Budget dogfight shows Matt Smith, Frank Dermody have issues with Peduto

Both gentlemen hail from our suburbs; one from Mt. Lebanon, the other from Oakmont.

Both are Democrats, at the apex of the party’s two legislative pyramids.

Yet if the city’s secondary financial oversight board is still stonewalling over $20 million in casino money, they must somehow be at odds with the City of Pittsburgh.

“They’re creating a $20 million deficit and I don’t think they realize that they’re doing it,” [City Finance Director Paul Leger] said. “By June I would have expected about $7 million in the kitty. If we don’t have $7 million in the next several months we’re in trouble. (P-G, Robert Zullo)

Contentiousness with the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (ICA) had been easier to explain when Republicans held its majority, and when Mayor Ravenstahl brought his own special style to bear.

Now, with a Democrat in the Governor’s mansion and a reasonable partner on Grant Street, we are not sure what is the problem.

Nominally, the bone of contention is Continue reading

On how my neighbor Salena Zito maligns half of America and probably makes stuff up

Screen Shot 2015-03-25 at 7.26.54 AMWe at the Comet used to refer to ourselves in the royal “we” and enjoyed attacking deserving local targets in plain terms — politicians, journalists, even other bloggers. It was awesome!

Eventually we began encountering most of our subjects in real life, where things can get socially uncomfortable, and, hypothetically, costly in terms of opportunity. For what “good” is notoriety if you’re notable for hurting other peoples’ feelings and reputations? Isn’t slamming people on the Internet only a winning proposition for those still confined to “Mom’s basement”?

Besides, we’re all only Pittsburghers, after all. We should take each others’ sides no matter what.

And isn’t politics a trite and nerdy thing to actually get upset over, anyway?

Demand is booming for all sorts of political products, and everyone deserves to be able to pay the mortgage. Don’t hate the player, hate the game; show you understand that “game” by  Continue reading

Reasonability of police fears may sanction prejudice, injustice

To protect and serve is to enforce the law. Doing the job means making lots of choices and responding to various adversities, but one cannot spell “enforce” without “force.” The policing community is rooted in proud tradition, heeds its elders and serves many masters.

A thrashing was witnessed in Downtown Pittsburgh last week:

[Devon] Davis, listed as homeless, was wanted on bench warrants for failing to appear in court for two cases — one in which officials said he sold heroin to a confidential informant then led police on a 200-yard foot chase, and another in which they said he urinated in public, prompting officers to search his car, where they found heroin and a gun he was legally prohibited from possessing because of a prior conviction.

About 3 p.m. Wednesday, a bail agent told police that Davis had been spotted in a vehicle Downtown. A chase began near Macy’s department store on Forbes Avenue… (P-G, Navratil & Czebinak)

The fleeing fugitive of the law crashed his vehicle Continue reading

In Like a Lion: Chuckling over our prospects

If you haven’t read “Is This Good Enough for Pittsburgh?” yet, start with that!

It’s a good question to ask about the Uptown Redevelopment Busway proposal. The short, premium bus rapid transit spur would need to win a serious dose of federal money earmarked for mass transit. Is this the best we can do with the opportunity? Peduto and Fitzgerald insist, yes it is. Some organizations are “exploring it”.

In Ferguson, the United States Department of Justice has come down hard on the local police department and not at all on the involved officer.

In the Pittsburgh Public School District, the teachers union has endorsed candidates for School Board seats. Now, for many, there is an unavoidable internal logic to the notion that “Whoever the teachers’ union endorses, we should support the opposite.” But not really in this case. Above all, you want to pick somebody who 1) knows what they’re talking about, and even 2) has something to add. With those as your thresholds, it’s possible this election that even a typical liberal might want to vote for a conservative or unorthodox candidate, merely so that there is one conservative-sounding voice on the Board — and thereby all his/her colleagues will actually see, hear and realize what needs fighting. “A dose of reality.”

Speaking of labor, the City and its firefighters came to terms on a new contract. Is it good enough for Pittsburgh? Please advise.

Speaking of finances, Pitt economist Chris Briem (who has a blog) says that since we don’t know what industries will drive growth in the next generation, we have to “be a region agile enough to attract and retain investment across a wide range of industries and to do so long into the future.” I’m pretty sure this is educated-progressive code for increasing human biodiversity, or becoming more accessible and advantageous to outsiders, immigrants, ambitious pioneers and students. What strikes me however is that Prof. Briem for once is not writing about the City’s budget woes or pension problem — which fills me with dread that he has concluded that the City’s only prayer for really conquering its pension problem is to grow, and I mean really boom, its way out of it.

And finally, newly elected Democratic PA Governor Tom Wolf just drew up a budget, months in advance of his deadline, and the publisher of our newspaper of record was like “How dare you?” because everywhere, major things are owned by our wealthy old suburban cousins.

Fitzgerald leads own Democratic surge with new weapon

Pittsburgh’s hottest political action committee is “Better Jobs, Better Future”, or BJBF.

It has everything: Chelsa-smashing, Council-whipping, and centrist triangulating. There are donor congas — that thing of when politicians with access to money open up all sorts of new money appendages to each other.

[Allegheny County Controller Chelsa] Wagner called the group’s activities, which extend to county council races, “terribly concerning” and said they jeopardize checks and balances in county government.

“If we cannot have a government where this is a healthy discourse and dissent, I think it’s pretty clear that this is not a strong or functioning form of government.”. (P-G, Potter & Born)

That’s a little overblown. Continue reading

SURPRISE: Natalia Rudiak to challenge Michael Lamb for Controller

Screen Shot 2015-02-16 at 2.34.39 PMThis is a little stunning.

Healthy for the City to have a serious 3-month debate about fiscal issues and fiscal accountability. A fiscal focus, if you will.

It will be hard to make the case against 7-year incumbent Lamb that he’s too politicized or obstructive against the popular Peduto administration, that is, without getting lost in inside baseball. Can’t call him the Mayor’s lapdog though. Difficult to knock his competence convincingly. One might make a case he’s too dull for any elected office, except City Controller. Her message will probably have to be, “I’m Natalia Rudiak. Oh, and I’m council’s Finance Chair.” That has to be equivalent to Prothonotary.

If Rudiak happens to win, something weird could happen to City Council, since her district to the South lists more conservative than its 5-year officeholder. Team Peduto might be unconcerned about keeping all that tight a grip anymore, or they could have other prospects in mind. In that event, these might find themselves taking on Mt. Washington resident Michael Lamb.