Monthly Archives: June 2012

Drink Your Way Out of a Drinking Problem

Granted it is a wee bit counter-intuitive — but if Paul Krugman can insist we spend our way out of a recession, anything’s possible.

If your problem is…

…the perennial problem of crowd control on the South Side, where dozens of bars and nightclubs share the same 2 a.m. closing time. Thousands of people spill onto the streets, where police say their loitering leads to countless other problems, from brawls and shootings to loud noise and public urination. Cars cruise outside the nightclubs and make East Carson Street, at times, almost impenetrable. (P-G, Sadie Gurman)

Then by all means…

Seems there is an obvious solution. Let the bars stay open as long as they like. Have the state law changed. (FB, Bill Helwig)

Talk about a Win-Win, Win-Win-Win. We can lobby this. Tie it to liquor-license density or what have you; possibly nobody will challenge it. Better yet, to Cities of the Second Class. There’s your idea, Mr. Bloomberg, credit Bill Helwig.

Friday: Milking It.

1. Somebody ordered a wild card? ORDER UP: Bond Buyer, Jennifer DePaul c/o Null Space.

I can’t imagine any amount of plain English and basic Arithmetic is going to rouse the Commonwealth of Pa to seize responsibility for managing the City’s pension fund (they already turned craven and ran for the hills), nor do I imagine we are going to rack up any $35 Insufficient Funds Fees within the next eleven months. Nor do I even imagine Our State will forcibly discomfort ensconced city leaders within that time frame. But if you happen to be in the market for an atmosphere of peril and uncertainty appropriate to the theme from Halloween, this is legitimately, surely, and exclusively it. Though the Jaws theme might be more appropriate.

2. Hats off to the City Paper for a tremendous story and cover image.

3. The Pittsburgh Promise scholarship program is more universally celebrated and well-endowed than ever. Now, some students will receive college scholarships named for its foremost corporate donors, though hopefully not tattoos and politically triggered microchips. But will the scrumptious carrot of a subsidized secondary education prove popular enough to convince families to engage with the school district after the system releases over 250 teachers — even those objectively demonstrated to be the best at teaching children? How are we evaluating all these claims about the impact on students and residents in a way that approaches thoroughgoing science? I’m not dismissive of the program by any means, but there’s no mistaking that as an educational program it’s a Rube Goldberg device underpinned by conservative principles about behavior and about how to support a community while circumnavigating the government.

4. Air rights? Did somebody say, “air rights?”

5. What’s so special about Bloomfield that its reapportionment amongst one, two, or three Council members has become such a flash point? And is Burgess really advocating a map which would leave only one African-American district? That seems awfully counter-intuitive. Perhaps his plan rolls the dice on the present two with an outside chance on three, but a possibility of one? The School District seems to have managed three.


Powerful stuff. It’s not every day that two university heads, a mayor, a major developer and freaking Google come at you this hard. An impressive work by a strategic integrated video communications firm.

What’s the message?

  1. Walnut Capital is the shiz.
  2. You should set up shop at Bakery Square, or at least in Larimer.
  3. Bow down and thank your lucky stars for our universities.
  4. Luke Ravenstahl gets it; he has things well in hand.
  5. The thing to do in city redevelopment is work hard and collaboratively with stakeholders to obviate zoning, regulatory and other “red tape” whilst facilitating public subsidies and other lubricatory opportunities.

RELATED: I posted it to my Facebook, but I don’t think I ever here mentioned my own brief surreptitious interview with Todd Reidbord.

Parking Meter Barons Hope Pittsburgh is the new Portland — in a Bad Way

Yup. Every contract.

The Pittsburgh Parking Authority’s award of a $7 million contract to a Florida-based firm in April elicited surprise, disappointment and questions from rivals in the highly competitive parking meter business, according to documents the authority provided in response to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Right-to-Know request. (P-G, Joe Smydo)

So what? The losers are complaining.

Years of allegations and complaints from city staff and competing contractors that Portland’s parking manager was accepting bribes while steering multimillion-dollar city contracts to a Florida parking meter supplier culminated Wednesday in a federal raid on the manager’s Portland office and home. (The Oregonian, Maxine Bernstein; and Much More and Background)

Uuhhhh — it could be that Cale’s business competitors are just fishing around for a wished-for legal knock-out blow against a rival that finds itself on the ropes because of one overly-aggressive executive. Failing that, the competitors may hope that another spate of ugly headlines will keep Cale uncompetitive a bit longer.

Cale Parking Systems USA, the entity that expressed interest in the Pittsburgh project last fall, was an independently owned distributor of metering devices manufactured by Cale Access of Stockholm, Sweden. In December, after Cale Parking Systems USA was tied to a federal corruption investigation in Oregon, Cale Access purchased that company’s assets and created Cale America to take over distribution. (back to Smydo)

Got to wonder why they couldn’t just call the new company “Schmegeggi’s Parking.” Does anybody know if “independently owned” literally has to mean “has nothing to do with”? If Cale Parking Systems USA was giving bribes to municipal officials apparently as part of their business model, does that mean stepdad Cale Access necessarily did not know about it, or was not part of the same corporate culture? By purchasing that company’s “assets”, could that mean “people”? By replacing the “management”, could that just have been shuffling fresh names on a chart to replace tainted ones?

Yet the Pittsburgh process began two months after the raid in Portland. That means either the whole industry has a perniciously corrupt culture (and by “whole industry” I might mean either “parking” or “municipalities”), and/or Cale Gang are phenomenally arrogant slow-learners, or else this really is a desperate fishing expedition by the folks who failed to win our contract.

Was our Parking Authority caught flat-footed by the entirety of this? Sounds like.

Water n’ Sewer Authority selects Management

Ooh la la!

In a rare show of unanimity over a major issue, the board voted to finalize negotiations on a 12- to 18-month contract with the North American subsidiary of Veolia Water, a global company that traces its history to the reign of Napoleon III. (P-G, Joe Smydo; see also Trib)

To the Compagnie Générale des Eaux, to be precise. A sister to Vivendi. Learn more about its North America CEO Laurent Auguste here and here.

Ferlo All Sorts of Sideways in Redistricting


The Senate map moves SD-40, the former seat of Jane Orie, to Monroe County. Or so the supporters of the plan said; in reality, Jim Ferlo’s 38th district moved into the Orie seat vacuum and became far more conservative. (PaPolitics, Keegan Gibson)

Either that, or Senator Pileggi just bit off more than he can chew. Johnstown didn’t fall this easy; why should Lawrenceville?

MORE: AP / NBC10 Phi

Global Burghing: Myth or Imminent Threat?*

ACE Rich Fitzgerald has a vision thing.

“One of the things we’d like to do is set up a world trade center, perhaps out by the (Pittsburgh) airport,” he said in response to a question about what the county could do to make the region more competitive globally. (Trib, Tony LaRussa)

First, we’d need to re-brand that noise — but cool.

Cool cool cool. We need everybody from everyplace.

“The center could include some sort of commission or organization that is charged with reaching out and welcoming people from around the world to Pittsburgh.” (ibid)

Are we talking the Pittsburgh G20 Partnership in perpetuity, or what? And Foundation money? As far as the embattled public sector, it can still actively solicit professional connections and partnerships. But we noticed how those adverts for executive water management and consulting services in the Economist failed to materialize. Those results are replicable for reasons across the region. If you ever get that, “Why are we still thinking inside the chimney?” feeling, that would be the other edge of the “shop locally” sword cutting you.

Maybe a slew of sharp Chinese financial consultants would be just the ticket? Probably too radical.


True that. But transit has been such a hornet’s nest lately and a yearly tooth extraction… if it were me, I’d be tempted invest energy into getting some high-speed rail out through Cleveland. Just to keep my spirits up.


The Sworn Brotherhood committed to electing Democrats and fighting for Our Shared Values is meeting to settle business and presumably plan a comeback.

The slate is set for 2012, so there isn’t much wrangling to be seen vis-a-vis public offices – unless some of the talked-about 2014 Guv prospects show up: Rob McCord, Joe Sestak and Josh Shapiro. (PoliticsPA, Keegan Gibson)

Are we ready for another Sestak Attack-ack-ack? Something tells me in these parts, folks are going to be talking up Rob McCord. But this Shapiro? Is he Jewish? It wouldn’t hurt.

Chairman Jim Burn is pleased to announce our keynote speaker, Massachusetts’s Governor Deval Patrick and special guest Senator Bob Casey to kick off our 2012 general campaign…

Come hang out with Kathleen Kane for Attorney General, Eugene DePasquale for Auditor General, and Rob McCord for Governor – er, Treasurer….

The Young Dems consistently throw the best state committee parties, definitely be here. (ibid)

Does anybody know if PAYD has fallen into the same progressive clutches as YDAC? Or are we in SW PA on the right side of the long view of history?

RELATED AFTERTHOUGHT: Oh, and how is the anointing of the McCandless offering, Sharon Brown, going?

Dowd to Mayor: “We Have to Know the Plan Itself”

City councilman and 2009 mayoral candidate Patrick Dowd dashed off a letter to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl concerning the aforementioned Buncher Company development plan — in so doing, providing a glimpse of the complex proposal beyond, “We’re going to do this and it’s going to be exciting!”

For starters, Dowd is “holding” back mayoral legislation which would grant Buncher $50 million in tax increment financing (TIF) until more information is forthcoming — and perhaps until more people realize we are considering a $50 million TIF.

Demanding that the city ought first conduct thorough public airings of site plans, adjacent development plans, and infrastructure plans — as well as airing his own concerns over where best to relocate displaced businesses — Dowd offers this graph as mere context:

According to agreements you have negotiated, Buncher would purchase the historic Produce Terminal Building for approximately $1.2 million. The URA would purchase Buncher’s 16-acre distribution center site located between 43rd and 48th Street for approximately $8 million — approximately $500,000 per acre of land. Buncher would pay approximately $1 million for 16 acres of land on the old Tippins site — only approximately $70,000 per acre. (Dowd Letter)

The specter of that old Ravenstahl administration trope, the “Sweetheart Deal,” is hard not to notice.

Patrick Dowd is a member of the majority block of Council that works with Mayor Ravenstahl as a matter of routine, and has been since the previous council session when these were in the minority. However he took a leadership role in opposing the Mayor’s parking privatization deal, and is popularly believed to be supportive of Michael Lamb’s mayoral aspirations. He has occasionally singled out the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, of which he is a board member, for sharp criticism. Last week warned us somewhat ominously:

The embattled water authority apparently needs interim executive management services.

*-MOAR: at the P-G:

“The URA is more than happy to come to the table and explain or answer any questions Councilman Dowd may have,” [mayoral spokes Doven] said. “It’s a shame that isn’t going to happen.”

Sounds legit… but on the flip side, this way we all arrive well-prepared for the discussion when it does happen.

Monday: Craven, Growth-Choking and Out-of-Control

The P-G would like Buncherland to turn out “attractive and well-designed.”

We already assume all new architecture will be scrupulously cost-engineered to be squat, featureless, rectangular and modular, constructed from faux-sandstone, vinyl and Plexiglas — giving new life to the phrase, “They don’t make things like they used to.” It’s either that or build nothing new, ever.

I just confess a real ignorance as to how the housing market works. Given that our city is about half-vacant and with seriously high-quality housing stock, most of which is available at ridiculously low rents and prices, how is it that Buncher Company sees a market for 750 new residential units on this stretch of river? Is it that younger upwardly-mobile types desire to club together to show off their wealth, education and freshness on a fresh new campus? At the expense of having a backyard of their own, and a park you can lose yourself in with real trails nearby? Are these for people who aren’t planning on staying very long? If so, will the freshness keep to attract replacement generations? And is there enough of this market to sustain alongside the North Shore Apartments, the Heinz Lofts, the Cork Factory, Bakery Square 2.0, Piatt Place and Whatever’s Going Into Penguinsland?

It all seems so gossamer. Maybe somebody can explain it. Do we really, honestly have enough yuppies to make it all work?


The Allegheny Institute points out some ironies (I think that’s the word) involving a bank moving back into “the Lord and Taylor building.” One certainly must credit PNC Bank for helping to inflate Pittsburgh’s disposable wealth coefficient — remember, they haven’t even begun constructing that green exclamatory tower yet. Somebody asked me recently — don’t they have a lot of unused office space already in Allegheny Center Mall? Will we be demolishing that soon to restore the Federal Street grid with solar-powered bulldozers, even as we construct a new skyscraper Downtown with cranes that run on vegetable oil? And what will replace the improvidently designed mall — upscale mixed-use housing?

Meanwhile, Early Returns sees evidence that Mayor Ravenstahl was right about our city drilling ban having a negative effect on Downtown real estate — heeding Oxford Development Co.’s desire to maybe build a new skyscraper, but maybe not, because ugh, drilling ban.

Of course, there’s always a downside.

Null Space points us in the direction of Cleveland’s conceptualizing of regionalism as a services buffet.

Are all three or four branches of state government (depending upon how you care to count) firmly in Republican hands? Is the potentially pivotal race for Attorney General barely on the radar screen? Ladies and gentlemen, PoliticsPA gives you Prettygate.

For all the talk about the Gates, Heinz, Grable and Pittsburgh foundations, the outfit that really seems to stick in the PURE Reform community’s craw for whatever reason is the Broad Foundation.

Tomorrow, one key battle in the epic interstellar war between austere conservatism and organized labor will finally be decided in Wisconsin, at the ballot box, by ordinary people feeling somewhere in the middle and believing both sides to be making sound points. It’s close, of course. UPDATE: Maybe not that close.