Verbanac E-mails Addendum: High Level Issues!

Just a little extra from the original “sheaf” of e-mails that did not make it into my last post. Maybe somebody will find it interesting, or can tell us “What they’re really thinking“.

This is all part of the exchange falling under the subject header, High Level Issues!, of which the Comet already reproduced Issue 3: Strategic Planning and its proposed day-off retreat by the Mayor, Zober, Ford, Grattan and Verbanac to Nemacolin.

Remember that the characterizations of these situations are either Verbanac’s, or how Verbanac would have liked the Mayor to conceive of them — not necessarily gospel.


From John Verbanac, 4/17/07, Subject: High Level Issues!
To: Luke Ravenstahl, possibly Yarone Zober (unclear)

Issue One: Jake Wheately and the Hill District/Development Issue

Jake summoned me to a meeting on Friday to throw a bunch of threats and eptitats my way concerning you and Dan. I actually believe that he believes their position. It’s scary. He has started with the threats of hurting the City/County in Harrisburg. Obviously he reached out to me because he wants me to pass this venom along to you and Dan. I’m not mentioning anything to Dan unless you and I agree. I pushed back pretty strongly to Jake that I felt their actions are not negotiating in good faith or asking for something that can be granted. It’s extreme and they are treating anyone that doesn’t just say yes as an enemy. I further told him that I felt their politics where forcing people into the arms of their enemies (Payne, Robinson, 3rd and 5th ward democratic committee.) This backed Jake up.

I see a potential play here. Something to consider. If they can back off all the specifics on their CBA, they might be able to make some headway. If they don’t expect government money, that means that their “bank” is the Penguins. Thus, the real issue would be whether or not you and Dan agree to work with them to squeeze the Pens for whatever you can get for the community (they do have a good deal). If the discussion was dialed back to that specific issue, you may have common ground and avoid a war? I think you can get there for a discussion if you desire to.

Jake wants a meet with you and Dan before, “the bullets start to fly.”

Reply from Luke Ravenstahl, 4/19/07
To John Verbanac, Yarone Zober


Thanks for your insights here. Getting caught up in what we do here daily I always find these very helpful. I am on top of all these with the exception of the Wheatley/Hill District issue. From what I understand a meeting was held in the community last night and Wheatley & Co. had their heads handed to them (granted my source is Tonya). I didn’t get the whole story but I will get it later. Food for thought… either way the Hill District issue is going to be a tough one.


Issue Two: Steelers and the North Shore

I’m picking up that the Steelers think you are forcing the Barden Master Plan through and that Sidney Kidai is under Barden’s spell. I know that you and Yarone have tried to calm their concerns, particularly via Sacco last week. Nevertheless, this is what they are feeling.

Truth is, the North Shore transportation issues are abundant. I do believe Barden will be economically challenged to do much infrastructure improvement.

A couple timeline issues to keep in mind are that a Supreme Court decision is expected late summer early fall. That’s a critical point. The second issue is the likelihood that the City will be sued on and around planning issues. If they (Barden) don’t have every “I” dotted and “T” crossed, and if City Planning is duplicitous or wanting in any regard, the chances are it will be in the papers.

It seems to me that the local property owners are giving the City a great deal of “cover” to consider all the issues and to take its time in doing so? They should have something to say. In the end, they should be forced to offer their solutions — in the form of the conditions to be applied to the permit. If that scenario plays out, then all parties can be made happy.

Reply from Luke Ravenstahl:

As for the Barden issue — Yarone I think we need to send him a pretty clear message (and I’m not sure the best way to do this) that we’re not going to cut any corners…

Replay from John Verbanac:

A few suggestions for getting the point to Barden. Jeff Letwin can do it. Schnader harris is Jeff’s firm and they represent Barden. His office — a woman that works for Jeff — is handling the zoning. It’s either that or directly to Barden.

I was informed today taht Sidney Kaikai informed the steelers that it is his intention to approve the master plan so they may begin demolition ansd site prep. Expect a call from Art Rooney if you haven’t got it already.


Issue Four: Staffing

It’s normal to confront legal issues and resistance when moving people around. I’m not surprised you guys have faced some of those issues. I have mentioned to both Yarone and Pat that I believe it’s critically important to secure outside labor law expertise for the use of the Mayor’s office only. Care has to be taken to ensure this counsel is not biased or compromised by relationships/history. That precludes most all local folks. I have passed on a few names to Pat over the weekend as I understand he is facing a few of those issues. A good counsel will ensure you are not being bureaucratically bullshitted by anyone. All in all, it’s probably a silver lining that you are finding out where everyone stands. Will only make your solution and execution better. After all, this is your time friend, not theirs.

Reply from Luke Ravenstahl:

As for staffing we’re going to make sure we have all moves clearly lined up before we pull any trigger. We’re getting much closer though… update you later. Take care.

10 thoughts on “Verbanac E-mails Addendum: High Level Issues!

  1. Anonymous

    Lavelle won the election over Tonya Payne. Lavelle came out of Wheatley's office.

    Ms. Payne was very confident that she would win re-election easily, so much so, she accused Wheatley and members of extortion in regards to the CBA. She got burned in their mess. She sided too often with the Mayor, and it appears that obviously Jake Wheatley had enough clout to convince constituency of that fact.

    Ms. Payne became a casualty of Grant street politics and picking the wrong side. It is too bad that the rest of the City cannot see what the voters of the Hill District did.

  2. Mark Rauterkus

    Bingo on the re-cap of The Hill.

    That election does make for an interesting discussion point on a number of global issues.

    I think that the voters are smarter than the average wonk thinks they are.

    Tonya also said in a City Council Meeting (on cable TV) … “I don't give a dam about the Constitution.” For her, it was more important to do XYZ for ABC than be within the realm of what was 'constitutional.' It is impossible to do any worse. Her quote was a deal-breaker for her political career, IMNSHO, to me.

    Payne read the consitution and didn't care for it when it got in her way. Meanwhile, Sala Udin may never have read it from the start. So Payne was an improvement, for sure. But there is still a long way to go — and with Lavelle, time will tell.

  3. Giles Howard

    It would be nice if more mainstream media got involved and started investigating the mayor's ties to Verbanac, Grattan, Forza et al.

    With little more than a week until the election, you'd think that allegations of corrupt relationships between the mayor and prominent developers would get some more play in the PG but so far most of their coverage on the issue has handled the mayor and Verbanac with kid gloves.

    The Pittsburgh Comet and City Paper are the only two outlets doing any worthwhile coverage of this issue but I'm afraid that anyone reading these two publications is already convinced the mayor is corrupt…

  4. Anonymous

    Pittsburgh continues to run its politics like it was 1930, which WILL be the death of this great city…with Steelerstahl's dad (a JUDGE), Verbanac, the real mayor – Zober and the blind blessing of the blue hair retired (most of them on city pensions) Dems (most of which haven't paid their property taxes or if they did it was 1930 when they were last adjusted upward) Steelerstahl doesn't even have to place a Tv ad or put a sign to win. Why does the city even waste $$ on these elections, whoever gets the nod of the Dem party here (and I am a registered Democrat, not some absent minded radical right winger) gets the office, it's that simple.

  5. Anonymous

    You guys haven't figured out yet that no one really cares. Nothing bad happened here except. Why is ok for Jack Wheatley to “fire bullets” and lobby for what he wants, but not for others? Why is ok for other interest groups, unions, etc. to lobby their leaders but not others? Acklin needs to be careful – and no that isn't a threat from me, but a very strong suggestion. It is an entirely different ballgame when you start attacking private citizens. Acklin is a lawyer and should know that there is a different libel and slander standard.

  6. Anonymous

    Possibly no one cares, but possibly many are not informed. What could the reason be that many are not informed? If you have the power to suppress the MS media the NEWS, then that really is power. Does the Mayors office have that power? ( I will let you talk amongst yourselves on that one.) Most are getting the idea that they know that answer.

    Power is not bad in and of itself. The ability to accomplish things, or strength to act is a very good thing when it necessary to carry out the will of the greater good. It is when Power is abused, misused, accessible to only the very wealthy and also powerful, and that is held against and over others to perpetuate that abuse, is when the line is crossed.

    There have been other private citizens who have had direct access and the ear of the Mayor. They also were wealthy businessmen. They also were treated favorably by the justice system. Is that not news?

    The Mayor having wealthy friends who live outside the city and inside the city isn't a crime, however, when wealthy friends are treated more favorably than the citizens in this city, when wealthy friends are given more attention by the Mayor than the neighborhoods in this city then that is a crime of sorts IMNSHO.

    If reporting on associations of high power people leads others to speculate and then investigate, is that libel? If you look up the definition of lobbyist isn't one of the definitions, among others, to try to influence (an official) to take desired action? So where is the slander if it allegedy appears in black and white?

    If there is nothing unholy about any of the alliances, why withhold the details or investigation from the mainstream media? By not doing so, by evading, avoiding,and spinning etc. it lends to the credibility of the speculation and perpetuates the appearance of impropriety.

    Do people who read this blog have the answers? No, but the answers to questions that many in this city had, in the last couple of years were withheld from the general public. When a hush deal was struck with Pat Ford, and the details of such were withheld, was that fair to the citizens or the voters of this city? NO. If the Mayor is out in public, and myself as John Q public citizen is reported to be having a discussion with or photographed with the Mayor and that conversation or photograph ends up in the Mainstream media, what rights do I have? I am having a conversation or in the presence of a public official. If someone reports on it, can I sue them for libel or slander, if what they report is what is said or seen?

  7. Anonymous

    Anyone who votes for Ravenstahl is voting for more of the same, corruption at its finest. It is “his time” and forget about the rest of the city? This city needs to wise up.


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