Tuesday, December 3, 2013

#TransitionWatch: Person your Stations!

National Geographic

A few items merit some attention:

Mayor-elect Peduto's employee retirements jubilee legislation advanced in committee.

Four members voted for the bill, three abstained, and one was absent. Darlene Harris, Corey O'Connor and R. Daniel Lavelle said they needed more time to consider the bill. 
Ricky Burgess was absent but said later that he opposes it. A final vote is scheduled for next week. Burgess called the offer unfair because it's being offered to employees who “did not earn and did not deserve” it. (Trib, Bob Bauder)

Well, they do not otherwise qualify for it. It is precisely the question before the Council, whether or not they will have "earned" or "deserve" it.

Peduto argues that the total budget impact of his retrofits on city government are likely to be minimal due to other budget moves, and the fact that only roughly half of the small pool of eligible nonunion employees are expected to participate in this.

As we stated last time in a post and some comments, it should be immediately clear that hitting the ground running and without distraction will bring considerable efficiencies. And it can be construed as unfair that employees who built their lives and families' lives around the proposition that the City would operate as it always had, must now see their retirement plans exploded because all of a sudden it will operate some other way.

A specific consideration is litigiousness. If the Mayor-elect essentially proclaims for all to hear, "Sorry, I don't think you're good enough to work for me and you must go," why should a dismissed employee not respond with, "You are only getting rid of me for very bad reasons, such as prejudice or a political vendetta. Cities cannot do that. I am suing, and I am subpoenaing all sorts of things!"

Those cases might rarely be of any merit, but they would certainly satisfy the cheering throngs, and we could not prejudge a single one of them.  That makes for an annoying, time-consuming, distracting and ultimately costly slog -- especially for the city's Law Dept.

The Mayor-elect's legislation is not only an investment in a smooth transition, it seems to be measured and right-sized. The Comet very much appreciates the seeming incongruity of seeking new predictable revenue streams while making unexpected investments, but this one is a money saver in the long run.

Near the Housing Authority, things are looking a little rough:

"It sounds to me just like the pure greed of money," said Larry Blair Jr., 46, a car salesman who is president of the Oak Hill Residents Council. (P-G, Lord & Zullo)

It's a long story. Oak Hill in 2009 was quite the thing, but it sounds like the developer has been getting the short end of the stick on upkeep.

Kevin Acklin, who is heading the transition and will be Mr. Peduto's chief of staff, called the housing authority "really the only authority that we haven't found any significant cooperation with." (ibid)

Cactus McCoy
Hard to say whether this is a function of changed administrative priorities towards socioeconomic integration in certain parts of the Hill, or of a certain developer being on the political outs, or of Councilman Burgess just happening to be the Mayor-elect's nemesis, or of a personality clash within the transition and the Authority provoking increased scrutiny. But it's a messy indicator and indicative of a need to break out the scrubbing bubbles.

Elsewhere in the city center, rumor had had it that the Planning Commission would formally introduce the Penguins' plans for the Lower Hill, early next week at its final meeting of the year. While an introduction is followed later by presentations, a hearing and perhaps other measures before a vote, this might have been one case where the Mayor-elect's ability to wrangle the direction and appointment of a new Board in real time would be tested. It begins to appear however that the reality of the impasses between the Pens, the community and the next mayor have become so significant, the Penguins might be taking a quick hustle back to the drawing board. We hope it is a pivotally constructive session.

*-UPDATE: Hill groups have composed a letter to the Dept. of City Planning asking that it conduct a fair market housing study for any plan submitted for the 28 controversial acres, and are inviting other interested groups across Pittsburgh to cosign it.

Finally, the Pittsburgh Comet is humbled to disclose that we are working on the Mayor-Elect's City Ethics Hearing Board subcommittee of the Law and Ethics transition team. It should go without saying that this is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius.

After inspirational introductions by the Mayor-elect and his apostles, roughly fifteen of us were ushered into a spacious college classroom for more specific guidance and instruction from Solicitor-designate Lourdes Sanchez Ridge. Then we were left to it. Our subcommittee has a couple of past members of the Ethics Board to provide insiders' perspectives, and more than enough attorneys besides.

Using the "I Will Make Sure Everybody Gets To Talk" gambit, I ruthlessly seized the chairmanship and proceeded to do pretty much only that. Here is what the team came up with in terms of goals, preliminarily:

For Dec. 2013:
1) Mission statement
2) Identify best criteria mix for Board Members
3) Provide justifications, specifications of funding / support needs

For Peduto's first 100 days:
1) Have that board operational
2) ID opportunities for improvement in the code
3) Have given top City employees (executives, directors, asst. dirs) updated training
4) Clarify Ethics Board reporting duties

For the first 6 months:
1) All City employees trained up.
2) Adequate public reporting of routine Ethics Board business online
3) Be funded through legitimate budget lines or foundation boost

One year:
1) All City / City-County Authority personnel as well as Contractors trained & addressed.

What do you think? What did your transition team do?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Charitable Holiday Fundraiser and Online Competition!

At Task Work Management

We here at the Comet have a soft spot for Community Human Services Corp., and in the winter months particularly its Holiday Gift Project.

This year the blog I heart PGH has set a goal to inspire 100 different people to contribute online by Wednesday's party at Hough's, and invited us to help them spread the word.

Also, its lead editor proposed a little contest:  which of our online readerships can raise the most in donations by December 15, for providing the small holiday gifts such as gift cards for the many Pittsburghers who participate in CHS's several programs?

We have our work cut out for us. I heart PGH is a wonderful and longstanding information source for cool events, new and exciting places around town, and resources for getting the most out of City living. The Comet is going to do something different:  harness the power of rage and bitterness to inspire a generous public attitude.

Donate via the Pittsburgh Comet's own fundraising portal and spread some dark holiday love!

Cities are built by entrepreneurs and by monarchs or other military or political rulers, to exploit natural resources and various advantages, and then to exploit the large, diversified labor pools drawn to economic opportunity. Clever people enjoy living in dense communities with abundant opportunities for education, commerce and culture as well. Before long, regional and global industrial conglomerates as well as banks take the reigns to a significant extent. Things take on a life of their own. Among other things we encourage high property values especially Downtown, we design neighborhoods, arteries and regions for the conveniences for the most mobile, we thrive on the might of a profit-based health care industry. Many of us continue to enjoy very much the blessings of our cities, but how do we address issues of mental illnesses, physical limitations or traumas, addiction, poverty, poor education, malnutrition, incarceration and other hardships among families with children and all those less than fully adaptable to the demands and pressures of competition?

In a recent effort to restore some perceived semblances of balance, Occupy Pittsburgh came in for lots of justifiable criticism (from within and without) for its lack of capacity to sustain a population accounting for homelessness, transience and common urban social problems, and for contributing towards a scene of devolution and disarray. But if there's anyone out there in Comet Country fortunate and able enough to be working high up in industry, or in real estate, or at a bank, or a major law firm, or is just a regular semi-well-off hipster or townie, might I suggest as humbly as possible, if the thought had not occurred already:  that we have convened Pittsburgh for a reason. Agglomerations of human misery is the price of doing so much business, and having so much enjoyment. Let's all do our best to clean up after ourselves, and to take care of Pittsburgh's less fortunate denizens as sustainably as possible. That can begin with affording them a little dignity, such as the opportunity to shop for a suitable gift like winter gloves or a children's' doll.

Thank goodness there are organizations like CHS doing the heavy lifting and making it relatively easy. Until we can do better and more than rely on charitable giving, donate via the Comet's portal or through or to whom anyone else you prefer. Let's beat I heart PGH, and happy Sparkle Season!

And if you can, go to the party in Greenfield on Wednesday!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Loading: Transition Watch updates...

Tim McNulty at the P-G covers the Gang of 1200 and Aaron Aupperlee at the Trib notes more advice coming incoming from Harvard to Youngstown.