Friday, July 27, 2012

City Schools: Not an Encouraging Portrait at the Present Moment

As 280 School District employees are laid off on the exclusive basis of seniority even acknowledging some pretty fierce achievement gaps and challenges, and it is confirmed that the District's push to close a diverse and successful high school was built largely on false pretenses, residents in at least one predominantly African-American neighborhood are tearing their hair out.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Judges Tear Up Gov. Corbett's "One Size Fits All" Drilling Law

Score another one for local zoning codes and for the Judicial branch:

The majority opinion states that requiring municipalities to change their zoning rules in a way that would conflict with their development plans "violates substantive due process because it does not protect the interests of neighboring property owners from harm, alters the character of neighborhoods and makes irrational classifications – irrational because it requires municipalities to allow all zones, drilling operations and impoundments, gas compressor stations, storage and use of explosives in all zoning districts, and applies industrial criteria to restrictions on height of structures, screening and fencing, lighting and noise." (P-G Pipeline, Laura Olson)

Current Facebook status of Briget and Doug Shields: "One small step in the right direction for the people of PA."

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

One Party: "No Vote for You!"

This is the real kicker...

The state is promising to issue an alternative ID card, for voting purposes only, that would require lesser documentation: a Social Security number and two proofs of residency, such as utility bills or an apartment lease. But that card won't be available until August, and so far, state officials have done little to notify voters about it. Secretary Aichele's letter to voters, for example, could say only that her office was "working … to develop an alternative" ID. (PGH City Paper, Lauren Daley)

If our self-described budget hawks have so readily admitted to a need to quickly mass-produce a whole new State ID card -- which they haven't really thought about yet, how glossy, the bureaucracy, what it should mean or say on it -- it should be enough to suggest that any collateral disenfranchisement was "besides the point," or even at that a cue for rugged individualism and social Darwinism to shine.

For his part, O'Hanlon is trying to inform voters in personal-care and rehabilitation facilities. Still, he says, the campaign is "a massive undertaking"; the grassroots campaigns, he says, "seem like tiny pretend efforts" by comparison. (ibid)

Ah, yes. Well, hopefully the new Voting Class will act and vote charitably towards the non-voters -- the differently aged, abled, educated, raised, and tempered, as well as the frightened.

MORE: 2PJ's reminds us that there still hasn't been any evidence of voter fraud, Capitol Ideas has the GOP arguing in court that their reforms were "rational," Early Returns recounts Gov. Tom Corbett accusing President Obama of wielding the Dept. of Justice to play politics over the issue, and Kelly Cernetich from PolticsPA indicates yup, there really probably are more than three quarter million voters or 9% of the electorate whom this impacts.

For the present-version Two-page Flier for Sorting this Voting Obstruction (pdf) and for other resources go to the ACLU of PA's VoterID page or contact the folks with Pa Voter ID Collective Action and its attendant barbecues.

You've Got to Know When to Hold 'Em - Tiff Edition

Couple of items worthy of note this morning:

Councilman Dowd's letter (pdf) to commemorate his 8th week of legislatively holding Allegheny Riverfront legislation is a doozie:

Mayor Ravenstahl,

Your continued silence regarding the creation of a Lower Strip TIF District is stunning and revealing.

The legislation you want me to introduce would create a $35-$40 million slush fund. (Pdf)

Dowd also the asserts that "The Strip is Pittsburgh's grocery store," and recalls "the continuation of hazardous truck traffic in Lawrenceville" and other details. (Background)

Relatedly, there is a flash point of controversy regarding redevelopment in Homewood and East Liberty.

Councilman Bill Peduto, upon hearing the objections of five or six speakers during public comment period before Council's legislative session yesterday, and alleging that still more residents from Councilman Ricky Burgess's district have been calling his own office, motioned to hold back a bill that would convey properties relating to the culmination of Transit-Oriented development and Bridging the Busway.

This maneuver failed 7-2, though it provoked a torrent of criticism from the main bill's sponsor, Burgess, who accused Peduto of all manner of political machinations and hypocrisies while defending an allegedly years-long and inclusive community process undertaken to vet the East End redevelopment vision.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Corbett Office's posture towards PSU said to have been Uncomfortably Nonconfrontational

Casablanca PA is racking up four score and more comments for its explorations on daily news concerning the former Attorney General's handling of the Jerry Sandusky rape spree:

Wow. Specifically asking a witness before the grand jury to withhold details? No follow up to key parts of the witness' story? In fact, in December of 2010, Eshbach turned down interview requests from the York Daily Record, saying it would be inappropriate at that time, yet she conducted a Facebook survey about Paterno and made supportive comments about Paterno while the investigation presumably was still in progress? (Casablanca PA)

See also here, here, here and further back, tying it in (as the blog does) to the then-candidate's political aspirations. We hope the Signor doesn't receive another summons for this.

Capitol Ideas meanwhile delves deeply into the Governor's recent moves to wheel back against concerns over the pace of the state investigation:

Gov. Tom Corbett said this afternoon that he was “very disappointed” that former senior Penn State officials failed to turn over e-mails and other documents that appeared in a sweeping report on the university’s handling of the Jerry Sandusky child abuse scandal.

Corbett, the former two-term attorney general who initiated the grand jury investigation that led to Sandusky’s conviction last month on 45 of 48 abuse counts, declined to say whether former Penn State President Graham B. Spanier – should be held criminally responsible for withholding documents that prosecutors sought through subpoenas.

But, he said, “I think that is probably the subject of an investigation in the Attorney General’s Office right now. (Capitol Ideas, John L. Micek)


Monday, July 23, 2012

So Much Growth Potential in Bunchertown

The 16th St. Bridge comes south from the North Side over the Allegheny River and then keeps on going. At the foot of the bridge, Downtown is close to your right and the heart of the Strip District immediately left, but back behind you for a couple of hundred yards is land. And all the way up the river behind the Strip, on the other side of the tracks, to Lawrenceville, land.

If residential development aspiring towards middle-class professionals, millennials and transplants springs up east of 16th St., it might actually work!!

You can't beat grocery shopping in the Strip, for cheap or for fancy.

You can't beat the access to Downtown, if you happen to work there.

It's flat and wide for biking. No huge problem getting up Penn Avenue to Oakland.

It's near the river, with trails and parks galore.

And as a resource to support what's going on Downtown and in the Strip, such a feed back-loop of people shopping and recreating would be intense. Heck, even the Valley across the river on the North Side might see some boost.

The real question is, why hasn't such a thing sprung up years ago?

It's probably risky. Expensive. Not a sure thing like a casino or a hockey arena. It takes deep pockets, a high tolerance for for risk, and a certain amount of trust.


In terms of this development, some public officials are demanding at the outset a large enough buffer zone placed from the river, exacting historic preservation, scrupulous adherence to new storm water management regulations, a minimization of the concessions and incentives necessary to make a deal tempting, a community input process bordering on a co-management arrangement with an Occupy-style General Assembly, and the cessation of moving plans forward until a particular zoning matter involving a railroad easement is fully negotiated.

Governor Tom Corbett -- on the other hand -- wanted the Cracker plant here. And he got it. And the masses are thrilled to be able to take economic advantage of a geographic blessing.

This is the kind of thing that will haunt me, if we ever don't have Mayor Luke Ravenstahl to kick around anymore.

Will jobs be created while we're panicked about gentrification, about winners and losers, about ideology and about politics? Will we grow? Will we bloom?


Pittsburgh remains from its heritage a liberal town. Concurrently in the modern age, it has also been a stagnant town. Over the past six or seven years, is word really starting to leak out that Pittsburgh has figured it out? Solved the puzzle or overcome certain obstacles? That something is cajoling our warm, fearful arms wide open to universal energies of macroeconomics and investment?

In the future, class-conscious Pittsburgh might pat itself on the back for organizing many of these new workers and residents. For encouraging their workplace and civil rights, their tenant rights, their rights and needs as urban-dwellers.

But before that gets to happen, it's possible we may need a steely gatekeeper -- fending off slings and arrows, wedging the door wide open with his shoulders and enthusiastically waving the world in as it is. Not as we wish it might be some day.

Making the most of it. Making it work.