Host Chris Moore allowed county exec Dan Onorato to lead off with news of new airport area development and projects elsewhere. He trumpeted new warehousing, shipping, and transportation capacity. This is actually pretty awesome, since Allegheny County has been soft and softening in the transpo / warehousing and wholesale trade sectors, and we’ll need that economic diversity if we’re going to become flexible, and attract innovation. (We spent 20 minutes struggling through the Allegheny Places Economic Trends report, so we’re experts now!)
On the new Penguins arena, he pledged that not one cent would come from city or county taxes, which was somehow news to the Comet. So we must ask: really? Or just sort of technically?
My fave moment occured during this arena part, on why local taxes are off the table: “First of all, the city is in financial meltdown — or, ah, was, we’re coming out of that…”
He made a decent case for the controversial Mon-Fayette Expressway, allowing that it’s only worthwhile if they bother building ramps near all those old mill towns.
He took a beating on buses, of course. He kept reassuring us the County is still writing the same $25 million annual checks to PAT, and stresses this remains the only dedicated funding available. He was also very frank that North Shore Connector could have happened at a more ideal time , but insisted its better than nothing, and reaffirmed his goal to send the “spine-line” out to Oakland, very next thing.
Now on to style.
We wanted to avoid writing a mash note to Dan-O … but we won’t. There’s a reason nobody is running against this cat.
Onorato has the ability to be on top of every policy detail, without losing that “I’m a human being” quality. He conveys great excitement and importance about planning and budgetary matters, just like we dissect the Steelers‘ rushing game. Most importantly, he avoids the habits of glibness and pablum, or of obviously sidestepping questions. Yet he does manage to stay on safe, constructive ground.
Sometimes he gets a little too excited — he forgot to show sympathy for a desperate transit rider — so he could still stand to age another 5-10 years. But we are quite bullish indeed on this man’s future.