Saturday, December 1, 2012

Saturday Must-Reads: Pittsburgh Back from Great Recession; Pwned by Steelers Incorporated

A serendipitous time for two absolute must-read newspaper articles. Educate yourselves:

Firstly, the Pittsburgh metropolitan region has been discovered by a reputable research institution to be one of just three U.S. metro regions to have recovered from the international recession. Welcome, heartening news. Let's hope some of that aggregate superiority trickles all the way down and around.

Many U.S. metro regions have not yet reached the milestone of recovery, especially in light of the global trend -- a national concern.

A sobering prospect since even mighty Pittsburgh's status as leader is in "structural" financial peril...

"Pittsburgh has turned the corner and is the national example of how to grow jobs and innovate. ... But there is still much more work to be done to ensure that Pittsburgh grows even more jobs and remains America's 'most livable' city for years to come," Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said in a statement. (P-G, Joe Smydo)

"More work to be done" includes the urban core accounting for pensions and health benefits, as well as infrastructure and equipment needs. Growth would have to be exponential in the absence of new revenue.

There is also an astute short treatise from Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, and special emphasis chosen by Mayor Rogero of Knoxville, TN. All contextual gemstones.


steelersfanmx @ Steelers Fever
Now that you're warmed up.. switch to Camera 2, the Tribune-Review, and have the camera pan to our fresh new historic North Shore:

The 30-year lease on the stadium, which opened in 2001 and is owned by the taxpayer-funded Sports & Exhibition Authority, called for $25 million payments every 10 years if tickets, payroll and other sales failed to increase annual tax revenue significantly from a baseline set in the late 1990s. A 1999 state law requires the Budget Office to examine team tax receipts and apply a multiplier to determine if those receipts exceed $25 million.
The review absolves the team of making a rent payment on top of the 5 percent ticket surcharge and 15 percent tax it pays to the SEA on revenue from non-sporting events at the stadium. (Trib, Jeremy Boren)

This bonus subsidy, negotiated away in principle a decade ago, is an entirely new and separate issue from that of the Steelers' ongoing lawsuit to get municipal authorities to pay for most of a major expansion at Heinz Field.

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has said he supports the expansion and wants to find a way for the public to subsidize at least some of it. A spokeswoman said he was not available to discuss the tax credits. (Tribid)

Really? That seems like it would be a less popular position than a more direct, straight-line defense of taxpayers. Unless maybe it can be tied in with lower ticket prices, or ticket access hurdles.... a thought.

At any rate, this generous parlay only adds more kindling to the recent history of Steelers-City development relations which has been combustable and in steady supply.

To this latest chapter Boren introduces the concept of "outrageous multipliers" to meet the trigger for the bonus subsidy, and a timely recollection of the era of State Rep. Don Walko. Entire contents near-legendary quality. Read read read read read.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Post-Gazette Reporter Keeps Vigilant Eye on Confidence in City Leadership

Greenwich Roundup

Today's long mayoral press release to get copied and pasted unmolested by the P-G's Mark Belko deals with a concept City Hall is involved in to cajole Downtown retailers into coordinating more often.

One would think the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership should have that base extremely well-covered, and indeed they seem to, together with some new websiteless Pittsburgh Downtown Community Development Corp. Perhaps an article on why there is now a "Pittsburgh Downtown CDC," on who comprises it, and on what the fact that some of them are on Mayor Ravenstahl's City Planning Commission may signify could conceivably be enlightening to somebody.

But a blurb about the PDP taking on a minor project, or learning about a new and connected CDC, would be no way for Mark Belko to satisfy his longstanding, semiweekly 1200-word quota for forwarding the contents of Yarone Zober's inspiration board.


A store remains Downtown, which is an exciting sign of great things.

Planning Commission just made the Cultural District more spectacular.  CORRECTION: This one's not bad, it's just a useful Commission meeting write-up. Not sure how it wound up on this list.

Pittsburgh Airport continues to excel at what it does.

LEAKED!! Two discount retailers mulling a move to Downtown due to its famous strength.

Millcraft/McKnight bid obviously best, because duh.

Another step forward.

Millcraft's deal falling through no concern at all.

What a steal the city got on that building!

ONE YEAR AGO: Downtown retailers should totally think about working together.

Blight designations for urban redevelopment are completely noncontroversial.

Why collect parking meter revenue? Bizarre idea!

Sports bar, lofts, chic lounge perfect for Hill District.

$1 million from sale of three buildings can in fact be spent.

One time -- one time --  I was highly impressed with a Belko article on Pens' majority owner Ron Burkle. So we know he can write and do research.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

City Council Redistricting Incites Outrage

The new map for the coming decade starting this spring (UPDATRECTION: pending preliminary and final votes) is now viewable HERE. Help me to figure out what changes it signifies. The consensus emerging is that council members Bruce Kraus and Natalia Rudiak got ganked.

The process of City Council redrawing its own boundaries to reflect population shifts had been going peaceably since June, and even that appeared handled. What issues remained near the end appeared intractable and apolitical, and being managed with a (perhaps uncharacteristic) professional unity.

Apparently that did not take. I've heard rumors so far that Bruce Kraus may have lost key supporters, that Theresa Smith was rescued from skulduggery perpetrated by an (suddenly) allegedly biased reapportionment commission, that Natalia Rudiak may have unexpected surprises and that the new candidates in District 8 may have to re-check their addresses.

A salient point is made by Rudiak. It would have been more ideal to be able to study the map one is required to vote on, even if those who drew the map are pretty sure you're going to vote no because that's kind of the point. And although the process clearly states Council members have the ultimate say, one wonders why the proposed changes couldn't be held for a week's worth of engagement with those stakeholders who are being herded around like cattle. UPDATERECTION: Though it appears, with final action still to come, that opportunity still exists.

We'll have to revisit as details emerge, but the tenor of this reminds me of the time Council in 2009 narrowly voted skip public interviews for a raft of board and commission appointments.

*-UPDATE: More reax:
So how did it get five votes? Is Council that aggressively anti-troublemaker once again, or were there simply "things" and "stuff" on the table, budgetary perhaps?

The Reapportionment Committee's final recommendation to the Council is here, for comparison purposes. More information on the process and the Committee's final report is available here.

MORE: WESA, Noah Brode

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Peduto, Lamb each to run against Establishment

Burton Morris
Those who do not learn from history lead really successful, happy lives.

Or something like that. Right?

Next year’s race for mayor of Pittsburgh started sizzling in recent days as Councilman Bill Peduto blanketed voters with campaign mailings, Controller Michael Lamb announced his candidacy and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl secured support from two major labor unions.

Peduto said he mailed 25,000 fliers to registered Democrats in the city, plus email, Twitter and Facebook postings that reached another 25,000 people, all of which sought monetary and volunteer support for his campaign.

Lamb, in response, said on Monday he will run in the May primary, a move analysts said might split the anti-incumbent vote.

“It will weaken Peduto’s chances and strengthen Ravenstahl’s,” said Moe Coleman, director emeritus of the University of Pittsburgh Institute of Politics. (Trib, Bob Bauder)


Are people really expected to give money to projects like this?

"The town has yet to oust a mayor at the ballot box in its entire electoral history... The incumbent has loads of money, power of course, enthusiastic support from certain unions and the business community... Downtown is growing, employment is high... And there's another white male challenger just over the river carrying the exact same political reform banner that I am, only marching in the opposite direction. But why don't you write me a big fat check anyway! It will be fun: opening a campaign office, hiring bright young people and cocky attorneys, playing with databases and maps. It will be like fantasy camp!"

Seriously, the fact that these gentlemen aren't working this out -- scratch that, the fact that others in the community aren't forcing these gentlemen work it out --makes me think maybe Pittsburgh doesn't merit some kind of highbrow political renaissance. The old ways are the right ways. Are you a party power broker? Have yourself a job. Are you voting against my favorite projects? Shame about those streets. Is your community desperately starved for resources? Step one is let's be friends.

Movie Fanatic
We all saw Lincoln. It might have been nice to have a debate whether there's anything wrong with politics as it's always been, or whether it's appropriate to start thinking of such things in tandem with telegraphs and horse-drawn carriages. In fact, it would have been just as nice to debate whether those perpetrating at "reform" are really any different, or simply desire the same plush, old-school power to use for themselves.

But with three? I barely had any faith in the media -- in you people -- to cover an election decently with two. With three, by the time you remind readers (sorry -- lol -- watchers) of everyone's name and home neighborhood and describe the ambiance "bickering and squabbling," there won't be any column-inches left to nurture a narrative assuming you notice one.


For what it's worth, however...

It being the end of November, I'm still not seeing how Michael Lamb's candidacy adds up. Bill Peduto has a team and infrastructure well-seasoned and assembled that has scored clear electoral victories at the State Rep and City Council levels against establishment forces. He now adds to that apparently the support of the County Executive. He has a recognizable brand, he has engendered loyalty in constituencies by having taken and maintained tough positions on-air and at the Council table as a necessity. And I'm highly suspicious he starts out with more money in the bank already and more people working the assembly line. I just don't see how Lamb is supposed to counter that by being a slightly more moderate figure, more things to more people possibly, a straight-shooter, practical, quick with a joke and to light up your smoke, politically cagey but institutionally aloof. He came in third in 2005 and didn't get a lot of electoral exercise winning reelection as Controller unopposed in 2011.

In a two-way race conducted in a test tube? Shucks, Lamb might be the better political animal for taking down Ravenstahl -- more gravitas, less threatening to some, less ornamented with Burton Morris shtick. But in the real world, with the pieces already on the table and moving? Bill Peduto is the challenger. He is the challenge, itself -- the way into the citadel is an outsider's gambit, there's no reason to believe the conventional gatekeepers can be persuaded to mutiny. I let myself wonder aloud the other day whether Ravenstahl forces were hoping Lamb would enter the race. All I can say is, if Michael has received any big checks he's not quite sure where they came from and why, he may want to do some research.

Or not. Whatever. I could be wrong. The next couple months could prove exciting and productive. Because as they say: the definition of cleverness is doing the same thing over and over again, and expecting different results.