Monday: The Promises of Yesterday (are the Taxes of Today)

deviantART, kedemel

Cheer up, Pixburgh, the grey skies just turned blue!

1. Attention, citizens. There is a new litmus test for whether or not you love Pittsburgh, as former schools superintendent Mark Roosevelt helpfully informs us from beyond the grave. A certain think tank is failing this litmus test miserably.

2. I can pinpoint the exact moment the Pirates’ epic slide began. By which I mean this year’s epic slide, not that of last year or the full score of mud sliding years. Serious question: if the Pirates’ seeming futility is indeed the byproduct of a successfully executed business strategy, and that strategy is made possible by certain incentives, can institutions like the Stadium Authority and the Sports and Exhibition Authority act in ways which might impact those incentives?

“Fair warning,” Mary Conturo, the executive director of both authorities, might say. “You have four years to win the NL Central, or we are going to begin doing everything in our power to inconvenience you and erode your precious bottom line, such that you will have no choice but to sell off to an owner more willing to pursue a business model appropriate to the City of Champions.”

3. The Post-Gazette tartly inclines its head towards Peduto’s announcement, still wroth that in 2007, as Pittsburgh was mournful and fearful, he ought to have had the political cojones to lose by 50 percentage points to the late Mayor Bob O’Connor’s adopted son, County Executive Dan Onorato’s daughter, the Lord Protector of UPMC and Crown Prince of the Realm —  thereby obliterating his own career instantly and totally, all while making sure that the triumph of 26-year old Ravenstahl would be viewed as not only legitimate but impressive.

Of course, come to think of it, in 2007 did not newly elected city Controller Michael Lamb choose to bide his time under the impression that Peduto (who had narrowly bested Lamb for a distant mayoral silver versus O’Connor only in 2005) would take the field? So there must be legitimately felt grievances all around here. Jack Wagner could probably mount a campaign based around, “No more soap opera politics!”

At any rate, the P-G goes on to demand that the Republican party and its donors send forth a “credible” Republican candidate — these editorialists demand more sacrifices than heathen gods! — although evidently there was not enough space to stump for City-County consolidation and to demand continued fealty to state overseers. Though that is coming.

4. Patrick Dowd is encouraging us to imagine the old Produce Terminal as a hustling, bustling fruit and vegetable emporium. I’d like that too, but most people (the ones not already boldly buying fresh fruit in the Strip at Stan’s Market or the Market Outlet) are a-scared of Downtown and the Strip, a-scared of paying for parking, and much more comfortable in air-conditioned Giant Eagles or Whole Foodses off of highways. In order to re-produce the Produce Terminal, it seems like we’d have to sculpt the land and development all around it very carefully towards encouraging that outcome — and these guys, Buncher Co., they own all the land, and they just don’t feel like being in the damned fruit business. And I don’t feel like there is anything much we can say about it. We can tell them, “Don’t make your building so high,” but we can’t tell them, “Make it your purpose in life to help us sell fruit.” So I don’t know how this is going to go. He probably has an idea, though.

30 thoughts on “Monday: The Promises of Yesterday (are the Taxes of Today)

  1. Anonymous

    Oh man, that PG ed board is going overboard with its Republican plumping. They did it in their recent Molchany endorsement, if you remember. Nice to see somebody on the inside calling them out on it though on the same editorial page (see bolded sentence below, if I'm using my html correctly):

    Mildly mainstream
    September 27, 2012 8:14 am

    It's heartwarming to see that a former Post-Gazette colleague has come to the defense of another as Dennis Roddy did for Ruth Ann Dailey in his Sept. 18 letter (“A World of Views”). Surely the fact that Ms. Dailey's views are cut from the same cloth as those of Mr. Roddy's boss, Gov. Tom Corbett, is a coincidence.

    What elicted Mr. Roddy's burst of graciousness was a Sept. 14 letter pointing out Ms. Dailey's tendency to confuse her political myopia for the facts. But then again, both letter writer Dave Southern and Mr. Roddy are also confused because they think the Post-Gazette is a “liberal newspaper” instead of the mildly mainstream one it has been for most of its 226 years. Mr. Roddy's confusion is even harder to fathom in light of the fact that the Post-Gazette endorsed his employer in the gubernatorial race, hardly the action of a liberal publication.

    BOB HOOVER
    Edgewood

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  2. Anonymous

    I'm assuming that those are pics of Reading Terminal Market, in Philly. If so, it's a nice idea, but a bit of an apples and oranges (so to speak) comparison. RTM is in the middle of downtown and adjacent to a huge commuter train station and shopping mall. Loads of daily traffic, lunchtime crowds, etc. A similar market in the Strip would be hard pressed to generate much business through the work week.

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  3. Rex

    Anonymous 4:35PM:

    Can you be more specific about the acronym “DOWD?”

    I'm an avid watcher of local politics and I'm not sure I see the validity in the accusation explicit in your acronym…

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  4. Anonymous

    I'll admit the DOWD acronym doesn't apply to his Produce Terminal trial ballooning–not to mention that it was sort of off the cuff, which is why it's in a blog comment and not on the PG front page–but Dowd does/did seem to be the point person for various behind the scenes interests regarding zoning for fracking and the library tax. Maybe I'm just letting my opposition to both measures color my assessment, but I heard Dowd yesterday on Essential Pittsburgh deliver a fairly convoluted defense of his push for fracking zoning. Maybe he really believes in it, but when he starts talking about his hopes that the legislation will generate a “rich” conversation about fracking–as if it isn't one of the most talked about and analyzed local issues in recent years–I being to wonder. It's almost like he's bought into the recent remarks by the state's environmental protection secretary that fracking opponents are merely “outsiders” with bad information.

    Reply
  5. MH

    behind the scenes interests regarding zoning for fracking and the library tax

    Ever since the library tax went through, my drinking water has tasted funny.

    Reply
  6. Bram Reichbaum

    Understand we weren't critiquing your wordplay, just curious where you were coming from… personally I find it hard to imagine Dowd is interested in fracking the city, though accepting some modest energy support might be alright with him. Heck, maybe Shields' legacy just wrankles him… as to the Library tax, well, sure the libraries are an interest, but so were a lot of Library patrons. That referendum passed by a healthy margin, no? And I notice this Mary Frances Cooper has taken over the job of CLP director.

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  7. Rex

    No, it's the age old political conundrum I see…

    What do you say when serving the public's interest conflicts with the public's opinion relative to that interest?

    When the public wants something that cannot be delivered in the manner they desire and yet crafting public policy which protects them as much as a subordinate local government possibly can?

    Dowd isn't the problem. The problem is the public has been betrayed by OTHER politicians who have chosen to prey on their fears and emotions for political gain instead of leveling with them.

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  8. Anonymous

    Funny MH, although note that I said “various” interests. But don't blame me if a drilling rig goes up behind the Carrick branch.

    Reply
  9. Anonymous

    That's a good take Rex.

    Bram, is “wrankles” a contraction of “wank” and “rankle”? (I kid!)

    Yes, the library tax won by a healthy margin. So did Ronald Reagan. That doesn't mean that he, Dowd or Mary Frances Cooper should be carved on Mount Rushmore.

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  10. Bram Reichbaum

    I mean, there's that too Rex… maybe I shouldn't have elided over his straightforwardly stated rationale… but I still can't help but think tearing down Doug's statue plays in a tiny bit.

    If the mineral extraction regs pass, which I believe they eventually will, I'll be very interested to see whether 5 or 6 council members go around the table saying, “I gladly support this, but I have no intention of lifting the ban either, go ahead and try to make a judge do that and we'll see how it plays out.”

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  11. Anonymous

    I always wondered why Bram was so quick to praise Dowd or jump to his defense. Frankly, I don't see the appeal.

    The problem with Dowd, that is apparent to any thinking person, is that he is always making a principled argument but when you step back for a moment the various principles never seem to add up to a coherent position. To wit…

    Dowd has so much respect for the democratic referenda process that he uses it to advance library funding. Yet he pushes hard for the CPRB (created through the same process) to delay or halt their work into the investigation of the G20 and Jordan Miles.

    By the same token he thinks it is important to have a conversation and investigation into the G20 and so council creates a task force and appoints him to do just that, but he violates the law he passed by failing to produce the report and then blames it on the mayor's office. This one is particularly galling as we, his Lawrenceville constituents – some elderly and some with small children, were the ones exposed to the military sound cannon that Pgh's police force blasted around the neighborhood.

    Dowd respects the integrity of the City's boards and authority system -he calls it a policy vs management distinction- until it is time to oppose the mayor's parking proposal and then it all goes out the window.

    He thinks that the mayor's dealings should be more transparent and says as much at every public meeting, yet he allows Michael Kenney to walk and then colludes in the cover up of his activities by suppressing the ethics investigation and ensuring that there is no chance of prosecution.

    When sitting in council chambers I always know I am about to hear a big one when he prefaces his remarks with 'I'm trained as a historian…”. He constantly and conveniently ignores the city's history of corruption, influence peddling, and various forms of misconduct.

    Dowd is, no doubt, a smart guy but his flaw is in thinking that he can make principled arguments in isolation and no one is paying attention to anything but the immediate present. It is habit born from talking down to people and assuming you are smarter than them and can spin anything to make it sound good. It is astonishing, to me anyway, how few people seem able to see through this and I am genuinely curious to see why people seem to think so highly of him.

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  12. Bram Reichbaum

    The deleted comment above marks bad information I provided which I now correct: the Buncher TIF for the Strip District was again held back by Dowd from introduction to standing committee today.

    Is that how I come across, Anon 1:03? I actually thought I came across as fairly critical of him, perhaps that self-consciousness is causing me to overcorrect. At any rate, a lot of the information you cite is new to me (obstructing CPRB investigations, failure to produce a G20 report which I am duly reminded was happening at some point, suppressing a thorough Kenney airing). Perhaps you could provide some links or pdfs. It could well be that he does his dirt where it can't be noticed by ordinary observers — in the process portion of government, and deep in it, away from reporters. But I can't say I can recall him advocating what I'd consider a “bad” position at the Table since back in 2008 with the attorney fees. Well, there was his uncompromising resistance to the parking lease, but that delusory pandemic was out of control.

    I'll say this about him though: he is city hall's Gaius Fracking Baltar, in the middle of everything crucially important and irritating the frack out of everybody. (Head Six and the portrayal of Baltar's personal life mostly in season one NOT being the salient portions of this metaphor!)

    Reply
  13. Rex

    Anonymous:

    Could you do us a favor and at least make up a pseudonym so we know when it is you we're talking to?

    I enjoy the back-and-forth, but would rather you have a “handle.”

    Reply
  14. Anonymous

    Here is Dowd saying quite explicitly that CPRB should serve Council's view of what's best rather than their own mandate from the voters. It is also clear that he is one of the drivers behind this resolution.

    http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-city/pittsburgh-council-urges-police-review-board-to-slow-g-20-investigation-251360/

    Here is Dowd being appointed to the G20 Fact finding committee – he headed it. Unfortunately our media ignored the fact that they never produced the report though it was required by an act of Council. When I called the Clerk's office to get the report, she informed me it wouldn't be produced because the members didn't want the documents released. Later when I asked Councilwoman Rudiak what happened with the G20 fact finding report she said flatly 'Patrick broke the law'.

    http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/news/g20-summit/probes-begin-into-g-20-police-actions-361041/?print=1

    Here is Dowd using the evidence in the ethics report to make his charges against Kenney but later failing to remark on the suppression of the report. Which despite its creation being an action of the PWSA board, was changed apparently without a vote of the board. This too in blatantly illegal – boards cannot make substantive changes of this sort without a full meeting and a vote.

    http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-city/pwsa-drops-investigation-of-former-exec-director-284284/?print=1

    — Pure speculation here but this, in particular, always struck me as really really odd. Here is Dowd's baby, the water line insurance program, being used as a tool to line the pockets of some corrupt politician and then he works to give the guy a golden parachute?! Shields and Peduto both called on the Attorney General to investigate Kenney as a result of the board's cover-up, but little seems to have come from it. And Dowd certainly never seemed too shocked that his program was declared illegal and scrapped – a more cynical person might wonder what Dowd got out of the deal that would make him look the other way when substantive wrongdoing seemed to be a few questions away – but, hey, what do I know?

    While I am playing cynic though, the attorney issue seems to me to be a naked power play on Dowd's part. Dowd likes to play fast and loose with the law and he likes being the smart guy in the room – the one who is seen to do the research and so who can be trusted. Council did, and still does, desperately need its own independent council -the fracking ban is a perfect case in point – but I think that Dowd preserves his power precisely by not having a bunch of attorneys around undercutting his authority and research and critiquing his proposals.

    These are precisely the people who would have stopped line insurance before it got off the ground or pointed out how crazy, legally, the proposal to pay off a promise with a promise was in the parking fiasco. And they might have taken Shields to task back when the ban was pending -instead of some commenter doing it to him in the PG a few weeks ago- but this would have prevented Dowd riding to the rescue today.

    Reply
  15. MH

    Could you do us a favor and at least make up a pseudonym so we know when it is you we're talking to?

    I second this. Allow me to suggest “Howdy Dowdy”.

    Reply
  16. SCM

    – Sorry folks! Handle chosen…

    Here is Dowd saying quite explicitly that CPRB should serve Council's view of what's best rather than their own mandate from the voters. It is also clear that he is one of the drivers behind this resolution.

    http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-city/pittsburgh-council-urges-police-review-board-to-slow-g-20-investigation-251360/

    Here is Dowd being appointed to the G20 Fact finding committee – he headed it. Unfortunately our media ignored the fact that they never produced the report though it was required by an act of Council. When I called the Clerk's office to get the report, she informed me it wouldn't be produced because the members didn't want the documents released. Later when I asked Councilwoman Rudiak what happened with the G20 fact finding report she said flatly 'Patrick broke the law'.

    http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/news/g20-summit/probes-begin-into-g-20-police-actions-361041/?print=1

    Here is Dowd using the evidence in the ethics report to make his charges against Kenney but later failing to remark on the suppression of the report. Which despite its creation being an action of the PWSA board, was changed apparently without a vote of the board. This too in blatantly illegal – boards cannot make substantive changes of this sort without a full meeting and a vote.

    http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/neighborhoods-city/pwsa-drops-investigation-of-former-exec-director-284284/?print=1

    — Pure speculation here but this, in particular, always struck me as really really odd. Here is Dowd's baby, the water line insurance program, being used as a tool to line the pockets of some corrupt politician and then he works to give the guy a golden parachute?! Shields and Peduto both called on the Attorney General to investigate Kenney as a result of the board's cover-up, but little seems to have come from it. And Dowd certainly never seemed too shocked that his program was declared illegal and scrapped – a more cynical person might wonder what Dowd got out of the deal that would make him look the other way when substantive wrongdoing seemed to be a few questions away – but, hey, what do I know?

    While I am playing cynic though, the attorney issue seems to me to be a naked power play on Dowd's part. Dowd likes to play fast and loose with the law and he likes being the smart guy in the room – the one who is seen to do the research and so who can be trusted. Council did, and still does, desperately need its own independent council -the fracking ban is a perfect case in point – but I think that Dowd preserves his power precisely by not having a bunch of attorneys around undercutting his authority and research and critiquing his proposals.

    These are precisely the people who would have stopped line insurance before it got off the ground or pointed out how crazy, legally, the proposal to pay off a promise with a promise was in the parking fiasco. And they might have taken Shields to task back when the ban was pending -instead of some commenter doing it to him in the PG a few weeks ago- but this would have prevented Dowd riding to the rescue today.

    Reply
  17. Bram Reichbaum

    Thanks for all those links SCM, I will explore them and maybe even contact his office. I know somebody pursuing a CPRB research project right now and will pass that along as well. Meanwhile, I thought more about your initial question over lunch and think I have a better answer for you.

    Dowd is a swing vote. As such, at least half the time he's on your side. When he is on your side, he is making organized, clear and persuasive arguments, effective parliamentary maneuvers, and driving coverage, all while making your opponents look ridiculous. And since he's positioned himself as the swing vote, taken together you'll usually win. That is a good feeling, and one that leaves one with the impression, “This guy should really keep accruing power!” I guess that's all a subset of what you conceded as his being “smart” but it's an applied smartness. Contrariwise when he's NOT on your side — well if you're a progressive, it always involves both 1) a convenient “principle” thrown up for cover and 2) some major, major inside baseball sandwiched in the thick of process and legalities. So even if you pick apart his cover principle and fully comprehend the inside baseball, over the fullness of time one's irritation recedes — “What was I mad about again? Well, it was certainly complex. He couldn't *really* have been selling us out in his heart.” So you wind up remembering the good and exciting times while forgiving the bad.

    Take heart. He wasn't a great mayoral candidate.

    Reply
  18. SCM

    Shawn,

    This may not be the best place to delve into these issues but lets hash them out some.

    As I understand it one issue which complicates matters is the fact that the city bought an insurance policy to pay off the lawsuits it anticipated from the G20. Further, the insurance company crafted the policy in such a way that those documents would remain secret or the company wouldn't pay out.

    The fear is then that release of those docs would hurt the city by forcing it to pay for the costs of any lawsuit instead of the insurance company.

    This was certainly one issue raised by Dowd in the initial aftermath of the G20.

    Is this the issue you are referring to?

    Reply
  19. BrianTH

    Sidenote: I would personally prefer a pass-through plan for the Produce Terminal (maybe one for cars, two pedestrian-only).

    But in any event, two-thirds of the Produce Terminal is easily still more than big enough to accommodate the biggest public market you could really imagine working in The Strip.

    Reply

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