Monthly Archives: August 2011

POTUS to Address Congress on Jobs Proposals

A week from today: Wed. Sept. 7th, at 8:00 PM. *-UPDATE: Or Thurs. the 8th. “Logistical impediments”.

It better be good. We need first-down yardage.


Tuesday: Here They Come

State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler) is holding hearings today on the Hispanic invasion. John L. Micek at Capitol Ideas has posted a fascinating breakdown of some of the facts surrounding this crisis-for-some. *-UPDATE: P-G
(Las Palmas, the Mexican grocer in Brookline which opened in 2009 seems to be doing well. No reports yet on whether or not they’re putting french fries in the tacos. Legal immigration is one thing, but they have to be willing to assimilate.)

Super Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) is reportedly holding a (a) Town Hall Meeting clear on the other side of the state on Sept. 1st. If I’m reading that correctly, that’s three days notice to plan a visit to Jim Thorpe, PA — which sounds absolutely lovely, but it doesn’t leave a lot of time to pack and write a little speech.
It looks like Rick Santorum (R-Your Body) is seriously lining up to take down Rick Perry and try to become the natural, notable cultural conservative willing to play attack dog, and to one day testify that Mitt Romney has “steel in his spine”. He’ll even score sympathy points for his problems with Dan Savage, and who doesn’t love milking those? Nonetheless, we’re not sure whether that pairing wouldn’t exacerbate more problems than in solves.
The Allegheny Institute wonders whether the Pittsburgh School District (amidst the many other changes it is making right now) moving seven teachers from classroom instruction to “making students feel safe and welcome” is a useful or cost-effective idea.
From the School District website:

Learning Environment Specialists are teachers who demonstrate strength in positive classroom management, leadership and peer coaching skills. Learning Environment Specialists will be classroom teachers in high-needs schools, have a reduced teaching schedule and will participate on school teams, possibly leading teams, to ensure that school-based goals for a positive teaching and learning environment are being met. (PPS)

“High-needs schools” and “teachers who demonstrate strength in” seem to be the operative phrases there.
If it’s true that the City of Pittsburgh actually leads the nation in poverty rates among working-age racial minorities and young minority children, and if it’s true that growing up in poverty and amidst much poverty can lead to a sticky situation as far as schooling — then it’s hard to see any reason for bafflement here. We’ve got to try something to get these kids feeling more positive about school, right? It sounds like these teachers’ roles will be to teach the merits of personal responsibility among children who were especially likely to have missed those memos.
What do our buddies at the A.I. advocate in its place, we are left wondering? Charter school vouchers for everyone, but no special resources for acclimating and acculturating the students, or even for steering all of them into appropriate schools to redeem those vouchers? What?
It is two days until September 1, the deadline for handing in our financial homework to the state. Is it going to be submitted on time by the appropriate administrative officer with all of the T’s crossed and I’s dotted correctly? Do we think the state will try to take notice of any possible distinctions between pension obligations and pension liabilities? Or are we going to sail right through the 50% funding threshold into comfortable waters — before being gifted with a new, strengthened form of Super Oversight? In the City of Harrisburg, they’re talking about yet another kind of state takeover just because our state can — and seems amped for the challenge.
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Monday: And Where Might we Purchase the T-Shirts?

The biggest news over the weekend might have been a sleeper: the sudden discovery of Jasiri X by the Blur-gho-sphere, as evidenced first on What Would Vannevar Bush Blog? and then shortly on Infinonymous.
WWVB has all the lyrics. A sample:

And downtown it’s a bunch of new buildings

Glass and steel cathedrals the cost a few million

They make billions to treat a dudes illness

With medicine and pharmaceuticals so who’s dealing

But the schools are failing screw children

Just make sure the office has a see through ceiling

Pitt University and CMU killin

classes cost thousands I don’t see you fill em (at WWVB)

This contribution by Jasiri X (MySpace) is added to a long history of municipal protest folk music:
Jasiri’s last single release garnering significant notoriety was 2010’s What if the Tea Party Was Black. He just needs a good hook writer. America’s Most Livable Irony, what? How about, “White Pittsburgh / Black Pittsburgh.” Come on kid, we’ll make a record. Wiz Khalifa, Mac Miller — these things work best in threes and fours.
No seriously, expect someone of Jasiri’s artistic talent, uniqueness, and sense of civic responsibility to gain significant attention from outfits like Pop City Media, the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council in a matter of weeks or months. There’s no reason to keep this all to ourselves.
What else?
P-G on-duty battlecat Joe Smydo went stately forth and delivered that newspaper’s Quarterly Blowing Off of Steam over Luke Ravenstahl.
This time, that work took the form of a litany of stories about mayoral absences at and around specified events and incidents. Here was our favorite part:
Months ago, the Post-Gazette switched its online publishing options to divide up its articles onto different pages as a default (in order to garner more net pageviews and pump the advertisers, we assume). It’s been mildly irritating, and we had been considering airing a grievance.
But no longer! The sheer style points credited for launching into a series of tales of an unfortunately timed ski trip here, a similarly timed vacation there, another little mystery or two and then PLEASE CONTINUE TO PAGES TWO THROUGH FIVE UNITL YOU REACH THE STOP SIGN — as a blogger, Post-Gazette, we salute you.
What else is there…
Looks as though the landowners of active gas fracking sites are doing fairly well with royalty payments, a fact which has translated into $100 million last year in tax revenue for the state (to gain just little perspective, that constitutes 2.5% of the state budget deficit, which is estimated to have been about a $4 billion shortfall.) … The P-G editorialists proper are all like, here here! here here! when it comes to Highmark / UPMC and Big Healthcare … Rick Santorum will be in or around Pittsburgh on Tuesday or Wednesday to raise money at a crucial moment in his campaign to become Mitt Romney’s running mate.
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Hurricane Irene Resources

The Weather Underground.

The latest Daily Downpour audiocast, which is billed as the “final” Hurricane Irene special, from Fri. August 26th at 4:30 PM.
The attached map is of relative storm surge probabilities (h/t Jeff Masters at WU again). Lots of H2o for the Mid-Atlantic coast and waterways.
Fox News Extreme Weather Center.
WRAL Raleigh Durham Fayetteville liveblog-style coverage.
*-UPDATE: staff report about Sunday’s situation.

An Invitation, a Question, and a Rant

1. Remember last year’s blurghosphere-wide (and then some) Community Human Services or CHS Holiday Gift Drive to provide individuals and families with unique challenges practical gifts for the holiday season? It is launching earlier and more ambitiously this year, with the Pirates vs. Marlins game on Saturday Sept. 10th at 7:05.

Those who consent to watching the Pirates live at PNC Park alongside web-loggers like myself, Virginia Montanez, Jennifer England, and Kevin Acklin (his campaign was basically a five-month long blog post, right?) in the special Roberto Clemente section will enjoy the view from the lower left infield, fireworks and a Clemente t-shirt all for just $20. Register now! Please join us.
*-UPDATE / INSPIRATION: For those of you familiar with CHS’s work and who don’t care to join us at this ballgame — how about getting your Christmas donating out of the way now, while your credit card bill still fits in an envelope?

2. Professor Briem points us in the direction of a couple interesting articles in the most recent Pittsburgh Business Times. Go read them through his portal — or read as much of them as you can without a PBT subscription. We’ll wait right here. Dum de do.
3. Back again? Good. Now, a serious request. Can somebody quickly remind us why it is crucial to prevent our pension fund management from getting “taken over” by PMRS? We understand why the local pension board itself would be anxious to prevent a takeover by a statewide investment cooperative with a far superior track record. Very clear on that. We just need a quick refresher course on why Pittsburgh At Large ought to be persuaded to “all row in the same direction”, towards what is in any event the same waterfall around the next bend.
4. If two or more providers of similar products or services operating in the same area are by definition in the same “market” — and this state of affairs necessarily entails “competition” among the two “competitors” — and this “market competition” absolutely mandates the cessation of cooperation between competitors to further efficiency in delivery of these products and services — how can we possibly be discussing institutions of purely public charity, or non-profits?
Some cry in cowardice, bad judgement or bad faith, “Don’t kill the goose that lays golden eggs!” Health care is the new steel, the new coke, and the new coal combined. Health care is one of the few consumables guaranteed never to go obsolete or out of style. Those remaining in charge of it — only the most aggressive and methodical practitioners of corporate piracy, the monopolists — have obviously given up any pretense of being motivated by compassionate instincts. Watch any old telephone company commercial — “We bring mothers and daughters together, over distances! Communication! Aren’t we the sweetest things?” This is the very self-same self-serving non-sequitor. Extravagant claims about “charity care” have never been audited. Taxpayers entirely underwrote the construction and evolution of one of these two self-involved “competitors”: the University of Pittsburgh.
Meanwhile, a ridiculously high volume of tax exempt land is slowly but now noticeably strangling this city in particular, just as it’s struggling to rebound. The center cannot hold.
Tax these deluded phony plutocrats. Tax them no harsher than all the other duly celebrated profit-seekers in this vibrant working world must be taxed. Tax them whether they agree to play nice with each other or not.
Who knows? We might actually be able to hire some teachers for our schoolchildren, or update some critical infrastructure to keep us from drowning in the rain.
Lower-most image: PBT, Jim Snively. And did you find this post valuable? If so, then please consider voting for the Pittsburgh Comet again today in the Most Valuable Blogger thing.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl = 19% Job Approval?

So says Pittsburgh’s own Civic Science Inc. in an interview with KDKA’s Jon Delano, that is.

*-UPDATE: “CSI Pittsburgh” offers up some thoughts and answers to suddenly frequently asked questions on its blog. Original post continues:

Before folks start breaking out into song, a few important caveats. Civic Science Inc. is a consumer market research firm, and something of an innovative high-tech start-up at that. It does political tracking mostly “for fun” (and, apparently, for publicity). Although they reputedly were alone in accurately predicting the results of the Rich Fitzgerald / Mark Patrick Flaherty race for Allegheny County Executive, this particular business avowedly isn’t even their specialty — as evidenced by the lonesomeness of their one and only local politics query.

Furthermore, this is somehow an Internet-based poll — though it looks as though there’s more to it than the straightforward, rinky-dink, answer-as-often-as-you’d-like polls any of us can slap on our website. There is talk for example of “sampling”, “demographics” and “science”.

Judge for yourself how the firm’s CEO, John Dick, answered the Comet’s cursory question about compensating for the “digital divide,” or the fact that several sets of demographics interact with the Internet a lot less frequently and intensely than others:

1) We believe in the law of big numbers. While there is admittedly bias in any human sample, those biases can be measured when you have large enough data. In the case Ravenstahl #s, a 26,000+ person sample included enough people in every imaginable demographic to build reliable models. 2) On the matter of “digital divide:” First, this is a dying phenomena. Web connectivity is virtually ubiquitous among all but the oldest and most indigent populations. Compare that with the landline telephone (still the prevailing means of opinion research). Only 74% of US households have a land phone. Among those, at least half subscribe to Do-Not-Call Lists and CallerID services, rendering them unreachable. If there is a “digital divide,” think of it as a crack in the sidewalk. The “land-phone divide” is Panther Hollow.

In our non-expert opinion, if there happens to be any significant sampling biases (if there are no significant controls for age, race, income, and for whatever psychology explains people choosing to fill out Internet political polls on their own initiative) “large numbers” would not do anything to fix that. We don’t feel like we have the data quite yet to weigh whether that is in fact a problem here, but the amount of attention this poll is garnering so quickly suggests that’s likely to change.
All of that aside — 19% job approval! It’s hard to imagine any skewed sampling of any variety that could make Mayor Ravenstahl feel okay with a number like 19% being produced. Colonel Gaddafi used to poll at least in the low 30’s.
Next time we hope they also measure the “job approval” of City Council, or of other specific local public officials. The responses may have simply reflected a general “Aw, phooey” sentiment towards city government as a whole, until we discover some one or some thing polls any better.
And we hope there are many next times. Poll numbers are like crack for the media, and nonpartisan polling data would make local politics a lot easier to cover and analyze. Kudos to Civic Science for taking some first steps!
MORE: That’s Church seemed to be at least a little impressed by the “trust me, geniuses” argument, though Null Space wonders how much better this is than a radio call-in poll. Maria of 2PJ’s in fact broke out into song 40 minutes before we published this.
COMETNONYTUNE: Hey Nineteen (Steely Dan)
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Quake Rocks City on Heels of Embarrassing Flooding Gaffe

Official reaction to inquiries over what caused today’s earthquake:

Too soon?

Now, onto the very real deadly flooding and today’s news conference:

Reacting to statements from Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority and Allegheny County Sanitary Authority that water volume was the culprit, not the quality of their systems, Mr. Ravenstahl said, “I’m not necessarily 100 percent satisfied with that answer yet.” (P-G, Joe Smydo)

That’s pretty much where I’m at. And no further. It’s too easy to say, “PWSA in particular and city government in general drives me up the wall, they must be at fault here.”

But there are still some unanswered questions:

For example, though it was quickly made to sound like all the relevant parts of the system were recently inspected and confirmed to be operating in perfect condition, we’re now considering “using robots to inspect the submerged outfall pipe”. How critical is the function of that outfall pipe to systemic function, and when was the last occasion on which it was inspected?

Do we still really not know whether the storm drains on Washington Boulevard were clogged with rocks prior to Friday’s storm, or whether the clogging occurred as a result?

Do we have any confirmation yet by meteorological professionals that this was in fact a “100-year storm”? We know it was bad. Three inches in an hour, two inches in 37 minutes is bad. Can actual weather experts state with the same confidence our public officials are employing that it was the Storm of the Century, the implication being, no sense fretting over another one that bad?

Even if it was an event we might once have considered a 100-year storm, is that still the case?

Finally, assuming we won’t be laying this all at the feet of a submerged outfall pipe and clogged storm drains, I think we can take ALCOSAN readily at its word that an engineering solution preserving Washington Blvd. as we know it will take billions (with both a “B” and an “S”) no matter which option we settle on.

Talk about a big dig — imagine four or five North Shore Connectors.

Where in the hay is that supposed to come from?

Better to make sure those flashing warning signs work really well, and maybe add some mechanical arms to discourage the real idiots.


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The Three (3) City Money Problems

The administration and Council are haranguing each other about parking plans and pension problems. PittGirl has been drawn into the fray. Should we welcome you back to 2010?

Now would be a useful time to review the city’s monetary gestalt, since the exciting conclusion to last year’s “state takeover” story is fast approaching, and another nerve-wracking round of annual budget talks is right around the corner.
The point we’d most like to illustrate is this: “the city’s budget woes” you’ll be hearing about are actually threefold. Three. Different. Issues. Understanding that is the first step towards not coming across like a rube or an easy mark.


Problem Number One is that the pension fund could simply run dry by 2014.

Almost nothing can be found in terms of predicting the actual drop-dead date, except…

“Right now, there’s only enough money in the fund to pay our obligations for the next three or four years,” [Mayor Ravenstahl] said. (P-G, Smydo, Dec. 30 ’10)


At that rate we are now exactly 6 years from a zero fund balance in the fund. Hopefully the market does not sustain its downward trend and the city will certainly be forced to increase contributions (that is a story unto itself) so that 6 years may be overly pessimistic, but things will be quite insufferable years before the funding ratio reaches absolute 0%. (Null Space, Aug. 15 ’08)

Startling agreement, there.

Now, part of City Council’s pension plan of last winter was the shifting of $45 million from a fund formerly earmarked for other sorts of debt into the pensions. Another part of it was pledging to divert an extra $13 million each year from the parking tax — starting this year. Taken together, one might have expected those twin boosts to provide the fund with an extra year or two worth of breathing space.

However the market pointedly did not reverse its downward trend since fall of ’08, or the conclusion of ’10 for that matter. Besides which, the city’s fund hasn’t exactly always beaten or reached market performance — we found out this year that in the 4th quarter of 2010 (when the market was actually strong) the city fund performed in the 96th percentile of American pension funds. Next, there are actually literally three separate Pittsburgh pension funds — police, fire, and non-uniformed — all at different levels. It only takes the weakest of those three bottoming-out to trigger consequences. Finally, even before a fund literally equals “zero dollars”, it begins running into unavoidable problems with sustainability — like how to pay associated fees, make worthwhile investments, and keep a straight face.

So let’s go ahead and say those issues counterbalance last year’s funding initiatives by Council.

Today, a person can walk around town saying our pension fund is fixing to run out in 2014, with their heads held high.


Problem Number Two is that the pension fund might be “taken over”. We should learn that for a certainty by Halloween.

In September of 2009, Pennsylvania passed a stripped-down version of an Act requiring that city pension funds containing less than 50% of their total obligations would be dubbed “severely distressed”. Local management of such severely distressed funds would have to shift to the Pennsylvania Municipal Retirement System — a sort of co-op originally intended for much smaller townships, boroughs and counties. PMRS would then call the shots as far as how much cash Pittsburgh would be made to contribute to its pension fund, when it would be made to do so, and how those funds would be invested.

In terms of trivia, the initial version of the Act would also have frozen the benefits of employees in the distressed systems and allowed those local governments to switch to “defined contribution” or 401(k) style benefit plans, never mind collective bargaining agreements. These Walker-esque components — perhaps the actual original point of the Act — did not survive Labor’s lobbying and a narrowly Democratic state House.

But for our purposes, the fateful change to the final edition was carved out for Pittsburgh alone, whose pensions were funded at something like 35%. We were granted a special extension and a New Years 2011 deadline to reach 50% before being made to surrender control to PMRS.

State lawmakers had been persuaded that Pittsburgh might fill the gap by executing Mayor Ravenstahl’s proposed leasing of city parking garage and parking meter assets to a private consortium. But lo and behold or alas and alack, City Council rejected that grossly unpopular strategy, and instead executed its cocktail of financial shifts and pledges.

Did it work? We don’t know yet. We were given a deadline of Sept. 1 to provide all the information necessary for state officials to make the calculation. Today is Aug. 20.

“Please give me this stuff in advance before we make ourselves nuts worrying about this,” he said. “If we wait until Sept. 1, there’s no way (the retirement system) can take over administration in two months.” (Trib, Bill Vidonic)

Could he have been giving us a hint? PMRS doesn’t really want to take over our pension fund management — we are regarded as a huge headache. This was all the Legislature’s idea, and a bastardized one at that. That’s probably why a City Council I.O.U. over 30 years is even being considered as a present-day fund asset capable of counting towards 50%.

“I don’t know why they did it without professional assistance, but apparently they did, and now I’m worried they didn’t do it right,” said James McAneny, head of the Public Employee Retirement Commission. “No one has bothered to notify us exactly what they did.” (ibid)

That especially didn’t comfort any of the players around here. In fact, it right shocked them, as McAneny’s “crackling voice” on speakerphone during a Council meeting on Wednesday, Dec. 29 sure seemed to indicate otherwise. Perhaps there was then some nuance overlooked.

And finally, even if the pledge / transfer were done acceptably, there is not any ironclad guarantee that it, plus our existent pension fund, will reach the 50% threshold. Not until they do the calculating next month.


Now, this is important. This may be the most important nuance to the blog post.

The relationship between Problem Number One (the Pension Problem) and Problem Number Two (the “State Takeover” Problem) is roughly the same as the relationship between the nation’s 9% unemployment and the nation’s $1.3 trillion deficit.

That is to say, people seem to think there is a relationship where none such exists.

If Pittsburgh manages to dodge the state takeover, we’re going to be facing the same day of reckoning in terms of no longer having cash on hand to meet our contract-laden financial obligations — and there is a word for that state of affairs. In fact, the state would be likely to stick in its beak via different means even as such a thing unfolds.

Whereas if we do indeed get taken over, we’ll be facing the exact same reckoning — we’ll just have a little less personal discretion as to how we twist in the wind, and for how many months we can resist voiding ourselves.

State Auditor General Jack Wagner hinted towards this non-relationship back in May with a football analogy. Yet confusing the two problems is still very easy and still has a certain political utility.


However and finally, the Pension Problem and the State Takeover Problem both impact Problem Number Three: the Budget Problem.

As we make these higher, more urgent pension payments and deal with several other challenges (bonded debt, the Lesser Depression, conservative ascendency), we progressively are and will be discovering new atmospheric layers of having no money left for running the city: for street paving, emergency equipment, civic improvements maintenance and the like.

We can isolate glimpses of this when city officials argue about how much money remains in the annual capital budget, or when federal grant money gets rescinded, or when we argue (we do this a lot) over the impact of possibly rolling back parking rate increases and the implementation of the Council’s pensions strategy. It can also be sensed when you hit a pothole, dive into a public pool lacking any water, encounter a landslide or other emergency, get hit with a parking ticket, stare at the vacant crumbling rat-infested building / lot adjoining your own, or watch a moving truck pull up to your neighbor’s house. In the near-term future, the same may even be noticeable as your taxes go up.

To populists, skeptics and the politically indifferent, this could be the only problem that actually matters.

However — and this is a big “however” — the facts surrounding how exactly Problems Number One and Two have, are and will impact Problem Number Three will always be strenuously difficult to ascertain.

Strike that. Prepare for an era of wince-inducing postmodern politics. Facts regarding how our concrete pensions shortfall and our concrete responses to it are affecting our concrete city may not objectively exist.

We know there is a relationship, but — did this, that, or the other thing fail to materialize because of pension problems, or because somebody would rather it not? Was it because of something Council did, or because of something the Mayor didn’t do? Was it all really because of the mean old State and its stupid rules and gross Republicans? Or is it because of all that government waste? And what or whom is that waste?

Does the city Parking Authority’s decision not to fork over $8 million to the City — as is called for in the 2011 budget — blow an $8 million hole in that budget? Are you sure? Even if it does, would that mean there’s going to be $8 million less City surrounding us? How could you tell?

We have no advice yet for navigating this thicket.

Our instinct is to focus most of our attention on Problem Number One. Mathematics is the language of nature, and zero is an eigenvector of a Hamiltonian. You have to cling to something in this crazy workaday world.


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August Recess: Around the Blurghosphere

Gotta hand it to the P-G’s Radical Middle; it keeps following its favorite stories to their bitter, bilious non-ends. Read its latest on the Penguins’ continuing mission to bring transformative, destination-caliber development to Uptown around the Consol Energy Center in the form of a TGI Fridays and hopefully a Subway.

THOUGHTS: On the one hand, these things take time, especially in a global recession, and a little promotional bluster is not beyond the pale. On the other, given this understandable sort of pace, why the darn the torpedoes sprint towards Civic Arena demolition? Maybe we’re not all looking at the same calendar.

More on development: the brand new mysterious blog 3 Murky Rivers posts long-form concerns regarding the much-anticipated Allegheny Riverfront project in the Strip District — it seems old buildings just can’t profitably enough be adapted for reuse, even when folks are still using them. New construction remains king.

The utterly indispensable Nullspace has been following the spate of local television reporting (!) on fallout from the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority’s attempted and unsuccessful water line insurance program (1, 2, 3) <– use these links as your portal. Money analysis quote:

So let me get this right. An insurance/warranty company, a new and undercapitalized insurance/warranty company at that, taking in $5/month is about to be able to shell out nearly $10K per property on more than 20% of the insured. There is a business model for you. If you really think that was going to happen, that Brooklyn Bridge is still for sale on some infomercial somewhere. I think I am beginning to appreciate how they got themselves into the bind with the variable rate bonds. (Null Space)

Nothing to do about it but laugh — conceivably during Happy Hour. tips us that Pittsburgh Magazine includes Mount Washington in its list of the “12 Top Neighborhoods” in and around the city, with special mention of the Shiloh St. business district running perpendicular to Grandview Ave, and its new restaurants, shops and art dealers. A distinctive honor, for also making the list of top Pittsburgh “neighborhoods”: the North Side and the South Side.

“One Pittsburgh” has been pretty active lately, as befits activists. Read its piece comparing the crimes and punishments of Dwelling House Savings and Loan malefactors as compared to those at JP Morgan Chase, and its bird-dogging of America’s Most Important Supersenator Pat Toomey. Not having materialized yet: any signs of local political entanglements. Perhaps we’ve read this gang wrong?

Are you listening to the new 90.5 FM WDUQ, Essential Public Media? You’re not alone — but you might be getting lonelier, points out the City Paper Slag Heap. Where is the intensive local / regional coverage and the citizen-journalist-led Internetty goodness already, we wonder with sincere impatience? If we want to hear about Rick Perry, Michelle Bachman and the S&P downgrade, we could just spin the dial like a roulette wheel and make do wherever it lands.

Ginny Montanez is at it again, raising money for children with cancer and promoting a benefit 5K run in Irwin, PA this Saturday by means of publishing pictures of her during her “awkward phase”. She has a sister she calls “Tina Fey”, but really, the similarities between young PittGirl and young Liz Lemon are striking.

Finally (as the ostentatious badge to the upper-right alerts all of you) the Pittsburgh Comet has been nominated for “Most Valuable [Local Affairs] Blogger 2011” by CBS Pittsburgh, which I think most of us know as Channel 2. I’ve decided that I want this. Go vote daily, (and vote also for our blogroll bronies under the “Lifestyle” and “Everything Else” categories) and I’ll do my best to keep things valuable around here.