Monthly Archives: March 2014

Winning: Does Pittsburgh Want It?

At a dinner party of eight this weekend, it suddenly arose that I was the only “native” Pittsburgher in the group, and how did that make me feel?

Um… gosh, this is a first… I guess that explains some things? No, not really, heh heh! Or, maybe a little.

Peduto pledges to draw 20,000 new residents in 10 years by improving public transit, focusing development on long-neglected neighborhoods, and supporting economic growth in education and medical services. (Trib, Chris Togneri)

… and schools and housing.

Because of course. That’s the score, right? Population is the score! We had been losing for decades, and now we’re aching to put points on the board.

Then I recall random articles: Continue reading

Modern Pittsburgh and Community Policing

We alluded to a web of conviction.

We have seen how we are going to be more trepidatious and demanding in how redevelopment approaches, as it must, some of our most valuable, difficult and historic neighborhood assets.

We have spoken of a need to aggressively seek out and organize more welcome opportunities for growth to provide jobs, benefits, urban density, new local businesses opportunities, and more tax revenue for education, transportation and infrastructure.

That web won’t hold.

Let’s get real.

Given that our progressive City bestrides moderate-to-conservative regions in a free-market worshiping nation and global marketplace, and given that no compromises are perfect, even the better bargains we are likely to see in the Down District / Hilltown for example are going to feel debatable on the grander scale. At the other end, open your mouth about the need for “economic growth” too often, and somehow your Q Score plummets in broad swaths of a deeply working-class city.

And politics act to aggravate inertias.

Our web still lacks a central ring, before we can engage with communities in redevelopment paradigms on full cylinders, and before we can accomplish many other reforms requiring broadly popular mandates. Continue reading


Appropriated from Philadelphians.

Land Banks 101

Know your issue…

This comes from the Center for Community Progress, which incidentally includes a friendly face! That is, if you’d like more information.

Here is a summary of forthcoming “O’Connor-Gross” amendments to Pittsburgh’s land banking bill, including a new board structure geared to adequately represent affected communities. Meanwhile, Councillors Lavelle, Harris, Kail-Smith and Burgess are hosting a meeting on Tuesday at 6:00 PM at Central Baptist Church to critique that bill and promote a seeming alternative. [Updated write-up] [Further point-counterpoint.]

Yes, the math on this one is like that. So expect the latter to pull their goaltender, crash the net, and try to send a message.

*-TODAY: Also, the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania is holding an information session with Q&A on Wednesday from 3:00-5:00 at the August Wilson Center (presumably as practicum).

Interview: Adam Ravenstahl

Two-term State Representative Adam Ravenstahl of the 20th District is still battling Harrisburg.

“Harrisburg itself is pretty frustrating,” he says, noting that he co-sponsored legislation to shrink the size of the Legislature. “Republicans control everything, and in that same regard, the partisan politics is pretty unfortunate in my opinion.” He says the two sides of the aisle don’t talk or mingle as much as they used to.

“There is a lack of respect,” he finds most irritating. “A lot of time we’ve been cut off from debate.”

Debate can be a touchy subject, however. Ravenstahl was attacked in 2012 by Democratic party challenger Mark Purcell for not personally taking part in House floor debate in his first term.

How about since then? Continue reading


Before exploring how everything is changing, let us begin with the transition buy-outs:

Peduto expects the plan to generate cost savings by eliminating at least one third of the positions of the employees to retire under SIP… The program will cost the city $3,626,168.33 in payouts over the next two years, less than the $4.4 million the Peduto administration originally estimated. (PBT, Tim Schooley)

Skepticism remains whether the savings from trimming staff will really offset payouts… but we have to remember, the Mayor’s logic also was in advantages of transferring and redefining many positions, in going “back to the drawing board” on certain parts of government. It’s hardly personal, it’s just a marker of transition.

That controversy is completed. Next?

The nomination of Ms. Kennedy, who previously headed up the Bureau of Licensing and Inspection in Philadelphia, has troubled some. Though she comes to Pittsburgh with high marks for modernizing the bureau in Philadelphia, she fails to meet the minimum qualifications spelled out in the job description. She is neither a certified architect nor an engineer, and she lacks certification as a building code officer. (P-G, Moriah Balingit)

Previous reporting has Kennedy set to take the state certification test in April.

An architect, or an engineer, or a building code officer. Would a certified architect be certain to possess the knowledges of a building code officer? How about a certified engineer, should we presume they are capable of enforcing building codes? It seems as though the framers of this role at some instant wished to convey, “The Director needs to be qualified, somehow.”

Perhaps City Council should quiz Kennedy from the PA Building Code Officer Test Study Guide. At least there will be right answers.

The real heat that has everyone’s saucepan simmering concerns the Mayor’s settling on a permanent Director of Public Safety, and starting on the process towards a permanent Chief of Police, and hey, maybe the Citizens Police Review Board. Meanwhile, some remember when the post of Public Safety Director was considered a bookkeeping artifact.

And finally, here is the BIG KAHUNA: 45 Next Pittsburgh board appointments and nominees. We shall cover them, one at a time, in the manner of a Rotisserie League Baseball Scouting Handbook. Check back occasionally as our handbook grows. From the top we note that some forms of diversity appear impressive in this administration, while others remain difficult to gauge.

Brenda Smith: The Nine-Mile Run Watershed Association is appropriate to ALCOSAN and its green infrastructure push. Giving $900 to the Peduto campaign over 2011 and 2012 seems modest.

Greg Jones: Economic Development South is apropos from an intergovernmental collaboration perspective, necessary to ALCOSAN.  Cannot find any contribution trail, but they’ve walked and talked in Carrick.

Continue reading

Allegheny County set to Stone-Cold Drill its Parks

Slant-drill, that is:

Drilling activity, including the well pads, water storage and truck transportation, will occur on private property outside the park boundaries, Fitzgerald said. (Trib, Aaron Aupperlee)

Style points, there. Alhough noise will inevitably intrude.

What is the logic behind this?

Drainage, Eli! Somebody else is going to drink that milkshake anyway, is the concept, not to mention poke copious holes in the earth. This way at least the public gets to dip its hats into the filth and scoop out several millions of dollars.

But what is this about “assurances”? Continue reading


City Workers Win, Lose and Sue

We are well and truly underway…

PA state law ordinarily forbids labor arbiters from considering “the City’s ability to pay” when making decisions.  Before we leave the necessary protection of Act 47 in 2019, can we change that law to its exact opposite:  that arbitrators must consider it? It seems so much more sustainable and rational. Are we sure the PA Code does not contain a typo? (more)

Cheer up: It’s great that some City workers may now live where they want, feel they must, and as they please. Well maybe not “great” in that we would strongly prefer you choose to live here for many reasons. But the ridiculous (though popular) notion that an employer gets to rule over a worker while resting or at leisure is fading. Bear in mind, it is not as though police-community relations in Pittsburgh have been saturated with neighborly trust and empathy thanks to the residency rule — and we should all agree the City stands to benefit considerably from casting a wider net.  (more)

Finally, Palmosina v. Peduto, Costa & Acklin will make its way through the legal system like a glacial pie fight. Was the former fired for political reasons? The answer almost definitely has to be: “Not really, but kinda.” Curious to learn what are the burdens of proof in such a case, and how much embarrassing-to-everyone-involved evidence each party is going to bring. One must imagine the government possesses far more ready data.

It has no real bearing on this one individual’s complaint, but we do think it’s remarkable that a year or two ago, 5 out of 32 [12] city Democratic ward leaders were working in the city’s Department of Public Works. That’s a freakishly strong correlation. How do we account for it?

Thursday: Priorities & Prerogatives

On Downtown transit: “Under the present system, there is less accessibility for people than there would be under a circulator system… if you create a circulator system, you would have every bus within 3-4 blocks of anywhere Downtown.”

On public schools: ““When people who have children, or are thinking about having children, are buying houses, the first question they ask is, ‘How good is the school system?’ “

On police bureau discipline: “In the past, OMI has sometimes seen us as not a partner… That perception will clearly be gone with the new appointment.”

On affordable housing“I’ve been in housing in this city for 20 years, and I’ve never heard people talk about that.”

On a Land Bank: “Councilmanic prerogative is an unwritten agreement between Philly’s 10 District councilmembers, whereby each representative is afforded total authority over land use and development issues in his or her district, such as zoning changes or the transfer of city-owned properties… getting a land bank created will take more than convincing councilmembers of the tool’s merit. Advocates will also need to make the case that there could be real political fallout for those who do not support a more transparent and predictable system of land transfers. Just as importantly, they will have to articulate a shared vision that this system will work toward.” (GREAT EXAMPLE)