Friday, March 30, 2007

Bush-speak in the Burgh?

WTAE and the Post-Gazette clearly do not see eye to eye on matters of a disaster preparedness plan.

WTAE's article yesterday, Downtown Disaster Evacuation Plan Topic of Concern, left the reader thinking that there is some work to do:

"We have some very crude and preliminary ideas about evacuation," said Public Safety Director Michael Huss. "But there is not a Downtown evacuation plan, per se."
Yet, a PG article today, City disaster preparedness praised, tells us that the head of emergency and disaster response operations for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Glenn Cannon, was in town yesterday praising Pittsburgh for its, "outstanding level of preparedness for disasters".
"Pittsburgh's level of preparedness is outstanding," he said. "It is a model and a best practices model recognized by the Homeland Security Department."
Is this another case of, "Good Job, Brownie"?

Thursday, March 29, 2007

McNeilly Case: How Regan Muscled Chief Costa

The process that Former Police Chief Costa described in an interview about how Denny Regan forced his hand to promote Officer Rende gives you a close look at greasy Pittsburgh politics in action. The section of the interview I post below captures what Judge Ambrose means in her ruling.

From Judge Ambrose's preliminary injunction ruling, a poignant quote excerpted by The Burgh Report:

"Furthermore, let me make something very clear. Contrary to how some may perceive this case, this case is not about corruption in the Police Department. It is about allegations of wrongdoing and improper and undue influence by officials within the Mayor's office in Police Department matters."
Former Police Chief Dominic Costa interview conducted by Office of Municipal Investigations Adminstrator Kathy Kraus on behalf of Acting City Solicitor George Specter:

Q: Do you believe – or do you – were you ordered to make Frank Rende a detective or did he ask you?

A: No, it was an order. He said – as a matter of fact, I said that -- he knew that my feelings that Frank wasn’t working, and I told him that about stats and things like that before, and Frank still wasn’t working, and then when he was there, it was definitely, when I said, well, I can look at it and he said, I want him moved, and I want them moved --- I want them graded detectives. And he says and I want it done now.

Q: So you didn’t feel you had any option not to do it?

A: Oh, no, it was an order. It was no question, it was an order to do it. Because if it wasn’t – had it been a request, I wouldn’t have done it because two of the officers’ stats weren’t up to – what I believe was defective quality.

Q: Did – did Dennis Regan ever ask you to change any other officer’s assignments?

A: No.

Earlier in the interview there is more detail on how Regan forced Costa's hand, the disciplinary action report on Rende and how he wasn't 'counseled' within 120 days, and earlier complaints from Rende (pushed by Regan) that he wasn't getting enough off-duty assignments. Well, that's because the assignments are akin to a taxpayer subsidized under-the-table racket. And it has been proven untrue that Rende didn't get a fair share of assignments. It's also strange that Rende needs to be explicitly counseled about why calling off of work sick and working side jobs isn't OK. Then again, if it isn't documented it didn't happen, right? Ugh, bureaucracy. You can also see how little Regan was aware of police policy and 'graded' detective status. In any case, the interview (linked above) is not too long and worth a read.

And Doug Shields is going to cover-up Mayor Ravenstahl's error and prevent a council discussion on this issue? For real?

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Grant St. vs Main St.

First the paddlefish and now this story about the mayor suing the owner of a property in Larimer and threatening to seize it because it is a nuisance property. The problem is that some neighbors "went to bat" for the house and didn't want the little candy and pop store that operated out of the abandoned house to be bothered. The issue that this story raises to me is about who defines nuisance properties and who defines "development".

The mayor's 311 line was set up to handle just this sort of complaint about a nuisance property. Was the mayor responding to calls on the 311 line? It isn't clear.

Lord's article suggests that neighbors don't seem to mind the property.

Several neighbors had no complaints about the house. They said no one lives there, but someone operates a candy and soda shop inside.

"People, they just be chillin' there," said Omari Thompson, an 18-year-old security guard who lives nearby. "A cop drives by, sees them outside, and then they go inside, and [the police] think something's wrong."
This young guy lives nearby and doesn't seem to think there's a problem. He suggests that police suspicion is the nuisance because the little store is serving some function in their corner of Larimer.
Twanda Carlisle thinks:
"I can name 100 [properties] in council District 9 that should be on the most-wanted list and are in areas that are slated for development," said Councilwoman Twanda Carlisle, who represents the neighborhood.
Well, we'll dismiss that on grounds that she isn't a credible source.
Larimer community activist and council candidate Ora Lee Carroll, though, said there's "more than candy going out of there. ... I view that property as blatantly blighted and it needs to be [demolished]."
Now that seems like another credible source for the neighborhood.

The issue is who decides on what is a nuisance property. We'd like to think this occurs on Main St., by the members of a particular community or residents who live near the property in question. That way members of a particular community are actively addressing needs in their community and contacting the city to do something about it; maybe through the 311 line. In this case, it appears to be Grant St. making the decisions. In this way, community members are passive onlookers of what is happening in their neighborhood. And, when you look at the photo from the PG above, a bunch of white folks from city hall are coming in to Larimer to say what can and can't happen. Where some stakeholders feel that this abandoned house is serving a neighborhood function, others see it as a nuisance and an obstacle to development.

If you want to learn more about what "development" around East Liberty (near Larimer) or 'Eastside' means to folks in that neighborhood I'd recommend watching the excellent documentary from Chris Ivey, "East of Liberty". Interesting perspectives on Carlisle, Ferlo, and East Liberty Development Corporation.

UPDATE: A press release from the mayor's office:
“We will insist that all of these properties are shut down, boarded up and torn down, if need be. They are blight to our neighborhoods and our way of life. If the owners won’t correct the situation, on behalf of all law abiding citizens and property owners, we will.”
I take issue with the mayor feeling that he has the right to liberally state "our way of life". What does he know about life in Larimer on Shetland St.? I think my point about "doing for" instead of "doing with" is pretty clear after reading this statement.

I think the look on this woman's face, whoever she is, captures the skepticism about the mayor's intentions I tried to explain in the paragraphs above.

Ferlo and Doyle

Or should I have titled this post Hook, Line and Sinker? Before a any challenger to Ravenstahl was announced, both Ferlo and Doyle were publicly backing Ravenstahl. Why? I suspect it is for reasons of a vacuum of leadership in the mayor's office. While reading yesterday's PG article on the mayoral race I thought about Sen. Ferlo's comments. When characterizing Peduto's withdrawal from the race, Rich Lord states that:

Some say that's bad for democracy and will allow issues to fester, while others argue that it gives a city shaken by turbulence a chance for some smooth flying.
The latter of these characterizations is championed by Sen. Ferlo. He was quoted in the article as saying, "I just thought we needed to take a collective breath and enjoy some stability". And, I mean, how can you not respect Ferlo. He came to the political scene from a background in community organizing, always advocating for progressive social issues, and staunchly antiwar. That's why it's so difficulty to digest why he was such an early and strong supporter of Ravenstahl on this election, 'the' guy who argued against the bubble zone ordinance as city councilman and for eliminating the shade tree fund. In November, Ferlo stated:
Mr. Ravenstahl "has quickly won me over as a convert and I will be working to support his election with all the resources I can muster."
Convert? I'm not sure. Opportunistic choice? I'd agree. Ravenstahl's chief of staff, Yarone Zober, was previously an aide to Ferlo. Yarone is board chair of the URA. Ferlo sits as a board member. Ferlo can pick up the phone and directly influence any issue in the city. For any future plans in his political career, Ravenstahl remaining in office is his choice to consolidate a wider base of voters for any future political moves he might make. Any change in the mayor's office would entail a potential threat to his and Zober's position in the URA and also his influence in the city. Ravenstahl's social values reflect a conservative Catholic position and not the progressive humanistic Catholic values embodied in Thomas Merton or the Berrigans. You think Ravenstahl's personal values are what appeal to Ferlo? No, I think a vacuum of leadership and an opportunity to influence the Pittsburgh political landscape are much more likely reasons for his support.

And Doyle, another representative from this region who any progressive would have to admit, at least for the most part, reflects their views on his voting in congress. Back in Dec. he said:
"We have seen the consequences when we have somebody who can't work with the state and federal delegation," said Mr. Doyle, D-Forest Hills, in an obvious reference to Mayor Tom Murphy, who criticized legislators. "I don't see any reason to break up a great team."
I guess the unprofessionalism in taking that late night trip to NYC, $285,000 paid out of city revenues (with another couple hundred thousand to come for McNeilly's lawyer's fees) to clean up corruption regarding the mayor's wisdom in choosing appointees, lying, and co-opting other's ideas are good enough reasons to back this young man. For Doyle, the argument is slightly harder to make on opportunism but the motivating factor has got to be for future political aspirations. I'd welcome any perpective on this one because I've been struggling to figure it out.

What is clear is that Ravenstahl, Ferlo, and Doyle are hook, line and sinker. Ravenstahl's smile pretty, "move Pittsburgh fahrd" and Ferlo's and Doyle's supporters forced to question what these guys see in Ravenstahl culminated in a mayor's race that was less about issues and more about shooting fish in a barrel.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Mayor Doing Nothing in Pittsburgh for Past 10 days?

Well, the rivers have been dangerously swollen this week, flooding the Mon Wharf parking lot and making the fishing terribly slow. Hooked into a nasty Allegheny Whitefish on Tuesday and many of the fish were turned off on Wednesday but I had a suspicion they were still there. I was wondering about these lame conditions and searched for some information that would help me choose the right lure out of the tacklebox.

I went to the mayor's page on the city website to see what the heck was going on. For much of the mayor's time in office, Dick Skrinjar hasn't missed a beat and hasn't gone more than 5-6 days without telling us all the important things that the mayor has been doing. The last important thing Mayor Ravenstahl has done according to these press releases was praising Irish spirit on March 13. As of today, that was 10 days ago.

For a mayor who was providing press releases about every 5-6 days and who is responsible for the city that seems odd. After snubbing Hill District leaders and needing to work out a number issues concerning city residents and the arena one would think we would be kept abreast of the 'progress' on this issue. One might think that a press release is in order for sharing details on the mayor's tax-abatement plan which was promised to the public back in February. Of course, that plan was never a tool for curb appeal in a mayoral campaign to begin with. One might think we would learn about how Pittsburgh is "moving forward". But no, we haven't heard about anything the mayor has been doing for 10 days.

Looking a bit more carefully, press releases were released about every 2 days (sometimes 2-3 a day) on the city website once Peduto formerly announced his bid for mayor. So, every 5-6 days since he took office and every 1-2 days since he was a candidate. Hmmm. I wonder if Skrinjar has been too busy training Ravenstahl to tell-the-truth-ese or if Ravenstahl has been too busy learning on the job to get anything done.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Pittsburgh Isn’t Ready for Peduto

It’s not a sprint race. It’s a marathon.

After reviewing many of the articles and comments in the Burghosphere since Peduto’s withdrawal, I am compelled to offer my perspective. I really respect and understand the let down among those bloggers who’s political hopes Peduto represented in the campaign. How many faults have we found with the Ravenstahl administration and with Ravenstahl himself? And now he may go uncontested and in power until at least 2009? Ugh! When all the sophisticated techniques of campaigning tell you that the town doesn’t want to hear about issues and wants to “give the kid a chance” we learn that Pittsburgh isn’t ready for Peduto. Whether or not we need a Peduto is another question entirely.

But real political change has never come abruptly. Look at the shift in public opinion on the Iraq War in this country. In a town that doesn’t like change this process may take even longer. I say this as an outsider. I’m originally from a place that’s sunny and warm but have come to love Pittsburgh. Though I’ve been in town for quite some time, to a degree, I’ll always feel like an outsider because I wasn’t raised here. Yet the old world political patronage system, Ravenstahl epitomizing its dangers, makes a fisherman who wants to stay in town consider leaving.

Cojones or Brains? Sure, Peduto could have stayed in the race and taken Ravenstahl to task, even going negative. But what happens when you go negative, having your issues defined as tools for political curb appeal, and it backfires? What happens to those issues in the public’s perception when they are raised again by future candidate?

Peduto was asked (by Rick Earle?) during the press conference something about, “don’t the voters deserve an alternative to Ravenstahl”. Peduto replied that he learned that the voters were not interested in Ravenstahl’s positions, they wanted to ‘give the kid a chance’. In the press conference, Peduto must have been referring to internal polling and learned that voters were, in fact, concerned with issues such as public safety, neighborhood revitalization and economic development. But when voters were asked why they were supporting Ravenstahl they replied, ‘give the kid a chance’. Peduto noted the logical disconnect but that red herring still holds up as a belief that drives voter behavior. What do you do with this knowledge? Three options are possible:

  1. Run an honest, issue-based campaign and go ahead with the exercise in futility? The result still remains that Pittsburgh isn’t ready at this time for Peduto.
  2. Run a negative campaign? Risk the issues you care about and appear as a political opportunist with no guarantee that this strategy will result in victory?
  3. Drop out of the primary and reassess strategy on how to push these progressive reform issues into city government? Risk temporarily or permanently alienating some of your base while retaining the option to run again in the future without having the issues you care about dismissed in a race that is not about the issues.

Sure, you can criticize the Peduto campaign. Not having position papers available on its website was one I’ve read. Who was paying attention to the issues, the 20 or so concerned bloggers? It certainly wasn’t the public, the press, or the Ravenstahl campaign. The Burgh Report did a good job of criticizing the PG's role in preventing an issues based campaign.

So we’ll have to wait to see what happens. The issues still remain on the table and bloggers will still hold Ravestahl's feet to the fire. “The battle is not about me, it’s not even about this campaign…it’s about reforming the city”, Peduto said. Since Ravenstahl has a habit of stealing Peduto’s ideas, who knows where this will all go? What is clear for now is that Pittsburgh, for whatever the many reasons, is not ready for Peduto. And how can you blame the guy for recognizing that?

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Luke Comes Clean About NYC Trip

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Ravenstahl Swimming with Sharks

After all the hoopla regarding Ravenstahl's cozying-up to Penguins owner, billionaire Ron Burkle, the interim mayor has a number of questions to answer about his campaign finances. Less apparent is why the heck Ed Rendell's deputy director for Western PA, Kevin Kinross, and Ravenstahl are chumming around with Burkle.

The Allegheny Institute for Public Policy released a policy brief on Friday with a number of criticisms upon examinination of the Pens' deal. Granted, the Allegheny Institute is a rather conservative organization oriented on market-friendly solutions to public policy, its criticisms raise a number of concerns. Major points made in the document are as follows:

  1. The first concern is that the Sports and Exhibition Authority (SEA) will pay the team $8.5 million for the former St. Francis Hospital site. The team bought the site in anticipation of a new arena and it was to count as their up-front contribution to the project. Now they will receive its value in cash.
  2. The source for the likely $10 million in overrun costs for which the public is responsible has still not yet been determined.
  3. The state has agreed to fund marketing expenses incurred by the Penguins in promoting the team, amounting to a gift of $2 million.
  4. The Penguins have development rights to the entire Mellon Arena site and the SEA will compensate them with $15 million in what is called a redevelopment credit. This means the team will get the first $15 million worth of prime Pittsburgh real estate for free and if the team doesn't use it within 10 years, the team receives the balance in cash from the SEA.
Why wouldn't Burkle invite these two charming lads on his private jet and pick up the tab for dinner and drinks in Manhattan? A few thousand bucks for the trip is a small investment for the return he gets from these public officials for his team.

Why did it appear to the public that the city, county, and state were in conflict with the Penguins during the negotiations when the Pens were already fairly confident they would get a good deal (see point 1 above)? If there were some conflicts in the details, and, indeed, it is likely that there were, it is obvious they never escalated to the point where it would have prevented Rendell's representative, the mayor of Pittsburgh, and the owner of the team from fraternizing. And they weren't having beers and a NY slice at Gramercy Park Hotel - it ain't exactly a working-class joint.

Only two premises are possible. One is that Luke is competent in his role as mayor. If this is the case, and he contributed substantially to the negotiations of the deal, then he is helping to feed the taxpayers to the sharks. He believes that flaunting his new relationship with Burkle is OK and would accept a campaign contribution from him. He was aware of the disappearing line between his public role as a mayor (whose time on the clock is paid for by taxpayers) and his role as candidate but went along with the trip anyhow. He was aware of the historically significant and sincere concerns of Hill District residents and community leaders but decided it was sufficient to send Zober instead.

The other is that Luke is not competent in his role as mayor. If this is the case, then he is being fed upon by the sharks. Being wined and dined in an upscale Manhattan institution has to be exciting for a 27 year old and he was overcome with the excitement. This suggests that he is, in fact, immature for the position and risks being swayed on issues where, as a representative of city residents, he should take a stand (even an unpopular one with the Pens' owner if necessary) on behalf of his constituents. Being so impressionable is dangerous for the city. He wasn't aware of the disappearing line between his role (and finances) as mayor and candidate. He wasn't aware of the historical significance between arena and the lower Hill and can be excused for being too hung over (excuse me, "unable" because of inadequate flight schedules) to make the meeting.

In either case, Luke is swimming with sharks and the water is dangerous.

And, finally, the mayor had time for an overnight trip to NY but didn't have the time to debate his opponent before the public?

Mayor Ravenstahl Snubs Paddlefish

You may recall the brief history about the Paddlefish community of the Lower Hill District in a previous post. Today, Jeremy Boren reports that the mayor initially lied to the Trib about traveling to New York on a billionaire Ron Burkle's plane to be treated to a late dinner and drinks at a posh Manhattan hotel.

After last Tuesday's announcement, Ravenstahl attended the Penguins game against the Buffalo Sabres at Mellon Arena with team co-owner Ron Burkle, who invited him onto his private jet and treated the mayor to a meal at the Gramercy Park Hotel in Manhattan.

Ravenstahl initially told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Monday morning that he did not travel to New York, but he changed his story in the afternoon after the Trib confronted him with more details about the overnight trip.
Well, the story has confirmed Skip's suspicions that:
  1. Ravenstahl isn't aware of the important and delicate issue about the arena and the Hill.
  2. Ravenstahl feels that a meeting with Ron Burkle outweighs the opportunity to meet with Hill District community leaders.
  3. Ravenstahl lies.
  4. Ravenstahl is NOT in charge.

To point #4 above, Ravenstahl admits:
"Unfortunately, I wasn't in town at the time," he said. "Yarone was there. He handled everything on our side."
Well, that's not exactly true. His passive voice, "I wasn't there" actually doesn't express that he made a decision, he chose, to not be at the meeting. Danny O met with community leaders and he's the boss, right? Yarone was there? and handled everything? Board chair of the URA who cares for community driven development, right?
The men arrived in New York City about midnight. Ravenstahl and Kinross [friend of Ravenstahl and deputy director of Rendell's Western PA office] had dinner and drinks with Burkle and some of his friends. Burkle picked up the tab, Ravenstahl said.
When asked about the evening, Ravenstahl said he did not know where he ate.
Ravenstahl and Kinross went to the home of a friend of Kinross to stay for the night.
The mayor said he did not remember what part of town he spent the night.

Didn't remember where he ate or what part of town he spent the night? Is that because "we were fuckin' drinking Miller Lites n'shit all night dude - we were fuckin' fucked up!" or is it because no one told him where he ate or where he slept? I mean, he doesn't know anything unless someone tells him so, first. Smile pretty, "move Pittsburgh fahrd". Apparently Mr. Boren knew these little details because he simply asked Kinross.

To point #3 above, Mr. Boren points out another lie Ravenstahl told the press and public.
On Jan. 18, after denying it for months, he acknowledged that police handcuffed and detained him before a 2005 Steelers game at Heinz Field. He never was charged.
We could add that there is no police report to document that incident. And that he's lied on a number of other occasions, at the 14th Ward candidate's night for instance.

Finally, we get a picture of how politicos and business owners fraternize and form the good ol' boy network that runs much of our, and every other, government (and I refrain from saying democracy).

Ravenstahl said he would report last week's free plane ride and dinner on his campaign finance forms and is considering whether to reimburse Burkle for the cost of the flight.

"Quite honestly, it's not common for me to speak with the media about my campaign activity because it is something that, you know, is strategic and it's not something that I necessarily wanted to share," Ravenstahl said.

So, this is what campaign activity looks like. Riding in billionaire's private jets, living the good life in Manhattan, and talking politics. You think Burkle just likes Luke and wants to share his wisdom? You don't think he wanted the ear of this young impressionable but powerful head of the city that hosts the hockey team he owns? And what does this political consultation cost - in dollars and to the taxpayers?

Paddlefish community- I'm sorry. I'm sorry we have a mayor who isn't concerned about showing you he wants to prevent yet another colossal injury to your community. I'm sorry that your anger isn't represented in the local media - that Rev. Johnnie Monroe thinks it's OK that your mayor chooses to not attend your meeting. I'm disgusted. Hopefully you'll be heard.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Another Old Tire: Still in Use

Yup, that's right. An old tire that should have been discarded long long ago is still being used for something. Today, the Trib reports that the Public Works and the Police Dept has been working together to remove graffiti from public property and businesses. The paper reminds us that the police bureau has set up a graffiti task force and that Frank Rende is one of their detectives. For those not familiar with Detective Rende, he's the police officer who called in sick so that he could work side jobs. He's the officer who responds to a domestic call on from a depressed and drunk woman on the South Side, finishes his shift, changes clothes, then returns to the home of that call and engages in a 'sex act' with the woman who originally called the police dept. He's the brother of Marlene Cassidy, Executive Secretary to Mayor Ravenstahl, and live-in partner of Dennis Regan. Regan is the former Director of Operations, appointed by Mayor Ravenstahl, who overturned the disciplining (firing) of Officer Rende. Senior police Commander Catherine McNeilly blew the whistle on Regan's meddling in police affairs and was demoted. She was demoted by Mayor Ravenstahl for pointing all of this out but eventually won her case and was reinstated to Commander. "Giving the kid (Mayor Ravenstahl) a chance" will likely cost city taxpayers upwards of $100,000. And Rende is now detective on the graffiti taskforce. Great that he won't be responding to many domestic calls. Like the old tire, this scandal goes round and round the mayor's office.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Old Tires in River Mud

The Ravenstahl administration has touted its continued leadership on the Redd Up campaign, initiated by the O'Connor administration. Ravenstahl once told Skip that while the Redd Up program was a good idea it was by no means a cheap program; think of all the equipment and labor that is required of DPW to remove debris, demolish unsafe buildings, and board up abandoned houses. While the administration can spend about $30,000 towards a targeted mailer for the campaign about the, already widely known, 311 line, it hasn't bothered spend the 30 seconds needed to update the contact information for the Redd Up campaign. It may be a simple oversight. It may be an expression of neglect for a citywide program that doesn't yield any new exposure for the incumbent candidate.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Way Upstream on the Mon

Years ago, before I took to fishin' like it was my job, I used to work in McKeesport. The commute from Pittsburgh that defied traffic at rush hour gave me the chance to listen to some news on the radio and take in the scenery. Most of that scenery was depressing to me only because the Mon Valley has struggled to renew itself after the fleeing steel mills. The great views of the hills in N.Versailles and the pocket below the Westinghouse bridge which was the thriving community of Turtle Creek lie to you from afar. Up close they serve as reminders of the downsides of globablization.

Well, wasn't much fishin' on the Mon with all the rain 'n sleet n'at, so I stopped in town for a cup of coffee to find a little gem of a blog, The Tube City Almanac. It's main author, Jason Togyer, can be applauded for creating the cartoon above. I just thought it really captures a dimension of the greasiness of the Ravenstahl campaign. While it's hard to qualify this one, breaking campaign financing laws by trying to blur the line between public office and private campaigning is not, but it's greasy business I tell ya.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Paddlefish and Penguins

I decided to throw some top water baits today to see how the relatively warm weather has contributed to fish activity. Casting near the riverbank, I was surprised to hook into a beautiful paddlefish. Realising what a precious fish was on my line, I gently released it back into the water. A Paddlefish community once thrived in the lower Hill District, immortalized in the documentary Wylie Avenue Days, but was destroyed because of the loss of community habitat. As ecologist Mindy Fullilove writes in Rootshock,

The Urban Renewal Act of 1949 set in motion urban renewal projects in cities across the United States. Urban renewal, especially at the outset, was a program designed to clear large areas of “slum” housing to make way for modern develop-ments. In general, the cleared land was sold to private developers for use in new developments designed to extend the central business district or to attract middle income residents. In either case, the former residents of the area were relocated outside the renewal district.........
In 1961, for example, African Americans were 10% of the US population, but 66% of residents of areas slated for urban renewal. A particular hardship of Urban Renewal was that it strengthened segregation. African Americans were forced out of the renewal areas, but only were able to move to other ghetto areas.
One of the case studies for her book was the construction of The Civic Arena and she examines the lingering traumatic stress reactions to the destruction of one's emotional ecosystem. Many lower Hill District residents were forcibly dislocated to other areas in Pittsburgh, and we can now see that contribution to segregation among Pittsburgh's otherwise lovely neighborhoods.

OK, so I'll sharpen my hook here. WTAE publishes a story this morning entitled Businesses Around Pens' Arena Site Excited. The article finds that Paul Newmaster, general manager of Marriott City Center, is excited that the Pens are staying in town. However, Evan Frazier, President of Hill House Association states that, "The community needs to be engaged as talks continue about development of the lower Hill". Very right, Mr. Frazier. Hill District residents were not invited to participate in the 'development' of The 'Civic' Arena the first time around.

Do we have a city leader who embraces community and grassroots organizations and both understands and emphasizes Pittsburgh history? Well, it seems as though suspicions of Luke's lack of leadership on the Pens issue, and always include symbolic leadership under this category, were vindicated today in a PG editorial. Credit apparantly goes to Ed Rendell, who led the delegation of public officials crafting the deal, according to the editorial. And what was Luke's role in the negotiations? Oh, just like his leadership in saving public transit, it's obviously to smile pretty and "move Pittsburgh fahrd".

UPDATE: Gee, after I wrote and posted this morning I find Ann Belser publishing, "Onorato talks with Hill residents about arena" in the PG around midday. Now tell me, case in point, who's the Boss? Why isn't Luke talking with Hill residents about the arena?

WTAE published an updated story this afternoon reporting that Onorato said he "wants the Hill District's community leaders to have early input and involvement during that approval process, so that there's consensus on any plan." Great Dan but I ask again, WHERE'S LUKE???

Tribune-Review Columnist Eric Heyl answered my question on what Luke's role was in negotiating the deal. He writes, "I heard he brought the Cheetos and dip to last week's pivotal negotiating session."

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Allegheny Whitefish Report

Howdy there fellow anglers. After reading such insightful analysis on other burgh blogs, Ol' Skip just had to chime in.

Since the weather was so inviting, it was a perfect day to get out on the rivers. I set up with some heavy weight to fish the bottom to see if the catfish are bitin' and boy did I get a hold of a big one this afternoon. Unfortunately, it wasn't a catfish. An Allegheny Whitefish that got flushed down on Grant Street made its way to the bottom of the river and onto my hook.

After reading the Admiral's post on the mayor's overdue tax abatement plan I decided to call up Bernie Lynch (Director of Grants and Development, a top cabinet member in the mayor's office) to ask if there was a formal release date for the mayor's plan. Someone answered Bernie's line with "Kim Graziani's office". I confusingly asked if it this number was Bernie Lynch's office, the number I called. The woman stated that Bernie no longer works for the mayor. I asked if there was a formal release date for the tax abatement plan and she was not aware of one.

I was a bit shocked to hear that Bernie was no longer working for the mayor's office (read 'fired' here) but recalled the shenanigans over the summer when Mayor O'Connor was sick and there was a dirty power struggle in the mayor's office. Staff who were suspected to be 'disloyal' to Mayor O'Connor were fired and, in former county chief executive Roddey's words, "we've replaced the professionals with political hacks." The article reminds us that this is when O'Connor appointed loyalist Dennis Regan as Chief of (hack) Staff who, in turn, appointed parasite Yaronne Zober as the city's director of general services (a department the administration was planning to eliminate). Following this logic, Bernie Lynch must have been loyal enough to O'Connor to not have been fired last summer. But was she disloyal to Flip Flop (flipflop fish aren't keepers) Ravenstahl? Why would a veteran cabinet member who has past experience in property development in the mayor's office get fired? What did Dick Skrinjar, who worked closely with her in the last administration, have to do with or say about it? Any theories fellow anglers?

Well, that's the fishing report for today. Hopefully, we catch some fish next time and not more of the garbage that makes its way into the rivers.