Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Casinarena and Community Coalitions

The bigger the coalition, the bigger the fish to fry. The organizing force in the Hill is growing and developers and public officials have a problem on their hands. And that's a good thing. If our mayor weren't lollygagging in NYC last month and missing meetings with Hill District leaders to listen to their concerns he might have been able to take proactive measures to prevent a coalition from forming. Both he and Onorato also could have considered these likely concerns prior to establishing the contract with the Penguins. Rich Lord reports today, "Groups unite to demand arena benefits".

Thanks to pre-existing organizing infrastructure of UNITEHERE and SEIU, the Pittsburgh UNITED coalition is an umbrella group of 15 organization which will demand arena benefits. Its membership is growing. PIttsburgh UNITED has not endorsed the 'terms sheet' provided by Milliones' group last week. In case you missed last week's post, it's here.

Hopefully, her group will join Pittsburgh UNITED and not allow public officials and developers to play coalitions in competition against one another and defeat both their aims. One of those aims on the 'term sheet', according to Lord, was for the Hill to share in arena revenues. According to The Allegheny Institute's documentation on how the public was shafted in the arena deal, revenues generated by ALL arena events remain under control of the Penguins. If this is the case, no one will be able to argue for sharing revenues since this arrangement is already in contract with the Penguins.

Other demands such as minority and women owned business contracting is already set in guidelines passed by the city. Good reporting work on monitoring adherence to these guidelines has been done by Christian Morrow of the Courier here and here. Given that the arena is a joint city-county project it will be interesting to see how this will play out. According to Morrow (last paragraph of the first article), pass-through contracting is already being utilized.

It is likely that compromise will have to be reached on creative community benefits as Lord describes in the article such as those in the Staples' Center or the Atlantic Yards development.

Mr. Ravenstahl said, "I think that's fair for them to have a seat at the table". Yes, I believe so.
That's why there was such opposition to having the casino built in the Hill and why it is important to consider what to do with the site of the current/old arena. Lord writes, "The Penguins have said they will meet with Hill residents and consider their concerns, and Mr. Onorato said he's trying to schedule a meeting for next week. It's not yet clear whether alliance leaders will be at that meeting." I'll continue to harp on the leadership issue again but why isn't Ravenstahl, instead of Onorato, try to schedule these meetings? What does it say when Onorato is symbolically the leader in these negotiations? One interpretation is that our 'fresh leadership' mayor is so 'fresh' that he doesn't have the seasoned negotiating skills to navigate the concerns of all of the stakeholders in this matter.

"We don't settle until we all settle," said Hoffman, SEIU programs director. That includes North Siders concerned with casino construction. Will that grow to include organizations from other neighborhoods within the city that want casinarena benefits? It's going to be interesting to see how this unfolds.


According to the PG, the city wants to relocate the last remaining synagogue in the Hill District to build the new arena.

City-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority officials disclosed yesterday that they are seeking to relocate the Beth Hamedrash Hagadol-Beth Jacob synagogue on Colwell Street to clear the way for the $290 million arena.
Rabbi Stanley J. Savage said he had heard nothing about a possible relocation.

"I just think it's a shame that the last of 23 synagogues can't stay here," he said.

Funny how the rabbi of the synagogue in question had "heard nothing" about the plans. Think about the 'Grant St. vs Main St.' mindset of development. Perhaps the seeds to an addition to the community coalition have been planted.


Anonymous said...

Happens... Such casual concurrence