Category Archives: Save the Penguins

Big Deal: It’s Thursday

Rendell. Onorato. Ravenstahl. Lemieux. Burkle. Bettman. Six white dudes, trying to build an arena for a very white sport, in a black neighborhood. Because it was such a smash hit last time. We’re just saying. (Belko & Barnes, P-G, or if you prefer, Conte & Rossi – Asti Spumante, Trib)

“Back then, the Plan B engine was driven by Pittsburgh … This time around, the dynamic is different in a lot of ways.” (Dvorchak, P-G).

(You know that Republican talking point about how Democrats are hoping we lose the war in Iraq? We anticipate Team Peduto will be accused of being happy the Penguins are leaving.)

Brian O’Neill of the P-G gets his snark on, translating the Penguin’s letter: “A small but vocal portion of the populace cares intensely about this and we can play those sports-talk shows like fiddles.”

The Trib editorial board is not amused, suggesting a name change to the “Kansas City Ingrates.”

Finally, KDKA’s Fred Honsberger held a rapid-fire forum, in which callers had just ten seconds to express their opinion on the Pens. The majority said they should stay, and a good number of those said, “We should keep them, no matter what,” which TOTALLY strengthens our bargaining position, y’all! We could only stomach about a third of the segment before we had to sweep our Dell computer clear off the desk, like we were about to hoist a girl up there or something.

Myron Cope Notwithstanding…


Another week has come and gone, and still no breakthrough on a new arena.

With each passing day, Mellon Arena grows more and more beautiful.

In the Hill District, as the sins of its construction recede into history, there is growing apprehension for the sins of its replacement.

We remember a troupe of Toronto Maple Leafs fanatics spilling out of a bar on Seventh Street, enjoying their third trip to Pittsburgh this year. They volunteered to us what an awesome city we had, and that we have the best remaining hockey venue on the continent. Of course, they were Canadians, and drunk, and therefore romantics. But still.

We ask again — is there really no way to cram some superboxes in that thing? Open off the roof and build another level? How hard could it be? Use that same Barden money. Use that same Rendell money. Put the CMU architects on the case.

Take some time to think it over. One more year! One more year! One more year!

Public Subsidies: you gotta be bad, bold, wiser, hard, tough, stronger, cool, calm, stick together…

Wonderful piece by Bill Toland in the P-G yesterday on public subsidies for private development deals, but it’s hard to figure out anyting to do with it.

Anyone with even the thinnest libertarian streak hollers, “That’s OUR money!” Meanwhile, folks like the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership are always screeching, “But we’re the core! The CORE!!!” Politicians presume that by doling out cash, it’ll come back as goodwill and campaign contributions, but that can just as easily backfire.

What’s the solution? We guess you’ve just got to be canny. Pick the right development projects that seem like they’re really going to help. And make sure your resume is sprinkled with occasions on which you’ve said “No!”

One thing’s for sure: it would have been much easier to talk those legislators from Berks County and King of Prussia about public transit, or municipal pensions, if we hadn’t asked them to build (probably) three sports stadiums in the last ten years. I’m just sayin‘.

Save the Penguins

“Our point has been all along that the Penguins ought to have some equity in this project, too,” Barden said. “We think we’re contributing more than our fair share.”

With this quote in Mark Belko’s P-G update, negotiations have officially spilled out into the public. There is no ellaboration of what a “fair share” might be for a casino entrepreneur who holds no interest in any NHL franchise, and whose own business karma is entwined with that of a totally separate struggling neighborhood that has not been the cause celebre of media concern.

Peduto discussed his Plan C on KDKA with Larry Reichart, and in bolstering the case for his own importance, reminded us of his dealmaking role in Heinz Field and PNC Park. The Comet wonders if this line on Peduto’s bio won’t be read as a net negative, and also wonders whether the composition of the Hill District (circa 2007) and the North Shore (circa 2000) invite similar strategies.

Finally, buried within Conte & Rossi’s Trib piece on Who Really Runs the Pens, there is news that “Internet media blog Gawker.com has written about Burkle more than 50 times since March.” We’ll save you some time: he has been accused of “modelizing” with Gisele Bundchen and others, of spying on his ex-wife, of attempting to purchase media outlets, and of harboring Bill Clinton.

The Opening Swipe

“This is the perfect opportunity for Barden, the Penguins, the city, the county and the state to partner together,” Peduto said. “It’s a great way to keep the team in Pittsburgh, redevelop the Hill, get Barden more involved in the community, and lessen the impact on taxpayers.”

“I’m saying scrap Plan B and create Plan C.”

Quote courtesy of Mark Belko of the P-G, who thereby gets to ring the bell in the upcoming mayoral race, or at least gets to strut around the ring in a bikini, bearing a “Round 1” sign.

It is unclear whether Peduto’s Plan C is different enough from Plan B to merit a new initial. And it is unclear how Ravenstonorato will react to this, as they are in the midst of high-stakes negotiations.

“Morning” Line: Already in Motion

Save Fort Pitt: The Fort Pitt Preservation Society has concocted a plan that would preserve much of the Music Bastion at Point State Park, yet still provide for a large, flat festival grounds, reports the Trib’s Allison M. Heinrichs.

In what seems to be the first hint of a glimmer of positive news for preservationists, State Sen. Wayne Fontana (D-Brookline) says he will ask the state to look at the plan, saying, “I’m glad (the preservation society) brought something forward. I think their opinions and outlook should be considered. If there is a good compromise plan that will not hurt the (renovation) process, then it certainly should be looked at.”

Meanwhile, the PA Dept. of Preservation, deigning to respond only through email, continues to cite deadlines and budgets. The Riverlife Task Force and Allegheny Conference declined to comment. Heinrichs, now perpetrating like an activist, includes a link www.savefortpitt.org.

Save the Penguins: Lemieux describes his meeting with the Rendell-Onorato-Ravenstahl troika yesterday as “very positive” and says he’s “very optimistic.” But only the Trib’s Andrew Conte & Rob Rossi have found “sources” willing to say the talks went so well, there could be a deal as soon as next week.

The McNeilly Case: Here is how it all allegedy went down, and I use the term “allegedly” as a big, thick wool blanket over all of the following:

Dennis Regan was employed as a prick on behalf of the late Mayor Bob O’Connor. Regan would, for instance, threaten to demote police commanders to beat patrol if they hassled persons or businesses with city-hall-caliber pull. Regan’s girlfriend was city Senior Secretary Marlene Cassidy, whose brother is a certain Officer Francis Rende. Regan “ordered” Police Chief Costa to promote this well-connected girlfriend’s brother to the position of Detective, although Regan, as Operations Director, was outside the purview of Public Safety matters.

Upon his ascension to Mayor, Ravenstahl nominated this useful Regan fellow as his Public Safety Director, which would give such “orders” to the Police Chief considerably more weight. But this is where Police Commander McNeilly intervened, objecting to this rascal Regan’s elevation. Part of her complaint to City Council was Officer Rende’s well-filled, undeserving-of-promition disciplinary file, which revealed Rende’s habit of calling off work “sick” to do side jobs for profit.

Something about the exposure caused Dennis Regan not only to withdraw his nomination for Public Safety Director, but to resign from city employ altogether. Yet Mayor Ravenstahl retaliated by demoting McNeilly to Lieutennant. She is suing to be reinstated as Commander under federal whistle-blower protection.

Today’s P-G coverage by Rich Lord & Paula Reed Ward plays up McNeilly’s admission that she broke rules in revealing details of Officer Rende’s disciplinary record to City Council and others. They have Ravenstahl saying, “My understanding was that Commander McNeilly admitted today that she broke the rules, and I think that says it all. I think that speaks volumes as to why the decision was made to demote her to lieutenant.” Only much later to they have a quote by an ally of McNeilly, which in effect says, “If you want to make an omlet, you have to break some eggs.”

Morning Line: Not an Easy Day for Us

Transit Cuts: The Trib’s Jim Ritchie quite properly led his story with the fact that the Port Authority is intending to do less, for more money. And to answer your next question, Onorato insists he is not making these proposals to cause mass hysteria, hold bloody public hearings, and thereby shock the PA legislature into action. No, no, no, no, no.

Elsewhere in the Trib, with their trademark class, an editorial calls the transit budget a “cluster cluck,” and hails the cuts.

“People are talking about looking for jobs outside of Pittsburgh and no longer coming into Downtown Pittsburgh.” That pitch-perfect, pol-frightening quote from a certain New Kensington commuter Dennis Lewandowski kicks off Dan Major’s obligatory P-G reaction piece. The Wabash Tunnel and North Shore Connector projects are later questioned as expenditures perhaps better deserving of the axe than so many existing routes.

Meanwhile: Save our Transit needs friends now more than ever.

Wechtgate: George Hollis, former chief histologist of the Allegheny County coroner’s office, has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in the case against Dr. Cyril Wecht. Those prosecutors allege Mr. Hollis spent a “significant and substantial” amount of public time doing work for Dr. Wecht’s private firm. The P-G story by Paula Reed Ward made no mention of whether or not Attorney Stallings was simply motivated by resentment of Dr. Wecht’s massive intellect.

(Histology: The study of the structure, chemical composition and function of the tissue or tissue systems of plants and animals)

Save the Penguins: Oklahoma City, Las Vegas, Winnipeg, Hartford. These cities are cited by the Trib’s dynamic duo Andrew Conte & Rob Rossi, who alert us that the scary guy from the Kansas City sports desk is not our only nemesis. The timing of Lemieux’s visit to K.C. suggests he’s simply gaining leverage, yet a six-way bidding war would require a pretty spectacular Plan B+++.

Am I crazy, or did Mayor Ravenstahl sound kind of downbeat as he discussed this with Larry Richert on KDKA this morning? Note how he slud in that he originally endorsed the Isle of Capri plan. Not a forward-thinking comment.

Meanwhile, a P-G editorial ridiculously chides Bill Cowher for taking too long in mulling over his retirement, in an obvious fit of transference over their real frustration: Mario’s indecision. Which the P-G cannot savage for fear of sending the big guy over the brink.