent, uniqueness, and sense of civic responsibility to gain significant attention from outfits like Pop City Media, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council in a matter of weeks or months. There's no reason to keep this all to ourselves.


What else?

P-G on-duty battlecat Joe Smydo went stately forth and delivered that newspaper's Quarterly Blowing Off of Steam over Luke Ravenstahl.

This time, that work took the form of a litany of stories about mayoral absences at and around specified events and incidents. Here was our favorite part:

Months ago, the Post-Gazette switched its online publishing options to divide up its articles onto different pages as a default (in order to garner more net pageviews and pump the advertisers, we assume). It's been mildly irritating, and we had been considering airing a grievance.

But no longer! The sheer style points credited for launching into a series of tales of an unfortunately timed ski trip here, a similarly timed vacation there, another little mystery or two and then PLEASE CONTINUE TO PAGES TWO THROUGH FIVE UNITL YOU REACH THE STOP SIGN -- as a blogger, Post-Gazette, we salute you.

What else is there...

Looks as though the landowners of active gas fracking sites are doing fairly well with royalty payments, a fact which has translated into $100 million last year in tax revenue for the state (to gain just little perspective, that constitutes 2.5% of the state budget deficit, which is estimated to have been about a $4 billion shortfall.) ... The P-G editorialists proper are all like, here here! here here! when it comes to Highmark / UPMC and Big Healthcare ... Rick Santorum will be in or around Pittsburgh on Tuesday or Wednesday to raise money at a crucial moment in his campaign to become Mitt Romney's running mate.

Did you find this post valuable? If so, then please consider voting for the Pittsburgh Comet again today in the Most Valuable Blogger thing.

Sunday, August 28, 2011