Monthly Archives: May 2009

Ask not for whom the bell tolls…

Memorial Day: Garland the Passionless Mounds

The art of blogging seems even more paltry than usual during these moments.

How to do justice to generations upon unceasing generations of Americans who give the ultimate sacrifice in the name of their country?

Can I not punt away the responsibility to others more worthy, better equipped or in a better position?

As it turns out, I clearly cannot:

I. The 30th day of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form or ceremony is prescribed, but Posts and comrades will, in their own way, arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.

We are here to play, Comrades, as our regulations tell us, for the purpose among other things, “of preserving and strengthening those kind and fraternal feelings which have bound together the soldiers sailors and Marines, who united to suppress the late rebellion.” What can aid more to assure this result than by cherishing tenderly the memory of our heroic dead? We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance.

All that the consecrated wealth and taste of the nation can add to their adornment and security, is but a fitting tribute to the memory of her slain defenders. Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.

If other eyes grow dull and other hands slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain in us.

Let us, then, at the time appointed, gather around their sacred remains, and garland the passionless mounds above them with choicest flowers of springtime; let us raise above them the dear old flag they saved; let us in this solemn presence renew our pledge to aid and assist those whom they have left among us a sacred charge upon the Nation’s gratitude—the soldiers and sailors widow and orphan.

II. It is the purpose of the Commander in Chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept up from year to year, while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of his departed comrades. He earnestly desires the public press to call attention to this Order, and lend its friendly aid in bringing it to the notice of comrades in all parts of the country in time for simultaneous compliance therewith.

III.Department commanders will use every effort to make this Order effective. (General Order #11, GAR, via Wikipedia)

In 1971, Memorial Day was moved to the last Monday in May thanks to the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, one purpose of which was to provide federal employees with a greater number of three-day weekends. So it seems we are implicitly encouraged to relax and have fun on Memorial Day, so long as Section I of the Order has been met.

I’m headed out. Better late than never.

The Band: The WHO

The program: Top of the Pops

Friday: They Never Fully Recovered. **

1. All further commentary even vaguely related to Anthony Coghill will be gladly accepted at Matt H Exposed. Not here. It’s just too much, and it’s so not interesting.

2. Speaking of that blog, it now has an okay post online with an interesting comment thread. I feel like there is a point somewhere to that discussion, but I’m sure almost nobody knows what it is yet. (Matt H Exposed)

3. Apparently the Kaplan Plan for state oversight is the only one worth reporting on, by virtue of the fact that it appears likely to be the only one voted upon. I wonder what would happen procedurally if the Council just insisted upon using the Pittsburgh plan (the plan briefly known as the Peduto Plan) as its framework, stubbornly. I think it would be amusing and instructive to hold up this Pittsbugh Plan for awhile against old man whathisface’s plan. (Trib, Jeremy Boren)

“Commuters being tapped…” — I don’t know about that stylistically in terms of a headline, but yes! Bring it on. We like this, Pittsburgh. Commuter tax now. (P-G, Rich Lord)

*-UPDATE: Mayor Luke holds firm, and draws flak from a state senator from McCandless who wants the free lunch for her constituents to continue forever.

“If he thinks taxes are the first option, he’s delusional, in this economy,” said state Sen. Jane Orie, R-McCandless. “He needs to live within his means. (P-G, Rich Lord)

Pittsburgh’s “means” presently consist of bankruptcy, dilapidation and ruination. Stop oppressing us and chip in to our region’s future.

4. Beth Hanis shows you how to negotiate. (P-G, Diana Nelson Jones)

5. For those of you who may have already visited Alpark Terrace: apologies if the foliage and perhaps some of the atmosphere disappointed. At the time of my visit around a month ago, the grounds were indeed “well manicured” and “Bambi-like” and all that. However, some reports indicate that elements of maintenance has slipped — grass growing four inches and higher generally, and the such. Aside from that however things remain as they are. (Pittsburgh Comet)

6. Just in case you’re hiding under a rock. (The Busman’s Holiday)

7. PittGirl is back.

I should go away, but I’ve learned something since November. I want to write. It’s so simple. I’m taking a risk that my identity will be revealed, and I’ve prepared myself for that day my mask is ripped away. I have the unemployment papers filled out and everything. (Pittsburgh Magazine . com)

That doesn’t mean it’s okay to snoop and gossip. If you start getting investigatory, 97% of the bloggers in this town will give you an involuntary colonoscopy with a space telescope. Yarone Zober is also a big fan, so you know, consider that.

*-8. Wade Lipscomb, a barber shop owner from Homewood, was appointed by Gov. Ed Rendell to serve on the PA regulatory board for barbers and barbarism.

Wade’s barbershop has insistently invested back into our communities by participating in programs such as Take a Health Professional to the People Day, The Fight Against Cancer Initiative, blood pressure awareness screenings (sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh and Duquesne University School of Nursing), and H.A.I.R. (healthy advocates in reach and research). (Councilman Burgess release)

Great stuff — though hopefully the Rev got even more out of the deal!

Mike Veon: Off, For Now

If it were that easy to connect dots, we’d actually do it.

Attorney Joel Sansone, representing Mr. Veon, said the whole case was politically motivated. “It’s a political put-up job meant to scare good public servants,” he said. (Post-Gazette)

Politically speaking, it is true that “indiscretions” relating to large public investments are quite unpopular. We’ll see what the state A.G.’s office does.

Bill Peduto: Just Hear Me Out!

Here is the plan that Bill Peduto presented to the Act 47 Coordinators back on April 28th:

1. Functional consolidation of municipal services

2. Statewide administered pension & health care reform

3. Non-Profit Payroll Tax

4. Regional Revenue Sharing & Local Tax Reform

5. Baseline audits / Professional management / Outcome-based performance

6. Control of long-term general obligation debt

7. Initiatives to create a competitive workforce

The full 9+ page letter to the Coordinators is available to download in PDF format from his Council district’s website. Councilman Peduto ends his introductions with this statement:

We need an $80 million structural change to our budget.

And he begins his closing argument like this:

Getting It Done.

We have the opportunity to fix Pittsburgh’s budget. It won’t be easy and it can’t be approached like a menu — every one of these steps is necessary to create a City budget in 2015 that is strong, sustainable and fair.

The goal of our Finance Chair’s agenda seems to be — at least implicitly — to withdraw triumphantly from state oversight in 2015. So it may be more of a 6+ year agenda than a 5 year plan, but why get lost in semantics.

EDITORIAL COMMENTS: Most if not all of the items on the agenda seem like good ideas, but almost all of them will have to be negotiated painstakingly with a host of other governments — and a few would have to be voluntarily and consistently adopted by the Mayor as operating policy.

It looks like Pittsburgh can do just one of these with little apparent fuss — item number 3. Might as well get on that!

*-UPDATE: Some of the details, most likely embedded within items numbers 5, 6 and maybe 7, are predictably enough setting off alarms in our fire halls. (Post-Gazette) MORE UPDATE: Or do we have a case of dueling plans: Kaplan’s and Peduto’s? “Now enter the bureaucrats…”

**-UPDATE: Either way, I look forward to working with the administration in together scrupulously ignoring what will be understandable but mostly unsupportable protestations voiced by some in our Fire Bureau. Down with Murphyism!!

What Had Happened Was…

Alright, I guess I owe you one of these:

1. Natalia Rudiak jumps into the beneficent, hyperactive and enigmatic position that Ricky Burgess occupied originally two years ago.

2. Ricky Burgess’s shift is made overt into Jim Motzik’s position as the occasional Hammer of the Administration.

3. Sala Udin takes over for Tonya Payne, which is really the big news of the night. Only this time Udin will be younger, a different person, and eager to demonstrate his independence and individualism.

4. Patrick Dowd will take over for Bill Peduto, in at least a couple of respects. Man, have you ever seen a victor coldly ask a loser to apologize after an election? I mean, in America? You might remember that in March of 2008, Patrick Dowd referred to Pat Ford on at least one occasion as “unethical” — and then Ford complained publicly and famously that it is difficult working productively with a City Council that uses words like “illegal” and “unethical”. So this is all sounding very familiar.

5. Bill Peduto will take over for Doug Shields. Doug Shields will take over for Bruce Kraus. Bruce Kraus will … um, he’d have to take over for Patrick Dowd. Right. *-CORRECTION: No, Doug Shields becomes the Patrick Dowd of two years ago in that circumstance, and Bruce Kraus remains Bruce Kraus. This business is all a net plus to boot, so long as the Dowd of today takes whatever true, measured lessons Dowd should take from Doesn’tplaywellwithothersI’minthemiddlegate to heart. But this is all very advanced math that is not yet interesting.

So you can call it a 3-6 Council, to the extent that that is useful. Everything as always will be driven by its particulars.

6. Luke Ravenstahl will remain Mayor.

Being Mayor is still extremely important, obviously. A mayor is charged with and fully empowered to run the government. Almost everything regarding the day-to-day, month-to-month practice of running the government is always held so far away from any Council it is a little troublesome in my opinion, but that’s our Home Rule Charter. On top of that, there is nothing to indicate that certain things won’t be kept even more extra far-away from the new Council than usual. Yes there is state oversight, but oversight doesn’t oversee operations.

On top of all that, let’s face it: a mayor can do a lot of things for a given council district and its residents and stakeholders. Without Motznik and Payne to kick around for very much longer, it will probably become a fun sport among Council’s new majority to defect to “the mayor’s side” on occasion just to get things done. Hopefully they will all select their opportunities cannily.

However — a six vote majority is materially different than a five vote majority. A six vote majority can override a veto. A six vote majority can sit and write legislation with the expectation of being able to override its eventual veto. A six vote majority can initiate actions from among its own slender portfolio of extralegislative powers more easily than can a five vote majority.

The City’s Number Two official was right: it’s going to be interesting.

And now, once again, the blog changes a little…

PS – Four more years of Fetterman! Good stuff! Something tells me this will be covered by the Economist.

Interview: Matt Merriman-Preston

Graciously Accepting Victory