Peduto’s first 100 days: Drawn and Nocked.

Here is the Mayor’s press release.

And here is the full 100-days report: The Sworn In: A ‘Dutes and Kev Tale.

Even by the standards of, “a Mayor gets to take credit for everything,” and, “some of these things are still works in progress,” this is pretty tight. Chock-a-block.

Over sixty exhibits in the categories of neighborhood investment (hooray for soliciting original proposals in the Strip!), government restructuring & reform (hooray for reinvigoration at OMI!), and innovation (hooray for open data!).

One regret is not having earned the Finance Director Director of OMB he felt he needed and deserved, but for the most part eyes are focused squarely on a weighty future.

While we have accomplished a lot in our first 100 days, we have a long way to go to realize our potential as a city poised for greatness. Through every stage of our work — from studying the best ways to fill potholes to striving for cutting-edge neighborhood development models — we have one message for both our residents and the world. Our single focus, from the first 100 days to the next 1,000, is to make comprehensive changes to fashion a city government that serves all residents and makes all of Pittsburgh stronger for generations to come. (Early Returns)

Emphasis mine. Get hype.

MORE: Trib, Bob Bauder; P-G, Moriah Balingit

BONUS: Listen to Part 1 of Richard Carrington of Voices Against Violence, at the blog Buses are Bridges. Carrington was selected as one of the community representatives on the Interim land bank board, tasked with crafting its policies and procedures as per 174A.05(d).

30 thoughts on “Peduto’s first 100 days: Drawn and Nocked.

  1. MH

    Probably not your main point, but the essay on archery linked at “St. Hubert’s Rangers” is very interesting.

    Reply
      1. Brian Tucker-Hill

        I should probably note my own “confirmation bias” however. Way back in February, when it was reported they had included but never used the infrastructure necessary to build above, I wrote:

        “And I was interested to read they apparently built the structure with future uses of the air rights in mind. Maybe some for-profit developer can buy it for that purpose, but then lease back a portion to a reorganized AWC.”

        See comments here:

        http://www.post-gazette.com/ae/theater-dance/2014/02/09/Rise-and-fall-of-August-Wilson-Center/stories/201402090045

        Still makes sense, though. Downtown is booming, and assuming the developer in question did their due diligence on feasibility, this could end up looking like a very smart move for them, all while they generate good will in the community.

  2. Anonymous

    The comments from the Mayor and ACE about crushing the highest bid are offensive. How can they publicly state that they will use the power of government to defeat legally binding contracts and the rights of creditors to be paid? More importantly, where are the good government advocates? This is Soviet area politics are using government to direct outcomes to favored partners. While we may like foundations better, they are nothing more than private actors, often just doling out private funds. The AWC is a private institution that was mismanaged and no one has shown how can be managed properly in the future and generate positive operating cash flow. This issue sheds needed light on what our local leaders believe the role of government to be and we should all be concerned. If the Mayor is publicly saying that the highest offer will never be able to build the hotel, what exactly is he basing that on? Is he saying he will use the power of government to make sure they never get permits or planning approval? If so, not only is that wrong it is criminal. If the Mayor and ACE want save the AWC they need come up with a method that is within the law, not by threats of improper governmental power.

    Reply
    1. Helen Gerhardt

      In a democracy, government may allow us to prioritize other considerations than highest bid. The August Wilson Center is a community cultural resource that we taxpayers helped to fund, including $3.5 million from the city, $2.5 million from Allegheny County and $10 million from the state. ” No, in this case I don’t see evidence of “Soviet area politics,” I see elected officials willing to protect public interests from the straight-up oligarchic power of big-big-money, to protect a thoughtful assessment of who will best serve the cultural health of our community.

      Now, if there were enforceable contractual teeth to ensure that the biggest bidder would indeed serve our public cultural interest rather than just making PR-pretty promises, that would be a different story. I do think that it might be wise to remember the Penguins elaborate kabuki show of the New Arena Public Art Master Plan – elaborate community process for plans still languishing in limbo because the parking lot tycoon Penguins were not able to raise the funds for Curtain Call after their newspaper promises were lining bird cages. Yes, BS. Just replace “bull” with “bird.”

      So, I’d suggest that our local government electeds might well be acting in light of such memory after having taken the BS bait from big bidders in the past. Misusing their power? I suggest that they are showing awareness of their responsibility to learn from the past to better serve the public interest.

      Reply
      1. Anonymous

        I suggest this comment is kabuki theater. Foundations are private actors with private money. They made a choice to make donations. A choice that turned out to be ill conceived and without proper safeguards. The fact that the government leaders would choose to use the power of government to protect their investment is wrong. They are in choosing to protect the bad investments of one private actor over others.

        As to the public dollars, again, the public officials choose to make investments with tax payer money. If the public officials now really wanted to protect the tax payer they would be choosing the bid that returns the most money to the tax payer, not the ones that return less and keep another property off the tax rolls.

        What makes it all worse is that state law requires that a non-profit that can pay its debts be wound up for the benefit of creditors. Dollar Bank has every right to foreclose on its mortgage and sell the property to whoever it wants. If government officials are strong arming creditors and the tax payer by saying they will without permits and zoning and inspections if the favored private actor doesn’t get the building – that is an illegal use of government power. No ifs ands or buts about it. Any other explanation is an exercise in kabuki theater.

      2. Brian Tucker-Hill

        The Penguins were not the highest bidders for the development rights to the Lower Hill. They never had to bid at all–they were given those rights as part of their massive package of public giveaways in exchange for keeping the Penguins in Pittsburgh.

        I’m not sure that episode is really applicable at all, but if it is, it would be in support of the opposite conclusion: namely that giving away valuable development rights on a no-bid basis to a favored entity on the claim that you are serving the public interest by doing so is not a good approach to maximizing the utilization of those rights. That in fact is one of the chief virtues of simply auctioning off development rights–the highest bidder is likely to be the one with the most ambitious plans, since they must have some reason to believe they can recoup their investment.

      3. Helen Gerhardt

        @Brian Tucker-Hill

        Sorry, Brian, I entirely missed seeing your April 20, 2014 at 8:14 am comment until just now.

        This is the part of my analogy that I hope might be useful to consider. In both cases, unverifiable promises to invest in community cultural missions were made to sway the public and our elected officials to allow practically effective control over property and resources in which the public has significant interest and investment.

        It would be a very different matter indeed if such enormous public resources had not already been invested in the AWC – I do think that elected officials have a responsibility to attempt some realization of our tax-dollar investments in AWC missions. So, when bidders are sweetening their cash offers with promises in terms of community cultural benefit, I hope that all responsible parties will work for some sort of enforceable guarantees that such promises will have some verifiable substance.

        Brian, you write, …the highest bidder is likely to be the one with the most ambitious plans, since they must have some reason to believe they can recoup their investment. Do we have evidence that the bidder’s ambitions really do line up with the ambitions to see the AWC missions fulfilled? And history is filled with case examples of high bidders that never recouped their investment either for themselves or the communities that they made promises to benefit. At this point, we certainly have no evidence that this un-named bidder with an unknown (to us) history has the ability or will to demonstrate responsible corporate citizenship or to realize ambitions of any sort.

        .

      4. Brian Tucker-Hill

        Fortunately this is a relatively simple situation in terms of legal documentation–the August Wilson Center would just need a lease. And in fact this sort of “sale-and-leaseback” deal is pretty common, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to get it done under the supervision of the conservator and court.

        I’d note too that you would also need similar documentation with the foundation plan. And in fact that one is potentially trickier, because it likely requires the extinction of the current legal entity.

    2. Bram Reichbaumbramr101 Post author

      I’d really like to have an opinion on all this, but I keep getting hung up on one question nobody seems to want to answer (which probably means it’s rude or something):

      Is there still an August Wilson Center for African-American Culture, the nonprofit?

      Is there a current board, which meets?

      Is there an Executive Director, who speaks for it?

      It seems like every tongue in Pittsburgh is wagging about the nonprofit except the duly constituted nonprofit itself.

      I think there’s a legitimate government interest in facilitating a resolution such that a nonprofit like this one can continue to function. I didn’t read the Mayor threatening to withhold due process from any creditors, I did read him lobbying the judge and all parties, and promising to use legal and legitimate means to pursue better civic partnerships over less fruitful ones.

      Appropriate how this thread blossoms forth from this post. “Okay, hundred days whatever, but what have you done for me lately?

      Reply
      1. Helen Gerhardt

        Well, although I’m not fully researched up on this issue, maybe the board members and director of that nonprofit are deliberately stilling their tongues, perhaps not having earned a lot of room to preach even to their choirs.

      2. Bram Reichbaumbramr101 Post author

        If that happens to be the case, Helen, seems the best thing for getting stakeholders to take up serious stakes again is to accept accountability as warranted and formally step aside so the Center and its Mission can restore credibility exactly when it needs it most.

        “We’ll just take over from here, and let’s never speak of this again.” Not my preferred ending or resolution.

      3. Helen Gerhardt

        Accepting responsibility is a good thing – double standards are not and yes, culture/class supremacy has a great deal to do with where such demands are aimed. I will indeed blame racist hypocrisy that doesn’t expect the Penguins or Steelers to meet the same standards of accountability and public benefit for public subsidies that they expect of the AWC.

      4. Anonymous

        Read the articles Bram. Both the Mayor and ACE are saying that the other development “will never happen.” They are saying “it will never get done.” That is absolutely threatening due process and property rights and not just “lobbying.” Lobbying would be to simply show up and say their preference is something that preserves the mission. Besides, “lobbying” judges is illegal. If anyone has said one word to the Judge outside the courtroom they should be prosecuted and thrown in jail.

        There is a very easy way for the foundations to get the Center – they can pay off the debt. So what you have here is the Mayor and ACE using their governmental power to ensure that the foundations can get the center on the cheap. They are helping one private actor to get a better deal than they are entitled to under the law at the expense of other private actors. That is morally and legally wrong.

        Now, you do raise some good questions about the former board. What happened to the entity? Does it even exist? Why are the foundations fighting to keep it and why do they need to own the real estate? Can’t the AWC exist somewhere else or even in the same location as a tenant? It seems strange that we would give yet more public money and foundation money to the same people that let the thing sink in the first place. And that doesn’t mean just the board, it means the foundations and the government. They all gave a bunch of money and failed to mind the store or hold anyone accountable. They are just as guilty for this failure and should not be treated like the savior.

      5. Brian Tucker-Hill

        You don’t need racism to explain why sports teams get ridiculous levels of unaccountable public subsidies all over the country. It is just a very unfortunate consequence of politicians not wanting to be blamed for “losing” a popular franchise. To the extent there is a deep story to tell about that, it is really about the media. Long ago, the media realized that by selling the public on the epic importance of professional sports, it could create a new and reliable source of “news” which would help market their media products, and in turn sell advertisements. And with the media on a daily basis selling the importance of professional sports, it becomes very difficult for public policy wonks to break through and persuade people that the public support of professional sports is unjustifiable in light of objective economic studies.

      6. Brian Tucker-Hill

        Peduto was reportedly involved in discussions about the AWC starting last fall, so this is not entirely off topic.

        Anyway, it is probably worth noting that any plan that does not involve fully satisfying the creditors likely means the extinction of the current legal entity. That may explain some of the radio silence. It also raises the deeper issue always lurking in these conversations, namely what exactly is the core of the AWC? Is it a cultural program? Is it a particular non-pnonprofit entity? Is it a building?

        Your answer to that question may go a long way toward explaining which outcome you would prefer.

      7. Helen Gerhardt

        @Brian Tucker-Hill:

        You write: You don’t need racism to explain why sports teams get ridiculous levels of unaccountable public subsidies all over the country.

        You make a lot of common sense in that comment, Brian. But the PPG comment section has spouted sense that is not expressive of such common decency and rationality. I think we do need to also consider racism if we’re going to understand the vitriolic level of some of the criticism and explanations of AWC’s inward collapse under the burden of the enormous debt they began with. And surely racism helps explain the far less fertile ground for fund-raising for black cultural institutions and endeavors in Pittsburgh, if only in the forms of widespread indifference or lack of curiosity or non-hostile avoidance of discomfort with facing our own histories and current responsibilities for racial inequities.

        Yes, so much easier to avoid the active discomfort and attendant choices dished out for consideration by August Wilson and his edgy ilk and instead engage with YAY, GO TEAM sports franchises – such a very different flavor of edgy: choiceless, unifying, heart-thumping, bone-crushing fun. Racist, no, surely not – black and white alike, we cheer on all the gladiators out on the field or the ice rink that might get smashed instead of us – and TBI is of course color-blind. The profits of course are just plain green, even when they don’t flow back to the public that subsidized the arenas.

        Anyway, not in terms of basic fairness but only in terms of functional effectiveness, paragon-level performance is often required to change pervasive supremacist cultural mindsets, whether the barrier isms are based on race or class or gender or sexual orientation or religion or on which end we crack our eggs.
        That’s a level of combined responsibility and acumen that I don’t think that the current board can claim to have demonstrated. So, to serve the larger goals and visions of the AWC, I do think that the current board should probably step aside and invite a new team to take the helm.

        But I do think it’s important to consider the formidable history and start-up challenges that AWC leadership faced as the larger community now tries to problem-solve its way forward toward more interesting – and self-challenging – cultural choices.

      8. Brian Tucker-Hill

        I agree a variety of public commentators seem to be unnecessarily drawing a connection between the AWC’s particular cultural emphasis and its financial troubles. As I believe I have in fact argued in the PG comments (among other places), there is nothing remotely unique about their story–it turns out they overbuilt their facilities in the early-mid 2000s, and now they need to reorganize in some way. This happened to a large number of non-profit and for-profit entities in the exact same period, both locally and nationally, and so there is no need to come up with a special explanation of how it happened in this case.

        Accordingly, I understand the inclination to push back against those who, say, might argue that this outcome proves that the entire effort was doomed from the start, or proves that it is undeserving of further public support, or so on. On the other hand, I think people of good will can also take a look at what happened and try to draw some lessons about what is most likely to put the program on a sustainable path. And in so doing, I think we need to resist the temptation to evaluate possible outcomes in terms of how much they would spite the more hateful folks among us–not only should they not get their way, they should also not be given the power to define the debate. In other words, thoughts of the sort “we can’t do that because then the racists would win” are already giving the racists more power than they deserve.

        So ignoring the racists and thinking in terms of what would actually make sense in light of lessons learned, that is why I am suggesting it can be helpful to think of the cultural program and the building as two different things. Specifically, continuing the theme of broader observations one can draw, lots of entities learned in the 2000s that if your core mission does not include real estate development, it is not necessarily a great idea to actually own a lot of real estate, and instead good leases may be the most secure and sustainable practice for many entities. Indeed, it seems clear to me that in addition to the pure financial cost, dealing with the issues caused by owning the building has caused a massive distraction from the AWC’s core mission.

        Conversely, it is also a broader observation that placing important development rights in the hands of entities whose core mission does not include real estate development does not necessarily work well as a development strategy. We discussed above the Penguins’ ongoing control of the Lower Hill site, but other examples would include the Steelers-led group’s control of development of the area between the North Shore stadiums, and in fact the Cultural Trust’s failed RiverParc development in the Cultural District. The air rights above the building are not quite on the same sort of scale, but they are still potentially important. And again it is not necessarily doing the cultural program itself any favors by asking the same entity to also be in charge of developing those air rights.

        In any event, I hope that is the sort of conversation we can end up having, because I believe at least seriously considering these possibilities is most consistent with truly ignoring the racists who have been rooting against the AWC all along.

      9. Brian Tucker-Hill

        Here is something of an answer to Bram’s call for commentary from the AWC itself:

        http://pittsburghurbanmedia.com/PUM-Exclusive-My-Perspective-on-the-August-Wilson-Center-for-African-American-Culture-Aaron-A-Walton-Former-Chairman-of-the-Board/

        It looks like the Board has in fact gone inactive since the foreclosure process began (see the reference to “Among the AWC Board’s final acts . . .”).

        Generally, this is a very interesting perspective. Among other things, Mr. Walton appears to be making the point I was suggesting as well: the foundation plan would seem to require the extinction of the legal entity known as the August Wilson Center, whereas the developer plan might not.

        The other big revelation (at least to me) is that prior to foreclosure, the Board was actually working on this sort of deal with an unnamed potential investor (exchanging the air rights for the capital infusion necessary to pay off the debts). That raises the interesting possibility that this unnamed potential investor and the unnamed developer are one and the same.

  3. Willie the Duck

    Re: the PG’s First Hundred Days feature, two things struck me: The reporter’s choice of leading with McNulty handling Bill’s banana (peel). A memorable image for sure, but unfortunately for Tim, while it shows that he’s at Bill’s side, it also casts him more in the role of Bill’s Reggie Love (Obama’s “body man”) than the mayor’s office equivalent of White House spokesman Jay Carney. Is that lead payback for leaving the PG and Early Returns in the lurch?

    Also, this minor, but perhaps specious assertion: “That team includes his chief of staff, Kevin Acklin, a former attorney and notorious workhorse who often arrives at the office before dawn.” The sun’s coming up at 6:30 these days. Maybe in the winter Kevin was getting in before sunrise “often”, but I would love to see someone do a stakeout to fact-check the media echo chamber of Acklin’s emerging mythology, or maybe a “Where’s Kevin?” website, featuring punch cards and a time clock. (And come to think of it, how does the reporter know that Acklin’s often getting to work before sunrise? Is the night maintenance crew telling her that? The security guard at the metal detector? Bill? Kevin? A named source would help nail it down.)

    Reply
    1. Bram Reichbaumbramr101 Post author

      Early Returns really is in the lurch, isn’t it?

      My impression is that Moriah didn’t just fall off a turnip truck, and wouldn’t have passed along that office’s gushing without substantiation. “Often” showing up before dawn might actually mean a couple times per week, which is a heck of a lot more often than me for example — though if I were running point on something like the Land Bank Wars I might have just slept in the foxhole.

      Reply
      1. Brian Tucker-Hill

        By the way, this came across as sort of a threat in the press release, but I very much like the idea of expanding African American programming to more venues in the region in an organized way. I just hope the foundations will not in fact boycott the AWC as one such venue.

    1. Anonymous

      Ridiculous. Why would they withdraw the bid? Why not press their case to the Judge that the bid is better? Doesn’t make any sense other than to act like a bunch of kids taking their ball and going home.

      Reply
      1. Brian Tucker-Hill

        I assume the calculation was that if the foundations continued with the process as currently defined, they were doomed to lose in court. So, they are taking a chance on delegitimizing the process instead.

        That may just be a long shot strategy for putting pressure on the court to allow a do-over. More worrisome is the possibility that the politicians actually do have a way of sinking the deal even if the court approves it (e.g., Peduto is making vague hints about a possible URA veto), and the foundations are trying to create a political environment in which using such a mechanism would be possible.

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