Monthly Archives: January 2011

Thursday: Making Our Way

The Voters’ Choice property tax referendum has been tabled 5-3 by City Council with the stated intention of it growing all moldy and cobwebby — which might be just as well, because it represented only one possible remedy for a devilish problem and a very indirect remedy at that.

According to info distributed by Councilman Burgess’s office, here are the city neighborhoods enjoying the top 5 average per-parcel tax breaks, due to inherent and presently exacerbated problems with property assessments. The methodology employed was to compare assessment values with sale prices. (I am awaiting background materials in an electronic format by which to better share the research.)

Shadyside: On average, under-taxed by $1073.70
Squirrel Hill North: On average, under-taxed by $1006.96
Point Breeze: On average, under-taxed by $962.61
Washington’s Landing: On average, under-taxed by $959.86
South Side Flats: On average, under-taxed by $901.71

And here are the 5 city neighborhoods paying more than their seeming fair share in property taxes, as compared with sale values.

Northview Heights: On average, over-taxed by $1,040.65
New Homestead: On average, over-taxed by $670.90
St. Clair: On average, over-taxed by $222.23
Fairywood: On average, over-taxed by $176.96
Homewood North: On average, over-taxed by $170.19

It seems like something especially aberrant is going on in Northview Heights and New Homestead. However and even at that, it shouldn’t take an economic demographer to point out that your average resident in Fairywood or Homewood North is probably impacted by improper $170 annual premiums at least as much as would the average Shadyside or North Squirrel Hill resident be impacted by a justifiable $1,000 correction.

Reportedly, several on City Council recommended that if voters want the power to sign off on any increase in the rate of property taxation (given these problems) then they can do so by organizing and collecting the several thousand signatures necessary to put it on the ballot their own selves. Which is a reasonable position, if Burgess’s proposed remedy to the problem just doesn’t strike your fancy.

But in the meanwhile, what are we going to do about this? Because ignoring the problem entirely would be unconscionable.

Can we at least begin by formally demanding that the County voluntarily assess properties every year, despite the fact the political class is then unjustifiably held “responsible” for voters’ homes appreciating in value? That would be a start. What else?


Just a few more stories:

About 650 million people visit strip clubs each year — more than four times the combined number who attend professional basketball, baseball, football and hockey games, Levy said. (Trib, Rick Wills)

Is that 650 million persons or visits? Because some of those patrons probably visit more than once a year. And is that in America or worldwide? And was it impossible for the article to find a perspective not from within the actual adult entertainment industry? It seems like, I don’t know, kind of a fluff piece.

Clicking right along, Pittsburgh has been ranked by America’s premiere gay and lesbian magazine as the 5th “gayest” city in the nation. Their methodology is a bit befuddling, and then some, but hey a ranking is a ranking. (PghLesCorr)

Finally, this came over the wire just this very mid-day…

What was again?

Oh, right. Well, good to know the hot war rages on.

The Artist: David Bowie

The time: 2002

Tuesday: Office-Holders Prepare for Figurative, Rhetorical Combat to Sort Out Public Agenda

This (Trib, Bobby Kerlik) could cause a potentially serious political bottleneck (ProgressPittsburgh) over in the southeast. Harris majority enthusiasts right now are probably furtively, politely celebrating — although foes of the iconic Councilman Shields are probably licking their chops all the same.*

*-UPDATE: Early Returns comes to a differing conclusion, “despite yesterday’s announcement Shields still has a district judge seat to run for, but it won’t be easy.”

Meanwhile on the South Side, Mr. Kraus makes it official that he is in for another go-round, having protected libraries, opened a District Office, and worked to fight crime and schmutz.

Speaking of rematches, it’s snow vs. the mayor again starting this afternoon: P-G, Jon Schmitz.

Finally, the P-G recommends against the first of two Burgess referendums — the one which, while also enhancing the probability of bathing City Council in a bad light for several months and diverting the conversation towards how we should apportion blame for various imperfect states of affairs instead of how we might be fixing the City next — additionally forwards some uncomfortable, hard-to-brush-aside truths about the property tax.

Council Members Burgess, Smith want Another Charter Amendment

This I think we can trust:

This proposed change is modeled from Allegheny County’s Home Rule Charter. It’s time to separate our duty as public servants from political promotion and aspiration in the City of Pittsburgh. It’s time to implement a “resign-to run” law in the City of Pittsburgh. (Release)

This is what you call fighting fire with oil. I wonder, will this new rule also apply to incumbents running for reelection to their present office?


The media release and purported press conference to have been held tomorrow in Council Chambers has been confirmed by the Pittsburgh F.O.P. to have been a hoax. MORE: A smug, doubly confirmed hoax.

A thousand apologies from this blog for having posted unconfirmed reports for about ten minutes, based on an electronic forgery.

Monday: The Rugged Discipline of Steel

Will our leader transform in name again to turn back the march of the rampaging Baltimore Ravens?

“Here we go again,” Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis said with a smile on his face. “I told you guys earlier in the year, man, that it’s something [special] about the journey.” (NFL Nation, James Walker)

Lewis vividly remembers the two teams’ last playoff meeting in 2009 and feeling overwhelmed on the field by a “12th man”: the home-field advantage, and the unstoppable energies of civic faith and hometown pride emanating in part from a nominally powered-up mayor of Pittsburgh eating sandwiches with thick and rich Heinz Ketchup.

“This is the NFL at its best,” Ravens Pro Bowl defensive end Terrell Suggs said. “This is what the world wants to see. They want to see Baltimore and Pittsburgh.” (ibid)

Can Pittsburgh afford to take on a divisional and conference rival like Baltimore with any degree of ill-preparedness or complacency? I say no. When a season is on the line like this, there are no tomorrows. Playing it safe means pulling out all the stops. Produce Steelerstahl.

We owe it to Cleveland, Youngstown and Steubenville to keep all the AFC North bragging rights in Cleveburgh.


Good news for the Hill District and the North Side: Trib, Jeremy Boren

Even more good news for the North Side: NSC, Matthew Chichowicz

More good material from the North Side Chronicle: NSC, Emily Leone, parts I, II, and III

Relive the drama of New Years Eve, or learn about it for the first time if you were not living in that cave: P-G, Joe Smydo

Students in the former Westinghouse and Peabody feeder patterns now get to choose between new single-gender Academies at Westinghouse that run on trimesters and utilize a talking Sorting Hat, or other magnet programs, or Milliones “University Prep”: P-G, Eleanor Chute

There is a national moment of silence today at 11:00 am, so I will keep this brief.

“I call on Americans to observe a moment of silence to honour the innocent victims of the senseless tragedy in Tucson, Ariz., including those still fighting for their lives,” [President] Obama said in a prepared statement. “It will be a time for us to come together as a nation in prayer or reflection, keeping the victims and their families closely at heart.” (Toronto Sun, Qmi Agency)

The Artist: James Taylor

The song: Carolina in my mind

And Where Is our Money for The Libraries??

Is it on its way?

But Mr. Ravenstahl returned unsigned a bill council passed June 1 allocating the system another $640,000 — money the system says it needs to keep all branches open through December. The bill now becomes law without his signature. (P-G, Joe Smydo, 6/16/10)

So Pittsburgh has officially decided.

In recent weeks, mayoral spokeswoman Joanna Doven has said another $640,000 would amount to a “blank check” for the library system and come at a time when the city has its own financial worries. Besides, she said, there’s nothing to prevent the library from returning next year and demanding yet another grant to keep branches open. (ibid)

Ah, good points. So how about the fact that we took that all into consideration and Pittsburgh had decided?

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment Monday. (P-G, Joe Smydo, 11/02/10)

Can anyone find anything? There have been no major pronouncements — and the natives are getting restless.

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s funding situation took us all a little by surprise. Council representatives overwhelmingly desired that those facilities and those programs stay online until a solution might be found, and forked over enough money to get through midway next year. The mayor aired grievances about how the Libraries are run, and these were considered and examined (some of it interesting). The mayor did not veto the rescue funding allocation, and he and the City wrote a reasonably balanced several hundred million dollar 2011 budget notwithstanding the measly $640,000 it cost. Pittsburgh had decided.

Pittsburgh’s in for another weird result soon.

Obama Tied to Wall Street Investment Bankers

Small world:

WASHINGTON — President Obama has chosen William Daley to serve as his new chief of staff, press secretary Robert Gibbs said Thursday morning. (LA Times, Parsons & Nicholas)

This William Daley, Sr. is an executive with JPMorgan Chase, the banking firm which would have partnered with LAZ Parking in leasing Pittsburgh’s public parking infrastructure for 40-50 years under Mayor Luke Ravenstahl’s thwarted proposal. Mr. Daley chairs JPMorgans executive committee on “corporate responsibility”.

Daley’s son, Bill Daley Jr., also personally worked on the Pittsburgh deal, but with another investment firm: Morgan Stanley, the city Parking Authority’s sales-side consultant:

Morgan Stanley managing director Perry Offutt — joined by Bill Daley Jr., the nephew of Chicago’s mayor — warned council against approving the study, saying it would possibly scare off investors and cost the city money. (P-G, Timothy McNulty)

And, of course, Daley Sr.’s brother is Mayor Richard M. Daley of Chicago and its Cautionary Parking Lease experience. And Obama’s former chief-of-staff, Rahm Emmanuel, is now running for Mayor of Chicago, so now we have a revolving door.

So who are we running against JPObamastahl in the primaries?


How about that! Cropping done separately by Comet.

The Cleveland-Pittsburgh TechBelt Initiative

I told you Cleveland sucked. Look at this Ralph Della Ratta character, wishing justifiably he were just about anyplace else on Earth. There are six parts to this, featuring Congressional representatives Tim Ryan (D-OH-17, above) and Jason Altmire (D-PA-4, Pts. 3-6). Fwiw, I think “tech” might be an off-center tail if we’re really looking to wag this dog; everybody and their mother wants to be America’s Next Top Technology Corridor, nothing unique there. Even still, it looks like TechBelt is converting some federal and state grants into an energy-sciences enterprises incubator in Warren, OH.

So if you ever need to bum lab time with a small-to-medium Hadron Collider, they’re your guys.