Monthly Archives: April 2014

Friday: New Pittsburgh Can’t, Won’t Stop

The P-G endorses progressive freshwoman Erin Molchany over conservative 20-year patriarch Harry Readshaw.

Rep. Readshaw is tartly informing people that this blog and its contributors spent the better part of two months lobbying for “Governor Corbett’s massive gas tax to fund Philadelphia,” when we could have sworn we were rescuing Pittsburgh’s own mass transit from a figurative death spiral, and countless PA bridges from something more literal. Hence, we will go ahead and surprise no one by endorsing Rep. Molchany for South Pittsburgh as well.

One might think this should be a slam dunk, despite the unfavorable 30-70 turf split resulting from redistricting:  a youthful, social-media utilizing, Peduto & Preston backed wonkabilly insurgent, versus a crusty and out-of-touch on “social issues” (AKA basic civil and human rights) perma-incumbent who’s never benefitted from the exercise one gets from facing serious challenges. We’ve seen this one play out almost a dozen times in recent years. The only way we can see it changing today is if Continue reading

The August Wilson Center: Reform & Rejuvenate; or Bailout & Co-opt?

A blog post I read this morning contains this pearl:

A “problem” is something that can be solved. A “predicament” is something that must be endured, for which there is no real solution. (City Ethics)

While the Wilson Center situation bears all the hallmarks of a political predicament, it is surely more responsible for civic leaders to treat it as a problem, so long as its fate is still undetermined. We’ll do the same.

How did we get here? Continue reading

Land Bank unpacks larger discussion on City Services

“Just building houses does not develop a community — that’s what people don’t talk about in Homewood.”

Our plan for Friday Apr. 4th was to interview Jerome Jackson on the subject of land bank legislation due for a vote on Tuesday the 8th, having heard him speak out in favor of it.

But for the director of Homewood’s Operation Better Block — a hybrid advocacy /social services / community development corporation — land disposition is just one ingredient of an overdue elixir.

“Services for residents, services for youth, crime prevention, and dealing with blight,” Jackson ticks off. “That’s it.”

Jackson, 51, who Continue reading

Peduto’s first 100 days: Drawn and Nocked.

Here is the Mayor’s press release.

And here is the full 100-days report: The Sworn In: A ‘Dutes and Kev Tale.

Even by the standards of, “a Mayor gets to take credit for everything,” and, “some of these things are still works in progress,” this is pretty tight. Chock-a-block.

Over sixty exhibits in the categories of neighborhood investment (hooray for soliciting original proposals in the Strip!), government restructuring & reform (hooray for reinvigoration at OMI!), and innovation (hooray for open data!).

One regret is not having earned the Finance Director Director of OMB he felt he needed and deserved, but for the most part eyes are focused squarely on a weighty future.

While we have accomplished a lot in our first 100 days, we have a long way to go to realize our potential as a city poised for greatness. Through every stage of our work — from studying the best ways to fill potholes to striving for cutting-edge neighborhood development models — we have one message for both our residents and the world. Our single focus, from the first 100 days to the next 1,000, is to make comprehensive changes to fashion a city government that serves all residents and makes all of Pittsburgh stronger for generations to come. (Early Returns)

Emphasis mine. Get hype.

MORE: Trib, Bob Bauder; P-G, Moriah Balingit

BONUS: Listen to Part 1 of Richard Carrington of Voices Against Violence, at the blog Buses are Bridges. Carrington was selected as one of the community representatives on the Interim land bank board, tasked with crafting its policies and procedures as per 174A.05(d).

Compromise Public Land Bank bill Advances

Today Council members Deb Gross and Corey O’Connor received a wide array of community appreciation for hard work and inclusive processes — as well as preliminary approval for amended public land bank legislation by a vote of 7-1-1.

Some of its features:

9 board members: 3 appointed by Mayor, 3 appointed by City Council, and 3 from “community groups” with strictures to ensure representation of highly affected Council Districts. Each the five geographical regions of the City must be represented by at least one board member.

It will prioritize the creation of low-income housing as determined by a percentage in its Policies and Procedures, all of which will be determined during five televised meetings across the City.

The Land Bank will work with the city’s Summer Youth Employment Program and other locally-sourced labor for property maintenance.

A hold will be placed on the transfer of any property if the board receives 15 signatures from nearby residents, whereupon it will hold a special local hearing in the community.

And finally… for the first 2-4 years of the Land Bank’s lifespan… City Council will retain veto power over every property transaction.

No word on whether that final major concession will result in any increase in political factional goodwill or cooperation.

MORE: P-G, PBT, Trib.

BULLETIN: Head down to the pop-up Canadian Consulate! This week only. Make your feelings known, eh?

The Songstress: Pink

The Tune: Harold Arlen and E.Y. Harburg

Deer Lakes Shale Lease: Drilling into your Weekend!

Allegheny County officials presented a broad range of political and community support for it, but it was the opposition that had us laughing in the aisles and crying into our jackets.

The Fracking Hearing of Deer Lakes was fantastic. Top-notch republican democracy, lowercase both.

Uppercase-wise, Jim Roddey and Nancy Patton Mills unloaded a walloping one-two punch in “bipartisan” support for the proposed Marcellus Shale play natural gas extraction lease with energy concerns Range Resources and Huntley & Huntley.

The abundant list of speakers was indeed front-loaded towards those in support. Jeanne Clark, formerly of PennFuture delivered the most stunning uppercut, vouching for the environmental protections embedded in that proposed contract.

Yet speakers jabbing with concern over the Continue reading

Land Bank: Real Talk, Politics and Waving the Tattered Shirt

This is not another piece about why a public Land Bank might be necessary.

It is a piece about the nature of the political “conversation” we’re having, and how we’re going to be stuck with it until it resolves.

Marimba Milliones of the Hill CDC, during a WESA interview with the land bank co-sponsors, called in and precisely identified the difficulty much of the City is having:

I think that the discussion in process has lacked the depth and the genuine desire to collaborate that’s necessary for communities to fully buy-in — and when I say “communities” I mean those most impacted. So what we have right now is a City Council that is divided, and this is happening mostly around racial and class lines. And that causes me great consternation relative to pushing this forward so quickly. So my question is one around the urgency. You know, why was this bill introduced the second week of City Council, being in session on January 14th, and what is the urgency of pushing through a bill that’s going to impact every single City neighborhood without really doing that deep dive. Also, I’d like to say that Councilman O’Connor talked a little bit about the City-owned properties and those not being able to be moved over without first having City Council approval, but the reality is that these neighborhoods that are most impacted have a high level of tax delinquent properties which are privately owned — and those properties could be moved over much more quickly. That’s a major concern. And so I’d really like to ask Councilwoman Gross also: are we repeating history? Are we missing our opportunity to change the direction our legacy has put us in? I think that we’re missing an opportunity to have that deeper-dive conversation. Land banks in other cities were most impactful because those cities were hit very hard by the mortgage crisis, which Pittsburgh did not experience that same level of crises. So I’d like to just ask the councilors to slow this process down, to engage in a deeper conversation with the communities that are mostly impacted, and I’d like to get some responses to that. (WESA)

Quickly, although Pittsburgh eluded the mortgage crisis by default, we did suffer the collapse of the steel industry and an insane 50% population dip, not to mention the loss of all that capital. So I would argue those crises are fairly similar.

But more importantly, Continue reading