Monthly Archives: January 2008


The city-county Sports & Exhibition Authority board will meet this Monday, February 4th at 1:30 PM, in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Room 333. The SEA does not pass out agendas until right before meetings, but we know it has been and will continue to be very involved in the Hill District arena.

Door Opens a Crack

In a letter to Penguins President David Morehouse last week, the One Hill Community Benefits Agreement Coalition said it “would be productive” to have the team at the table since the new arena deal and the Penguins’ role in developing 28 acres near the Hill were the impetus for the benefits discussions. (P-G, Rich Lord)

The right move.

“One of their representatives said they would come back to the table,” Redwood said hours after the group publicly released the letter to Moorehouse. (Trib, Jeremy Boren)

If the Penguins are joining the table at a decision-making level — if they are curious and open-minded about Hill residents’ intentions for their neighborhood, if they are starting to see some daylight between local government officials’ claims about what is possible and what is really possible — then this is wonderful news. Absolutely wonderful.

If the neighborhood and the Penguins ever get together, Pittsburgh and the region better look out.

If however, the Penguins are sending a warm body to the negotiating table for the purposes of demonstrating that they sent somebody — if they send only a community-relations specialist who will offer some well-crafted empty messages, if they have not truly apprehended that there might be superior ways of doing business in the Hill — then this is just more window dressing. Time will tell.

One more note. The Trib article leads with the fact that the Pens were “successfully pressured” by One Hill to join negotiations. Our take:

To the editors and publishers of the Tribune-Review, any community benefits agreement signed anywhere in Pittsburgh would be a blow to business liberties and a victory for global socialism. The knee-jerk conservative reaction to all this goes no deeper than, “why shouldn’t the business get to keep all the money?”

Obviously any real CBA gets more accomplished than this — the developer is party to any agreement, after all — and it ignores the fact that the proper role for minority communities in the process of neighborhood development has been neutered via an intergovernmental process thoroughly corrupted by money and politics.

Democratic party money and politics, no less. Even still, the Scaifes and their ilk cannot see their hands before their faces. Their instinct is to shame and bully the Penguins back away from the table, and that’s the end of it.

If it makes the Trib feel any better, the Comet is in favor of utilizing this new CBA technology only on the Hill, and is skeptical of using it elsewhere for now. The special history of broken promises and resentments on the Hill makes the necessity for a broadly agreed-to contract outweigh any hesitancy to try a new, more arduous development concept.

Post Card from the Mayor

And certainly, we’re also working — not myself directly, but I know the County Executive and the folks from the Airport — are working to try to secure a direct flight from Pittsburgh to Europe, and from Pittsburgh to Amsterdam, so that’s certainly a big part of the trip as well.

And indications are those discussions are going well, so we’re cautiously optimistic that a link of a direct flight may be in the very near future as well.

Good news! This comes deep, deep within an interview by Larry Richert on the KDKA Morning News.

Mayor Ravenstahl also reflects on the “amazing” reliance on bicycle transit by the Dutch, revealing that Pittsburgh by comparison has a ways to go “to be competitive” with a city like Amsterdam. Larry Richert seems to suggest ways we might culturally catch up-to-speed.

Wednesday: A Great Day for Governing

“Will this particular store, as we’re seeing it, be full-service? Full-service is what they’re looking for. They need a pharmacy that’s included, they would like to see a bakery that is included,” said (George) Moses, a member of the Hill District Consensus Group. (Trib, Jeremy Boren)

With respect to that sentiment, let us also look at the sunny side. Secure a good 24-hour pharmacy next. Secure a good bakery next. Secure a good diner next, and hopefully boom, you’ve got a nexus of something.

Besides, there is something to be said for offering value at the cash register.

Hill District leaders may want a stake in a potential new Save-A-Lot grocery store as part of an overall package of community benefits linked to a new arena, they said yesterday after the chain’s executives made an initial sales pitch. (P-G, Rich Lord)

Hill District leaders and followers, belonging to One Hill, the Hill Faith and Justice Alliance and others, really need to hold a stake in things. The Comet has no opinion at all on whether they should have a stake in this hypothetical Save-A-Lot.

By all means, the company executives sound accomodating, so feel them out!

The thing is.

Why ask for this support as part of the community benefits package regarding arena development?

Why, indeed, should the Penguins suddenly join negotiations with Save-A-Lot, when they have been shunning One Hill itself lo these many months?

Save-A-Lot came to the Hill District on its own initiative. If the community need for a grocery store is somehow satisfied by Save-A-Lot, transfer those governmental resources and any possible Penguins investment to other critical initiatives. There are many.

Councilwoman Tonya Payne said that for the neighborhood to have partial ownership, its leadership “would need to be in a position where they could assume risk … We have to be careful that we’re not putting in so many roadblocks that it never happens.”

Councilwoman Payne: believes in her constituents.

Save-A-Lot executives said they want to be sure that the Hill wants their store. Ms. Payne said she will conduct a community meeting on that.

She will conduct a community meeting? We thought she was a strong supporter of the whole One Hill process.


Speaking of which, the Historic Review Commission and City Planning Commission both approved the boyhood home of August Wilson for historic status. The petition was sent to City Council for final approval — on October 10, 2007.

There it sat until last week, when Mr. (Paul) Ellis complained. The city code indicates that if council doesn’t act on a historic designation within 90 days of its introduction, the application is denied and can’t be resubmitted for five years, said Council President Doug Shields. That deadline passed early this month. (P-G, Rich Lord)

Paul Ellis is, among other things, lead attorney for One Hill’s negotiating committee, nephew of the late playwright August Wilson, and brother to Dr. Kimberly Ellis AKA Dr. Goddess, who herself happens to be affiliated with the Hill Faith and Justice Alliance.

Mr. Shields said the legislation stalled after it went to the chair of the Planning, Zoning and Land Use Committee. Last year, that was Councilwoman Tonya Payne, of the Hill.

Ms. Payne said she didn’t “know what happened to it,” but when she found out it had fallen through the cracks, she “started chasing it down.”

Would have been embarrassing if the grant money for restoration got fouled up.

Ms. Payne said historic designation is “a slam dunk.”

It is now.


Boy, what an awesome news day!

If he wants to win re-election, Democratic state Rep. Jake Wheatley first must fend off a former aide he dismissed in 2003. (Trib, Carl Prine)

The shades of Udin / Payne in 1997 are unavoidable in this one.

Wheatley, also a Hill District resident, said he let Washington go after “a couple of months” in his freshman term because “it was the best thing for both of us.” He called her candidacy “serious” and said he welcomes the challenge from the longtime resident and Pittsburgh Housing Authority worker.

Housing Authority? Washington works for the administration presently?

It’s Almost February 2008…

Related news reports:
WTAE, Sheldon Ingram
WTAE, Janelle Hall
P-G, Rich Lord

Speaking of Walnut Capital, still no utterances from our sports fan on the Planning Commission? Public servants do not get to exercise their own personal policies as to whether or not to answer legitimate questions from the public. 2010 is still a long ways off. It is time for Mr. Reidbord to step aside.

He’s Telling Us For The Last Time!

Liveblogging the President’s State of the Union Address 2008.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama says he intends to heal our nation, and repair our world.

Why do you suppose those are applause lines these days?

In contrast, Bush 43 is expected this evening maybe to recommend some sort of economic stimulus package. Hey, at least he believes in the theory of economic stimulus. AHEM!

9:00 Good evening, Jim Lehrer!

9:02 Ted Kennedy getting bocu camera-time already.

9:04 Everybody looks bored. Honestly. Bush promises no nostalgia. Figures; it’s the only interesting thing he could do.


9:07 Teddy and Barack, snickering and giggling together… hey, it’s Dick Cheney! Haven’t seen his mug in a while!

9:10 Aw, he sounds nice coming out of the gate! Vigorous debate, the strength of self-governance, competing for votes and cooperating for results! If Karl Rove had been exiled earlier, he might have been a decent prez!

9:11 Oh, now he’s plunging without warning into how perilous our economy is. Well, no sense dwelling on his many accomplishments…

9:13 This Congress must pass the agreement you both already agreed upon as soon as possible! That’s telling them!

9:14 Bushie tells a joke about making the tax cuts permanent. The right half of the room is unamused. Ooh, it’s actually more like 2/3 of the room! That’s encouraging.

9:15 One Hundred and Fifty One Arabian Wasteful or Bloated Programs Under the Sea

9:16 If you do not send me an appropriations bill that cuts the number of earmarks in half, I will veto it. (Applause). Public vote on it all. (Okay, we’re with him in theory).

9:17 He started something called the Hope Now Alliance? Is Barack Obama going to sue for copywrite infringement?

9:19 Barack Obama looks thoughtful and displeased in re something ominous about government control. Actually, it looks like he’s smoking an imaginary cigarette. Mmmm … Kools!

9:21 The No Child Left Behind Act must be preserved and strengthened. We must simply add flexibilities, do more to support struggling schools, and generally change everything about the No Child Left Behind Act.

9:23 Sigh, we always wanted to go to trade talks at Doha…

9:24 Oh good, major agreement with Columbia, a friend of America! Must defeat purveyors of false populism! YELLOW FLAG! RED FLAG! BLACK FLAG! We know nothing about this agreement except that we must repudiate it with lethal prejudice.

9:25 In support of an international agreement that will slow and reverse the emission of greenhouse gasses. In theory. Not in favor of giving any countries (ie China) a free ride. Check out the big nuance on George!

9:28 Is Nancy Pelosi reading the Tao of Pooh?

9:29 Wants to ban the patenting, buying, selling, or cloning of human life. Intuition: reasonable. Explanation: subject matter creeps me out.


9:32: New Orleans Senator Mary Landrieu = kind of hot.

9:33 We are deploying fences and advanced technologies, but we need to find a legal way to exploit cheap Mexican labor. We would have booed.

9:36 Horrific images. Grim reminder. Terrorists and extremists. Evil men who despise freedom. We will deliver justice to our enemies. Dick Cheney at last rises from his chair like Dr. Strangelove.

9:38 Again with the going to school. All these wars are okay if afterwords, there are children going to school.

9:39 Gratitude of a nation. By all means. Pat yourselves on the back, all of you. Okay, sit down.

9:44 With the amount of time and attention he is giving directly to our front-line military in this speech, you don’t suppose he’s preparing for a military coup, do you? Just sayin’.

9:46 One Marine Expeditionary Unit is coming home, and will not be replaced. Also, something else. This is good. (It does kind of tip your hat to the enemy, if that’s what you’ve been worried about this whole time … oh, whatever. Good President.)

9:48 Bush is describing the political progress being made in Iraq. Cheney is looking upward like, well, not really.

9:51 Now he’s talking about the Holy Land. Didn’t realize Wylie Ave. was on the agenda.

9:52 He’s still saying nucyoular. We thought this wasn’t going to be nostalgic.

9:55 Liability protections for companies involved in homeland security spying and whatnot. We need it by Friday. SOUNDS SKETCHY. A very partisan applause.

9:57 Isn’t about time he wrap this up?

9:59 Bob Dole likes to hear George Bush talk about Bob Dole. Bob Dole!

10:02 We actually rather like the whole We the People bit. Catchy hook at the end, too.

10:03 Bush makes a beeline to shake hands with Obama, we are telling you this election is already over…

10:10 Ah, the old boy is taking forever and six weeks, signing autographs, slapping hands and cracking wise, having a grand old time. It seems a little needy perhaps, but what harm is there in it? History is history and you only get it one way.

BREAKING: We Got Hosed, Didn’t We?

This agreement is something that’s going to be used and referred to for decades and decades, so we want to make sure it’s done right.
… Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, 1/23/08

This is the voguish excuse for ending any meaningful discussions with Pittsburgh’s Hill District.

Even before the dynamic duo fled to the other side of the world, negotiating sessions were being held far more infrequently than Hill leaders were explicitly led to believe prior to master plan approval. Even then, the Mayor and County Exec personally swore off involvement in negotiations until “a deal is reached.”

What we have here is either a lack of leadership, or a lack of sincerity.


Carl Redwood, chair of One Hill, spoke with KDKA’s Fred Honsberger
. He says one of the main sticking points is that the Penguins are not taking part in any of the negotiations, and that the famous “90% of the way there” line of the mayor is not his own perspective — Redwood says they have “quite a ways to go.”

When questioned why the Penguins should have to negotiate anything, the Comet thinks Redwood pretty effectively destroyed Honsberger’s knee-jerk pro-business inclinations. Your mileage may vary of course. (Marty Griffin was a completely different story.)

Redwood did not, however, do as good a job illustrating the city-wide benefits (and Penguins benefits!) of some interwoven, humane-scale development connecting the Hill District with Downtown. This would necessitate the Penguins re-envisioning some of what was until recently 28 acres of public land — we are not sure where that stands in relation to One Hill’s Blueprint for a Livable Hill.

This is why government leaders need to start selling the Penguins on the idea of vibrant, sustainable development. They should begin by illustrating the savings the Penguins will achieve by limiting their payments to massive-scale development, contracting, architecture and engineering firms.

Didn’t we just read something about how Downtown is already over-capacity on high-end stuff?


One more piece of data.

Conventional wisdom holds that Ravenstahl and Onorato rushed back to the negotiating table weeks ago because somebody from One Hill burned their proposal in front of news cameras.

This may only be indirectly true. Highly placed sources indicate to the Comet that certain African-American constituencies far to the east of Pittsburgh made their opinions on this matter very clear to our County Executive, who has a rational enough political brain to have realized it was time to start treating Pittsburgh’s minority community with just a tiny bit more respect.

How much more remains to be seen.


The Role of Justice Bloggers

That is the title of the 5-minute presentation we will be giving tomorrow morning at the 10th Annual Summit Against Racism, AKA the Black & White Reunion.

Glad to have the title. Otherwise, who knows what we might have started talking about.

The talk will be held during the Racial Equity Morning Workshop from 9:45 – 11:45 AM, along with a ton of other presentations and panelizing including Celeste Taylor, Richard Adams, Tim Stevens, Genie Beckham, Bernadette Turner, Odell Richardson, Will Thompkins, and Rodnie Jamison.

That’s just the one workshop. This is a day-long affair tomorrow (8 AM to 4 PM), January 26th, 2008 at East Liberty Presbyterian Church, 116 S. Highland Ave., Pittsburgh 15206.

Friday: Here’s the Windup…

The Pittsburgh Public Schools yesterday said the firing of its facilities chief had nothing to do with his allegations that the district mismanaged a construction project at a Squirrel Hill school. (P-G, Joe Smydo)

We think Joe is trying to tell us something!

“This is not a ‘whistleblower‘ case,” district Solicitor Ira Weiss said, adding that school board members who suggested otherwise were “misleading” and “inflammatory.”

We really think Joe is trying to tell us something.

Mr. Brentley called Mr. Nabas a “wonderful employee.” Mr. Taylor urged the board to tread carefully because of laws protecting whistleblowers, but Mr. Weiss said “this termination has nothing at all to do” with Mr. Nabas‘ allegations about mismanagement.

Well, if Mark Brentley says he’s alright…..


Residential developers are poised to develop Downtown, but are just waiting out the storm that is the U.S. credit crisis.

“Anybody who hasn’t started will be stalled,” said Kevin Keane, executive vice president of Lincoln Property Co., which owns three major residential complexes Downtown, on the North Side and South Side.

“The winds are changing.” (P-G, Dan Fitzpatrick)

Boy, howdy.

Mr. Keane, who in 2006 opened a 151-unit apartment tower Downtown called the Encore on 7th, disagrees with that assessment, arguing that there is not enough space Downtown for people making $30,000 to $45,000 a year.

“I certainly think the high end of the market has been satisfied,” he said.

If we keep building amenities for the young and the fabulous, they will come. Right?


Officials said that to stay within budget, the authority will have to continue a 2-year-old freeze on vouchers, probably cutting the number of families receiving the rent subsidy from 5,425 to about 4,700 by year’s end. (P-G, Rich Lord)

Is this entirely attributable to federal program cuts? Or are there ways of buttressing these efforts with grant monies and other revenue streams that are currently being diverted to other projects?

“I don’t even mention Section 8” to homeless families seeking shelter, said Mac McMahon, director of homeless assistance programs at Community Human Services in South Oakland. “Why even give them the hope?”



“Just because I disagree with them doesn’t mean I don’t recognize that,” Drozd said. “I recognize they care as much as I do, but they also need to show it by action.” (Trib, Justin Vellucci)

Very informative article on County Councilman Matt Drozd, R-Ross. Yes it’s clearly also a puff piece, but a nutritious one.

“He certainly has strong opinions on some things … but he’s willing to stand up for them,” said County Councilman Charles Martoni, D-Swissvale.

“He’s a character, and I think we’ve lost a lot of that in government and business. I think that’s a good thing. We probably need more characters.”

We probably need more bipartisan magnanimity such as this as well.