Monthly Archives: July 2012

Monday: the Dynamics That Are at Play

Over the weekend we thought, “Come Monday we will just go ahead and blog about the War of Five Mayors.”

Cue real life and real challenges hitting everybody in the face.

An accurately headlined Post-Gazette story on the Jordan Miles situation is DOUBLE-PLUS MUST-READ. A couple of dry excerpts:

About 11 p.m. on Jan. 12, 2010, [officers] were acting on a tip of drug dealing near a church on Tioga Street. According to Agent Bush’s account, Officer Saldutte saw someone near 7940 Tioga and said, “Let’s check that guy out. Let’s see what he’s doing.”

The officers said they drove near Mr. Miles and ordered him to take his hands out of his pockets, which he did. They asked him whether he lived at 7940 Tioga, and he said no. They asked him why he was there, but he walked away, then ran, they said, and Officer Saldutte saw a bulge in his jacket.

The officers told Agent Bush that they yelled, “Pittsburgh police, stop!” Officer Saldutte said he jumped out of the car and gave chase, as Mr. Miles fell on the ice, hitting his face on the sidewalk. (P-G, Rich Lord)

It was thereafter, it is said, things got messy.


Monica Wooding, who lived at 7940 Tioga, then came out and told the officers that she did not know Mr. Miles, they told Agent Bush. At a later preliminary hearing, though, Ms. Wooding told the judge that she knew Mr. Miles well, contradicting the police account of her statements at the scene. Charges against Mr. Miles of aggravated assault, loitering, resisting arrest and escape were dismissed. (ibid)

FBI Agent Sonia Bush was / is the lead investigator in this case from Indiana County, and was involved in this case involving a parole officer in North Huntington.

Not to be made irrelevant, the Tribune-Review runs material which perhaps better emphasizes the extent of the polarization and seething frustration enveloping this trial.

If the Comet had to guess what this civil trial is going to mean in the long view of history, its guess would be, “not much”. Local civil authorities are certainly swiveling their heads in some correct directions, and the black communities as always find copious ways to admit of shared responsibility for the overall picture.

But the long march of history is punctuated by incidents of this seemingly intractable conflict — crashing and wearing on us like the tides. It would be nice for something somewhere to give — to be able to envision sustainable beneficial adjustments coming down the pike. For all sides to grimace, lock eyes, hail Zoltan and forge something that will outlast us and surprise others. The Comet however does not yet see evidence of the requisite dispassion and empathy in the requisite quarters to seriously consider that as a likelihood.

“Learning” is like good looks, or making money. You either use it or you lose it.


In any event, back to lighter fare.

This is obviously what’s happening in the mayor’s race:

The above particular numbers should be taken with pinches of salt, and they are six months old besides. But somewhere in the ether there are numbers — and if we could see them, they’d certainly look something vaguely like that.

Also reported as part of the “fun exercise in speculative politics” at that time:

Fistfuls of salt.

But let’s say you’re buying it.

There would be two (2) and exactly two (2) rational courses of action for the candidates representing the “75%ers” — that is, as if all three of them: the Auditor General, the Member of Council and the Controller; were not already brain-addled by that potent cocktail of narcissism and magical thinking which calls itself, “This is my time.”

Strategy 1: The three challengers campaign actively and openly if a bit obliquely against each other through Thanksgiving. Through Christmas if they must. Then they spend the holidays and the first smidgen of January 2013 looking over some new independent, credible numbers or other data set — and whomever happens to be in 2nd place by that time, the field amiably coalesces behind that candidate.

Odds of Seeing Strategy 1: Unlikely.

Strategy 2: One of those three candidates unilaterally drops out of the contest, and spiritedly endorses one of the two remaining challengers. Pending a brief public conversation which lasts perhaps only through Groundhog Day, a coalescing will develop around that endorsed candidate regardless.

Odds of Seeing Strategy 2: Significantly more likely. Because as we just stated — at that juncture, the coalescing will happen regardless. The odd man out in that situation would certainly have to look to his sins.

For the night is dark, and full of terrors.

Fallback Position for the 75%ers in the event of Critical Rationality Failure among All Seasoned Challengers: “Option E”. Second fallback: Option G, aka “The Full-On Circus”.

Odds of Rationality Failure: Always reasonably high.


PSU: Reset Your Sense of Proportion. Shut Down the Program for a While.

As rancid as we had suspected. Surprised however that such a report was actually produced.

A scathing report that excoriated top Pennsylvania State University officials, including legendary football coach Joe Paterno, for failing to protect boys from a sexual predator sent a warning to other universities about the need to fully disclose suspected crimes on campus. (WSJ, Maher & Miller)

Recycling a Facebook comment:

Shutting down the football program wouldn’t be “punishment”, it’d be penance. It would be a way to acknowledge, demonstrate and make memorable the fact that football isn’t very important. The student-athletes would still get to take classes, and still get to go out on the quad to play football amongst themselves. But the entire community would get a reminder that this program is dust in the wind and ultimately not worth protecting like human life and human dignity. One year suspension.

Borrowing another comment from the Friend whose Wall I put it on:

I’m sorry, but I have a problem with people referring to the loss of money if there’s some punishment. Dollar signs and King Football is what created this mess.

Try surprising people, Penn State trustees. Show you realize that dollar signs aren’t everything.


But Jerry Sandusky isn’t in prison in spite of Tom Corbett, he’s there because Mr. Corbett did his job — by building a strong enough case to take a predator celebrity off the streets.

Most people don’t understand how cases such as this operate. It’s easy to sit behind a computer and critique all aspects of a case when you do not understand the inner workings of the justice system and its oftentimes harsh realities for victims. (P-G, Jennifer Storm)

We have the impression that if Sandusky was an axe murderer on the loose, “celebrity” and “pillar of the community” or not, then prosecutors might have acted with a fiercer sense of urgency. Or dug a little more doggedly.

On the Crucial Public Necessity of Taking Free Stuff

Today we examine the custom of our civic leaders habitually arranging for themselves free event tickets from the developers they are responsible for regulating and to whom they frequently find themselves giving public money. Are there any reasons for concern, do you think?

For the record, I don’t understand how a surround-sound system can shake a City to its foundations, yet revelations of tens of thousands of dollars worth of commercial event admissions are met only with smirks and soft pats on the head — but there are so many things I don’t understand.

“If it sounds like an appropriate request, I don’t think we stand on ceremony,” said Mary Conturo, the authority’s executive director. (P-G, Joe Smydo)

Ah! Very good. It has to be an appropriate request. Now we’re just down to how we distinguish appropriate economic development uses from personal and political uses. Any outing during which food and beverages are paid for out of a campaign fund, for example, would by definition be an outing in the nature of a political use. Or are we going too fast?

Mr. Fontana said he doesn’t use the tickets himself but gives them to neighborhood groups and officials visiting from other parts of the state. (ibid)

“Other parts of the state” — that’s good! Pittsburghers, we can assume, are already passingly well aware of the awesome PNC Park experience, but visiting out-of-towners truly ought to be awed by our fairytale skyline. “Community groups,” however — do we mean “constituents”? “Voters”? How are we supposed to run against somebody who can hand Steelers tickets out to community group leaders? May as well just give them parking spaces, or have PennDOT mow their lawn.

Former Mayor Sophie Masloff received about 60 tickets to 30 events, records showed. She said she has given tickets to family members but never requested what she considered an excessive amount. (ibid)


“Sometimes, they go to neighborhood organizations,” city council President Darlene Harris, a Sports and Exhibition Authority board member, said. (ibid)

Hey! Wait a minute. I’m actually in Darlene’s neighborhood — and I’ve been here as long as she’s been in office. Should I feel slighted? Sending me to a game would pay off in terms of “economic development” every bit as much as sending somebody from the community Conference, Alliance, Council, Federation or Jamboree. Is this an indication that I should have supported Vincent Pallus instead? We probably would have wound up with the same Finance Chair, and I could be getting my fair share of swag.

To improve accountability and transparency, city Controller Michael Lamb and county Controller Chelsa Wagner said, the authority should document the names of those receiving tickets and the reasons tickets are provided. (ibid)

That would be a good start. However sometimes these things get tripped up during the follow-through phase. Witness the Ethics Hearing Board, which meets each and every month during which WTAE reporter Bob Mayo throws cinder blocks at the City-County Building; and its mandated Gift Disclosure page, from which we learn that only one (1) city official has accepted one (1) gift once since 2009.

Personal use of tickets, Ms. Nadler added, is flat-out wrong. “You are never to use your position for personal benefit.” (ibid)

Clearly she’s not from around here, so moving right along…

“The bottom line is the SEA gives the tickets to the mayor because they want him at events,” Ms. Doven said in an email, referring to the Sports and Exhibition Authority. “His appearance shows city support for what is going on in the city. That is part of his job as mayor. If the mayor has additional tickets, then his priority is to use them to promote the city.” (ibid)

Technically, his purchasing a ticket would be more supportive of the city. In this instance the city is much closer to supporting him, right? Although I suppose there is room for discussion about the extent to which U2 and Bon Jovi benefited from the mayor’s support. A long, gratuitously repetitive discussion over the next ten months, until it’s impossible to think of the name “Ravenstahl” without thinking about U2 and Bon Jovi.

On Mr. Fitzgerald’s watch, she said, tickets will be used only for business purposes and all requests for tickets will come from the executive’s office. (ibid)

Excellent that he’s gone on record — but it begs the question, how is the city and region going to get along without his support? Sounds dangerous.

It also provided tickets to several legislators who were identified, including the Winter Classic and McCartney concert tickets to state Sen. Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills, who could not be reached for comment. (ibid)

Some people are plainly too important to respond to such nattering. Yet somehow in this case the “no comment” is almost more open and honest. I work hard, I deserve tickets, nobody can stop me. That’s the sort of bold leadership we’ve come to expect from state leaders.

Records showed that city Councilman Bill Peduto received tickets to two events, but he said he actually received tickets to three. Twice, he said, he took international visitors to baseball games. Once, he said, he took family members. (ibid)

See? What a wuss.

Clearly, the rules are too loose and must be tightened. In the age of transparency, the agency’s records are a muddy stream that don’t even reveal why officials are receiving tickets. This is nonsense and part of the petty, grasping behavior that this region should have outgrown years ago.

Stop it. (P-G, Edit Board)

Plus one.

Directly underneath our public officials’ hilarious rationalizations for such graft is the idea that, “Everyone else is just jealous. You wish you were running this town, so you could do it too.” That’s the precise mentality that needs overthrowing forever. We’re not going to get the leadership we deserve until we change the culture of entitlement, this sense of royal privilege.

This SEA business is a great place to start, and the media would do well to force the issue relentlessly.