Author Archives: Bram Reichbaum

As Financial Recovery winds down, Legislative caretakers getting greedy?

It’s not every day that suburban and rural Pennsylvanians demand more government.

But when the job was keeping taxes and fees low for commuters and other visitors to Pittsburgh, state legislators in 2004 couldn’t move fast enough to create a new authority with a vague mandate and sweeping powers that was largely redundant.

Special double financial oversight hasn’t been a total disaster. After a world-historic economic boom and bust, austerity measures born largely by city workers allowed Pittsburgh enough time to reclaim its riverfronts, better exploit its universities and achieve semblances of vibrancy, distinction and stability by the time city living came roaring back into vogue.

Pittsburgh has since demonstrated its readiness to emerge from its state-administered recovery program, Continue reading

Commission on Human Relations Dragged into Total War

Yesterday the Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations held a special meeting for the sole seeming purpose of determining whether and how to punish one of its members for publicly discussing her concerns about that body’s search for a new Director.

As was reported seven weeks ago:

New Commissioner Helen Gerhardt called it “an improper process” plagued by a lack of transparency and accountability and added that the next director could have an impact on the “daily lives of many thousands who work, visit, or live in Pittsburgh for decades to come.”


Ms. Gerhardt, who has frequently clashed with the commission’s leadership over the hiring process, said commissioners were only given the resume of Ms. Rogers, the preferred candidate of the commission’s personnel committee, at the July 30 meeting. Ms. Gerhardt’s request to see the resumes of other finalists was refused.

“We were expected to do an up-or-down vote on the candidate without having the time to look at [resumes]. And commissioners were not supposed to do outside research or to bring it to the personnel committee for consideration,” she said.  (P-G, Zullo & Potter)

Yesterday, that was Commissioner Leah Williams-Duncan’s pointed concern. Duncan had been chairwoman Continue reading

County, State & Beyond: More sheep shearing

Screen Shot 2015-09-24 at 6.46.50 PMThis will just about catch us up.


ALCOSAN, the City / County sewer authority, has begun investing billions in a centennial overhaul. But ALCOSAN officials are not shopping around for an engineering firm to manage the lion’s share, having settled into a favorite named AECOM. One board member actually resigned because contracting decisions seemed too thinly justified to be associated with.

It is probably time for elected-on-autopilot Allegheny County Treasurer John Weinstein, who chairs the ALCOSAN board and is responsible for how these decisions get made, to step into the limelight. He can begin providing real public accountability for the whole sensational undertaking, instead of public relations.


The new health care system is up and running Continue reading

City Edition: Shearing the Sheep of State

Let’s take care of some issues that have been festering:


Before we dive into such profound topics as architecture and who gets to design it, let me say one thing about Pittsburgh Penguins’ owners alleged interest in selling the hockey franchise and the 28 developable acres:  I don’t trust them.

Why would Mario Lemieux fight so long and ingeniously to become part-owner of huge and pristine tracts of Downtown land, then sell out at the very precipice of becoming a Duke?

Rather, it must be negotiating season once again when it comes to complying with community agreements. Much like his notorious feint towards Kansas City, Lemieux may Continue reading

HBO adaptation of August Wilson cycle will be a huge eruption

Home Box Office, or HBO as they like to be called, makes fantastic television.

The Brink was wonderful, Silicon Valley got better and better, and Ballers was exactly what it wanted to be at the outset, although that turned out to be disappointing. And I don’t even have to tell you about Game of Thrones and Last Week Tonight.

Quality source material helps make for good television. August Wilson is sometimes considered one of the greatest playwrights of the 20th century.

It is remarkable how cable television has conditioned us to expect new content in ten-episode seasons, and here Wilson provides a tidy package of ten plays about a timely topic:  race in America, and the ongoing struggle to heal certain wounds.

All of which suggests that this HBO series is probably going to earn a lot of attention and acclaim.

Which is great, as  Continue reading

Police Chief McLay’s Reading List

MORE: See the Courier

MORE: See the Courier

First:  hurry!  You have only until the end of this week to sign up for autumn’s Citizens Police Academy, an informal 15-week course designed to help you get better acquainted with how our city’s Bureau of Police works.

It’s a good class for everybody from neighborhood or organizational participants who want to work more closely with law enforcement on their block or at their events, to social justice activists seeking to deepen their understanding of the 5-0’s perspectives.

They don’t try to convince you that they’re all angels, so much as provide information as they see it and live it. It’s a good atmosphere for back-and-forth.

Meanwhile we caught up with Police Chief Cameron McLay the other day, and asked him his reading recommendations for understanding policing challenges in the modern era. Here is what he had for us:   Continue reading

Peduto Stance on Pensions Ruffles Party Feathers

When Pittsburgh’s mayor sided with state Republicans and against Governor Tom Wolf on the issue of public pensions, it was a one-day story for most of Pennsylvania.

But within Pittsburgh’s Democratic machine, his position may be adding fuel to what had been the quietly smoldering embers of factional division.

Peduto supports a Republican-backed state Senate budget proposal that would have switched new state employees, including legislators, from defined benefits to defined contribution plans similar to a 401(k), in which employees have the option to save and invest some of their paychecks, a portion of which the employer matches. (Trib, Bauder & Daniels)

A week later, at the Democratic Committee vote to nominate a new County Council member in the east (congratulations, Paul Klein!) our own Committee precinct rep criticized that proposal to us as placing the retirements of public safety personnel in jeopardy, Continue reading

Commission on Human Relations meets again, puts off more delicate decisions

Today, the City of Pittsburgh Commission on Human Relations met for the umpteenth time to discuss their search for a new Executive Director.

Pittsburgh’s CHR is a law enforcement agency which derives its authority from the City Fair Practices Provisions found in Article V, Chapters 651 through 659 of the Pittsburgh City Code. These provisions make it unlawful to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, family status (housing), age, ancestry, national origin, place of birth, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, handicap or disability, [or] retaliation

Four months ago, the painstakingly reassembled Commission showed signs of trouble in its process of selecting a new Executive Director. The Personnel Committee continued to have strained relations with the rest of the Commission. Last month, they all thought they had come together on an agreeable selection. But alas, that applicant had withdrawn their interest.

Before Continue reading

Fax D.A. Zappala; Drop the charges against Ford

Telephone: 412-350-4400 or 4404. Facsimile:  (412) 350-3311

Here is the story. These facts are not much in dispute.

A kid was stopped by police as he was driving. Police suspected the guy was somebody else of a similar name and description — an alleged bad actor. Despite presenting three forms of identification, and after extended officer huddling and teleconferencing, he remained under suspicion.  At length, and contrary to police policy, an officer entered the young man’s vehicle. A confusing scuffle ensued, the car moved forward, the kid (Leon, his name is Leon Ford) was shot in the spine, Continue reading

The Strip District will have So Many Trees!

We all use the Twitter in different ways:

Oh are we. Pursuing what?     Continue reading