Here we go again... I've never been all that successful with my new years resolutions in years past. I resolved in 2004 not to let Bush be re-elected and 2005 I resolved not to let the Pope die. Maybe I should have reversed the two.
Anyway, that's Resolution #1:
Be more successful with 2006's resolutions. Yeah, that'll work.
File. 2005 was an exceptionally bad year for ADB's filing system, which has now devolved into random piles of paper interspersed with half-eaten donuts. That's not efficient, although I end up with some tasty reports. Mmmm... TPS.
Hit the gym. Ugh. I still maintain that I am in shape; "round" is a shape.
Save the City of Pittsburgh. OK, this is the really hard one. My only real hope here is that the City of Pittsburgh runs out into the street chasing a rubber ball into thte path of an oncoming bus and that I can push it out of the way.
Stop trying to intentionally run over people with my car. Really really hard.
Win back the House. No, not the House of Representatives! Don't be silly! There's no way I can do that single handedly!
I meant the Canadian House of Commons.
Yell more. Easy.
Try to live in peace and harmony with people of all races, nations, and creeds... even the fuckin' Swedes. I'm still pissed about the "incident" with the Hemnes wardrobe.
Resolution # 9:
365 posts next year. One a day... on average. Can't expect me to be witty, insightful, or intelligent every day. Sheesh! I work for the government people!
There is no Resolution #11
Yeah... that'll work. Can't imagine anything else I might have forgotten. Nope. Nothing at all.
So, Happy New Year everyone! Let's hope this year will be better than the last. Seriously.
Saturday, December 31, 2005
Here we go again... I've never been all that successful with my new years resolutions in years past. I resolved in 2004 not to let Bush be re-elected and 2005 I resolved not to let the Pope die. Maybe I should have reversed the two.
Posted by O at 4:59 PM
Friday, December 30, 2005
The Federal fiscal year begins October 1.
The Corporate fiscal year begins July 1.
The Elvish fiscal year begins on the first, and only, day of Yestarë (Rivendell only).
The rest of us God fearing people begin the year on the day that our Lord Jesus Christ intended it to begin on: January 1 (Luke 20: 21-27). Under threat of eternal damnation, all paperwork of The Bureaucracy needs to be dated today. That's pressure.
Work expands to fit the time allotted to it. I've allotted one year to some work and three mayoral terms to other work. Both deadlines are rapidly approaching. Time is not on my side at this moment.
The good news, however, is that I need to blow the balance of my budget by tomorrow at 11:59 PM. That means only one thing: bitchin' kegger at Fester's Place. Free hookers and coke for everyone!
Invitations will be in triplicate.
Posted by O at 8:30 PM
Thursday, December 29, 2005
So Susan Golumb is gone...
Jacqueline Morrow is history...
Robert McNeilly is out of here...
Dale Perrett is bye-bye...
Guy Costa is staying, if that is any consolation. (It's not, really).
And now Dave Farley is gone, which is a shame. Dave's been there, I think forever. That's a long time and there's a lot of institutional memory in Dave. If I recall correctly, he got his start in the Masloff (or possibly the end of the Caliguiri) administration as the City's Lobbyist, and used those connections he made in both the Grants Administration and the Weed & Seed programs. This guy is old for City politics, and his experience will sorely be missed... especially in the face of proposed (politically driven)cutbacks to the W&S program in the City.
This probably wasn't the best move Bob could have made; he's going to need help raising money.
Anyway, I was also going to write a post about Murphy's move to the Urban Land Institute, but I'm going to demure, choosing instead to summarize it like this:
Murphy was a politician that wanted to be an urban planner and seemed to be deeply engrossed in the theories of economic development. His tenure as Mayor will serve to remind us all that in theory, there is no difference between theory and practice, but in practice there is. I wish him luck in academia; it will probably suit him better.
Posted by O at 7:30 PM
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
Saturday, December 24, 2005
"And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the lord shone round about them, and they were so afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not, for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you this day is born in the City of Bethlehem, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel, a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men'"
Merry Christmas everybody!
Posted by O at 11:59 PM
Friday, December 23, 2005
Dear Mr. Claus,
I am in receipt of you gifts of December 25, 2004. I was very satisfied with the shirt and tie and the gift certificates to the various stores. They will and have been very useful. The "Sponge Bob Square Pants" underwear and the lime green and pink scarf, however, have not been used, although the thought is most appreciated.
With respect to my letter dated December 12, 1975, as subsequently and anually amended, I would like to include the following items to my list. This year, I have added in a few more esoteric items to complement the already sizable list that has accumulated:
1) A new filing system; things have been getting messy 'round the office;
2) An intern to do my bidding;
3) The borough of Mt. Oliver;
4) A new red Swingline Stapler;
5) Job Security;
6) Bob O'Connor's hair;
7) A new President, the current one is broken;
8) Or, if a new President is unavailable, World Peace, Love, and Understanding;
9) A Chia Pet;
10) A new tie.
Please note that the "Banana Rama" LP is no longer needed and should be struck off the list, as iTunes has provided me with all of their best works (both of them). Also, I no longer want anything "day-glo."
In closing, I must say that I was tremendously disappointed by last year's gifts. I'm hoping that you will be able to pick up the slack this year, and get me something worthy of my near stellar behavior.
If you have any questions, please contact me at the usual number.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
Not going to talk about the arena proposal or the proposed PNC building even if they have pretty pictures... or in the case of Three PNC "butt ugly pictures".
It's not that the concepts don't intrigue me or that the public policy debate doesn't interest me, it's just that I'm not going to waste my breath until someone plops money down on the table. Money talks; bullshit walks the old chestnut goes. Frankly, I see this project getting a few laps under its belt before too long.
I distinctly remember a similar proposal for the lower hill a few years ago, announced with much fanfare, which went nowhere.
I also remember a proposed hotel at the corner of Stanwix and Forbes, again announced with much fanfare, which also went nowhere.
Consider this: The Penguins are desperate for a new arena; slots revenues are seen as the primary key to funding that development. The slots licenses have not yet been awarded. There are some keen interests here that are overlapping. $1,000 in architectural renderings may buy Mario the publicity he needs to get the funds to build the arena. Damned if I know if it'll happen any time soon if all he needs is some good ink in the popular press.
Further consider this: The Hill is not a place where outsiders do very well. There are, again, many competing interests that will cause a headache for Mario should his eyes become too big.
Also consider this: PNC is the largest private slum lord downtown:
It makes economic sense for them to off load these properties and put them to more productive (i.e. revenue generating) use. The timing, however, so close to the end of the Murphy Administration, makes me suspect that there are political motives at play here. PNC could have done this three years ago... what has changed? Could this just be a grab at some other more pressing and profitable project?
Also further consider this: there are a lot of competing interests Downtown... maybe more varied than The Hill. While they do have site control, I doubt that the process is going to be a walk in the park.
So, I'm reserving judgement for now on both of these proposals until someone ponies up some dough. If it happens, great... if not, well, back to the drawing board.
SHOW ME THE MONEY! SHOW ME THE MONEY!
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
I think I’ve finally come to the conclusion that George W. Bush is no longer funny.
Let me explain:
Frequent readers of this blog will have realized that I conceal many of my true thoughts behind the veil of sarcasm, dramatic irony, metaphor, pathos, puns, parody, litotes, satire, and the occasional Month Python reference (like that one there). The purpose of this is two fold: first to hold an opposing view up to public ridicule, and second, to get a cheap laugh. Jonathan Swift did it first and showed that satire be effectively used; Jon Stewart did it most recently and showed that you could get ratings doing it, even if you are on basic cable.
The problem with satire, of course, is that in order for it to be effective, it must be so ludicrous, so absurd that it makes the opposing view sane by comparison. The systematic oppression of the Irish was not funny for Swift, but eating babies was. At the same time, Swift recognizes the legitimacy of the system, choosing to affect policy through established institutions, rather than overturning them. So, the satire bit works only if he’s proposing that the government eats babies.
The juxtaposition of incongruities is hysterical…usually. Unfortunately, Bush has now transcended his incongruities.
We had our warnings. “There ought to be limits to freedom,” he is reported to have said back in 2000. We laughed; it was a stupid thing to say. "What a moron!" "How absurd!" "Limits to freedom? Ha!"
He meant it; little did we know.
In the left wing public consciousness, we watched this guy move from benign dope, to Defender of Western Civilization, to warmonger, to corporate patsy, to… well… authoritarian dictator? Is that even possible in this country? Am I really suggesting the unsuggestable?
How does one effectively mock the subversion of the Law, the blatant disregard for the fundamental truths of our system of government, and the audacity that flaunts both? How can someone mock this guy if he is not adhering to a common philosophical ground? More simply put: IT’S NOT FUNNY IF BUSH REALLY DOES BELIEVE THAT THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD BE EATING BABIES!! ... metaphorically speaking, of course.
So, I’ve finally stopped finding this guy funny, even in a buffoonish kind of way. The grave seriousness of his recent actions, violating the 4th amendment and all, and his lack of irony, has me scared.
Posted by O at 8:59 PM
Saturday, December 17, 2005
WASHINGTON, Dec. 17 - President Bush acknowledged on Saturday that he had ordered the National Security Agency to conduct an electronic eavesdropping program in the United States without first obtaining warrants, and said he would continue the highly classified program because it was "a vital tool in our war against the terrorists."
Posted by O at 3:49 PM
Friday, December 16, 2005
Thursday, December 15, 2005
PITTSBURGH (DECEMBER 15, 2005) Bob O'Connor today announced that B.J. Leber, Senior Vice President and Station Manager of WQED Multimedia, will become his Chief of Staff when he becomes Mayor of Pittsburgh, January 3, 2006.
"We are fortunate that a person of B.J.'s skills and professional management experience would make the commitment to join my administration to work on our agenda to put Pittsburgh on the right track" O'Connor said.
No idea if this is the much talked about "City Manager" position, or if this is just the first appointment in a series.
Wednesday, December 14, 2005
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
Half-posts, ramblings, and various miscellany that I found underneath my couch. Beware of the dust-bunnies:
If you don't shovel your sidewalk after a stowstorm, you are, in fact, and asshole.
If you only shovel the path from your front stairs to your car, you're a bigger asshole.
The most useless bus stop in the City of Pittsburgh, is the CMU outbound stop between Morewood and Beeler... ya know, the one that's 50 ft away from the other stop outbound from between Morewood and Beeler.
Speaking of bus etiquette and whatnot, it's bad form to flag down and stop the bus mid-block if you don't know where the bus is actually going.
I noticed that outside, across the street from Kaufmann's there's a guy trying desperately to unload the free Trib PM in below zero weather.
There's also a guy inside Kaufmann's selling subscriptions to the Post-Gazette.
I noticed that (1) the gaming task force said no arena-slots connection, (2) the URA permitted an arena-slots connection quickly thereafter, and (3) Mario threatened to move the team again right after that. Methinks something is afoot.
Perhaps Bob O'Connor has something up his sleeve.
Schadenfreude - n. Pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others. Those Germans have a word for everything.
It is, in fact, cold enough for me.
Did someone have a private ticker-tape parade at Forbes & Ross today?
OK, that's it for now. A good mental colonic really does me good.
The next post will make more sense, I swear. Perhaps I'll use paragraphs.
Sunday, December 11, 2005
I don't read the Tribune-Review for the science; I read it for the secret coded messages scattered throughout which detail a massive invasion by the Soviet Union.
On those rare instances that I do actually read an article, it is most often by accident, but I do occasionally stumble across a well reasoned and informed piece.
But not on the Editorial Page.
Case in point:
When Allegheny County Council renamed the Ninth Street Bridge to honor Rachel Carson, it had not anticipated the e-mail campaign suggesting the Earth mother of tree huggers indirectly and inadvertently caused more deaths than Hitler and Stalin combined.Way to Godwin the editorial Dimitri, he murmurs snarkily.
Ms. Carson's seminal work, "Silent Spring," ignited the environmental movement. It claimed that DDT was a dangerous insecticide. Carson believed excessive use in agriculture caused catastrophic consequences for animals and man.Mr. Milloy's biography from the Cato institute, where he is an adjunct scholar, is found here. As the biography indicates, he's also a columnist for that bastion of left-leaning ideologues, FoxNews.com. You can also see a bit more of his biography here.
In 1973, the Environmental Protection Agency banned all uses of DDT. Was it science or politics?
"It's a harmless chemical unless you are a bug," says Steven Milloy, author, attorney, publisher of junkscience.com and organizer of a last-minute e-mail campaign asking the local council not to rename the bridge.
"There were no adverse health effects observed. There was no scientific evidence that DDT harmed humans or wildlife. 'Silent Spring' is anecdotal." But it jump-started the movement nonetheless.
No, I can't imagine any bias, why do you ask?
Continuing from Dimitri:
"There were no adverse health effects observed. There was no scientific evidence that DDT harmed humans or wildlife. 'Silent Spring' is anecdotal." [said Millory] But it jump-started the movement nonetheless.Of course, perusing my issue of Scientific American I remember that the problem wasn't the use of DDT, but the MASS use of DDT. DDT, used to kill bugs, flows into water sources, is picked up by fish, which is eaten by, say, Bald Eagles.
The problem isn't the use of DDT, but the buildup of DDT within the food chain and ecosystem.
More from Mr. V:
When South Africa stopped using DDT, malaria rates increased about 1,000 percent, Mr. Bate said. When DDT spraying resumed in 2000, the rate fell 80 percent in 18 months. And continues falling. Details are online at www.fightingmalaria.org.Of course, the use of DDT in this case is confined to home use, not widespread spraying. You can read about it in the December issue of Scientific American... page 80. It's not online.
Although THIS is:
It also probably cannot be repeated often or loudly enough that environmentalists have not banned DDT for use against malaria. DDT has always been exempt from restrictions where its use is a matter of human public health.But hey, that's politics, not science.
Of course, I don't check the Trib opinion page for my science... or my politics for that matter.
The Soviets will invade on January 8, 1992.
Posted by O at 8:15 PM
Friday, December 09, 2005
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Sue asked for it; Sue got it.
In this time of transition for the Bureaucrats of the City of Pittsburgh, it is comforting to know that policies will change, politicians will come and go, fame and fortunes are fleeting, but...
Rule #14: Bureaucracy endures.
Tuesday, December 06, 2005
So 25-year old Luke Ravenstahl was elected President of Council today, so good luck to him.
Although he's now forced me to re-evaluate my life, as when I was 25 years old, I was not President of City Council. I wasn't even president of my block club. I was out, wandering directionless around Europe having casual sex with disgraced heiresses, slogging my way from hostel to hostel with a tattered copy of my unpublished novel in my bag, hovering between various illegal states of mind.
Actually, no. That's not true. Although I do remember it being a year of drunken debauchery.
Of course, I remember THIS year being a year of drunken debauchery.
However, getting to the point: I hated Richie Rich as a child, as he accomplished more at the age of 13 than I would have accomplished in my entire miserable life.
In short, I'm jealous that I'm not President of Council... or Richie Rich.
Posted by O at 6:59 PM
Interesting news/rumor here.
In an exclusive interview with RAW STORY, a whistleblower from electronic voting heavyweight Diebold Election Systems Inc. raised grave concerns about the company’s electronic voting technology and of electronic voting in general, bemoaning an electoral system the insider feels has been compromised by corporate privatization.Hmm.
The Diebold insider, who took on the appellation “Dieb-Throat” in an interview with voting rights advocate Brad Friedman (BradBlog.com), was once a staunch supporter of electronic voting’s potential to produce more accurate results than punch cards.
Posted by O at 6:29 PM
Monday, December 05, 2005
Apparently Blogger has given up on blogging tonight.
Because I'm relying on a indirect, mediated form of communication (as opposed to speech, or, to a lesser extent, the printed word), I'm at the mercy of my computer and the related electrons. Or, more importantly, this snafu asks the question "what is the true nature of this mass communicated message?"
Frankly, I don't know if this post is actually going to be posted; it could disappear into the aether of the internet, never to be heard from again.
Which makes me wonder, if no one actually reads it, did I actually post it?
Or, more importantly, does anyone care?
Meh... screw this. We'll start fresh tomorrow, and leave the Marshall McLuhan bullshit for later.
Posted by O at 9:59 PM
Got this in my inbox this morning:
America's Most Literate Cities, 2005Because of the new inclusion of "online literacy," I personally blame Pittsburgh Webbloggers for this drop in ranking (from 3rd place). Have you seen some of the illiterate tripe that they try to pass off on us? Shame on them!
Drawing from a variety of available data resources, the America's Most Literate Cities study ranks the 69 largest cities (population 250,000 and above) in the United States. Previous editions of this study focused on five key indicators of literacy: newspaper circulation, number of bookstores, library resources, periodical publishing resources, and educational attainment. The 2005 study introduces a new factor—the Internet—to gauge the expansion of literacy to online media.
The original study was published online in 2003 at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. A link to the 2004 rankings is provided here.
MOST LITERATE CITIES
The top 10:
3. Washington, D.C.
5. San Francisco
10. St. Paul
Dr. John W. Miller, president of Central Connecticut State University, is the author of this study. Research for the 2005 edition of AMLC was conducted in collaboration with the Center for Public Policy and Social Research at CCSU.
More info here.
Posted by O at 8:48 AM
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Got the following message yesterday at around 1 PM:
The Mon Wharf is flooding. Anyone parked thereAnd in the paper today, this story:
should move their cars immediately!
Drivers wade to flooded Mon Wharf as rising water surprises manyLook, I'm not a geologist, a meteorologist, or a uh... riverologist... but I know what a "Wharf" is:
Just after noon yesterday, Glenn Swoger contemplated how to make his white truck safe and keep himself dry after finding it to be the last, lonely vehicle in nearly two feet of water along the Monongahela Wharf guardrail.
His vehicle was among 475 initially parked on the wharf that were threatened by the fast-rising river. He and other Downtown commuters sometimes known as "wharf rats" rushed to the parking lot before lunchtime, after the Pittsburgh Parking Authority alerted the media and nearby building staffs that cars needed to be moved because of flooding....
The flooding was caused by heavy rainfall east and south of Pittsburgh, along with near-record rainfall in Pittsburgh since Tuesday, said Joe Palko, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. At 7 a.m. yesterday, the weather service forecast that the Ohio River would crest late in the afternoon at 20.4 feet at the Point -- more than two feet above the level where the wharf would flood from the Monongahela River....
Mr. Onorato said those who park on the wharf, similar to those at any lot or garage, do so at their own risk. The most serious problem he heard of yesterday was someone whose car wouldn't start after it had been surrounded by water, though not submerged. He said it was towed to the motorist's dealership....
No... wait, that's wrong.
A wharf is A landing place or pier where ships may tie up and load or unload or, less commonly, A shore or riverbank.
Let's see... what would you need for landing a ship... hmmm... Ah! Water. And you see, the thing about flowing water, one of the things, of which there are many, is that water tends to flood.
Can't imagine why anyone would think the wharf might flood.
Can't figure it out.
Nope, not at all.
So I can see how people are shocked, SHOCKED! that the wharf flooded, 'cause it, like, has never, ever, ever, ever happened.
Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Thirty Days hath September,
April, June, and November.
All the rest have 31.
Bob has 32 to get shit done.
OK... Today (or tomorrow if you are reading this in the future) is nearly 30 days until the next mayor is sworn in for the City of Pittsburgh.
On January 2nd, there will be a new administration... but who, other than the big Bobby O, is actually a PART of that administration is anyone's guess at this point. Rumors are perculating throughout The Bureaucracy and its sister departments: some good, some bad, some terrifying.
But they remain rumors.
I'd heard previously, through random chance encounters, that Bob really didn't shift into high gear until the election was over. OK, I'll accept the argument that he didn't want to seem "presumptuous" before he was officially elected, but still. You'd think he'd be ready to name the Deputy Mayor, City Manager, or whatever the heck he's calling it, right off the bat. Bob can sort through the thousands of applicants for the prestigious seats on the Comprehensive Municipal Pension Trust Fund Board later. As Luke pointed out, this is either the best kept secret in the City, or a ginormous management blunder.
Frankly, it has a lot of my fellow Bureaucrats in the City of Pittsburgh and related agencies a wee bit nervous.
Feel free to post rumors and innuendos... I long for rigidly defined areas of doubt and uncertainty.
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
"Downing Street Memo."
I haven't written those words in awhile... if I ever did to begin with, which I don't think I did. I'd remember something like that. It means something; this is important.
Of course, only 20 people in the last day wrote about it too, at least according to Technorati.com, so I suppose that I'm with the silent majority on this one. Twenty is not a whole heck of a lot of postings when you consider the vast universe of blogs out there [80 gagillion bagillion, roughly]. From June 19 to June 20, 2005, however, there were 370 posts in the same universe. A big decline there. The Associated Press first issued a story about the memos on 7 June. There was network news coverage by NBC on 14 June. After that I don't recall.
I barely remember what the whole damned thing was about. Something about Iraq, Bush, and maybe yellowcake uranium... although that sounds wrong. I can't even remember if the subject got dropped, resolved, debunked, or whatnot. As far as I know, the matter is closed and the good guys won.
Eternal Vigilance is the Price of Liberty... and so on.
I suppose that other things came up in the last six months: hurricanes, earthquakes, indictments, leaks, slipping poll numbers, casualties, Paris Hilton's romance troubles, the cancellation of Arrested Development; we've been busy. There's been a lot going on.
Our national consciousness stirs, wakes, rolls over, presses the snooze button, and goes back to bed. And the process repeats.
Perhaps the next blog you visit will fill you with enlightenment and truth; there is none to be found here.
Oooh! A squirrel!
Posted by O at 7:54 PM
Monday, November 28, 2005
Posted by O at 4:08 PM
Tuesday, November 22, 2005
With Thanksgiving creeping up on me like some giant creeping thing, I haven't been able to put together a coherrant thought in about three days. So much the better, I suppose. Here are some uncoherrant thoughts and blatent misspelings:
Thank you Dennis Skosnik for single handedly upping my sitemeter count by about 25%. I hope those of you that were brought here because of an indicted #2 man at the Allegheny County Sherrif's Office will stay around for the brutal mockings of local public figures and the damn good pie.
I suppose I have to start serving pie now.
Get well wishes to Public Works Director Guy Costa who is recovering from a brain tumor. Early rumors were that Guy was to either stay on in his role at DPW or was going to take over the highly sought after role of City Manager. We shall see.
Speaking of which, as everyone heard, O'Connor asked for the resignation of all City Department heads. No word on whether this included Authority heads or not. This move, while not unexpected, is unusual in that O'Connor requested the resignation outright. Typically, I recall department heads "offering" their resignation out of courtesy rather than it being demanded of them. No word either on how this affects pension or unemployment benefits.
Actually I could really go for some pie, now that I think about it... I wonder if there is any in the fridge...
The neat thing about Pittsburgh is that if you know the people in charge, you see them all the time just hangin' around. Saw Bobby O outside the USX building the other day on a cell phone, looking semi-mayor-electish... but a lot shorter than I remember.
ATTENTION PEOPLE OF PITTSBURGH: I HAVE RUN OUT OF PIE. PLEASE REMAIN CALM.
And, of course now us Pittsburgh Political Junkies can get our own Trading Cards. Be sure to get your Dan Deasey rookie card; it'll be worth more than the Johnny DeFazio. [I already have three packages and, sigh, 3 Michael Divens. Anyone want to trade me for a Cyril?]
That's all for now... time for pie.
Monday, November 21, 2005
An interesting article in the Trib, here on O'Connor's silence about the top post in his administration.
OK, so the article isn't that exciting, but this quote was:
"It's an experience that I don't think any of the rest of us had," [David] Donahoe [former aid to Mayor Richard Caliguiri] said. "We were in much more control. I mean, if we wanted to adjust tax rates, we did it. Now you can't do it -- no one will do it -- and you've got oversight. If the mayor said we were going to save the Pirates, that's what we did. There wasn't a question."Donahoe is right; that era is over.
We're currently entering a new age in Pittsburgh politics, in my opinion, ending the Strong Mayor period. We'll never see the likes of a David Lawrence, a Pete Flaherty, a Dick Caliguiri, or, dare I say, it a Tom Murphy. At least through the next few years, we're going to see a weaker form of Mayoral governance for a variety of reasons:
(1) The overall decline of center Cities in general;
(2) The decline of Pittsburgh in relation to the suburbs;
(3) The fiscal crisis (the proximate cause) and the related apparatii; and
(4) The decline of the Democratic political machine.
These are systemic factors, with their roots in both local and national politics and policies.
The absense of these factors allows for:
(1) Federal & State money being sent to Metropolitan areas;
(2) Federal & State money being sent to Pittsburgh over the suburbs;
(3) Unlimited (or nearly so) spending;
(4) Patronage and credit claiming for projects at all levels.
A Strong Mayor can get shit done, but can only do so if s/he has access to money, people, and power. That is no longer the case. The Mayor will now find himself bound to at least 2 oversight boards, and by extension the Governors and Legislatures, and more so to Council.
Without a strong mayor, I predict that we will see an increase in consensus and coalition building. More people will be trying to share power; fewer big things will get done. Collaboration has its own perils; as I'm fond of saying, Rome didn't conquer the world by holding meetings, it did it by slaughtering all that opposed them.
Like Murphy or not, he's left an indelible mark on this city, both in buildings and in our pocketbooks; it is unlikely that O'Connor and his successors will rise to the same level.
Of course, that may not be a bad thing.
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Despite what the local media seems to think, we at The Bureaucracy never do anything unethical, immoral, or illegal. This last one seems to be a bit of trouble for some of our clients, who want us to break, not the laws of the Commonwealth or the Federal Government, but the laws of Mathematics.
Let me try to explain this last one:
Despite what the clients seem to think, 1 + 1 + 2 + 1 does not = 3... no matter how hard you may try.
OK, we can make 1 + 1 + 2 + 1 = 6, that's easy: just add in a larger value of 1.
But 3? Ridiculous.
Posted by O at 8:50 PM
Wednesday, November 16, 2005
I can't go into details, but it has recently become necessary for me to wage war on certain parties.
We have determined that the best way to accomplish this is to blast them out with sound, taking a page from that eminent warrior George Bush... no, no, no the first one, not chowder-head. If you recall, a similar tactic was used on Manuel Noriega and in the Gulf War. Our objective is the total annoyance and capitulation of the enemy... because basically, at heart, I'm a bastard and they deserver it.
I have begun to select songs that, in my opinion, after 40 to 50 times on repeat, will drill themselves into the enemy's skull, causing insanity.
So far, the list includes:
Jingle Bells (Barking Dog Version)
Barbie Girl (Aqua)
I Want Candy (Bow Wow Wow)
If You Steal My Sunshine (Len)
Wannabe - Club Remix (Spice Girls)
Cotton Eyed Joe (Redneck)
The Hampster Dance - Club Remix
These Boots Were Made for Walking (Nancy Sinatra)
Can't Get You Out of My Head (Kylie Minogue)
Breathless (The Coors)
Don't Worry, Be Happy (Bobby McFerrin)
Rock the Casbah (The Clash)
Now, we turn to you, the loyal blog reader, to suggest additions to the playlist.
The Rules are:
(1) It must be a song... no nails on chalkboard or such.
(2) The song must be available, preferably, legally.
(3) It can't be just a bad song; it has to be irritatingly bad.
Now go do the voodoo that you do so well! Have fun.
Posted by O at 8:59 PM
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
following 20 years of overall decline.
13 percent in the 1990s alone—and their composition shifted.
reaching 22 percent by 2000.
college-educated residents than the nation’s cities and suburbs.
cities and regions.
OK... that's cheating... I pulled that off the cover sheet. Digging deeper:
OK, now AntiRust threw down the gauntlet, challenging Pittsburgh's redevelopment officials not to say:
This report supports our current efforts to create a cooperative atmosphere among people dedicated to breathing life back into downtown Pittsburgh. It calls for all of us--local government, state government and the private sector--to come together in creative ways to create an atmosphere conducive to business and cultural amenities, and to build on Pittsburgh's historic success in reinventing its downtown.I'm probably the closest thing we're going to get on this blog to a redevelopment official (and even that's a stretch), but I'll gladly take the proxy fight, even though this is not my forte.
Here's what Pittsburgh's Redevelopment Officials should read into the report:
(1) This reports supports the, heretofore unchallenged ancedotal, assertion that there is a growing market for downtown living. That's good news; if nothing else it means that this is not a batshit insane idea and that developing Downtown is a reasonable and positive goal.
(2) Based on the findings of the report, it is unlikely that Downtown Pittsburgh will ever become a "Fully-Developed" Downtown in the near future. By the Brookings metric, there are only five existing today (Boston, Midtown Manhattan, Lower Manhattan, Chicago, and Philadelphia). Pittsburgh cannot be those downtowns, and should, instead, aim lower.
(3) The original 5th & Forbes plan, and probably the second, third, and whatever the one before the current one, were all misguided; the strength of Downtown lies in its intrinsic "Downtown-ness" (i.e., interesting architecture, density, diversity, etc.). Let the thing grow as naturally as possible without imposing an overarching Development, all the while cognisant that certain market (and governmental) failures need correcting.
(4) The report makes some key points about the rental market in Downtowns in that it is the predominent player. This will be difficult in Pittsburgh where it is cheap to buy a reasonable house. There will be a social and economic tradeoff in either providing homeownership opportunities or fostering the rental market. This also touches upon the social and economic implication of social stratification within the downtown.
(5) Metrics. Create some. With Census data, at least you can compare how you are doing in various aspects against other census tracts or other Cities' downtowns. What is the shift in population from the suburbs to downtown? What is the share of educated workforce downtown? In all these metrics should measure at least population, household type, education, income, and race and compare them across census tracts in the City and across cities. At least you'll know where you're standing.
(6) What types of pre-existing programs can be currently exploited to take advantage of the market segment that seems to favor downtown? Should Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation be putting more grant money into downtown to improve facades? Should the Urban Redevelopment Authority expand 2nd mortgage programs to capture homeownership opportunities? What do we currently have that is working elsewhere that we can import to this neighborhood?
(7) Are we actually tailoring these programs and projects to meet the needs of those that seem to want to live downtown (the young, the empty-nesters, the immigrants, etc.)?
So, if I was a redevelopment official for Pittsburgh, I would look at this report not as support to our downtown initiatives, but a chance and a challenge to re-examine the choices that have been made in an attempt to more narrowly focus on areas of potential success and to find ways of objectively measuring that success within the context of the region.
Oh and subsidies for loft housing mixed with retail... and transit sucks. No charge for those.
Posted by O at 11:26 PM
Sunday, November 13, 2005
The Post-Gazette ran a feature this Sunday: memos from various people, providing advice to Bob O'Connor.
Here's my 300 word nugget of advice:
Congratulations, Mr. O’Connor on your recent election to the office of Mayor of the City of Pittsburgh. I wish you much success during your term of office.
I would like to warn you, however, that you have just found yourself elected to what could possibly be one of the most difficult jobs in this country: Mayor of a Declining Urban Area. Pittsburgh fares better than its Mid-West counterparts, in some cases, but in large you have inherited a declining urban area and all the social and economic problems associated therewith.
Don’t expect to solve all these problems; it is impossible.
You will quickly find yourself hamstrung by the State Legislature, the Governor, the City Council, the oversight boards, various community groups, private citizens, the press, special interest groups and, yes, even your own bureaucracy. These actors will not make your job easier and their competing agendas will stymie your own ambitions.
Still, you have an advantage over all of these groups: you are the one who can set the agenda... should you choose to do so.
Should you wish the best and success for this City my advice is simple: first, find out what we are doing well and continue to do it. Second, find out what, if we made some marginal improvements, we would be doing well, and make those marginal improvements.
There will be those that will try to convince you that we can be everything, but they are wrong; stick to what we can do, not what we should do.
Finally, and this is personal, take time to listen to those within the bowels of 414 Grant Street and mine their experience; they are the ones who really know what’s going on, and can help you with what is going right in this city.
Friday, November 11, 2005
Let's get down to it:
Generally, when Murray Gerber, President and CEO of Equitable Resources, has to ask you to stand up and stretch before his speech, the conference has gone on too long. Also the people in the back rows and the upper balconies somehow managed to find their way into the reception at least an hour before those on the ground floor... but we'll get to that in a minute.
As I mentioned before, and true to my expectations, The Bassmaster Classic was a highlighted feature of the Conference presentation; the word "Bassmaster" was mentioned 8 times during the 2 hour and 6 minute presentation. This did not include the near half-dozen times they showed the word "Bassmaster" on the screen. The only consolation was that I came closest in the pool: I bet that they would mention "Bassmaster" 10 times.
Anyway, here are the Conference's 2005 Accomplishments:
* Aversion of the City of Pittsburgh's Financial Crisis
* Row Office Reform
* Elimination of the State's Capital Stock & Transfer Taxes
* The Sun Coming up in the East and Setting in the West
Well, OK, not the last one.... but the way that they were talking, you'd think that it would be the next logical accomplishment.
Of course, the "Alanis Morrisette Memorial Award for Irony" went to the call for the Conference to "embrace change". Of course, in the next breath they exhorted the media, rather than being negative, "to be part of the solution." Can't imagine what that might have been in reference to.
Big focus this year is on Cluster Development Strategies, namely Advanced Materials, Information Technologies, and Bioscience. The Advanced Optics Cluster in Armstrong County got a big video shout out, as did the creepy "Quasi," an entertainment robot out to find Sarah Connor.
The strategy is to develop the capabilities of Oakland to capture this cluster development through:
* The Schenley Plaza expansion
* The Improvement of Transit
* Connecting Oakland to the Second Avenue Development Sites
Oh, yeah, and tech-transfer and public sector support.
For some reason, they showed slides of their vacation to Boston. I think they went on a 54 hr. benchmarking binge. Turns out that since 1998, Boston's cohort of 20-24 yr. olds only grew 4% as compared to Pittsburgh's 12%. More on that later.
Of course, the big thing that everyone was talking about before the meeting was the 250 Anniversary "Rebranding"... which wasn't so much of a "Rebranding" as it was a deadline. By 2008 The Conference will:
* Change Government in Southwestern PA
* Make Taxes More Competitive
* Improve Infrastructure
* Improve the Workforce
* Achieve Growth in Strategic Sectors
* Solve Fermat's Last Theorem
* Change Water into Wine
* Become Love
But back to workforce development, which is only slightly less exciting than that Wine thing.
Turns out that the Children are Our Future; risky investment there. And though it has been rarely asked, "Is our children learning?" The Conference has asked, and the answer is, "No, they isn't."
The Conference has been on this kick for the last few years to make every fifth grade in the region proficient in reading and math. Turns out that we've had modest improvement in reading, which is tracking well against the trendline, although math is lagging behind.
So they bring out the Superintendent from South Fayette who's had success in improving her district. Her plan:
* High expectations (everyone can succeed);
* Create a culture of learning, driven by data;
* Create a Common vision for Board & Staff and reinforce it with shared accountability.
I distinctly heard a "BULLSHIT!" coming from behind me when she got to point 1.
Taxes and government need to be reformed. Their studies indicate that the SWPA region ranks high in municipal "stress," i.e., too many complicated layers of government in too small of an area. Nothing was said about "Bureaucrat Stress"... although judging by the amount of alcohol served at the reception, I think they found a way to relieve it.
Oh, yeah, and the Corporate Net Income Tax is high. That's bad, apparently.
But back to Pittsburgh 250... no, let's not.
But, and this is at about the 1 hour and 45 minute mark, incoming Chair James E. Rohr had a few (15) minutes to talk about his "vision" for the region. Simply stated, his first point was this: since 1983 we've come a long way. His examples were the transformation of the Cultural District, the North Shore, the South Side, and Homestead... all of which were decimated after the final fall of Steel in 1983. His statistics to prove that we are improving: Since 1983, job growth is up (See! There ARE jobs). Since 1998, the 20-24 year old cohort has increased 12% (See! Young people ARE coming here). Secondary schools are performing well (See! The Schools aren't completely F'd up!).
His plan, and he has consultants for this, is to
(1) Reform Taxes and Government
(2) Improve Transportation (including the Mon-Fayette and increasing access from the Airport to Oakland & Downtown)
(3) Sell the Region (We're apparently too negative about ourselves)
OK, Jimmy... you just spent 30 minutes telling us that the schools are underperforming, and now you're telling us they're fine...
You spent the last two years telling us that Young People have been leaving the city, and now you say that they're staying in droves...
(And, as a side point, you used a stupid statistic: 20-24 yr olds are a ridiculous example; how are we doing with people that, you know, have jobs? Say, 25-35 year olds?)
You constantly say "we need more jobs" and then say, "hey, job growth has been good for the last 20 years"...
You say, there needs to be a transit link from Oakland to the Airport... but you've obviously never ridden the 28X bus. $2 to the airport... perhaps your staff is familiar with that route?
You say, we need the Mon-Fayette Expressway to create jobs in the Mon Valley, but then say that all those jobs disappeared 20 years ago...
You talk about Direct and Indirect Influence of the Conference... but you don't ever explain what that means...
And frankly, you seem to take a lot of credit for stuff you may, or may not, have done.
This is what I came away with from the meeting: The Conference needs to re-image itself as a touch-stone for businesses. Screw all this Community Development bullshit; come to terms with the fact that The Conference is in it for the Benjamins.
This is not a bad thing: the region needs jobs, it needs businesses, it even needs people to organize this kind of stuff... just don't pretend that you are the be all and end all of growth and development in the region. Focus, instead, on what seems to be your core competencies: lobbying, data collection, and booze.
So add me to the negative voices.
The Conference reception is, by far, one of the great ugly people conventions in Pittsburgh. It's a chance for Everyone and Anyone to forget they are No One, and pretend to be Someone. And there are a lot of ugly people. Including Larry Dunn.
And, because all the people in the peanut gallery decided to sneak out at about 1 hr 12 min into the presentation, the hors d'oeuvres were picked clean.
It took a lot of drinking to undo the evening's damage to my psyche, but I hope to go next year as well.
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Movie studios do "Teaser Trailers" so, I assume, so can blogs...
At the Allegheny Conference on Community Development Meeting, the word "Bassmaster" was uttered 8 times.
And Michael Madison got needlessly burned.
More later, as the copious amounts of alcohol burn off.
Posted by O at 12:23 PM
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Monday, November 07, 2005
Last one. I swear.
In case you missed them:
and for those of you that remember when the race was actually interesting:
OK, Bill Peduto's flashing caused me to have an epileptic seizure...
Bob O'Connor's hair scared me...
Michael Lamb's head looked like a bucket...
Joe Weinroth wouldn't stop shouting...
Titus North was green...
Les Ludwig was minimalistic suckitude.
But none of these pages made my head hurt as much as Tessitor's.
Here's a sample:
David Tessitor's guiding question is: "Who do we have here and what do we need to do to take care of us?" It means taking care of what we have, both in terms of people and the built and natural environment. It also means not trying to be something we aren't and not foresaking everything in hopes of courting favor with people who couldn't care less.
In case you're confused: guiding question effectively underlies all decision making, whether it is expressly stated or vaguely conceptualized and unspoken.
Look, I don't like to admit this, but I've read Aristotle, I've read Kant, I've read St. Anselm ("That which a greater cannot be thought cannot be thought to be greater than a that which a greater can be thought.")... but Tessitor's page is so full of aethereal vagaries and solopsistic syllogisms that it makes my head hurt. Add a few ispo factos and QEDs and you'll have the beginnings of a Political Philosophy PhD dissertation.
I need a drink to continue.
Dave (I) reminds us that two of the last four mayors of Pittsburgh were Independents (Caligiri and Flaherty). He doesn't mention, of course, that these guys were basically disaffected members of the Democratic machine... and that Flaherty was first elected in 1968.
You don't want to know how old I was at the time.
Anyway, on to Dave's page:
404 Not Found
Hmmm... Someone should call their webmaster.
404 Not Found
OK... Someone should fire their webmaster.
404 Not Found
Seriously? The webmaster needs to be beaten.
404 Not Found
People! C'mon! WTF?
404 Not Found
404 Not Found
BAH! To Hell with this!
Ooh! Found something.
Let's look at Dave's Strategy for Education:
Apparently, and I am not making this up, Dave believes: The primary reason Asian immigrant children excel in school is that up to three or more generations of the family may gather around the kitchen table to go over the day's lessons, the elder family members learning and teaching themselves along with the children.
Hear that Black people! Stop smoking those menthol cigarettes and eating ribs and start teaching your children! You Honkeys: Stop watching reality TV and wearing plaid! And you Hispanics... well... you're hopeless. And let's not even mention those greaseball goombas, those micks, or the Krauts. Fuck the Dutch.*
I'm going to say that Dave's Educational Strategy needs a bit of tweeking.
But let's not even start on the Neighborhood Integrated Services Committees.
Dave... Dude. Seriously. Dude. Have you ever looked at your hands... I mean... really looked at your hands. OOOH! Taco shells!
* This, of course, is all satire. I love people of all races, creeds, nationalities, sexual orientations, and genders. 'Cept the Dutch.**
** This, of course, is also satire. I don't even know any Dutch people.***
*** This is a lie.
As much as it pains me to do so, here I go, once again putting life and limb on the line for you, the loyal blog readers so that we can communally mock those that dare to run for public office.
Here's one such thrashing, and another.
And on we go...
STOP USING ALL CAPS!
PERHAPS NO ONE TOLD YOU ABOUT THE INTERNETS. YOU SEE, AROUND HERE, THIS IS THE EQUIVALENT OF SHOUTING. THE ONLY PEOPLE THAT SHOUT ARE CRAZY PEOPLE, OBNOXIOUS PEOPLE, AND TEENAGERS. I SEE THAT ACCORDING TO YOUR BIO YOU ARE NOT A TEENAGER, WHICH LEAVES TWO REMAINING OPTIONS.
HAVE YOU EVER CONSIDERED STRESS MANAGEMENT OR GROUP THERAPY? JUST A THOUGHT.
THE ANGRY DRUNK BUREAUCRAT
P.S. I ENJOYED THE OLAN MILLS GLAMOUR SHOT OF YOU.
Sorry, let me start again.
Joe is Jewish, a Lawyer, and a Republican or a Jewish Republican Lawyer or a Lawyer who is both Jewish and Republican. I think he's also the Mr. April in Republican Jewish Lawyer Magazine. Check out the centerfold where Joe shows us his briefs.
Yeah. I think you need bleach to burn that image out of your mind.
I did try to contact the Citizens for Weinroth office, but apparently they don't respond to carrier pigeon... or people visiting during working hours.
PROMISE TO PITTSBURGH
Joe has more Promises than, say, five, but they are all unintersting. Personally, I'd like to see some of the following "promises" incorporated into a Weinroth platform:
Here's a sampling of Joe's Links:
I sense a pattern... until, that is, I get to:
Joe is a Jewish Republican Lawyer, who is Republican and Jewish with a volume management issue... and a 5:1 handicap.
Friday, November 04, 2005
El Network de News Centralio has this article, which, while it doesn't add much, sets a few dates for the confirmation hearings of Judge Alito. Basically, Bush wanted before Christmas; Congress said January 9... which, according to my calendar is even after Orthodox Christmas.
Either this means (a) Congress is not thrilled about Alito, (b) Congress is exercising its seperation of powers (as opposed to "jazzercising" the seperation of powers), (c) Congress wants to punt until after local elections to get a sense of the way the elctorate is blowing, (d) Congress wants to put it off until after the New Year's Vacation and Hangover is gone, or (e) all or none of the above.
Personally, I just think that they want to put it off as long as possible and cram it all at the last possible minute and finish it all at 5 AM; like in college. Perhaps they'll be stoned out of their minds too.
Ooooh... taco shells!
Posted by O at 6:30 PM
Thursday, November 03, 2005
WASHINGTON (AP) — The investigation into who leaked the name of a covert CIA agent in an apparent effort to punish a critic of the Bush administration's justification for war in Iraq took a shocking turn when Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald indicted Scooter, the long-time gofer on The Muppet Show.
The indictment of the 43-year-old muppet — long the right-hand man to Muppet Show host Kermit T. Frog — sent shockwaves through both Washington and the Muppet Theater, as the investigation moved closer to implicating other muppets, including Dr. Teeth, Sam the Eagle, and George W. Bush...
Posted by O at 8:39 AM
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
Less than a week to go, and here I am with a slew of Mayoral Candidates' Web Pages to mock, in my own smarmy way.
Well, maybe not a slew... more like Five.
And I already did one candidate for the primary. Just FYI, and in case you were wondering: Bob is STILL a True Son of Pittsburgh with now added emphasis in Yellow.
But, speaking of other colours:
Take a wild guess what colour the GREEN Candidate for mayor used on his website.
Go on... guess.
The Answer is mauve.
No, it's GREEN. F'ing GREEN! NO originality here. Titus probably named his dog "Dog", his children "Son" and "Daughter", and his blue plaid jacket "an abomination unto humanity."
Actually the photo of Titus (in the plural, "Titii"), isn't too bad, athough he looks like Grover's bastard love child, probably conceived during a hot orgy with the Letters Q, T, and the Number 5. If THAT statement didn't ruin your childhood innocence, you've obviously not read this blog before.
The Titus North Issues Page are chock full of relevant, local public policy decisions that need to be made by the next mayor, including improving public schools, saving public transportation, and ending the occupation in Iraq.
Errr... wha? [Seriously? That's what it says? Huh.]
Um... dude? You realize, of course, that... um... you're running for Mayor of Pittsburgh, right? And that your authority wouldn't even extend into Mt. Oliver, right? I just think we should be clear on that matter before you try to reinstitute the Smoot-Hawley tarrif, mkay?
Here are some ideas (or, as the President likes to say, "eye-dears") from Titus' Issues Page:
* Renegotiate the contracts governing the operation of the stadiums to provide the city with more revenue, and end the corporate welfare going to sports franchises; OK, I lied. There really were no ideas, just statements.
* End the huge executive salaries of UPMC by making them pay city service fees;
* End the War on Drugs;
* Stop Police from being racist or brutal;
* Maintain viable public transit;
* Improve schools;
* Build the Green Party.
Searching further, I see that Titus is for gouging the Salvation Army, putting Police in Boxes, giving disabled people abandoned buildings, sad songs at midnight, and kicking puppies.
I could be wrong about that though.
The Events Page is pretty sparse. Someone might want to think about inviting Titus out for a drink or a hummus sandwich.
Here's a little snippet from the Volunteer/Donate page:
You are also welcome to join us for campaign meetings every Saturday morning at The Quiet Storm, 5430 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh 15206 (Friendship/Garfield) beginning at 9:30 a.m. It's best to email first in case there's a change in plans.I think this means either
(a) The meeting is cancelled if Steve's mom won't let him borrow the Camry,
(b) The campaign may, and with out warning, be cancelled, or
(c) The Green Party is seriously toked on Friday nights.
The Bio Page is also pretty sparse. University of Pittsburgh adjunct (read: "not a real") professor, blah, blah, blah, political and financial analyst, blah, blah, blah, Japanese translator, blah, blah, blah, banjo, blah HOLY SHIT! Dude is a friggin' karate instructor!
I take back all the horrible things I've said above, in fear that this peace activist will kick my ass all over the City.
Needs more Greene. Also, spellcheck keeps autocorrecting 'Titus' as 'Tits'; I'd vote for "Tits North," by the way.
Titus is a whack job, not qualified to be mayor of Pittsburgh; nominate him instead to the Supreme Court.
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
I'm suffering from a horrible case of exhaustion because of the weekend's activities... and yes, I realize that it is Tuesday.
Thursday through Sunday could be blamed on the drinking. Monday could be blamed on the Steelers' (near) loss and a lack of sleep from Thursday through Monday. Tuesday is definitely blamed on The Bureaucracy, and all the related trials and travails.
I'll pick up tomorrow after I have myself a little cry under my desk and find my binky.
Thursday, October 27, 2005
Given the shit that's, supposedly, about to hit the fan, why would the Bush Administration allow Miers to withdraw now?
Wednesday, October 26, 2005
Mike Madison over at Pittsblog has a long discursive post on The Allegheny Conference on Community Development and what he would say should they invite him to speak in front of the conference's annual meeting.
Right now, Pittsburgh is trying to grow from the top. That's why you're having this meeting: it's growth from the top. So change has to come from the top. And with all due respect to the history of the Allegheny Conference, that's why I'm telling you to go home. It's why I'd send the same message to Mark Nordenberg, who has done an extraordinary job as Chancellor of Pitt, and to Jared Cohon, his equally remarkable counterpart at CMU. Private sector CEOs and top management at the universities need to join forces and -- let it go. They need to turn their technology loose.It's worth a read; although I'll spoil the ending and tell you that Mike wants the Conference to get out of the way and instead focus our energies on developing mid-level managers and capitalizing on tech transfer. [I hope I summarized that correctly.]
Pittsburgh's CEO culture is deep and strong. The top folks are talented and have enormous respect for one another, and they spend a lot of time doing what CEOs do well: strategic planning. We have consortia and greenhouses, alliances and councils and conferences. Strategic planning, though, doesn't grow companies or jobs. There's so much planning, and so much CEO involvement and control, that the money and the talent and the ideas can't find each other.
I have, of course, a couple of comments:
(1) I would include development of ready-to-go sites proximate to the Universities as a "need". Pittsburgh seems to have a room to grow, but no places for companies to locate RIGHT NOW or expand to RIGHT NOW. That puts us at a disadvantage.
(2) What the heck does the Conference actually DO anymore? OK, I understand what the Chamber of Commerce does (advocates for regional businesses), what the PRA does (advertises the region), and what the PEL does (research & analysis), but WHAT, now that Richard King Mellon is dead, does the Conference actually DO? Having worked in regional government for quite awhile, I've never once heard anyone say "We can't do THAT, the Conference would have our ASS!".
(3) This may be heretical, but why do we need to do Economic Development and what's the big deal with job creation? OK, I understand that (a) an increase in jobs and development leads to an increase in tax revenues, (b) politicians that create jobs and development have an increased chance of being re-elected, and (c) there's a certain amount of region pride involved. That I get. But, and here's the $6.4 billion question: can the region improve without doing all that Economic Development growth stuff? Can we have a better quality region, without a bigger region? I don't know, I'm just asking.
I have other comments, but I'll hold off for now.
Sunday, October 23, 2005
Matthew E. Kahn over at Environmental and Urban Economics has an interesting piece lifted from the NY Times on Information and Urban Problem Solving in NYC. From the article:
Mr. Bloomberg exercises control over the city much like Mel Karmazin, the former Viacom chief, famously did at his company: by closely monitoring the numbers produced by a team of star department heads who are free to run their agencies as they see fit so long as they meet strict production targets. An interesting concept this: the anticipatory use of information in public decision making, one that we, as Bureaucrats, don't always think about.
It is a strategy grounded in his experience in the business world. Mr. Bloomberg spent 15 years on Wall Street with Salomon Brothers, working his way from a $9,000-a-year position in its bank vault to a partner in charge of running the firm's information systems department. Pushed out of the firm in 1981, he then earned billions by using his $10 million severance to create a machine that compiled and analyzed real-time data from the financial markets to help traders gain an edge.
As mayor he has tried create a similar system from which to govern. Data analysis is religion for Mr. Bloomberg, and numbers are the lifeblood of his administration. They drive policy rather than just track progress.
It was in large part in the pursuit of more city data that Mr. Bloomberg created the 311 help line. It provides one-stop shopping for people seeking information about everything from parking rules to trash pickups. But perhaps more significant, residents' grievances on the line are also stored in a database so the city can immediately identify a festering problem area, and react.
Linda Gibbs, Mr. Bloomberg's homeless services commissioner, said she began the first citywide census of homeless people on the streets this year guided by the mayor's results-based approach. The census provoked serious debate within the administration, she said, because by creating a new set of numbers "you're taking the risk it could go in the wrong direction."
"His reaction was," she said, "you're not going to be able to overcome an issue unless you really understand it."
Ms. Gibbs said that at the height of a homeless crisis in 2003, she presented Mr. Bloomberg with a chart showing some good news: an alarming rise in the number of people in shelters was finally stabilizing. But the mayor was not content, and drew a line pointing downward from the plateau on the chart, saying, "Come back when it looks like that."
For example: one of the big problems that I personally have is the ability to bring large sets of data together for a given segment of the region. I can say that I'm doing X number of widgets at location Y, but, because of the still arcane system that we use, I'm unable to say much more than that. Tracking large amounts of data, over multiple data types, requires a lot of staff time and effort. Unfortunately, that's the kind of information that we, the policy makers, need to have to make well informed decisions.
Unfortunately, without the data to back up proposed courses of action, we're often left to the whims of the political leaders who can only make uninformed, or worse, badly informed decisions. [Of course, that assumes that politics actually plays no role in political decisions, a proposition that we know is a falacy.]
I long for a good regression analysis... hell, I long for good data.
Posted by O at 9:32 PM
Saturday, October 22, 2005
I awoke, looked outside and assumed I was up just before the crack of dawn, a strange occurance for a weekend, I must admit. It was only a moment later that I realized it was quarter to two in the afternoon and that I was in Pittsburgh. Now is the Season of Grey.
Today's forcast for Southwestern Pennsylvania:
Grey from the South East through the afternoon, turning into pitch Black by Evening.
Keep your spirits up folks... we have another five months of this weather.
Thursday, October 20, 2005
ADB friend and associate PIQ-B got roped into going to the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development "Town Hall" meeting, despite his vicious protests and threats of self inflicted violence against his person. He afterwards spent 2 hours on the phone, in a drunken stupor, giving me his low-down on the event. (Fortunately, ADB was spared this apparent travesty of community development, and spent his evening on the couch watching reruns of The Simpsons.)
The event was billed as a chance for community groups to set priorities and an agenda for the upcoming administration, and a chance for local CDCs and CBOs to speak with one voice... but in reality, it was the same old crap wrapped up with voting opportunities.
Some notes from the drunken Mr. PIQ-B:
(1) The event was too large. Someone, apparently, thought that a focus group of 70 people was manageable and that it would be easy to have a reasonable dialogue. The only this that was missing from the ensuing circus was a fire-eater. A more reasonable number for an exchange of ideas would have been, like, 10. Moreover, there were a lot of actors that were not present that could have informed the discussion (read: ranting) a wee bit better.
(2) Nobody at the Community/Neighborhood gives a damn about the private sector. Everyone is far more concerned about what the government sector can do for them rather than how they can work with the private sector to grow a neighborhood.
(3) Unfortunately, no one actually knows what the Government actually does and does not do (Rule #12).
(4) There are a lot of ignorant people at the community level, with no understanding about how neighborhood development actually works. Combined with #3 above, they are much more likely to blame some faceless "government" for their problems, instead of their total lack of experience, intelligence, and knowledge about... well... everything. Ms. CDC Executive Director, ever think that the reason that development doesn't happen in your neighborhood is not because the URA or City Planning is conspiring against you, but because you are a worthless piece of shit with the development accumen of, let's say, toe fungus? Or to be more eloquent: the fault, dear Brutus, lies not in City Planning, but ourselves. [PIQ-B was pissed.]
(5) The neighborhoods and the neighborhood groups continually see themselves as "victims."
(6) Loud people will always set an agenda not because they are right, but because they are loud.
(7) The Pittsburgh Community Development scene has no new ideas.
(8) The Pittsburgh Community Development scene has no big ideas.
(9) The Pittsburgh Community Development scene cannot think outside of their own narrowly circumscribed world to focus on larger city and regional issues. [No one talked about cluster development strategies or tech transfer, btw.]
(10) Seriously, who are we kidding with this meeting: no one is going to give up anything so that someone else can be better off. Central Northside, for example, would never agree to a plan that would benefit Bloomfield at their own expense. Politics (and Community Development) is local; to pretend that all the seperate groups could join hands and sing kumbayah is ridiculous.
(11) And finally... according to a gentleman who spoke up in one of the group sessions, this is the same meeting that occured EIGHT YEARS AGO with THE SAME ISSUES BEING BROUGHT UP. EIGHT FRIGGIN' YEARS AND WE'RE STILL TALKING ABOUT THE SAME SHIT!
PIQ-B was obviously frustrated by the meeting, feeling that the combination of ignorance and parochialism meant that nothing useful would be accomplished at all. Instead, this was a massive bitch session, with no clear focus and no clear agenda, and no useful outcomes.
Oh, and apparently they used the words "proactive." "paradigm," and "empower." If I was there, I would have thrown a chair at someone's head.