Monthly Archives: April 2008

Wednesday: Omnibus Primer

“This will be money the company will spend to spur economic development in terms of architects, planners, engineers and that sort of thing, feasibility studies, analysis. So the benefit will accrue to the people in the community of the Hill District,” he said. (P-G, Mark Belko)

You know what, Mr. Barden, that is a nifty idea! The trick of course will be in the execution, and then in the getting anybody to pay attention.

“He’s continued to be a good partner in this effort and I think it’s important for us to reciprocate with a letter to the gaming board,” Mr. Ravenstahl said.

Our Mayor and Our County Executive are right to bank away from Sen. Ferlo on this. They should consider the option more frequently.


That gap prompted the city to bring in The Reinvestment Fund, which has also studied Philadelphia and Baltimore. (P-G, Rich Lord)

We were just saying!

Rob Stephany, interim executive director of the Urban Redevelopment Authority, said that the key is not “what the color of the neighborhood is” but what the underlying data says and where an area fits into the city’s tapestry.

Awww, bummer! We bet they put a lot of thought into their little seven-color schemata! Can we still have a looksee?

The study cost $35,000 and was paid for by the URA and the New York City-based Surdna Foundation. The Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group oversaw the process.

Thirty-five grand, all things considered? If the study is any good at all, that’s a bargain. We aren’t interested any of your negative comments about “another expensive report gathering dust.” Good on the URA for once.


Anything’s possible, Port Authority board members surmised at recent committee meetings, where they endorsed the idea of selling naming and promotional rights for the 1.2-mile light-rail extension and other assets to increase revenue. (P-G, Joe Grata)

Sure, why not. As long as “anything” gets vetted through the proper processes, go ahead and outfit Steve Bland as an organ grinder and put him in subway stations. Let Dan Onorato deal hands of Three Card Monte on the side.

Strike that, actually.


The Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation has joined forces with N&P Properties to control the development of almost a block of buildings along Market Street between Fifth Avenue and Market Square. (P-G, Diana Nelson Jones)

So what, now they’re going to put up four houses, and then a hotel? Let’s put this one on the ‘watch’ list, especially with the PDP lurking about. Speaking of:

A town hall meeting is set for 5 p.m., May 5, at the Harris Theater, Downtown, where drawings will be available and landscape architect Dina Cole Klavon will speak. The public will be able to make comments, which also can be submitted to till May 15. (P-G, Edit Board)

That’s a Monday. Excellent.


“I don’t think that it’s been the policy to bid these [refinancings of debt] out,” said State Rep. Don Walko, the [Pittsburgh Water and Sewage] authority chairman. “I think you just try to find the best team.” (Trib, Jeremy Boren)

Okay, possibly. Fine.

Ergo, PWSA came before council, contrite and full of excuses, asking for a last-minute life extension. But also warning council that time was of the essence because of the shakiness in our present financial markets. A delay of even a week could cost $2 million or so, PWSA worried. So council was told their preliminary approval to the extension had to occur at that moment. Right then and there on the spot. Because final approval had to occur on Tuesday. (Burgh Report, Char)

If that depiction is at all accurate, the whole thing is still offensive, and the need for it should be abolished in the future. There may be new paradigms worth considering to carry out this function, and it would be best to keep as many options on the table as possible. Savvy?

We’re Gonna Find Out. Next Time…

Okay okay okay okay okay. What’s done is done. (P-G, Patricia Lowry)

“How on earth could the owners of the Penguins replace an iconic piece of architecture [Mellon Arena], one that was groundbreaking for its time, with one that looks like it belongs in an office park along the Dulles Toll Road in suburban Washington?” writes Mt. Lebanon native Jim Hiscott of Washington, D.C.

Our bad for not asking the tough questions a year ago, and for not paying enough heed to George Moses and Evan Frazier back in December.

“The real issue right now is money — it’s fine for me or the Planning Commission to pick at the design, but there is little chance that HOK will be able to make radical changes without increasing the price tag (already more expensive than Heinz Field) or delaying the schedule.”

The focus now should be on civic design on and around the already iconic old civic arena site. One would assume this falls naturally to the Department of City Planning — not to HOK Sport, Lamar Advertising, UPMC or Kellogg’s. The Penguins needs should be given all due consideration, as should the needs of the neighbors.

That would have to apply no matter what.

Dr. Kimberly Ellis AKA Dr. Goddess expressed some concerns to the Comet about a provision in the tentative community benefits agreement that would seem to give the Penguins the opportunity to “opt out” of commitments after a certain interval.

Although Ellis was apprehensive that this clause could be “lorded over [neighbors’] heads,” she did find cause for optimism within other portions of the negotiated and proposed CBA, which will be submitted to One Hill membership shortly.

The Comet believes it would be appropriate for the Penguins to exercise just such a cancellation option under certain circumstances — AKA to enforce legitimate articles of a legitimate agreement. However, there are some inalienable rights (and responsibilities!) which can never be negotiated away.

A spirit of partnership and understanding would have to endure from any agreement for it to work. The question is, do we now have enough of a foundation for that to happen, or will this require at least another round of (inevitably public) negotiations.


Dr. Goddess blogs on recent elections results:

And it’s a shame because Ms. Washington is probably a good person who got caught up in all of the negativity and mayhem Tonya was swirling around her. The reason for the division in the Hill District within the last two years is mostly due to Payne’s poor leadership, petty politics, grudge-holding and a fanciful imagination. Certainly, there was division beforehand but she exacerbated and exaggerrated it.

RELATED: Angry Drunk Bureaucrat.

FOOTNOTE: The Comet fervently desires that more voices emerge that are intimately knowledgeable of, and opinionated about, Pittsburgh’s Hill District, as well as Pittsburgh’s other 87 neighborhoods.
UPDATE: Here is one. (Blog of Josh Hall)

The Artist: Kenny Rogers

The spectacle: A smoking muppet.

PA-21st Legislative District: WHOA, NELLY!

Meanwhile, closer to home, the three candidates for Lisa Bennington’s seat in the state-house are neck n’ neck n’ neck:

Dominic Costa: 34.84%
Leonard Bodack: 32.76%
Brenda Frazier: 32.20%

This with 99% reporting. It’s close, but it seems done.

ALSO: Steve O’Donnell is up by five percentage points over Beth Hafer, thus far, and Jake Wheatley is walloping Deidre Washington.

More Breakdown: The 9:00 Hour

So Hillary is the projected winner with 5% of the vote in, right now by 53-47%. According to people, “people like Mike Doyle of Pittsburgh” are on their phones right now with donors and superdelegates, trying to patch the wheels back on the wagon.

Keep refreshing, in case anything else interesting happens.

Pat Buchanan is high on meth, yelling at the rest of the panel and accusing them of utilizing “Marxist dialectic” for not agreeing that Barack Obama is sunk. Until we get a good idea of the margin of victory, no one should be allowed to talk.

With 21% reporting, it’s still 53-47. Clare McCaskill: “We knew all along that Hillary Clinton was going to win; for most of the campaign we’ve been talking about double digits.” Thank you. Everybody breathe.

Clare McCaskill: Getting grilled by Chris Matthews for Obama not having a “sharp” enough message — to which she responds that Obama is going to be who he is, maintain his authenticity, and not start thinking about who he needs to become to win any given race.

Bill Bennett says something smart: “The Clintons know where the center is in American politics, and they go there. I used to think Barack Obama knew where the center was, until this last month, now I’m not so sure.”

Now it’s Time for the Breakdown!

The Media Overlords are telling us that even money stands at Hillary by 7 points; that is, if she exceeds that margin, it is a “big win”, whereas if Obama comes within 5, it’s a “moral victory.”

Of course, they are basing this upon the latest polls. Why should the last-minute difference between the latest polls and the actual results dictate who exceeded “expectations”?

You’ll have to ask that of the Media Overlords.

Keep refreshing, in the event that any of the talking heads say something particularly amusing.

Bill Bennett: Obama is “twitchy” because he doesn’t have anybody to fight alongside him. (This is why he should name a running mate right now, and nuts to tradition).

Everyone: Sen. Obama’s problem: “Where all de white women at?”

Anecdotally: HUGE turnout in Pennsylvania today!! On our way in to the polling place, somebody else was coming in at the same time. On our way out after voting, two more people were entering. TREMENDOUS numbers for East-East Allegheny!

Wolf Blitzer: Exit polls say the race was “competitive”. Giggity?

ANDREA MITCHELL @ CLINTON HQ: “Clinton Insiders” who have the polling data are already aware they’re not going to get “the big win” they were looking for!! “They are going to have to figure out another rationale for going forward.”

Pittsburgh “Area”: Obama is projected to have scored only 38%. In the “Rest of State” (not including Pittsburgh area, Philly or the Philly suburbs), Obama scored 42%. OBAMA DID WORSE IN PITTSBURGH THAN IN “REST OF STATE?” Are we teaching you people NOTHING???

CNN: 53% of Protestants voted for Obama. This is the first demographic they have flashed yet that voted in favor of Obama. (Except African Americans. Last number we saw: 92%)

CNN: Clinton leads among 65+ y.o.’s 60-39%. Their talking heads say, “This is not not so good for Hillary Clinton”, considering all of the kids voting for Obama with their rock n’ roll music and their roller skates in their sneakers.

NBC: Just gave Clinton the checkmark. Of course, that’s the raw win, not the “expectations” win, but so much for the fantasy. Can’t be that close if they’re calling it with 3% reporting.

Also, money is important. Apparently, Hillary is broke, and needs a big win to make any more of it. To be continued…..

Two Places to Get Election Results

1. The Pittsburgh Comet

2. The Lamar Advertising LED display on south-bound Route 65, just before the North Shore exit (true story).

Of course, if you want meaningful results, you might have to wait a few days:

Unlike most states, Pennsylvania has a large number of counties split into multiple congressional districts. That could delay results by a day or more as election officials work to assign votes to the appropriate districts. (MSNBC)

And wouldn’t this be fun:

The distribution of delegates among congressional districts raises the possibility that one candidate could win the statewide vote and the other could win more delegates, but the statewide vote would have to be very close.

PROGRAMMING NOTE: The Comet will be leaving for a post-primary jaunt to Las Vegas, Nevada on the morning of Thursday, April 24, and will not be returning to Pittsburgh until Wednesday, April 30. All outstanding city business must be completed and turned in by the time the dailies go to press tomorrow night.

CORRECTION: 2 Out Of These 3 Want You to Vote for Hillary Clinton

We’re just saying. (Photo credit Jim Burn)

BestFriendsgate: Yes, This Also Qualifies

One summer day in 2006, Al Wikowski Jr. looked behind his Lawrenceville row house and saw decks extending from the building behind his to within a foot of his back windows.

The decks, he later learned, were built without a permit, and subsequent efforts by city of Pittsburgh agencies to force their removal got nowhere. Even as the Bureau of Building Inspection was trying unsuccessfully to get the deck work behind the building stopped, the city’s Urban Redevelopment Authority was signing off on a $30,000 aid package for work on the facade. (P-G, Rich Lord)

It could be worse. It might have been an electronic billboard in his window.

Private criminal complaints filed by building inspectors against Mr. Edelstein and an associate in January 2007 have languished. He doesn’t want to move, and in fact refused to sell to Wylie even after they threatened to sue him if he didn’t. He’s been to hearings and meetings, and the decks remain.

Isn’t Bureau of Building Inspections Director Ron Graziano the one department head that Mayor Ravenstahl ultimately found intolerable and had to let go? You don’t suppose Our Mayor could have been aware of this situation, and other situations, involving BBI regulations conflicting with the interests of ‘best friends’ of the URA?

Attorney Lawrence Fisher, who represents Mr. Ford in relation to a State Ethics Commission investigation into his receipt of gifts from a Lamar Advertising executive, said the Streetface program “was administered appropriately and according to law … Any such grants that Pat signed off on were reviewed and recommended” by other URA officials and the agency’s general counsel.

Only following orders, you see. Only carrying out the mission. He’s probably got a point.

Monday: We’re Not Making This Up.

“There were a number or promises made by all three casino developers, and I need an opportunity to sit down with Mr. Barden so that I have a better feel about his amendment,” Ravenstahl said Saturday. (Trib, Rick Stouffer)

You know, he’s not wrong. Except.

Our Mayor would have more of a leg to stand on if the entirety of regional government was not so adamant about not giving one red cent to some nebulous group of people — or if he personally had applied some pressure on the SEA and the Penguins to share a bit of those development rights.

“Who received the gaming license and where the casino will be built was decided by the state, so we’re basically dealing with the hand the state dealt us,” Ravenstahl said. “Our goal in all of this is to ensure that the casino has a positive impact on the city.”

There are those who cling to Isle of Capri like guns and religion.


“As we use more resources to take down more condemned buildings, the land that remains cannot be an eyesore that hinders neighborhood development,” said Mr. Ravenstahl. “Land is an asset, and should be used to improve the quality of life for our citizens.” (P-G, Rich Lord)

Attn Democratic committee people: He never promised you a rose garden. (We hope!)

This is not a call for higher taxes, but rather the sanity to recognize that any source that delivers more than a third of a county’s revenues can’t remain capped interminably while costs are rising. (P-G, Edit Board)

We are genuinely casting about for a rationale behind Dan Onorato for Governor. Any help out there? Anyone?

Our house is a solid, century-old factory with thick brick walls, but the blast, or whatever it might be, was so powerful that the whole building shook. (P-G, Ruth Ann Daily)

THANK YOU! People were looking at us like we were crazy!

COMET S.O.S.: You may have heard we are involved in a disagreement. Any Comet readers who possess the skills of a forensic computer scientist should e-mail us A.S.A.P.


“Each year a pencil-pusher in Washington still has to send treaty cloth to Onondaga,” Mr. Galban said. (P-G, Len Barcousky)

You’re kidding.

“It’s going to be bright. It’s going to be shiny. It’s going to be new,” Bureau of State Parks Director John Norbeck said. “It’s going to be an attraction more so than it’s ever been.” (Trib, F.A. Krift)

*Sigh*, Nothing like a bright, shiny war memorial.


Tuesday can put a stop to it. If Mrs. Clinton loses, she loses the last justification for keeping her candidacy alive. (P-G, Edit Board)

They feel so strongly about this, they endorsed him twice.

For Pennsylvania Democrats, the smart choice Tuesday is Mrs. Clinton. (Trib, Edit Board)