Morning Line: Thursday afternoon works for (him).

Hallelujah. Mario Lemieux agrees to meet with Governor Ed Rendell in Pittsburgh next week in order to hammer out arena financing, according to the Gazette’s Tom Barnes. In response to Rendell’s overture (joined by Onorato and Ravenstahl), Lemieux actually said that he appreciated “the positive tone of your recent public comments.”

Meanwhile, the Courrier is enthralled with Don Barden and the Majestic Star casino. A piece by Christian Morrow flat-out proclaims that “for Barden, determination and delivering on promises-on time and under budget-are keys to success.” And a truly excellent piece by C. Denise Johnson wraps up the fallout in the Hill District, with pretty much everyone eager and optimistic. Except the Rev. Simms.

Speaking of the North Side, the Garden (Porno) Theater is almost out of options in its case against seizure by eminent domain, according to the Gazette’s Diana Nelson Jones. Although the present owners have a case — the developers plan to preserve the site as a theater, which may make it a free speech issue — neither the owner, George Androtsakis of New York, nor his attorney ever seem to make themselves available for comment. Which gives North Siders like me a good excuse to dismiss them.

A Trib editorial castigates the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources for “burying the remnants of old Fort Pitt” and “flouting the rules regarding the treatment of human remains,”, proving this is one of those issues that can potentially unite liberals and conservatives. (The same editorial comes to the Garden Theater’s defense.)

With the Allegheny County Jail nearing capacity, judges are relying on alternative housing and home detention, according to the Trib’s Bobby Kerlik. Judge Donna Jo McDaniel reassures us, “We’re not talking about robbers, rapists, and murderers.” No mention of whether we’re talking about the drug users and petty drug traffickers that we’re told contribute to prison over-crowding.

Buried in another article by the Gazette’s Tom Barnes about a comical spat in the narrowly divided state legislature is this gem: Having Democrats control the House for the first time in more than a decade would likely carry benefits for southwestern Pennsylvania. Rep. David Levdansky, D-Forward, will likely become chairman of the House Finance Committee, which plays a major role on tax issues, and Rep. Joseph Markosek, D-Monroeville, would run the Transportation Committee, which will have a lot to say about funding for roads, bridges and mass transit.

Finally, you can read the pitch by the Republican Committee of Pittsburgh to shrink City Council on the front page of their website. However, those at the office may need to turn down your speakers, as the URL kicks into a rocking rendition of “Bush Was Right,” which highlights the many benefits of the invasion of Iraq.

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