Monthly Archives: March 2009

Tuesday: Links, Fellow Babies!*

YES!!! (P-G, Tony Norman)

Go baby, go baby, go! (P-G, Ruth Ann Daily)

This is a bold one. I don’t know much about State Rep. Bill DeWeese, except his name is usually associated with evil. I guess that’s what he’s protesting. Unless someone wants to draw me a map with a big red X over it, I’ll present this link without much further comment. (P-G OpEd, Bill DeWeese)

Illegal Search, Question Mark? It is true the judge is now questioning into how the feds searched for evidence. Guilty, innocent or something in between — I am sure Dr. Cyril Wecht would in any event be arguing that certain evidence must be thrown out. And as Mr. Wecht is doing the arguing, I am sure any judge would be compelled to examine that contention very thoroughly. (Trib, Edit Board)

And now, the electronic media…

Maria ties some events together in an enlightening and entertaining way. (2 Political Junkies)

Also she posts a truly great video. (2PJs)

D-6 candidate Robert Daniel LaVelle has a nuanced, almost must-read position on no-bid contracts and campaign contributions. He seems heavily into the green economy and environmentalism. Additionally, he would not particularly recommend the Hill District CBA as a model. (View from BurghChair)

The Allegheny Institute has actually been on fire lately. Too much to link to separately. Just read it for a while. (Allegheny Institute)

A major-league chronicle of development efforts on Mt. Washington broke out over here! It sounds like a classic tale of Lucy taking the ball out from under Charlie Brown again and again and again. The story continues tomorrow. (15211, 15211 and 15211)

Schultz presents us with an interesting chart:

Luke almost tripled-up Dan Onorato in terms of contributions with paper trails? That’s unpossible! (Thoughts on Government & other stuff)

Speaking of our County Executive, the question we must ask ourselves is: is our governments saving? (Pgh Conservative)

Very important: Patrick Dowd addresses the shuttering of Schenley. [LINK]

* UPDATE – Two more electronic essays of today trip the light fantastic. (Pgh Is A City; the HUDDLER) Also, Patrick Dowd and Darlene Harris agree on something. (P-G, Rich Lord)

And now…

[Dowd] said he’ll detail his stance on campaign donations today. Council meets at 1:30 p.m. to discuss Mr. Ravenstahl’s proposal to put a $4,600 cap on contributions by individuals and partnerships to any given campaign, and a $10,000 limit on political action committee donations. (P-G, Rich Lord)

No where in the article did it state that Patrick already voted in favor of strict regulations on contributions as part of Councilman Peduto’s prior excellent campaign finance reform package.

No where in the article does it point out that $4,600 / $10,000 caps are ludicrously high by the standard of commonplace reform legislation for major metropolitan areas.

Cringer, anyone? I thought we were past appeasing authority.

The debate on the mayor’s contribution bill now shifts to council, where Councilman William Peduto plans to amend it. He wants lower contribution limits, a legislated ban on no-bid contracts of more than $25,000 and an online database of contributions and contracts.

“I will not vote for a bill that does not contain all three of them,” he said. (P-G, ibid)

Good man.

We trust that greater clarity will emerge on Mr. Dowd’s position during today’s proceedings. It seems about that time, or at least it will.

Meanwhile, Carmen Robinson came off sounding very well in this piece. I hope the print edition ran a photograph of her as well.

A Voice from the Other Downtown


Today I encountered a Downtown merchant. He noticed the button on my shirt.

He asked, “Do you think he has a chance?”

I told him I sure hope so.

“Tough to beat an incumbent,” he warned. And then he got started.

“We haven’t had a good mayor since…” he began, and then paused to dig around the memory banks.

“Murphy sucked. Sophie sucked. O’Connor sucked. This guy sucks,” he continued. “We haven’t had a good mayor since ah, since Caliguiri. And Flaherty.”

“Pete Flaherty.” he emphasized with a sly grin. “He had the [redacted] to take on the unions.”

Had a lot to say. Claims he’s not alone.

Newsvalanche: Money, Politics, Wow.**

A swiftly executed change of leadership:

The Allegheny Conference on Community Development announced today that Chief Executive Officer F. Michael Langley has resigned immediately and will be replaced by Dennis Yablonsky, former state secretary of the Department of Community and Economic Development. (P-G, Tom Barnes)

In re Dennis, I’ve heard he is a good sort, but I don’t really know.

In re the Allegheny Conference, I’ll relay that Pat Dowd made a crack recently that it is “great, but the business world has changed since … since 1940.” He said basically we should be bringing others in, expanding it, maybe like NATO.


[Yablonsky] is a great choice and will do a great job for the conference,” Mr. Rendell said. (P-G, ibid)

Hmmmmmmmmmmm.

MORE…


Gov. Ed Rendell today removed Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission Chairman Mitchell Rubin from the five-member panel. (P-G, Tom Barnes)

Why?


Mr. Fumo was found guilty of giving Mr. Rubin a “ghost job” that paid $30,000 a year for five years. (P-G, ibid)

Ew! Did he lounge around in a deck chair with a sun mirror on his chest, like on television?


He is married to Ruth Arnao, a former Fumo aide who also was convicted last week on corruption charges. (P-G, ibid)

Power couples, man. Gotta be careful.

MORE ON CITY PAY-TO-PLAY…


Issuing what he termed “a wake-up call for Pittsburgh” and passing out cups of coffee on the sidewalk below the mayor’s office, Pittsburgh Councilman Patrick Dowd turned up the heat on his electoral challenge to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl today, charging that his “administration is for sale” to government contractors for campaign contributions. (P-G, Rich Lord)

We know. Hey, does anyone find this whole “City for Sale” concept awfully familiar?


Mr. Ravenstahl has argued that he is already implementing solutions to any perceived problems with contracting and campaign finance. His legislation, he said last week, “will put a cap on, and perhaps deal with perceptions that exist right now around campaign contributions.

“It will also give challengers, for example, perhaps a better opportunity” by limiting the big checks incumbents can get, he said. “In some ways, it would put me at a disadvantage.” (P-G, ibid)

Mm. We can expect him to be refunding most of this mess, then.

*-UPDATE: The Busman has another Ravenstahl response in press statement form. It also sounds somewhat familiar.

** – UPDATE: Twitter response to that statement:


Continuing…

[Dowd] also blasted the administration’s purchases of trash cans and firehouse ventilation systems from a state joint purchasing system, rather than through competitive bids at the city level, saying both resulted in higher-than-necessary costs. (P-G, ibid)

So the state has a trash can racket and a ventilation racket to go along with its asphalt racket? How about if more of these were more like Allegheny County rackets? At least that they would be our rackets, in our hands, to our benefit. Not to the benefit of, let’s say convicted state Sen. Vincent Fumo and the such.

Monday: The Best Part of Waking Up**

On Wednesday of last week, Patrick Dowd scored what might have been a tidy little legislative coup for his election prospects:

Longtime city of Pittsburgh homeowners with low incomes would no longer have to apply annually for a property tax break under a bill tentatively approved by City Council yesterday.

Instead, under Councilman Patrick Dowd’s legislation, residents 50 and older would only have to fill out the city’s Act 77 tax relief form once. Then they would have their assessments frozen until they moved or reported an increase in income.

“We hear from folks that it is unfair that they have to fill this out every year,” said Mr. Dowd of the Act 77 form. (P-G, Team Effort)

The vote was not unanimous.

Councilman Ricky Burgess abstained, because he had questions about how the city would know if, say, a senior homeowner won the lottery and no longer qualified for the benefit. (P-G, ibid)

That seemed like a reasonable counterargument. Dowd’s immediate response was that “we should assume honesty in the taxpayer”, which is not something I think it’s ever necessarily that wise to assume when it comes to money.

By Friday, however, the thrust of Burgess’s objection had shifted.

Councilman Ricky Burgess yesterday floated legislation, to be introduced Tuesday, that would bar budget-busting spending or tax cuts unless they were offset by cuts elsewhere, or driven by emergencies or court orders. (P-G, Rich Lord)

Sort of like pay-as-you-go budgeting.

“I do believe the recent legislation sponsored by Councilman Dowd unintentionally … creates a deficit without showing how that deficit will be addressed,” said Mr. Burgess. “When we pass it, we must also discuss how we’re going to eliminate $1.2 million from expenses.”

That figure is based on Finance Department estimates that 4,000 more seniors would get about $300 off their tax bills under Mr. Dowd’s proposal. (P-G, ibid)

The rationale for this extreme budgetary sensitivity is the razor-wire thin, low five-digit surpluses projected in the outlying years of our five-year budget projections. Any modest shrinkage in revenue would seem to totally upset the applecart in 2012 and 2013.

That strikes me as a less compelling argument for two reasons. Firstly, there is Dowd’s position that the $1.2 million is “not properly city money” anyway, seeing as how the city code already affords the tax break, and the annual paperwork is an unfortunate hurdle to receiving it.

More interesting, however, is the very nature of these present five-year projections. Dowd contended at his rally on Thursday that in response to other kinds of queries, City Finance Director Scott Kunka informed him, “The five year plan is just a piece of paper!” — a real boo, grumble and hiss line, meant to further illustrate Dowd’s longstanding point that the Ravenstahl / ICA plan is based on cosmetics and folly any darn way.

We’ll see how it all shakes out.

Burgess publicly floated other legislation last week calling for voter referendums to approve any pay raises for elected officials in the future.

**-CORRECTIONS: However, that had to be may well be reeled back, as the Law Department had may have concerns that it would violate the Home Rule Charter.

Months ago, Burgess also pushed legislation that would have compelled a speedy completion of a new Act 47 Revised and Amended Recovery Plan. This was passed by Council yet vetoed by the mayor — a veto that was accepted because it did have legal issues.

Aside from these, the Reverend has most frequently been in the news advancing legislation reconnoitering historic designation statutes vis a vis property rights.

Meanwhile…

Bad boys bad boys, watchagonna do?

* – UPDATE: Updated Dowd press release here: [Google documents] A snippet:
This sort of governance hurts us all. Think of the businesses. They look at the city and say, “No way. I don’t want to do business with them. No way. I don’t want to locate in a city that operates like that.” When city government is for sale, businesses leave.

Now:

Mr. Ravenstahl, whose campaign is significantly funded by firms that do business with the city, said he allows “no quid pro quos. … I would argue that the time frames of when these contributions are being made, if they would happen to be around the same time [as contracts], are coincidence rather than something that is planned. Oftentimes [contributions] are made around fundraisers.” (P-G, Rich Lord)

Mr. Ravenstahl, Mr. Walko of the Water Authority and others seem to favor leaping directly into the “no quid pro quo” argument when it comes to defending these patterns.

That always struck me as a cynical and legalistic argument. As long as the characters around the table are careful not to enunciate or write down, “I’ll give you this, DUH, if you give me that”, then supposedly everybody is in the clear — even if it is obvious there is mutual backscratching going on to a degree that it would not be occurring if the backscratching were not so conspicuously mutual.

By lunging for the quid pro quo line, it’s like people are already preparing themselves for court, without pausing to consider that it could be just plain wrong.

Though the article seems to amount to a lot of new prose about an old issue, the meat of the drama is contained in this “Pay to Play?” chart. I’m not sure which contracts and contributions should stand out most strikingly therein, but the information is all nicely assembled for figuring that out.

Chad Hermann has some interesting thoughts about the article’s placement in the print edition. I’d find it hard to justify an above-the-fold banner headline — there’s little new news here except Post-Gazette Newsroom Completes Data Entry — but at the same time the tiny bottom left hand corner treatment seemed to do the work a real disservice.

Don’t overlook…

The Trib examines Carmen Robinson’s tumultuous history in the Pittburgh police department. (Trib, Jeremy Boren)

And finally…

What in blazes was the Trib’s Joseph Sabino Mistick talking about?? I mean, really? Could it possibly have been similar matters to which I had alluded from the Bloomberg piece contained within this post?

I can be intentionally unclear at times, but if Joe set out to be any more cryptic he’d have to use a cipher and employ an albino monk.

Public Transit = Public Safety

It’s worth repeating:

Drinking and driving is not acceptable. There should be harsh penalties in place for those who do and plenty of alternatives for those who choose not to. I’ll re-iterate my plea from Saturday – cut back on a few billy-club-shaking overtime cops in riot gear and instead, let’s have some real leadership in Pittsburgh broker a deal with Port Authority that all buses after 10pm are free. And make sure there are actually buses running until after the bars close on Friday and Saturday nights. (Pgh Is A City)

I hope the riot gear has been simply a St. Patrick’s Day / Superbowl / stadium Implosion show of force. Aside from that, Pittsburghers do enjoy a party, and we need to make sure people get to where they’re going safe — including all the innocent bystanders.

Georgia Blotzer: Listening N’at Tour!!!

Democratic City Council candidate Georgia Blotzer is kicking off her Listening N’at Tour (official name: Listening Tour) this week with appearances at four locations across District 2.

Come meet Georgia, tell her your own ideas and concerns, and quiz her about her platform for how to move Pittsburgh forward (h/t CP).

WEST END SENIOR CENTER
80 Wabash St.
Pgh, PA 15220
Monday, March 23 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM

FAIRYWOOD SALVATION ARMY
1821 Broadhead Fording Rd.
Pgh, PA 15205
Tuesday, March 24 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM

MT WASHINGTON SENIOR CENTER
122 Virginia Ave.
Pgh, PA 15211
Thursday, March 26 10:30 AM -12:00 PM

SHERADEN SENIOR CENTER
720 Sherwood Ave.
Pgh, PA 15204
Friday, March 27 10:00 AM – 11:30 AM

This Listening Tour is also intended to help establish the rhythm for one-day Councilwoman Blotzer’s “Council on the Move” (on the Move!!) series — a key part of the process of pulling the knowledge and resources of city government off of Grant Street and directly into neighborhoods, where people live, work and play.

Hopefully, ideally and ultimately, Georgia intends to cajole some City departmental staff [DPW, BBI, CP] to join her on some of those excursions, so that they can gain better first-hand understandings of constituent concerns — and resolutions can be organized right on the spot.

NOTE: By publicizing these campaign stops, Georgia realizes she is leaving the door open for her opponents to stage little ambushes. It’s a free country, but they’d better have eaten their Wheaties!

The Band: The Rolling Stones

The Song: It’s Only Rock ‘n Roll

Comet Twittercast

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Well, that’s one way to motivate me to do a new Comet Twittercast. Why doesn’t the mayor want to have a debate in May? Is he … chicken? Bok bok bok? (more)


Volunteers, eh? Why not just promote some of them to staff, if he’s having trouble finding decent help in the city? (more)

My favorite Vince Lascheid memory: the P.A. Announcer says, “The Pittsburgh Penguins welcome our guests from the Toyota Car Company!”, and the organ plays that Chinese music snippet that goes, “Da na na na – na na – na na – NA!” Totally inappropriate, totally hysterical. (more)

#cough#Bullshit.

Every breath you take!

Ravenstahl vs. Dowd (Now on YouTube!)

This is it. This is the one we’ve been building toward.

The Pittsburgh Comet is wholly responsible for the content of this advertising. Actual blog posts forthcoming….

No Time to Blog This Morning…

… but as a public service for anyone who missed it, we present this video of last week’s Announcement Speech, or at least the good parts: