Wednesday: Schenley High School, Storm Water Strategery and UPMC

Fresh, Hip and Healthy, A. Enyati

Indian summer! Get it while it’s hot!

1. The folks dahn PURE Reform way are circulating a petition:

The appropriate remedy at this time is for the Board to investigate whether information was withheld [from them] and to obtain a clear statement as to the extent of asbestos in [Schenley High School’s] plaster and a corrected estimate for renovation. The amount spent to move students on an “emergency” basis should also be specified.

Read some background on Schenley from July’s City Paper. I for one could not sign this thing fast enough. Sure, an investigation might come back negative — but you never know until you look.

Pittsburgh is probably too small and too neighborly a town for its School Board to actually go ahead and “investigate” its administration. But if information was withheld from members who later only voted 5-4 to close the school, and tearfully at that, that is a practice we must strongly discourage on general principle.

On an unrelated note, you might not want to do anything too dramatic with that school building through the end of the year. Get your head around that fact and look alive.

2. A few “little” green storm water projects are starting to spring up…

As impatient as a hungry raccoon, I always think “little by little” means “too little by too little” when I hear about another small, sustainable solution to our wildly expensive and massive problems. (P-G, Diana Nelson Jones)

In addition to that particular synagogue in Squirrel Hill minding their own property, State Rep. Dan Frankel announced yesterday a small, state loan-financed project to plant a rain garden near to a very well-trafficked intersection in Squirrel Hill, and to install some green drainage features to Schenley Park.

And then along came this:

 “These projects” referenced in Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner’s tweet link to this article which again highlights the Schenley Park work, but groups it with a collection of mostly “distributive gray”-sounding projects.

Remember that anything “funded by Alcosan” will in fact be funded by its rate payers in the final analysis. To “set aside” or “reserve” half of one percent of total borrowing for “deep gray” to pay for green is certainly a modest adjustment — but it might be more colloquial to think of these as “over and above” costs.

Unless — however and unless — unless greenlings can buy enough time for storm water efficiencies along county roads, county parks, county airports and county hospitals (as well as local projects from any parties who might wish to “step up”) to be predicted, tabulated and (ahem) “worked into” the present Alcosan deep gray drafts? In terms of gaining that necessary time, remember even the “recommended” and somewhat affordable draft option which Alcosan hopes will satisfy federal regulators… does not itself satisfy federal regulations. Yet an entirely green plan out of Philadelphia somehow did.

But let’s back way up. The need for time to develop transformational measures might be illusory. Is the true goal for green political activists to systematically improve,  to make more cost-efficient or sustainable the region’s storm water strategy? Or is it to grab enough projects on a scale of the one in Schenley Park to keep their backers placated? Because those are entirely different poker games.

3. I just can’t believe Brian O’Neill made it all the way through this column on the struggle with “nonprofits” without mentioning “U.P.M.C.” once. He’s a better man than I.

And then there’s this:

Pittsburgh could serve as a model for the rest of the state in determining how much money tax-exempt nonprofits should pay for city services each year, one of the city’s financial overseers said Monday.

In a meeting with Tribune-Review editors and reporters, Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority Chairman Dana Yealy said the mayor holds the key to the success of a task force that will consider the question. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl must appoint a chairman who can “look the nonprofits in the eye and say, ‘It’s time for us to think about this differently,’ ” Yealy said. (Trib, Bob Bauder)

I’ve never had much luck using psychodynamics with Our Mayor, Dana, but go right ahead.

Carbolic Smoke Ball

Notice again though we are talking about “the nonprofits” like the Feds have the joint bugged and we’re gambling over “boxes of ziti”. It may be true, we all usually manage to remember that when we talk about “the nonprofits”, we’re really talking about “eds and meds.”

But when we talk about “eds and meds”, do we remember that there are a whole lot more “meds” than “eds”? And that “meds” are even more profitable by comparison? And do we remember that for all intents and purposes, we really only have one “med”, just one single “med” of any significant size, one hospital system?

Mr. Ravenstahl said that UPMC is not “out of the equation,” but he has considered excusing them in light of their $10 million annual pledge to the Pittsburgh Promise of college aid to public school graduates. (Dec. 22, 2009)

Maybe it’s a matter of appointing the right chair person to the right task force. I’m open to that.
The Comet is not even going to dignify this dull account of a secret government study portending huge cost increases and on a politically nuclear issue with an analysis.

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