Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Rule #8

The past few weeks of discussion had temporarily disrupted my train of thought. Of course, it has been said that shiny objects also have the same effect on me. I'll try to get back on track, posting something both cogent and coherent.

On second thought, I'll just post another one of the Rules:

Rule #8: "The second biggest detriment to public service is the service."

[Yes. I realize that I posted a Rule #8 already. This is the real Rule #8. Please adjust.]

Listen. For those of you who are on the client side of the table, please keep in mind that it is public service not public slavery. I've checked the 13th Amendment, so I'm pretty sure that slavery is not allowed anymore, even if you work for Martha Stewart. So Dear Clients, dropping the f-bomb on me at 8:30 AM is not going to increase your chances of being helped any sooner. Nor will having a tantrum help. Nor will threats. And no, you are not allowed to beat me, flog me, or torture me.

We public servants are here to serve, by the way. We're not magicians. Do not expect us to violate the laws of time and space and the Commonwealth for you. I'm particularly upset when Clients expect us to violate Boyle's Law; Politicians are ideal gas bags.

On our side, it's tough to serve thousands of different requests from hundreds of competing interests. Senator A supports project Q, but Congressman Z doesn't, while Local Councilman H is backing both on the ground for re-election. Loud Citizen F supports neither. Meanwhile Executive E has cut back our funding and staffing so we can't so our job efficiently, and Legislature L demands constant lengthy updates as to why we're writing lengthy reports rather than doing our job.

Navigating the complex maze of politics with the directive of serving all of the interests equally is both disheartening and frustrating, ultimately leading all parties to be equally upset about the ultimate outcome. It's hard to do the right thing without pissing people off. For that matter, it's hard to do the right thing, or, indeed, anything.

I truly believe that public service is a noble profession; I'd like it to be treated as such, by both the Public and the Servants.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Pottering Around

I added Haloscan commenting and trackback to this blog to make this thing more purdy-like and to upgrade some functionality. At least I think I did.

It might have been better to just have slapped a blender onto it and called it a night. Probably would have been more useful too.

All the previous comments, including the excellent exchanges, rants, ravings, chest poundings, snarking, smearing, and gobbledygook can still be found under the permalinks by clicking the date/time stamp.

UPDATE: Apparently I wiped out all the previous comments. I'm the overzealous douchebag of the week. I'm accepting suggestions for how to retrieve the past comments without having to repost every damn one of them manually.

UPDATED FURTHER: Success! Previous comments are back. Off to have a drink in celebration!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

My Final Word on the 2005 Pittsburgh Mayoral Primary (Part 1)

Alright, after this, no more posts about the 2005 Pittsburgh Mayoral Primary.

I promise.

Until Part II.

Michael Madison from Pittsblog and Maria from 2politicaljunkies are pushing me to get to my friggin' point. I personally thought my point was to take a look at the pretty colors on the map and see if my image-hosting provider was worth a damn. I feel that I was wildly successful on those accounts, but unfortunately had the audacity to interject my own, apparently incorrect, interpretation of the data.

For shame!

I will endeavor never to have an individual thought of my own from here on in and gladly and blindly follow the ways of my betters who think that the egg needs to be broken at the big end, not the small, toast should eaten be butter side up, not down, and that the donut-hotdog stand hats should be blue, not red. Because it matters.

Or not.

Anyway enough of the scorn, back on topic: let’s complicate Primary Election matters further and look at some head-to-head and head-to-head-to-head races within the primary. According to the County Elections Results...

In 207 Districts, Peduto beats Lamb
In 197 Districts, Lamb beats (or ties) Peduto
In 331 Districts, O'Connor beats Peduto
In 73 Districts, Peduto beats (or ties) O'Connor
In 361 Districts, O'Connor beats Lamb
In 43 Districts, Lamb beats (or ties) O'Connor


In 307 Districts, O'Connor beats Peduto AND Lamb
In 66 Districts Peduto beats Lamb AND O'Connor
In 28 Districts Lamb beats O'Connor AND Peduto
(3 ties)

AND THEREFORE, according to my math...

In 54 Districts, O'Connor beats Lamb, but not Peduto
In 141 Districts Peduto beats Lamb, but not O'Connor
In 15 Districts, Lamb beats O'Connor but not Peduto

So O’Connor trounces Peduto at about 5:1 and Lamb at about 9:1. Peduto and Lamb are roughly neck and neck. But who, pray tell, is siphoning votes away from who? Is Lamb a spoiler for Peduto? Is Peduto for Lamb? Would an O’Connor voter vote for Lamb over Peduto or the other way around? Well, what does this all mean?

I have a couple theories given what I’m seeing from the data:

I see five different undercurrents in the Pittsburgh Democratic structure: the Old Guard, the Revolutionaries, the New-Old Guard, the Black Caucus, and the Leftovers. Let's start last to first:

The Leftovers are the ones that voted for Henderson, Repovz, and Ludwig. These guys had some good spotty showings, but overall were barely a blip on the electoral map. I'm surmising that the people that voted for these candidates were either (1) Democrats disaffected with everything or (2) the candidates' families. As in any political system, there are going to be some fringe elements that draw some of these votes away from the more major candidates.

The Black Caucus represent the ones that voted for Kendrick, and is more indicative of some lingering, but very real, racial issues that the City of Pittsburgh faces. I found it interesting from the very beginning that Kendrick managed to pull out second place showings in several of the Voting Districts, and even a first place showing in one or two. These Districts were almost all (if not all) African American communities. While Bob O'Connor placed first almost always, it seemed interesting to me that Kendrick, who had fewer resources than nearly anyone other candidate, still managed to pull out a 2nd place showing. I believe that this means one of two things: (1) the African-American population of the City of Pittsburgh feels that the official Democratic party machine enfranchises them (which explains their turn out in support of O’Connor) and (2) the other, non slate, major candidates did not sufficiently represent their views. Of course, it could be both.

The New-Old Guard lies within the structure of the Old Guard. They are the ones who are looking to tame the beast that is the Democratic Machine so they can ride it. These are people that have been successful within the old system, but are generally wary of the direction the city is going. They are not necessarily interested in overthrowing the old system, but rather using the old system to their advantage as they make incremental reforms. They talk more about bond repayment and lien collection funds than anything interesting. They are trashed by the Old-Guard as being traitors and by the Revolutionaries as being apparatchiks of the system. They are dull and boring and dull and probably voted for Mr. Bucket-head himself, Michael Lamb.

The Revolutionaries seek to overthrow the system as it currently stands. They aren't looking to tame the beast or ride the beast, but kill the beast...and probably dance upon its grave singing "Hallelujah." They assume the posture of outsiders, although, given where their candidate Mr. Peduto did well, they represent a class of educated Bourgeoise-Bohemians ("BoBos" from now on, as I can't type "Bourgeoisie" over and over) who genuinely see Pittsburgh, or at least parts thereof, as a potential shining city-on-a-hill. While I have heard lofty goals and commendable ideals, the nuts and bolts of policy seem a bit spotty to me and, in the worst instances, elitist.

The Old Guard could have run this election in 1952, and probably did, although with less efficiency. It says a lot about the evolving Pittsburgh electorate when the Democratic Machine can only bring in 48% of the vote for their candidate. More specifically, this is the tell tale proof of my assertion that the hold of the Democratic Party is not as monolithic as it once was or even appears to be. Still, the Old Guard, in this election seems to be subdivided into "The-Powers-That-Be," "Those that Vote for The-Powers-That-Be," and "Those That Still F'ing Hate Tom Murphy." The Old Guard doesn't want change or trouble, and idealizes a city without troubles like the one it so fondly remembers from its childhood. These guys are comfortable with a Mayor who doesn't concern himself with big ideas, but a guy who can schmooze it up with fundraisers. It means stability; it means consistency; it means money. And it probably means they still get their damned early-bird discount.

But let's move away from the analysis of who I think the major factions are and do a little thought experiment:


Let us suppose that on the eve of the Allegheny County Democratic Committee meeting for endorsements, someone kidnaps Bob O'Connor's beloved fichus tree. The ransom note demands that Bob immediately drop out of the race, withdraw his name from consideration, ensure that no other Democrats enter the race, and keep his mouth shut about the race until November. Only then will his beloved fichus tree be returned safely. We are now left with six candidates to chose from.

So the question is: who wins the mayoral primary?

Given the factional structure above, I believe that Lamb would have gotten the blessing and endorsement of the ACDC as he is the "safe" choice. He lacks Bob's charisma and he's probably too close to the current administration, but he minimizes the risk of a complete undermining of their power.

Now, does this matter? Peduto's own victory in Council District 8 shows that you don't necessarily need the endorsement to win. I think we can agree, however, that the endorsement doesn't hurt you.

What about the money? Bob had a ton of it and won. Bill had less than Mike and came in second. Kendrick had nothing and still eked out a fourth place showing. Does money matter in this case? If Bob is out of the picture, where does this money flow to, if it flows at all? Does the ACDC endorsement affect any of that flow, or is Bob supporting certain policy positions that lend themselves to contributions by certain donors. Are Mike or Bill willing to whore themselves out to highway contractors for the chance of large contributions? What about the Soffer Organization? The Firefighters Union?

My reaction is that the big amounts of money are going to flow towards the "safe" choice, i.e., someone who has the least chance of rocking the boat and furthers policies in the interests of the contributors. The less safe candidate still has a chance, however, in that not all of the money will flow; the chances to tap into this money are much better than against the Bob O'Connor powerhouse.

But will the money make a difference? The runner-up candidates all suffer from a similar problem: they are very strong in their base, but weak across the city. Additional money would allow these candidates to spread their message a bit further outside of their base. But will a Revolutionary message resonate in Brookline? A Traditionalist message in the Southside? A Black message in Point Breeze? Can money help get people to like you and your message, or just get your name out there?

I'm pretty sure that there are some messages that aren't going to play well across factions. Zero-line budgeting probably infuriates those of the Old Guard that are dependant on their consistent budget line item. Similarly, a property lien back-back program means absolutely nothing to people that are more concerned about police or safety. But messages can be broadened and money can drive those messages home.

So we can run whatever scenarios we want: without the Old Guard in the race, do the Revolutionaries take on Old Guard votes and money or do the New-Old Guard? Are the Old Guard more likely to vote for The Revolutionaries or the New Old Guard? Who does the Black Caucus lean towards? What will the Old Guard voters do?

Those are just some things to think about and clog up my inbox about. I have no answers as I open the egg from the little end, eat my toast butter-side-down, and wear the red donut-hotdog hats.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Even More Follow-Up... even for the Bureaucrat Haters

First, to get some stuff off my chest: I apparently pissed off a very ardent Anonymous supporter of Bill Peduto, as I am apparently a "Lamb partisan" and should "get over it." Sorry, I meant "GET OVER IT."


Dude (or Dudette if that is the case), if I supported Lamb and you supported Peduto, we share one same quality: we both lost. Bob O'Connor made us our bitches. He beat us like we were his whores and we are supposed to like it. Frankly, if Peduto won or Lamb won, we would be having a different discussion, but from my prospective we're both losers.

So it goes.

I don't want to skip ahead, but as I said in the comments, there are some questions I'd like to see answered: (1)how to either get the money to the message or the message to the money [or the alternative question, "what would the race have looked like if money was no object?"], (2) what would a race without O'Connor have looked like, and, more esoteric, (3) what would a race without Tom Murphy have looked like.

But I'm not there yet. I'd like to build up some element of suspense, so I have some other maps that I'd like to show. I'll try to save you my personal opinions... at least for now.

Bob O'Connor supports Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

So where did Bob do well in terms of percentage vote by ward? The Hill, Homewood, Greenfield, Larimer, Hazelwood... and a bunch of other places. Well done Silver Fox. Bob didn't do well at all in Point Breeze, Shadyside, parts of Oakland, Highland Park, and Mt. Washington. Again, the City is his bitch.

Despite Anonymous' misspellings, he also supports Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

As I said before, Bill did his best in Shadyside, Bloomfield, Mexican War Streets, Friendship, and Point Breeze. Worst showings, or indeed, no showings, were in parts of the Hill, Arlington Heights, and Hazelwood.

Mike and Bill, while they are both Bob's bitches, love Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

Mike did his best South of the River in Duquesne Heights, Regent Square, Brookline, and Beechview. Generally strong in the South, Lamb tanked in the Hill and in St. Clair. Both Mike and Bill did their worst in primarily African-American neighborhoods.

Hop's 4th place finish gets him Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

Hop didn't do too well overall, but he did his best in the primarily African-American neighborhoods, especially Lincoln-Lemmington-Belmar.

What does this all mean to those of us (including both me and Anonymous) who did not vote for Bob O'Connor? Who would have won without Bob O'Connor in the race. What does it mean for the future of Pittsburgh Politics? What is the point? Why am I asking all these questions? Will I end this post with a profanity?

The answer to the last question is "No... ya bastard".

More Follow Up on Pittsburgh's Mayoral Election

So, back to the Pittsburgh Mayoral Primary results.

I said a week ago I needed a better look at the data. I took a better look at the data, and this is what I got:
Clicky! Clicky! Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

This map shows the Voting District Winners in the primary election 2005 by ward. Ward doesn't mean a whole heck of a lot, you get no electoral votes, that's for damned sure, but it gives you a rough idea as to how different neighborhoods voted, and a better idea as to what segments of the neighborhood voted for who.

All Politics is Local, as Tip O'Neill said. This is how local this race was.

The obvious remarks are that Bob O'Connor won big and broadly across the city neighborhoods, picking up local presinct wins across all segments of the city... except for a big blue blob in Shadyside, Friendship, North Point Breeze, Point Breeze, and Squirrel Hill. That portion of the City, The People's Republic of the 14th Ward, fell to the armed ruffians of Bill Peduto. Similarly, Bill picked up support in segments of Highland Park, Southside, and the Mexican War Streets.

As I said before, Bill's wins were not broad based, but rather reflective of a bourgeoise-bohemian ethic, which is popular in certain segments of the City... namely the ones listed above.

Lamb, by contrast, clung to victories in equally concentrated areas: Duquesne Heights, Mt. Washington, Brookline, and Beechview. I would characterize these neighborhoods as post-war suburban Pittsburgh ethic; upper working & middle class.

Kendrick did pick up some wins at St. Clair and in the Upper Hill, which seems to reflect an inability of any of the other candidates (with the exception of Bob) to successfully court African-American voters. Somehow Henderson picked up a chunk of the Southside Flats. I'm scratching my head over that one.

In any case, take a look at the turnout:
Clicky! Clicky! Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us.

A lot of heavy turnout in the Peduto won areas, as well as some very heavy turnout in a few key O'Connor areas. Probably helped. Otherwise, it's generally poor turnout, so I'm not reading too much into this map.

My thesis, however, is this: the Peduto campaign was a narrowly focused campaign that concentrated on a few, key areas. This is not part of a larger movement, but rather a microlocalized political phenomenon which, unless it embraces a larger popular message that appeals to a larger swath of Pittsburgh, is doomed to fester away.

And in the next few posts, I'll show you why I think this and what it means for the future of the progressive cause in Pittsburgh.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Dicky Miami Live from Bangalore

The Angry Drunk Bureaucrat's perenial nemesis Richard Florida is out with a new tome with the panic induced title of FLIGHT OF THE CREATIVE CLASS: The New Global Competition for Talent. Michael Madison is blogging about it over at his place, so I figure it's now fair game for me. I figured that ganging up might be unfair as my antipathy for Dr. F. is fairly well known. Lord knows that the literally 3 people that read this blog care so much about the creative dynamics in economic development and my views on the subject. I decided to get over myself, and lay into the guy again.

My views in sum: Florida is sound and fury, signifying nothing. Or, alternatively, Florida is like Oakland California: when you get there, there's no there there. I consider him to be an academic snake oil salesman... but a damned fine one, I must say.

Business week has a review of his new book. I thought I'd share, as I have the time and space and I don't think Business Week has a free site:

Business Week May 16, 2005
Copyright 2005 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. http://www.mcgrawhill.com
All Rights Reserved
Business Week
May 16, 2005
SECTION: Books; Pg. 16 Vol. 3933

Talent: Will America Lose Out?
By Aaron Bernstein

The New Global Competition for Talent
Richard Florida
HarperBusiness; 326pp; $25.95

Richard Florida has been something of a hero among civic activists and urban planners since the 2002 publication of his The Rise of the Creative Class. In that book, the George Mason University public policy professor argued that the growth of advanced economies like America's is driven largely by knowledge workers such as scientists, engineers, managers, professionals, and artists. For cities and regions to thrive, he said, they must foster a welcoming environment for such people.

Now, Florida is back with The Flight of the Creative Class: The New Global Competition for Talent, a sequel that extends the argument internationally. Florida's basic point is that the entire global economy increasingly revolves around innovations that flow from the creative classes. In this rapidly emerging competitive environment, he says, the U.S. is in danger of losing its crucial advantage as the world's greatest talent magnet. Social and economic inequality, growing political intolerance, and a faltering educational system are making the U.S. less attractive to a global class of workers whose skills are in rising demand everywhere, from Europe to India and China. This is America's most serious long-term threat, warns Florida, ``because wherever talent goes, innovation, creativity, and economic growth are sure to follow.''

It's a compelling and seductive thesis, backed up by voluminous statistics and analysis. Too bad it's such an incomplete description of how economies actually work. While there's a good bit of value to Florida's insights, he doesn't account for U.S. and European job flight caused by low wages abroad. His analysis also turns on the unproven -- and overblown -- assertion that talented workers are free to change jobs, cities, and countries whenever they see more attractive prospects.

Unfortunately, even the core data Florida uses to prove his thesis explain less than he claims. To show that America's predominance is threatened, he constructs an index of the world's creative classes based on occupations that involve creative thinking. There are up to 150 million such workers in the 39 countries for which he can find reliable data. The U.S. still has the greatest number, with more than 30 million, and the greatest share of the total, at about 20%. But if you take such workers as a share of each country's own workforce, the U.S. ranks only 11th out of 39. ``Far from being the world leader, we are not even in the top five,'' warns Florida.

Problem is, he's defining the creative class by people's occupation alone, rather than years of schooling, the more conventional gauge of workforce ability. And by the latter measure, the U.S. remains No. 1. Florida concedes the point in a brief sentence, but he argues that his approach is better because a focus on education misses the contributions of accomplished college dropouts such as Microsoft Chairman William H. Gates III. True enough, but his occupation metric skips people, too. Florida has a point when he warns of America's slipping workforce competitiveness, but it would be better made by focusing on its underinvestment in education.

The bigger problem is Florida's assumption that ``talented people are a global factor of production, able to choose among economically vibrant and attractive regions of the world.'' There is of course some truth in this, as demonstrated by the large number of Asian graduate students in U.S. science and engineering programs.

But this is way too rosy a description of the experience of skilled workers, who quickly accrue what economists call ``firm-specific human capital.'' In other words, most professionals learn skills specific to their companies and can't easily jump ship when they spy a better employer -- or country. There are other deterrents too, such as the stress of uprooting one's family or the difficulty of securing a work visa. It would be great for workers if companies and countries had to compete head-on in a global talent pool, but that happens only on a limited basis -- not enough to drive entire economies.

Finally, there's the little matter of wages. Florida isn't an economist, and it shows. In his world, talent moves to the best environment. But what about U.S. jobs that flee to low-wage countries? He dismisses competition from India and China by saying that those countries rank low on his global creative class index. In other words, only 1.4% of China's 745 million-plus workers have a college degree, vs. nearly 30% in the U.S. True enough, but since China's 10 million college grads are available at a dime on the dollar compared with U.S. workers, why exactly would multinationals kill themselves to please America's creative classes, as Florida suggests?

Still, Florida's main point is a good one: For the U.S. to remain globally competitive, it must do a much better job of investing in its skilled workforce.
I suppose I could have summarized this review in one pithy saying:
For Florida, economics is bunk.
Of course, as I've said before, economics is most definitely not bunk and that the pull of "creativity" will be trumped by economic expediency.

For Those of You Who Missed it...

For those of you, like me, who are cursed with the Post Gazette and the Tribune Review on Sundays, I present the NY Times coverage of Santorum. No, not THAT Santorum. This Santorum.

Best lines in the article:

...[A]Democratic senator who would talk only on the condition his name not be used said: "I'm shocked to see him in leadership, because of his comportment and general disdain for everybody else. There have to be moments of compromise, but with him, it's his way or no way. He really is doctrinaire and sanctimonious."
And also:
Rick and Karen Santorum, a former nurse and a nonpracticing attorney, have six children between the ages of 2 and 14, and live in Leesburg, Va., about an hour from Washington and as close to Washington as they could afford a home big enough for their family.
But anyway, after reading this article I realized that even in good light, this guy gives me the gibblies... and I think that's a matter of belief, not fact.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Administrative Assistants

Administrative Assistants are supposed to assist, right? Otherwise, they'd be called "Administrative Hindrances".

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Shameless Plug

Partially because I'm a whore for these guys and partially because the party is awesome:


The Sprout Fund's third annual showcase event of Pittsburgh's vibrant, culturally diverse, emerging talent and their innovative ideas

Get ready to see the unscene at Hothouse 05 on Saturday, June 18th, an evening of performance, art, and live music at the new Blackbird Lofts and Artist Studios located at 36th and Butler streets in Pittsburgh's Lawrenceville neighborhood.

Celebrating the innovative community initiatives supported by The Sprout Fund, the evening will feature live music and performances, art exhibitions, food and drink by Pittsburgh favorites, irresistible auction items, a VIP reception, and the most eclectic mix of the always seen and young leaders of Pittsburgh's unscene.

This year’s Hothouse event is now less than a month away. Tickets are now on sale at www.hothouse.sproutfund.org

If you don't show up, you probably voted for Bob O'Connor.

OK... Now What?

Chapter 7 of Douglas Adams' book Mostly Harmless (the Fifth book in the incredibly inaccurately named Hitchhiker's Trilogy) has this to say about a small insignificant planet in the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy:

It said that the planet of NowWhat had been named after the opening words of the first settlers to arrive there after struggling across light years of space to reach the furthest unexplored outreaches of the Galaxy. The main town was called OhWell.
People of Pittsburgh, welcome to NowWhat.

The Tribune-Review has an interestingly venomous article about, well, it's entitled "Vote tosses dirt on Murphy's political grave"... I think that gives you some sense of the article. The only more effective title that they could have come up with would have been: "Murphy Anally Buggered by Electorate" or "Murphy on Fire; Voters Refuse to Piss on Him." And so forth.

Now What?

We've had our catharsis, but the problems still remain. The City is still in debt, neighborhoods are declining, pension obligations are crushing us... etc., etc., etc. None of that goes away now that Bob has won this election. Same hole, different digger.

Now What?

Bob's promised to "Build Bridges" and "Put the City on the Right Track" and told us to "Believe in Ourselves"... but that's about it. Once we get into the details, it gets a bit murky. With all the anti-Murphy hate out there (some of it justified), one wonders if really believes that Bob O'Connor can rectify past mistakes, or are they just blindly voting for the Enemy-of-my-Enemy. Are we going to piss on O'Connor's political grave in 2009?

I wait with baited breath for what's to come.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Gary W. Henderson Challenging Results; Promises "Death or Victory"

Gary W. Henderson has challenges the results of yesterday's primary election, promising "Blood on the Street until Death or Victory." Daniel F. Repovz has joined this fight, proclaiming that he is on a hunger strike until the "Skulls of the infidels are crushed." Thousands have taken to the streets protesting this election insanity from two of the minor candidates. At this hour, portions of Fairywood and Fineview are in flames...

No, not really... but it would have been more exciting.

And so Bob O'Connor won. No big shock there. The tension was so thick last night you could cut it with a knife... a dull knife... made of rubber... and imaginary. Bob's victory seemed so certain, that he could have proclaimed himself Omnipotent King of the Wicker People, and he still would have coasted to victory.

So much for public participation. On to the analysis from the County Elections Homepage

I'm not quite sure what constitutes a "landside," as Lord knows a "mandate" means around 50%. Bob only managed to rake in 48.4% of the vote... or 28,344, which is appalling for a city of 300K. He managed to pick up 27 out of 32 wards, losing Ward 7 (Shadyside), 8 (Bloomfield/Friendship), 11 (East Liberty/Highland Park), and 14 (Squirrel Hill/Regent Square) to Bill Peduto and 19 (Beechview/Brookline) to Michael Lamb.

Bob only managed to squeeze out a slim percentage of victory over Peduto in the 17th (Southside) and 22nd (Allegheny West) Wards. Peduto, in turn, slid by Bob in Wards 11 and 14. Lamb's victory in Ward 19 was similarly close.

What actually tells the story of Pittsburgh, however, are the second place finishes.

Louis "Hop" Kendrick placed 2nd in Ward 5 (Middle Hill District), 12 (Lincoln-Lemmington), and 13 (Homewood). While he got trounced by Bob in terms of absolute numbers, I believe this shows an inability of the Lamb and Peduto campaigns to effectively address the concerns of the African-American populations of the city.

With the exception of the Southside, Lamb either won or came in second South of the Rivers. Lamb also came in second place in Wards 5, 15, 24, and 27 (Lower Hill/Crawford-Roberts, Greenfield/Hazelwood, Troy Hill/East Allegheny, and Brighton Heights/Marshall Shadeland, respectively). These are all the "forgettable" neighborhoods, without universities, or extensive mainstreets. As I postulated before, I doubted that Peduto would make much headway in these types of neighborhoods.

Peduto's second place finishes are no shock either. Typically he won in areas that have had Bourgeoisie-Bohemian appeal: Oakland, Downtown, Lawrenceville, the Strip, Southside, Central Northside, etc. These areas represent some of his core constituencies: young, elite, artistic, literati.

OK, that's enough for now; I need a better look at the data before I say much more.

All hail Bob.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Can we call it now...?

11:16 PM...


Can I go to bed now?

First Results....

First results for Mayor of Pittsburgh: 19 OF 404 district reporting (4.7 %)

BOB O'CONNOR 1200 46.7%
MICHAEL E LAMB 438 17.0%


Still F'-ed Up... or is this what I'm looking for?

Is this what I'm supposed to be looking for?

I noticed that none of the municipalities that I glanced at had anyone running for mayor or borough manager or whatnot. (The post of Municpal Whatnot is long and storied in the history of British Common Law, and ranks slightly below a magistrate.) I'm assuming that either (a) someone f'-ed it up or (b) they aren't putting up municpal mayoral results and therefore (a).

County Election Site F'-ed Up?

Anyone notice that the Allegheny County election results page for Pittsburgh is missing the running results for Mayor?

Every District Magistrate, but not the important race... unless I'm missing something...?

I hope they fix it in the next 45 minutes.

Light Turnout So Far...

Deputy Angry Drunk Bureaucrats have been scouring the City this afternoon, and we seem to have a light turn-out so far.

What does this mean for Bob O'Connor? Will Bill Peduto snatch victory from the jaws of defeat? Will Michael Lamb rekindle his romance with Tonya Payne, even though his love child is with Jean A. Milko? Will Dwayne Woodruff's evil half brother wreak revenge on the fair city?

Stay tuned!

Get Aht 'N Vote

So far this morning nothing much to report. Early, and albeit brief, indications show a normal turnout this morning, certainly nothing like November's flood of voting humanity.

Weather looks good today, so there's no excuse for not voting.

I'm still standing by my prediction that Bob O'Connor will win by a large margin, so the race for the #2 slot is far more interesting. I've gotten the sense that Peduto has not played well outside his East End base, and I'm getting the sense that Michael Lamb has played well in the South Hills. From a purely unscientific sense of the neighborhoods, it seems that those in the other parts of the neighborhoods are leaning towards O'Connor (especially Hazelwood and Greenfield). If Peduto's base can hold, I think he might pull off a squeaker for #2, with Lamb slightly behind. "Hop" will probably pull off the 4th spot, with Ludwig, Repovz, and Henderson pulling up the rear.

Again, this is unscientific. All I can say for certain is that the winner will be largely dependent on the number of votes cast.

We'll try to update you on how things look on the ground as the day goes on.

So remember: People often say that, in a democracy, decisions are made by a majority of the people. Of course, that is not true. Decisions are made by a majority of those who make themselves heard and who vote - a very different thing. -Walter H. Judd

Vote Dammit!

Monday, May 16, 2005

Flotsam and Jetsam

Just some things from the impending local primary that have been wandering across my brain, but are not substantial enough to actually post about. Consider this a Election Stew Posting:

* I think Tonya Payne should have dumped the "Clean up Our House" tagline, in favor of Payne in the 6th District. Similarly, I like Get Stoned in the 8th District. Both of them have an air of truth to them.

* Speaking of promotional materials in the 6th District, at which meeting did Sala's campaign staff sit down and decide, "Our literature needs to be the same colour as feces?" Seriously. "Taco Bell Green/Brown" is not a colour that inspires confidence in a Leader.

* More on campaign literature: Did you notice that the "Evil" pictures of Michael Diven in Wayne Fontana's ads are the same as Michael Diven's "Good" pictures in his own ads. Diven needs to look less semi-evolved.

* Also on the 42nd Senate Race: After blaming Fontana for the reassessments and the increased property taxes, Diven is also blaming Fontana for the City's budget crisis, increased crime in Brookline, the Pirate's poor season thus far, the missing WMD in Iraq, and the French.

* Thank God we don't have to choose between Jury Commissioners this year. Lord knows I almost voted for the wrong one last time.

* Electing Dwayne Woodruff (yes, the former cornerback for the Steelers) as Judge is no more ludicrous than electing Lynn Swann as Governor. Frankly, I'd prefer Mark Malone as District Magistrate, but there you go.

* Remember: candidate for Judge Doug Walgren was ousted from his re-election bid to the House because the opposing candidate charged that Walgren lived in Virginia, not in his district. That opposing candidate? That pinnacle of virtue Sen. Rick Santorum.

* I say we drop the pretension and create an elected office called "Cyril Wecht"; that way someone else can run for coroner. Not sure what the office would involve, but I think it would have something to do with getting into major media outlets and yelling.

* I haven't campaigned strongly this year, but I am still in the running for the office of "Overlord." I am a write-in candidate, so make sure you tell the people at the polling station that you want to vote "'O'for Overlord". If they resist, demand another ballot. If they don't have ballots, knock over the machines. Chain yourself to the Majority Inspector. [This is largely the same strategy being used by the Ludwig campaign, so if the Majority Inspector is occupied, you can use the Majority Clerk.]

* Go vote tomorrow. Remember, if you stay home, you voted with the majority. Nice going asshole.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Final Thoughts on Pittsburgh's Mayoral Race (Pt. II)

So, given the previous discussion weighing the merits of the various candidates, all three of you that read this blog regularly are probably wondering who I'm throwing my weight towards. It is not an easy decision, but not one that I feel means a whole hell of a lot. Grab a drink and let me explain:

The City of Pittsburgh is suffering from a systemic crisis, namely a long term operating deficit of a city built to hold 600K+ people. That structure is no longer viable, but the governmental, social, and physical infrastructure that exist perpetuate it. In the long run, unless changes are made to these infrastructures or the existing model is changed, the City of Pittsburgh is doomed. The mayor can try all he wants to patch the City, but, in the end it is a lost cause.

Is there hope for the City? Yes, but it cannot be accomplished in the Mayor's Office or in Council Chambers. It needs to happen in Blawnox, in McKees Rocks, in Wall, and in all the 130+ municipalities... as well as in Harrisburg. The best that the Mayor can do is to make small incremental changes to the City structure, give us time to lick our wounds, and push for some sort of assistance from outside.

Which is part of the reason that the Post-Gazette endorsed Bob O'Connor, whom, I believe, will be the next mayor of the City of Pittsburgh. Bob willingly admits his biggest asset is that he is great with people; if these people include the State Legislature, he will be very successful.

But I'm not going to vote for him as I do not believe that he's seeing the larger picture nor is he equipped with the correct tools. I wish him the best of luck in the next four years, but I'm voting for someone else.

First, let's forget about Ludwig, Repovz, Kendrick, and Henderson. They are too marginal to be elected and are too close to the "bat shit insane" disqualifier. Sorry guys.

Second, the "Young Thinking Person" in me, one would assume, would vote for someone like Peduto. His campaign has worked hard to tap into the "progressive new yinzers" out there by focusing on arts, culture, and generally bringing down the existing political establishment. It's hard to find anyone outside this young, idealist urban set that is even considering voting for Peduto.

But that young idealist in me was crushed a long time ago through a combination of hard living, classical philosophy, operations research, and reality. As I've said repeatedly, I don't buy Peduto's general platform or holistic approach, nor do I think that he is equipped with the experience necessary to move from 8th District Councilman to Mayor of Pittsburgh. I'm not impressed by his pied-piper-like hold on my friends and colleagues, and instead believe his policies to be extremely divisive against the lower economic classes. Peduto may be good in theory, but as I like to say: "In Theory, there's no difference between Theory and Practice, but in Practice there is."

Which brings me to Mike Lamb. Mike is being coached, it seems, by the same people that I talk to on a regular basis. As such, I can hear echoes of my own thoughts wafting over the airwaves. I like to think that someone out there is listening too me.

But more than the ego-stroking, I think that Mike has actually thought about some of these pressing technical issues, if he hasn't hired someone to do his thinking for him. I am continually impressed by his grasp of minutiae as well has his working knowledge of the mechanics of government. I feel that the policiesthat he is espousing are a good balance between the traditionalist approach of Bob O'Connor and the radicalist approach of Bill Peduto.

That, and he seems to be an Angry, Drunk Bureaucrat.

I heard an apocryphal story that Casper Weinberger or Al Haig or some Reagan era functionary used to take a couple shots of scotch before signing off on the massive amounts of paperwork he had to complete every day. It was the only way that he could get through the depressing chore of signing his name 1000 times.

In a similar way, I'm going to the polls drunk.

God help us all.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Assessment Caps a No-Go

From the PG:

Common Pleas Judge R. Stanton Wettick today ruled that it is illegal for Allegheny County to put a cap on property assessments for 2006.
Yeah. I figured.

I just hope Bob Strauss had money on this.

I'm not an Inconsiderate A-hole

I've been noticing that I've been having difficulties posting the correct dates on these posts. For some reason, I seem to be posting for the following day, which puts me at the top of the chronologically generated RSS feed lists. I'm going to apologize for this, as while I enjoy being near the top of the lists, it makes me look like, in the words of El Presidente "A Major League Asshole."

I get majorly irked when lazy bloggers sit at the top of the feeds for weeks, in what appears to be some bizarre attempt to satiate their own intellectually masturbatory habits. You have nothing so important to say that it warrants being posted for a month and a half. You are killing those of us who are at least trying to write something current. It's irritating and should be stopped.

[I also get irked about contentless blitzpostings that merely contain a link to other articles or pages... but that's the subject of a future rant that will also use the word "masturbation".]

So I apologize, sincerely and utterly, for my faux pas.

I'm guessing this problem has something to do with Blogger and my web browser (Safari) on my Mac at home. I've noticed that there is a whole lot of functionality that is missing when I use Safari at home instead of IE at work. For example, I don't have the option of the "Compose" mode or a functional spell check... or the ability to change the Time & Date of a post.

All of which would be quite useful to me. I've heard that Firefox also has some similar problems with Blogger, but, not being a user myself, I can't confirm.

Anyway, I have to come into work in the morning, finish editing the posting, adjust the date to today, and hit submit.

But apparently that sets me 24 hrs in the future, and puts me at the top of the RSS feeds. [Time traveling, btw, is highly overrated... despite the hovercars and the space prostitutes.]

Again, I'm sorry.

The other alternative theory I have on this problem is that I have no idea what today's date is. Always looking toward the future am I. Never is my mind on where I am. What I am doing. Hmmph. Gotta start living in the now, I suppose. Or get a calendar.

In short, I'm not an A-Hole, despite what the Tribune-Review says.

Final Thoughts on Pittsburgh's Mayoral Race (Pt. I)

I only have a handful of posts until the mayoral election, and I want to get my final thoughts in before my final thoughts become irrelevant (if they haven't become so already). I've given some thought to the race... as well as some thoughts to work and the new Star Wars movie and the environmental impact of cluster based economic development from a historical perspective. You may call it ADD; I call it multitasking.

All the candidates have pluses and minuses associated with them (some more minuses than pluses), and I hope to crystallize my feelings on each of them as succinctly as possible.

And... we're off:

Gary W. Henderson
Why you should vote for him:
Gary has done this twice before and has lost both times. That puts him one behind Bob O'Connor, whom the Post-Gazette endorsed for similar reasons. I figure that Gary deserves at least equal consideration.

Why you shouldn't vote for him:
Gary doesn't really seem to (a) have any real interest in being mayor, as evidenced by his poor attendance at the public debates, and (b) doesn't seem to have much in the way of ideas out there. Frankly, he has not made any impression on me, positive or negative... which is actually a negative attribute.

Daniel F. Repovz
Why you should vote for him:
Daniel is young. Very young, but not youngest to run for mayor. It would be nice, for a change, to have someone in the office without a fond memory for the glory days of big steel.

Why you shouldn't vote for him:
Just because he's young doesn't mean that he's qualified. "New" does not equal "Good" any more than "Old" equals "Bad" or "Politician" equals "Pervert." [Maybe I'm off on the last one.] Daniel seems to have gotten into the habit of parroting some of the better ideas from the other candidates. He's more likely to agree with his opponents than to take a critical tack against them and prove he has some intellectual acumen. This leads me to the opinion that Daniel was set up by his frat brothers, and, to their surprise, suddenly decided to take the candidacy seriously.

Louis "Hop" centrist
Why you should vote for him:
"Hop" is the most original out of all of the candidates: unvarnished, unabashed, and outspoken. In a perfect world, his honesty and forthrightness would clinch the nomination for him. "Hop" is quick to point out the failures of the current administration, but also their successes. He's well aware that there are severe economic and racial disparities in the City, and he's willing to confront them head on.

Why you shouldn't vote for him:
"Hop" seems to lack the economic sense that is necessary for the management of a major city. And yes, that includes Pittsburgh. He appears much more ready to propose solutions that appeal to emotion than rationality, which makes him further appear as a loose canon, rather than a mayor.

Lester Ludwig
Why you should vote for him:
"Do more with less" perfectly encapsulates the dilemma of the next mayor. The next mayor is going to face increasing funding problems at the local, state, and federal levels. A measure of self-sufficiency and reprioritization is inevitable. Les seems willing to embrace unique funding opportunities in order to solve this problem.

Why you shouldn't vote for him:
"Do more with Les" doesn't quite work. His ideas, which appear to focus on "selling out" the City to corporate interests just seems wrong. I doubt many people will go for it.

William Peduto
Why you should vote for him:
Bill, again, is one of those people who is willing to take non-traditional approaches to running the City. He's also been a big supporter of the retension of young people, which, I've been told, is vital to the continuing...erm... vitality of our Region.

Why you shouldn't vote for him:
Personally, I think Bill's platform is smoke & mirrors. While I appreciate his support for the arts, the young people, and technology... I fail to see a direct causation between promoting those items and the growth of the City. Unfortunately, his platform appeals to a lot of the technorati of the East End and is, by its very nature, beneficial only to a small segment of the larger population of Pittsburgh. As I've said before, Bill's council district is probably the easiest to manage out of all nine of the council districts. I doubt that he would have had much luck, or would have even considered a mayoral run, if he had been Councilman from, say, Sheraden.

Michael E. Lamb
Why you should vote for him:
Mike appeals to my little bureaucratic heart when he talks about minutiae like bond financing. It seems like he has a very good grasp of the intricacies of the mechanics of government and would do a good job with managing processes and promoting efficiency.

Why you shouldn't vote for him:
One word: Prothonatory. Mike has no real qualifications for this office, except that he's from a political family. In this sense, he's no better than President Dubya, riding his father's coattails to a higher office.

Bob O'Connor
Why you should vote for him:
Bob will tell you that his biggest asset is his ability with interpersonal relationships. Given the City's troubles with the legislature, with a few kind, well placed words, Mayor O'Connor may be able to give us a few years of breathing room so that we can get our stuff together.

Why you shouldn't vote for him:
This point has been raised time and time again: Bob isn't an outsider. He's an insider and complicit in the City's current crisis. There's no reason to believe that he would act any differently as Mayor than he did on Council. Just because he ran and lost three times does not mean that he's the most qualified candidate for the office.

Final Thoughts?
Now that I've muddled my way through this posting, what does this all mean? It means stay tuned for Part II.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Lame Duck Predictions

Six days now until the beginning of the end of the Murphy Administration. What follows on May 18 is the longest drawn out Lame Duck period ever (+/- 5 points for hyperbole). It is a vast stretch of uncertitude that will last until January 1, 2006. These next seven months are too short to effectively enact any real policy changes or complete real project, but they are too long to begin packing up desks in the Mayor's Office.

The Long, Dark Tea Time of Pittsburgh Politics.

I'm going to venture a few guesses on what the next few months are going to hold for Pittsburgh:

First, projects that had 12 years to get underway are now going to get off the ground. The mayor has lots of friends in the private sector, aching for government work/money/approvals. The mayor-elect will have lots of friends too, also aching for government work/money/approvals. Some of these friends will be the same friends; others will not. Those that backed the wrong horse will cash in all their chits now, in the hope that inertia will carry projects along. The mayor will push & lean on the bureaucracy to issue commitments before the end of the year, thereby binding the next administration.

Second, supposing that a bitter rival of the current Mayor is elected to the office, you can expect to see at least one problem created to drive the next administration crazy. Think Somalia, 1992. Translation: we're invading Braddock for humanitarian reasons.

Third, the bureaucrats will be running a lot of the show at the end of the lame duck period, and probably through the first few months of the new administration. This is not a prideful boast, but rather an acknowledgement of the collective, institutional memory that we posses. Stupid projects will be taken behind the barn, and quietly be put out of their misery. Pet projects that have the tacit support of the new administration will be quietly worked on.

Fourth, there will be airing of dirty laundry. This will probably happen around March of next year when certain decisions of the current administration will be revealed and denounced by the new administration. Somebody may go to jail, but that's just wild speculation.

Fifth, for seven whole months, the East-End blog set will have absolutely nothing to talk about.... except for the 2006 Senate Race.


Somebody actually used the following line with me the other day in all earnestness:

I'll have your people call my people.
A person actually said that to me. Really.* How awful is that?

I don't have people. I don't want people.

I want minions: jackbooted, nameless, unquestioning slaves to my every whim who will unfalteringly assist me in the forcible takeover of the borough of Mount Oliver.

People won't blindly hurl themselves into a machine gun nest for you.

I wouldn't mind an intern, though; at least an intern would blindly hurl himself into a Starbucks to fetch me a Mocachino.

I have a better chance at getting an intern too.
*No, not really. That's a lie. But it's an entertaining lie. So isn't that really the truth?**


Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Five Minute Insta-Rant

Five Minute Insta-Rant..... Go!

Would all the stupid people in the City of Pittsburgh please stop calling me! I mean serriously, I know my name is available out there, and I know that I'm on the web page somewhere, and I know that there are several people who think that I do everything at THE BUREAUCRACY, but people PLEASE stop calling me. No, I don't do everything and I don't have time to sort through your piddly assed problems. If you had just taken the time think logically for 5 minutes to actually figure out who deals with these problems, instead of calling me up, I'd be much happier. Please, PLEASE take about 5 more minutes, look in the friggin' yellow pages (they still have those,right?) and figure out, for yourself who is supposed to take care of your problem.

It doesn't help you or me if you complain to me for 15 minutes about how so-and-so is doing such-and-such to something or other if I can't help you, but can merely pass you off to the real person in charge. You've wasted a quarter hour of both our lives.

If you are calling me, without a clue as to what I really do, you are so far off.

Please don't call me. I'm overworked. And I can't help you. Call my boss.

Five Minute Insta-Rant... END!

And yes, I'm both angry and drunk tonight.

Victim #4

Sometimes the snow comes down in June. Sometimes the sun goes round the moon. Sometimes I find another mayoral website to snipe at. Awesome! Like Christmas in May.

The previous victims are found here, here, and here. So without further adieu, in haiku:

Les Ludwig

Mister Les Ludwig:
I support simplicity,
But I hate your page.

"Yearn to Return" and
"Increase Public Imvolvement"
Mean nothing to me.

With your long background
And business experience,
This is retirement?

Mayoral Knowledge?
Bankruptcy Liquidation.
You are qualified.

The Rest of the Field
Whom you are running against.
They all are douchebags.

Bobby O'Connor:
Ten Years on City Council
Political hack.

Billy Peduto:
Pushes through large subsidy.
A TIF hypocrite.

What is it you do again

Voters of Pittsburgh
With candidates like these here.
You cannot do worse

Mayor Les Ludwig
A chance to do more with Les?
Crazy assed old man.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Gettin' Dahn in East Liberty

So the big news is the impending destruction of the East Mall Apartment in East Liberty today...

Well, the party for the destruction...

Alright, they're going to shoot paint at it with a giant sling-shot...
Seriously. At 2:30.

Everyone and their mother is going to be there to speak. (My mother and I will be speaking at 6:15, although, sadly, we will not be taking any questions.) Apparently the timing of this event has absolutely nothing to do with the upcoming primary election on the 17th, and that they had originally intended to have this party in June... but here it is. Expect the BS to be laid on pretty thick.

The planned "paint launching" is apparently supposed to be some art project cooked up by some students over at Carnegie Mellon to symbolize the transformation of the neighborhood via the destruction of this building, or some such nonsense. Sounds more like an episode of Double Dare.

If I was the URA, who actually owns the building (apparently much to its dismay), I would be doing the following calculation:

sling-shot + projectile + public space = lawsuit
I'm sure that their lawyers had a fit when they heard about this proposal from the neighborhood and I'm laying odds that someone will get hurt. With regards to Rule #8, there seems to be a damned good reason the URA doesn't want projectiles lobbed at its buildings. I hope someone has insured everyone out their collective butts once the inevitable accident happens.

But anyway, if I was a former resident of East Mall, I'd be pretty pissed that the neighborhood is so delighted in the destruction of my home. I'd be resentful of the community group who is basically deriving schadenfreude from kicking me out of my home. Kinda feels insensitive to me and lacks the solemnity (and drama) of the 1972 destruction of the Pruitt-Igoe Project in St. Louis.

Actually the comparison to the Pruit-Igoe project is fairly apt... APT I SAY!, as both projects followed the ideals and tenet of Le Corbusier's urban planning:
  • Architecture and cities are "machine for living"
  • Reduce congestion of city centers through density: building upwards
  • Room outside of cores provides space for cars with wide avenues and greenspace
  • Class-segregated housing with elite in center and working class on periphery
  • Little concern or explicit planning for people or existing infrastructure
  • Later plans called for giant collective apartment blocks
  • Tear down existing buildings
  • Build high-rise housing and highways
  • Housing blocks as "machines for living" with integrated shops, daycare, services
  • Poured concrete design
  • Inexpensive; amenable to prefabrication
All of this was subsequently rejected or replaced by post-modern architecture. In my opinion, I've always found these types of Modernist projects to be unattractive and uninhabitable.

In the same way as the residents of Pruit-Igoe blew up their homes in 1972, East Liberty is rejecting the urban renewal project of the 1960s which turned its neighborhood into a wasteland.

I still don't think a giant paint-ball sling-shot, however, is the best was to do it.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Mayoral Debate on Neighborhood Development (Part III)

A LONG TIME AGO IN A THEATER IN EAST LIBERTY: Part III of the Mayoral Debate on Neighborhood Redevelopment. For those of you that like pain and suffering: Part I is here and Part II is here

Question 5: Lightning Round.

Question: Why should voters of any age vote for you?
Answer: Trust me, I’m uncorrupted.

Question: With your contacts to certain powerful developers, how do you assure CDCs that their interests will be represented?
Answer: Look at my record. Otherwise, give me a call.

Question: How do you tackle the debt problem?
Answer: If you vote for a black mayor, the Republicans will gladly support me.

Question: How much money can you expect to raise from corporate sponsorship and how do you do it without selling out?
Answer: Public art must be of high quality. [Later added "$20 Million"]

Question: Given your land acquisition plan, how do you ensure that properties are sold to respectable owners?

Answer: First participants in this program will be CDCs or adjacent property owners for sideyard purposes.

Question: Given the City’s financial crisis, how can you justify your City funded Blackberry Account?
Answer: Uncircumcised Microphone… I have a record of living below my budget means, but in any case, the Blackberry makes City Officials more productive.

Kendrick: (0) – Very entertaining, but logically ridiculous.
Ludwig: (-) – Logically incomprehensible.
Lamb: (+) – Well thought out response; again, he’s being coached well.
Peduto: (?) – Seriously, Uncircumcised Microphone. Good answer on the Blackberry, though.
Repovz: (-) – Why should we trust someone we don’t know?
O'Connor: (+) – Bob lays the smackdown.

Closing Statements: Describe Overall Approach to Neighborhood Development. [I’ve shortened it to a few words, for brevity’s sake.]

O'Connor: Provide Leadership & management, addressing quality of life issues, and professionalizing City services. (+)

Kendrick: Addressing Societal ills as a first step. (+)

Ludwig: City needs tolerance above all else. Then Les goes on to beat up on the other candidates, in violation of the rules of the debate. Penalty flag. Fifteen yards and loss of time. (Disqualification)

Lamb: Innovation & New Technologies; City/County Cooperation and Consolidation. (+)

Peduto: Structural Changes; Changes in Budget Process. (0)

Repovz: Lower the Crime Rate by providing more police and social services. (0)

Analysis Those of you that weren’t there missed Les Ludwig lean into Lamb by charging that if the position of elected Prothonatory is eliminated, Mike will still keep his job as appointed Prothonatory and his salary will go up by $30K. Les then went on to start accusing Peduto of hypocrisy, I believe, for opposing TIFs, except for the much touted Baum-Centre Corridor. Les was shut down by the moderators for that.

Peduto’s low score on this one is largely due to the amount of time that he spent on his zero-lined budget proposal, rather than talking about Neighborhood Development. While this approach to budgeting is interesting, it seemed very out of place.

Hop and Repovz talked about the need to reduce crime. Unfortunately for Repovz, Hop went first and said that social services are the answer, not more police. It was one of the more genuine moments in the debate where Hop related his philosophy of “poor being a state of mind.” Unfortunately, Dan Repovz had to follow that sentiment by saying that we need more police… and social services, almost as an after thought.

O’Connor and Lamb both stuck to their script.

Commentary and Final Ranking :

Generally, I was impressed by Michael Lamb; he seemed to have been well briefed by his campaign. I am still under the impression that he’s getting some damned good advice from someone at a CDC. Bill Peduto sounded pretty flakey, without a real nuts & bolts plan of action, and seemed to rely on a nebulous “holistic” approach to neighborhood development, short on specifics. Bob O’Connor stuck to his guns, passing himself off as the chief advocate of the City, hoping to capitalize on his personal relationships with the various funders in the region. The others seemed out of their league, confused, on drugs, or all three.

More specifically, however, 50% of my concerns relayed here were discussed in some fashion, with the exception of Storm/Sewer Separation, Parking Tax, and Asbestos Remediation.

The view on taxes seemed to be a bit simplistic all around, focusing not on the tax rate, but on the mechanics of tax collection. The point was raised that the County Treasurer collections 90% of his taxes, while the City does a substantially worse job. Not mentioned, however, is that County taxes are 43% of the City Taxes (4.690 mills versus 10.80 mills), and would be easier to pay.

CDBG funding was discussed, and Bob is right: begging and pleading is going to be the way to solve this problem.

In general, Construction Costs vs. Prevailing Market Prices was discussed, but always in the background. Questions were more tailored towards how to get money in order to alleviate this problem.
As a Bureaucrat, I was dismayed by the lack of understanding the candidates had with the intricacies of City government and its Authorities and Agencies. I would have hoped that they were more familiar with the City that they were expecting to lead.

Nothing Earth shattering, though. Mostly, this was an appeal to some powerful interests on the ground who can help through some votes around in the waning days of the campaign. It was clear from the smirks and the chuckles around me which groups were supporting which candidate. It was further clear that there are some significant fissures in the Economic Development Community in the City of Pittsburgh, and at least three of the Candidates were attempting to rally their base.

Final Ranking :

1st Place: Michael Lamb
2nd Place: Bob O’Connor
3rd Place: Louis “Hop” Kendrick and Bill Peduto [Tie]
5th Place: Dan Repovz
Disqualified: Les Ludwig [Red Card, 93rd minute]

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Mayoral Debate on Neighborhood Development (Part II)

And now for something completely the same: Part II of the Mayoral Debate on Neighborhood Development. Part I in all of its html glory is found here.

Question 3: Regarding the Selling of Tax Liens and the Streamlining of Property Acquisition

Lamb: Lamb came out strongly against the selling of future tax liens and proposed an increase in real estate tax collection efficacy through consolidation with County Tax collection. Also proposed using the Sheriff Sales process instead of Treasurer Sales process in order to save on fees.

Peduto: Proposed buying back existing liens, albeit slowly. Promised that he wouldn't take homes from individuals.

Repovz: Also proposed buying back liens, if money was available. Asserted that government must look out for people.

O'Connor: Mused on why taxes weren't originally collected in the first place. Advocated for "professionalization of tax collection." Said there was "room for compassion" in the tax collection process.

Kendrick: Advocated a change in the assessment process to rectify missassessments. Also proposed the state elimination of the real estate property tax.

Ludwig: Countering O'Connor's proposal, insisted on an elected Treasurer responsible to the electorate.

Analysis: This was, by far, the weakest of the questions so far. Repovz seemed confused at the scope of the problem, defering to strange generalities. Kendrick, thinking out of the box, proposed reforming something not in the perview of the Mayor to reform. Ludwig's suggestion of the elected Treasurer was the highlight of his ramblings, and the only one to make an impression on me. O'Connor danced around the question, again leaning on generalities.

Peduto's response was disingenuous: because of the relocation costs involved, the city rarely takes occupied properties.

Lamb actually seemed to have an actual response to the question at hand, which says to me, again, that he's getting coached by someone at a CDC.

Kendrick: (-)
Ludwig: (-)
Lamb: (+)
Peduto: (-)
Repovz: (-)
O'Connor: (-)

[At this point, my handwriting gets worse and worse... I apologize if I've misquoted or misattributed anything.]

Question 4: Regarding the Strategy for Housing

Peduto: Again proposed the merging of URA and City planning. Pushed the formation of Community Plans to choose which projects to develop. Promoted refocusing efforts to develop "Quality of Place." Advocated the coordination of URA Housing, HACP, and City Housing Finance.

Repovz: Called for the elimination of the URA and to tighten our belts.

O'Connor: Promised to work hard to secure additional Federal, State, and Foundation Funding. Called for the formulation of clear consensus plans for development. Promised to "Professionalize" the URA Board by including Bankers & Real Estate Agents.

Kendrick: Proposed funneling everything through community committees.

Ludwig: Urged the City to stop spending money.

Lamb: Advocated the establishment of a blight elimination fund in Harrisburg.

OK, we have three candidates promising more Community Participation (which should be expected at a meeting of Community Development Corporations), which is fine. Still, one must remember that these CDCs represent a self-selected group of the neighborhood, and do not necessarily represent the views of the entire neighborhood. I'm personally aware of several neighborhoods that have competing CDCs, jockeying for position. If these candidates are willing to subject themselves, and their political capital, to those kinds of stresses, more power to them. Still, by sluffing the strategies off to the community groups, the Mayor can deny all culpability if the projects go south.

I must say, Repovz and Ludwig must be real fun at parties, let me tell you. Nothing like sucking the air out of a room.

Still not sure what Peduto meant by "developing Quality of Place"... also was unaware that the City actually had a Housing Department in City Finance...also not sure why City Planning and the URA need to merge...

O'Connor blissfully unaware that the URA Loan Review Committees (the oversight before anything makes it to the Board of Directors) are actually made up of Bankers, Real Estate Agents, and Community Representatives. According to the URA website the current Board of Directors is made up of a representative of the Mayor's Office, City Council, the State Legislature, the former Dean of the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work, and a Representative of the IBEW. At least 3 out of these 5 slots are currently political nemeses of an O'Connor Administration. Hmmmm.

Lamb's big idea is the establishment of a blight elimination fund, which, according to his webpage is nothing like the mass blight designations in the '60s. Money for property acquisition is vitally needed in some of the more desperate areas. Lamb is obviously talking to the people that I'm talking to.

Kendrick: (-)
Ludwig: (-)
Lamb: (+)
Peduto: (-)
Repovz: (-)
O'Connor: (-)

And at the end of Part II, it is revealed that Bob O'Connor is Daniel Repovz's father. Search your feelings! You know it to be true!

More soon...

Mayoral Debate on Neighborhood Development (Part I)

Here's Part I of the more substantial review of yesterday's Mayoral Debate on Neighborhood Development sponsored by the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group (PCRG) and the Community Technical Assistance Center (CTAC). The recap in the Post-Gazette missed a few of the subtle nuances, including Bill Peduto's use of the phrase "circumcised microphone" and Louis "Hop" Kendrick's promise of a 30% white cabinet.

PCRG invited a slew of people to this forum. Most of the ones that I recognized were from the established CDCs funded through PCRG. Few of the class "B" community organizations were represented, it seems. I did catch a glimpse of a couple of people from the current administration as well as a few people from the URA, who twitched nervously as the first question was read:

Question 1: Regarding the Proposed Merger of the URA with the County Department of Economic Development.

Kendrick: “Hop” supports merging the City & the County, generally, but not in support of merging the URA and the CDED. He seemed to support the common management of both departments, as was previously done under Mulu Birru. A “Hop” administration would institute a city-wide committee on development priorities.

Ludwig: Les was not in support of merging the URA and the CDED, but supported common purchasing between the City and the County. He proposed bulk buying of products by the CDCs from Home Depot.

Lamb: Mike touted his credentials on consolidation and pushed for more regional land use planning coordination, but was not in support of merging the URA and CDED. Expressed concern that merging would mediocritize the URA expertise. He favored selling URA "expertise" to the County and encouraged more interaction between the two organizations.

Peduto:Bill opened with his zinger from Michael Madison's Pittsblog about the URA being at the forefront of Economic Development... in 1946. [Even included the dramatic pause.] He supported a "change of model" away from Grant Street and to Main Street and pushed for smart growth policies and cluster development. Peduto did not indicate support of merging URA and CDED, but instead supported merging URA and City Planning.

Repovz:For some reason, Dan supported Local "Flavor" of the City and supported ending the URA, not merging, in favor of Regionalized Planning.

O'Connor:Not in support of merger. Bob wants to refocus mission to the redevelopment of the neighborhoods and reforging partnerships between the URA and the CDCs.

Analysis: The PG made a big deal about how no candidate supported merging the URA and the CDED. This glosses over, however, some key distinctions between the candidates. There was a general sense that the URA needed to refocus its mission back in the neighborhoods, but no common consensus as to how this would be accomplished, or what that actually meant. Repovz and Ludwig seemed particularly bland and uninformed as to what constitutes "development"; I'm not sure if Ludwig thought that CDCs actually go out and physically build structures with their own hands, or not. It certainly seemed to be the former, which is an incorrect assumption. O'Connor and Lamb were the only two to speak somewhat kindly of the URA, talking about previous neighborhood developments and the expertise of the organization, respectively. Kendrick did not seem to have a coherent argument, probably because he forgot his notes, and he rambled extensively about his city-wide committee to select projects. Peduto probably would have done better if he had forgotten his notes, at least he'd have an excuse for his vague nebulous concepts. I'm not sure what the legal implications or rational justifications of the merger of URA and City Planning are; I would have thought that you would want to keep the redevelopment functions of the URA separate from the administrative functions of City Planning.

In terms of actionable plans, O'Connor and Lamb both were the most reasonable, promoting incremental reform rather than radical overhaul. All the candidates were definitely trying to set themselves apart from the current administration's policies, which, according to the debate, seem to be limited to "major projects," "Downtown," or "South Side," take your pick. It was difficult, however, to determine whether or not the candidates were familiar with what the current administration's policies actually were, or what the URA and the CDED do, and how they are different.

In all, the first question went to Lamb and O'Connor, who both seemed to more clearly understand the role of the URA, its interaction with Neighborhood Groups, and the consequences of an actual merger. This makes sense as O'Connor seems to have support from Developers and Contractors and Lamb seems to have support from some URA-friendly community organizations; both of these groups have evidently coached these candidates on the need to keep the URA separate. The other candidates are evidently outsiders and know little about Economic Development in the City or the County, or are being supported by people that perceive themselves to be outsiders from the existing neighborhood power structures. Specifically, my instincts tell me that Peduto is being supported by some disaffected CDCs, who were spurned by the current Administration, and are looking to move their pet projects into the forefront. More on that below.

Kendrick: (-)
Ludwig: (-)
Lamb: (+)
Peduto: (-)
Repovz: (-)
O'Connor: (+)

Question 2: Regarding the Restoration of Funding to Community Organizations.

Ludwig: Supported using non-tax sources to fund projects that are currently using CDBG dollars, where they probably shouldn't. Supported selling advertising space on City property.

Lamb: Supported a more responsive government and promised quarterly Mayoral meetings with the CDCs. Promised to fight the CDBG cuts at the Federal level.

Peduto: Proposed reprioritizing mission and using other incentives (LERTA, KOZ, Main Street, ACCBO) to fund the operations gaps.

Repovz: Demanded that CDCs show positive returns on city investment. Proposed one-stop neighborhood "incubators" for development. Promised to lower the tax rate.

O'Connor: Promised to be an advocate for the City at the national level. Supported using existing programs for filling gaps, but also promised to help find matching money from the private sector.

Kendrick: Redirected the question to increasing minority participation in city projects so that the economic value of the communities could be increased.

Analysis: This is a big deal for the CDCs. Recently, they have been hit by two major cuts in operational funding, only one of those has been by the local government. CDCs are anxious to get some of that money back. Ludwig's proposal amounts to selling out the City to corporation advertising, although he later said that it would have to be art of high quality. While some Community Organizations may be unnecessary and need elimination, Repovz is delusional if he thinks that CDCs can run in the black without massive operational support from the City. Kendrick took an interesting turn on the funding question, almost as if he was trying to cover up his lack of knowledge on the subject, and clearly missed the point. The responses to these questions belied the relative inexperience of these minor candidates.

While the use of non-CDBG programs and policies makes sense to me, Peduto's response again backs up my suspicion that he's being backed by disaffected CDCs. Specifically his mention of Main Street and ACCBO funding, the control of which was a major point of contention between the current Administration and the CDCs, hints at knowledge of behind-the-scenes drama. I am personally concerned by the control of large chunks of federal/state money being controlled by CDCs, who are usually a group of self-selected individuals, with no real oversight by any public body. At least if the City (in any of its various incarnations) is controlling the money, it is ultimately responsible to Public Opinion. Peduto remains elusive on specifics of funding.

Lamb and O'Connor were on pretty much the same page, although O'Connor seemed to have the advantage on the advocacy end. Bob knows that his biggest strength is his interpersonal relationship skills. Lamb also told the CDCs what they wanted to hear: you get face time with the Mayor, not his Deputy. From a policy standpoint, I believe that these two items are the only real policies that any mayor is going to be able to enact anyway. Good job guys for setting the bar so low. Lamb's promise for a "more responsive government" is vague, and so is O'Connor's promise to "build bridges."

Second question, again, went to O'Connor and Lamb with Peduto performing better. The other candidates seem to be unfamiliar with the intricacies of City politics.

Kendrick: (-)
Ludwig: (-)
Lamb: (+)
Peduto: (0)
Repovz: (-)
O'Connor: (+)

That's Part I. Parts II & III coming soon.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Insta-Commentary on Tonight's Mayoral Debate

Here's my insta, or at leat near-insta,-take on tonight's mayoral debate:

(1) Louis "Hop" Kendrick should have brought his notes.
(2) Lester Ludwig should not have brought his big bag of crazy.
(3) Daniel F. Repovz should have done his homework.
(4) Bill Peduto should not have used the words "circumsized microphone."
(5) Michael Lamb should not have stared blankly out into space.
(6) Bob O'Connor should limit himself to one trite Dale Carnegie Management phrase per breath.
(7) Gary W. Henderson should have shown up.
(8) All the candidates should learn what the URA, HACP, and the other Authorities actually do.
(9) I should have spent my time in bed.
(10) Joe Weinroth... meh.

Huzzah for Gridlock!

Suppose you are part of a group of white, land owning, knee breech-wearing, males intent on establishing a new country out of the remains of a former ragtag group of rebellious colonies. You've just pledged your lives, your fortunes, and your sacred honors to assure that the king can't come in and push you around while you're making money. Success in rebellion was yours, strangely enough, and now, despite all odds, it is your task to frame a new government. Your history and education, stemming from Athenian democracy and Roman republicanism, routed through, Hobbes, Locke, and the nascent Scottish Enlightenment, has convinced you of Social Contract theory and representative democracy. Still, there are also concerns about establishing precedent for landowners and suppressing the whims and passions of the unwashed masses.

Your solution: a representative government so filled with checks, balances, and intricate nuances that radical legislation becomes near impossible. Regional radicalism is subsumed by national goals; passions of the lower classes are checked by the patrician guidance of their betters. One branch of government is unable to function without the consent of the other. It's a system that preserves the status quo. It's a system that keeps government tied up in procedure and out of the individual's life. You are one of the men that would have gone out into the street with guns shouting "Be Reasonable!"

That's why an effective government seems so, well, unamerican to me.

I get very nervous when either side (left or right) starts throwing its weight around, pushing programs with reckless abandon and at the expense of the common interest. Passions of the majority are not any more justified than the passions of the minority; passions of the majority merely have the advantage of being held by a majority. An appeal to popularity is a logical fallacy when determining the correctness of a political/governmental decision.

I also get very nervous when there's unanimous agreement amongst the members of government; it always feels that unanimity is not agreement, but groupthink. I appreciate the J.S. Mill/J. Madison formulation that there's an ineffable truth out there, somewhere, and that only through discourse and open discussion can we begin to approach it. The Truth, as they say, is out there.

That's why I love gridlock. I don't want an effective government; an effective government is a dictatorship. Democracy is an ineffective form of control over the citizenry. I like not being controlled like that. I like waking up in the morning and knowing that jackbooted thugs aren't going to force me to read the Ten Commandments in school. I like waking up in the morning and knowing that I can have a cigarette in a bar. Practically speaking, I don't care if the Democrats are blocking 10 judges. I didn't care when the Republicans blocked Clinton's nominees. Every minute that they spend debating debating is another minute that they aren't debating some egregious form of legislation, right or left.

Gridlock is lovely for The Bureaucracy (except during the budget season), because you know where things are going to shake out; you know that the status quo will prevail.

There's a quote attributed to Mark Twain that goes, "No man's life, liberty, or property is safe when the legislature is in session." But I think it's cheezy to end a post with a quote.

I love my gridlock.