Monthly Archives: July 2007

Forget Hilllary … Biden’s on Letterman

Joe Biden was on the Today Show this morning. He was good on the war, and extremely frank on politics, as always.

Tonight, Biden is scheduled to be on David Letterman. So we know he’s at least as cool as Luke Ravenstahl.

I Suck at Life: The Early Works of H.R.C.

P-G columnist Tony Norman was as charmed as oursevles by recently revealed college-age letters of Hillary Rodham Clinton. (NYT, Mark Liebovich)

Anyone who still does not realize exactly who we are in the process of electing President, doesn’t have a very good imagination.

“Since Xmas vacation, I’ve gone through three and a half metamorphoses and am beginning to feel as though there is a smorgasbord of personalities spread before me … So far, I’ve used alienated academic, involved pseudo-hippie, educational and social reformer and one-half of withdrawn simplicity.”

“Sunday was lethargic from the beginning as I wallowed in a morass of general and specific dislike and pity for most people but me especially,”

“Can you be a misanthrope and still love or enjoy some individuals? How about a compassionate misanthrope?”

That’s right. It’s Winona Ryder from Heathers.

Unfortunately for us, she makes only the briefest mention of having “met a boy from Dartmouth and spent a Saturday night in Hanover.”

Note to Tony: We all know why Clinton voted for the war, along with so many other good Democrats. She was no hero, but we understand the circumstances of the time.

Hopefully we’ve all learned something about “presenting a united front at the U.N. Security Council.”

If she prefers not to revisit the initial authorization for the war, and if she focuses only on the continued lying and bungling at hand, so be it. We’re over it.

Second Note: We see now that wasn’t really your point, but whatever. When you have an opponent like Barack Obama the ropes, you keep hitting him.

One Hill: Unanimity Emerging

At the Hill House Kaufmann Center [this last Sunday], the coalition unveiled 37 preliminary recommendations for a benefits agreement.

The recommendations hung on the wall, and the 100 or so people in attendance indicated their preference by placing colored circular stickers by them.

That’s what Ron DaParma at the Trib says happened.

If there are any forces within the One Hill CBA coalition that wish to drastically tamp-down or amp-up community demands, this is the last week for them to operate.

Jennifer England, communications coordinator for Pittsburgh UNITED, says that One Hill plans to spend about a week analyzing the data, and probably doing some horse-trading.

What will emerge will be a white-hot phalanx of community consensus, which will be regarded as a blueprint for contract negotiations with the city and other stakeholders.

“A huge public subsidy for the Penguins requires huge public benefits,” says Carl Redwood, leader of One Hill. (P-G, Milan Simonich)


The Comet has some reason to suspect that these eleven items out of the 37 represent a sort of rock-bottom, line-in-the-sand nucleus around which Pittsburgh UNITED (the faction of the movement that draws roots from organized labor) wishes to arrange a CBA:

Revolving Loan Fund
Home Preservation Fund
Economic Anchor (Grocery Store)
Tourism Path / Historic Preservation
Community Economic Development Fund
Financial Literacy (Homeownership / Credit Repair / Foreclosing Counseling)
First Source Hiring
SEIU keeps jobs and contracts
Unite Here keeps jobs and contracts
First Source Hiring for Post-Construction Jobs in SEIU and Unite Here job areas
Job Training to increase access to Apprentice positions in construction jobs

Of course, there were many other items on the ballot, and not all of them were economic in nature. Here is a sampling:

Scholarship Fund
Youth Support Systems
Hill District Uptown Cultural Assets
Monies for Drug Rehabilitation
Integrated Holistic Human Service Delivery System

Cheese and crackers! If somebody is ready to roll on an integrated holistic human service delivery system, let’s find some different money for them.

Landowners who operate against wishes of the community barred to participate on 28 acre development.

Ah, that’s interesting. Some negotiators within One Hill are feeling aggressive. How the Penguins could have won sole possession of those 28 acres of parking lot, worth maybe a billion dollars over the life of the arena deal, is beyond us.


Here is how the Trib described the outcome of the stickering:

Recommendations getting the most votes included a grocery, which has been long-sought as an economic anchor in the Hill. Other ideas finding favor included funding for community groups to provide tutoring and mentoring programs for young people and for rehabilitation for people with drug problems.

Voting was heavy for giving Hill District residents preference for job openings created by the development.

Pittsburgh UNITED also told us that the grocery store did well, as well as “a lot of the union labor issues.”


We asked Kimberly Ellis aka Dr. Goddess about Pittsburgh UNITED, and if there was a problem of differing agendas within One Hill.

After acknowledging “obvious commonalities,” she says:

Pittsburgh United wants the Hill CBA to be the first in a regional model and they have been pushing a Union model. I would like to push a Hill model because this is not just about a labor negotiation. It really isn’t. It’s about the accountability of the entire city, county and the Pens to our collective history, something that can’t be quantified in terms of jobs.

Pittsburgh United is welcomed, as far as I’m concerned, to assist. But they are not welcomed to lead in my book.

Of course, Pittsburgh United does not lead.

Carl Redwood is the executive director of the One Hill Coalition — and more importantly for our purposes, he is a respected and long-time convener of the Hill District Community Consensus Group.

Who among you has as a respected and long-time convener of a consensus group in your own community?

For that matter, who among you has an Alma Fox, whom we all know “won’t jerk anybody?”

No Offense to the Pedutoistas ….

It just occurred to us that THIS is what was taking place during that Dmitri Vassilaros column in the Trib this morning. Cameo appearance by Burt Young as Joe Weinroth.

Monday Quick Hits

The P-G’s Lord and Belser seem to be of the opinion that the love-fest between Ravenstahl and Onorato is over.

“A year from now, when you ask the question, ‘Should the city merge with the county?’, we’ll have the answer,” Mr. Ravenstahl said then.

Nine months later, that answer seems far off, because the relationship between the mayor and chief executive has apparently cooled just as differences in philosophy on city-county relations emerge.

Note the lack of a causal link in that formulation.


The P-G editorial board comes out in acquiescence to the drink tax / car rental tax solution for public transit.

The idea of this tax already has drawn a lot of complaints, primarily from bar and restaurant owners who fear it will be the add-on that breaks patrons’ backs. But similar dire predictions did not come true in Philadelphia, where a drink tax was enacted 13 years ago.

The editorial does not directly address the counterargument that we are not Philadelphia.


Trib columnist Dmitri Vassilaros has some very, very good advice for Mark DeSantis.

When a question is lobbed about what Mayor DeSantis would do in the first 100 days in office, the electorate won’t be electrified to learn that you’d want city employees to school you about how the government works.


Mark, you can win. But you must play hardball just to get to first base.

Then we have an accord.

The Lost Episode of Star Wars (pt. 2)

Hill District Prep Sheet 3.0

The C-P cover story by Violet Law, among many other things, describes an election that the One Hill CBA Coalition held for its executive committee.

All four positions were available, among sixteen candidates.

[Councilwoman Tonya] Payne allies Pearlene Coleman and Twanda Moye took the secretary and treasurer seats respectively.

Carl Redwood, “a respected longtime convener of the Hill District Consensus Group,” was elected chairman.

Bomani Howze, who must get tired of reading that he is Sala Udin’s son, narrowly won vice-chair over another Tonya Payne ally.

This Saturday at 12:00, at the Hill House on Center Ave, there is a huge meeting to prioritize elements that might make it into the formal CBA proposal.

UPDATE 3.0: A Pittsburgh UNITED representative characterized it as a “big unveiling.”


Hill District activist Kimberly Ellis aka Dr. Goddess also wrote a column in that same issue, about Luke Ravenstahl of all things.

She worries about the gifts the Penguins have been giving him:

Will it affect his ability to secure a Community Benefits Agreement, ensuring that Hill District residents and other stakeholders have some say in developing the 28-acre arena site, and improving the neighborhood around it?

How darling!

I am not qualified to judge whether Ravenstahl engaged in ethical violations. But I can say with certainty that fulfilling the needs of Hill residents, and holding the Penguins accountable as developers, is the most ethical thing he could possibly do. Especially if it is done the right way.

She has some suggestions as to “the right way.” Spoiler alert: It’s far, far more than a grocery store, and will likely not entail a Trader Joe’s any time soon.


These are the words of Dr. Goddess to the Comet:

“The thing is, Tonya is ‘in’ with the Pens.

“Will she talk down our asks, or will she be our representative? Some people see her relationship with the Pens as an asset. I am one who does not. I saw what she did with the Pens and Isle of Capri.”

Kimberly Ellis was among the many who opposed Isle of Capri — the casino proposal in the Hill District tied to a new Penguins arena, championed by Councilwoman Payne (and Councilman Peduto, and at times Mayor Ravenstahl).

The significant and well-covered neighborhood protests must be credited — along with key traffic concerns and Don Barden’s sunny disposition — with giving us a North Side casino and a casino-free Hill.

The Penguins went back to the drawing board to negotiate a Plan B.


We asked Dr. Goddess what Councilwoman (and URA Board Member) Payne meant by this puzzling statement during a URA / Hill District meeting in mid-June:

“If the community wants me to go to the Penguins to ask them for a CBA, I will do that,” Payne said. “But I will ask them to support only the One Hill coalition — no other terms, no other conditions.”


Dr. G explains that while the City spent the winter and spring negotiating non-CBA development with the Penguins, the community was being kept in the dark.

Some residents and other stakeholders held their own meetings — and came up with a “terms sheet,” or a list of demands.

As it became evident that these organized stakeholders and their demands were gaining support, Payne settled upon Carl Redwood’s Hill District Consensus Group as her new vehicle — a group which begat the One Hill coalition.

The Comet calls this “leadership.”

So not only did Payne pledge some tepid-sounding, Penguins-friendly leadership towards a CBA at that meeting — she was trying to make sure those pesky stakeholders couldn’t find a way around her again.

Unless Carl Redwood welcomed them into the fold of One Hill. Which he did. That’s where we are today.

Of Wild Geese and School Students

Holy crud, we have to cover these people!


Of wild geese, the P-G’s Brian O’Neill pleads, the story won’t die.

He discusses the issue with David Feld of GeesePeace, who makes some good points and some bad ones, and they end up here:

We can’t kill our way out of this mess, and there’s a strategy that might satisfy those that revere wildlife and those disgusted by the daily drop of 400 pounds of goose feces. That seems worth a try. Meantime, if you’re thinking of feeding the geese, remember that’s about as smart as reaching out with what you’re stepping around.

Sounds like Iraq, only substitute oil money for goose poop.

More importantly, Brian fails to come out against Dan Onorato’s abrupt executive extermination.

Editorial Comment: LINK (UPDATE: Link fixed)


Of school students, the P-G’s Ruth Ann Daily pleads that …

If you live in a healthy community, one with a good mix of businesses large and small, thriving churches, bustling restaurants and a fair number of entertainment options …

… then you should care about public schools — and not just your own.

Nonetheless, they argue, since the public schools are doing such a poor job, we should encourage the free-market competition that vouchers would bring to the system. That would force the bad schools to shape up or lose their student bodies and funding.

I don’t disagree with any of that, and if the condition of a school district like Duquesne doesn’t open our minds to consider alternatives, I don’t know what will.

We should have known Ruth Ann would find a way to get vouchers and charter schools into the mix, and she paints a tempting picture.

The Comet fears that these will greatly advantage only those with a parent or guardian that has the wisdom, the literacy, the inclination, and the free time to go through a rigmarole. Way too many of our children will still be left behind, in even worse public schools.

Still, she seems to arrive at her insistence out of an honest desperation.

We call on the gentleman from the Conversation. You got us in to this morass. The floor is yours.

DeSantis v Ravenstahl

Mark DeSantis came out swinging for the fences, in an article by the Trib’s Brown and Boren.

“So fudging numbers or coming up with phony or phantom numbers, or giving extraordinary estimates on revenue from gambling, and all those other fun things, all the tricks you can play — let’s stop doing that”


“As a private citizen, I cannot get good numbers, and I know how to get good numbers, and I can’t get them, so right away there’s a problem. Informed speculation: probably bad numbers.”

The Trib has the video available. It makes him sound less like Dwight K. Schrute.

He made some bold proposals: merging public safety and public works with the county, consolidating the budgets of many city “authorities” into the main budget, and an intriguing “Citizen-Police Council” to assist in determining how to best deploy law enforcement.


PittMAPS is a new way of managing the City that will provide us with a map for Pittsburgh’s future.”

The P-G’s Rich Lord covers Luke Ravenstahl’s hiring of consultant Chuck Half to oversee the Management, Accountability, Performance, and Strategy program — or PittMAPS.

“I’m looking for savings — real money, and efficiencies, and just making decisions based on real data and analysis rather than the way we’ve done it for the last decade,” said Mr. Ravenstahl yesterday.

Mr. Half’s job, the mayor said, is “to really change city government.”

PittMAPS is to use computerized data analysis to figure out things like what streets need what kind of paving, and seemingly far more.

Editorial Comments: If Mayor Ravenstahl has truly come around to data-driven decision making, then that is great. Huzzah!

We are as yet a bit skeptical of PittMAPS. We’ve heard better names on mutual funds.

The devils will be in the details: what data is collected, how the data is weighed, and when you choose to surreptitiously alter the formulas.

And perhaps most importantly, how you get started.

Series of Shootings

A pretty good piece of reporting by Ch. 11’s Andy Gastmeyer.

UPDATE: We just noticed that one of the shootings was carried out with an AK-47.