In 16 years of covering the news, KDKA’s David Highfield cannot remember a more “spirited” meeting than the one yesterday concerning the new casino.
“We do not want to talk about design. They brought us here under false pretenses. We don’t want to look at pretty pictures!” shouted Michele Johnson, 47, of the North Side. “We want to talk about jobs. We want to talk about affordable housing.” (Trib, Justin Vellucci)
“It’s already planned and said and done and wrapped up. So what do they want me to say now? What can I say?” asked Marcella Parham, a North Side resident who stormed out of the meeting. “It’s already here and I had nothing to say from the beginning.” (P-G, Mark Belko)
In terms of what my photojournalism books say– this was the perfect event. There was a lot of conflict and upset people. Lots of yelling and genuinely emotional faces. (Agent Ska)
Adding fuel to the fire, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl was not in attendance, as he had previously indicated he would via direct mail.
Efforts to rationalize his absence and to stress the importance of Jennifer Watson, the Neighborhood Initiatives Coordinator who attended in his stead, went over about as well as efforts to explain that the meeting was about design, not jobs and community benefits.
Mark Fatla of the NorthSide Leadership Conference tried to explain that community issues have been addressed in an agreement he already reached with Don Barden and PITG Gaming, but it is apparent that most residents who attended last night’s meeting don’t trust Mark Fatla as far as they can throw his Indiana Jones hat.
The community presence at the meeting was organized by Northside United, a quasi-franchise of Pittsburgh United, the blue/green outfit that is also in cahoots with the One Hill CBA Coalition. By some measures at least, they seem to be faring much better up here.