Monthly Archives: October 2009

BestFriendsgate: It Still Rankles Him.

The framing of the article on Mayor Ravenstahl in today’s P-G is bound to annoy the challengers in the present contest, but it is one way to take a look at the year ahead.

There’s obviously one thing we can’t let slide:

“When you look back and consider some of the things that have been said — I mean literally accusations that this administration should be in jail, or I should be in jail, or I’ve broken the law, some of the personal attacks that they make — it’s very difficult for me to deal with somebody that believes that or at least says that.” (P-G, James O’Toole)

Then it’s time to rip apart this agreement — the one in which Ravenstahl’s own infinitely and quite illegally empowered henchman, who had just publicly accused his boss of corruption, left the City with 150% of his ordinary severance after having served just 30% of his term.

Also we can explain how the permit came to be awarded “in violation of city regulations” (thank you Mr. O’Toole), why the issue was never run past city lawyers at any of several points it still could have made a difference, and whether or not it is now the City’s intention to finally enforce its regulations and have the blight torn down.

Let’s talk openly about it if there’s no problem. It’s not like we claim to know exactly what happened and why. We’re just watching people walk away with bags of money, watching judges disagree with you repeatedly, and watching good public servants get released — so of course we assume the worst. Please set our minds at ease. Take some damn responsibility.



Falun Gong @ the G20

Protesting against China:

This one is interesting:

See the city police officers in the background over her shoulder? They both made a point of telling these protesters the extent to which they were impressed by their very peaceful natures. A real “I love you man!” kind of moment. Then they went through and read Falun Dafa’s posters and literature.

Library Trustees: No Books For You!

Sorry Lawrenceville, Beechview, West End, Hazelwood and Knoxville-or-Carrick. Your libraries are plagued with lethal asbestos don’t attract enough patrons to stay open anymore.

“We needed to move quickly with these drastic decisions,” said Jacqui Lazo, board chair. “The library system was designed for a city twice the size of Pittsburgh today. We have more branches per capita than any other system our size.” (P-G, Bob Hoover)

Lots to nitpick. The system was designed for a city twice the population of Pittsburgh today — the city has remained exactly the same size however. Utilizing the library system will become much more difficult than at any point in its past, especially considering public transit has only worsened.

Also, did we only just discover this $1.2 million projected budget deficit? Has the board also been “doing its homework” in going after grants and stimulus dollars? Green libraries, anyone? I don’t understand the need for self-described drastic quickness.

Finally, was it wise to have only recently converted a few of our public libraries into flashy and exotic digital spaceships? Is the Forbes and Murray branch going to be regarded as the Colfax Annex of the library system? I wouldn’t want to be discovered in Squirrel Hill when the revolution comes.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl called for an independent audit of the library budget by the Regional Assets District board “so that we know how the money is being spent. A lot of people don’t know what’s happening at the library. (P-G, Hoover and Schaarsmith)

If it turns out we are getting ripped off by corrupt fat cat librarians, that will really be surprising.

The latter article has reactions from Doug Shields and Chelsa Wagner, but here are some snippets from press releases that didn’t find their way into the papers:

Natalia Rudiak: These decisions were not simply made in a two hour meeting—they have been deliberated over a long period of time—and it’s inexcusable that our City and State has not been proactive in dealing with this issue before such a devastating announcement. The City has been contributing the same $40,000 to the libraries every year since 1895, and State Republicans are pushing for steep cuts of 38% to overall library spending...

…I support District 4’s current City Councilman in his vow to identify more funding to allow the reversal of the board of trustee’s decision.

Kevin Acklin: Over the last several weeks, I’ve attended rallies at our city’s libraries, made direct appeals to the Carnegie Library Board, and announced proposals that would help fund the Carnegie Library System and keep some of its branches from closing. This afternoon, Mr. Ravenstahl held a press conference — his first public statement on the library closings — and essentially told the people of Pittsburgh, “The libraries are closing, there is nothing I can do about it.”

Dok Harris: These are tough times in Pittsburgh and around the country. These are times for belt tightening and smart investment. But closing libraries is not belt tightening; it’s the equivalent of chopping of limbs. Working families do not have the luxury of coming into Oakland to go the library; they are already overburdened, juggling work, child care, and other responsibilities. They need resources IN their communities.

That our Mayor has remained silent on this issue serves as just one more indicator that he doesn’t care about our neighborhoods. The Mayor will bend over backwards to accommodate campaign donors, but cannot be bothered to address the pressing issues of neighborhood violence, economic stagnation, closing libraries, and crumbling communities.

Good Old-Fashioned DPW Kerfuffle

I know someone can tell us what’s really going on here:

Councilman Jim Motznik yesterday publicly accused Operations Director Art Victor of trying to manipulate the selection process to boost one candidate — apparently Deputy Director Mike Gable — over current Acting Director Robert Kaczorowski. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said he was “a little bit disturbed” at the process. Councilman William Peduto urged against a “witch hunt” against Mr. Victor. (P-G, Rich Lord)

Sure there’s more important news — libraries closing, gubernatorial candidates announcing — but let’s get this strangeness out of the way quickly. Motznik lighting up the administration in public? Victor fiddling with his own irons? At least the Mayor is still out of the loop, or I’d feel like we fell into another dimension.

The Mayor Issue

All 45 minutes of an Acklin/Reichbaum interview filmed on Sept. 10th are now on YouTube in five parts:

PART I: The legal challenge of the Dok Harris petition signatures. Later, growing up in a “machine Democratic” family and seeing “the bad part”. A bit about having been a Republican in favor of civil rights.

PART II: Raised by “a single mother, on welfare for a number of years.” The present mayor is “playing falsely with the hopes and dreams” of neighborhoods. Then his own pension plan, which involves reorienting the URA. Mayor “used the Act 47 process” to “take things off the table” with unions.

PART III: Answers criticism from Rob STEPHany (not Rob StePHANy, sorry) of the URA; remarks of its associated benefits to neighborhoods, “It’s not happening”. Criticizes a lack of sunshine and how decisions get made. Will restore “basic democratic values”.

PART IV: Would grant the Council more formal say in appointing and in removing board members, department heads; would not commit to amending the Charter. Believes “we’re in a bad place” if we’re discussing ethics issues frequently. Also: public safety and the PIRC.

PART V: More on the PIRC. Forgotten areas like the West End. “I don’t know why you’d want to be Mayor, if you’re not going to be out there in the neighborhoods.” Some campaign strategy. He’s lost 25 pounds. Feels he “brings a lot of authenticity”.

For the latest on the mayor’s race, see the Slag Heap’s Chris Potter. See also our two-part narrative about the Dok Harris interview of two months ago: Link and Link.