Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Things You Should Have Known, Had You Been Paying Attention


(1) Last month ExxonMobil reported a record $7,840,000,000 in Second Quarter Earnings.

(2) In fiscal year 2006, the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is bracing for a record $71.2 million reduction in federal funding, according to New Orleans City Business.

[Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-New Orleans] said the Bush administration is not making Corps of Engineers funding a priority.



Someone may have to cut their vacation short.

To Put Everything into Some Sort of Perspective

Deaths from July 7, 2005 London Bombings: 52 [Wikipedia]

Deaths from March 11, 2004 Spanish Bombings: 191 [Wikipedia]

American Deaths in Afghanistan: 229 []

American Deaths in Iraq: 1,879, as of 8/30/05 []

September 11, 2001 Deaths: 2,986 [Wikipedia]

Iraqi Deaths: 23,654, as of 8/30/05 (est.) []

Asian Tsunami Deaths: 56,000+ (est) [Wikipedia]

Deaths from Hurricane Katrina: 110 and rising, as of August 30, 2005 [Washington Post]


Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind...
- John Donne,
Devotions upon Emergent Occasions,
no. 17 (Meditation) 1624

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

You Know What Really Grinds My Gears...?

Two thoughts this morning as I look out over the increasingly bleak greyness that has enveloped this city like some sort of grey envelope:
First, I see that the Sherrif's Office of Allegheny County used deputies to perform landscaping work at the home of Chief Deputy Dennis Skosnik. 

Instead of going to work, he and another deputy planted bushes and laid seven to eight tons of river rock at Skosnik's house in North Fayette.

Gavin said he and three other deputies did more work at the house the following year.

The allegations came during prosecution questioning about a 2003 meeting organized by Schiralli in which deputies said Skosnik threatened to fire any deputies who didn't support Sheriff Pete DeFazio.

Absolute ridiculousness; doesn't the Sherrif's Office know that this is what interns are for?  A 30 year old Deputy can't be nearly as useful as a 21 year old Communications Major, who's only goals in life are attending a Star Wars Convention and rolling a 12 on D&D.  I'm using one as a foot rest right now, while another is transcribing this blog.  
Second, a big "Fuck You" to the residents of Summerset who don't want the intrusion of a busline into their neighborhood.  I've repeatedly defended the Summerset project as a good use of public resources as it reclaims property which otherwise would have sat unused and is now providing needed tax money for the City.  The residents, however, feel no need to be actually a part of the City and would rather just insulate themselves.  Are they afraid that their nice little gated community might be visited by, gasp, brown people... that is, brown people that aren't maids, gardeners, or nannies?  Are they afraid that the neighborhood will fall into decay like Squirrel Hill or Shadyside, also served by buslines.
While this may not be the most efficient use of PAT resources, as Port Authority spokesman Pat Grove said,
One of our lines, the 59U, will be extended to the South Side Works, but we don't poll the SouthSide residents to see if it's OK. These are public roads, these are city neighborhoods.
So Fuck You

Friday, August 26, 2005

Pointless Milestones

Somebody from Lowell, MA became our 5,000th visitor to this site as of 4:57 PM today.

Shame on you for encouraging me.

Business Casual Friday

Friday can't come soon enough... actually it can come soon enough, like, on Monday. Until we revise the calendar to provide me with a five day weekend, however, enjoy this offering as part of Business Casual Friday:


For all of you who wanted to know which is better: Fred from Scooby Doo or the Illinois State Quarter.


[Ed. Note: This site is no longer updated, unfortunately, but the archives are rich in fiber and nougat.]

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

PA House Bill No. 1358

The problem, or at least one of the many problems, with economic development in the city is the availability of suitable land to develop. Potential developers are often stymied by property that is (a) contaminated, (b) has clouded or disputed title, or (c) is held has a lien for nonpayment on a debt (typically taxes and water payments). These problems are particularly egregious in the less affluent sections of the City of Pittsburgh and are often a major hold up to effective development by community groups or other organizations.

The city has undertake a two pronged approach to solving this problem.

First, in areas that are already part of a redevelopment area, properties can be acquired through the URA's powers of emminent domain. In this case we're talking about what would otherwise be voluntary sales, if not for the problems listed above. One of the benefits of Emmient Domain, in this case, is that it wipes away all the problems with the title to a property. [The URA is also exempt from liability under Pennsylvania Law should it undertake environmental remediation for the purposes of conveying to a third party.]

Second, the city itself, in conjunction with the local community organizations, has been using the Treasurer's Sale process to identify and acquire vacant properties which are delinquent on their taxes. Back liens are paid off by the taxing bodies and the Water and Sewer Authority so that title can be conveyed free and clear.

Of course, the City is broke, so there's little public money to pay for all of these things.

Enter PA House Bill No. 1358, The Blight Remediation Act sponsored by the formerly loyal Democrat Michael Diven, which would provide working capital to the City of Pittsburgh and Philiadelphia to acquire, clear title on, and raze "Blighted" Properties, which would then be conveyed to developers for improvement. These redeveloped properties would have 50% of their municipal taxes put back into working capital fund, and the cycle repeats.

So broke city gets money to clear out crap... sounds good right?

Well, there's the catch about the creation of a Blight Remediation Board at the state level to oversee who gets which properties and which projects can use this program. This board, like the wildly successful Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, is made up by an appointment from the governor, by the minority and majority leaders of the Senate House, and by the minority and majority leaders of the State Senate. Today, that would be 3 Democrats and 2 Republicans.

But let's say that a Republican is elected governor? Would that not give the Republicans the foothold they have so desired in the City of Pittsburgh and allow them a large measure of control over the spoils of redevelopment (or the restrictions thereof)? Worse yet, this is being controled, not from the ground level in Pittsburgh, but from an appointed board in Harrisburg! Out goes the control that the community groups used to have in the Treasurer's Sale and in comes a nebulous (corruptable?) third party. I wonder which contributors... er... developers will have an easier time getting through this process.

Something smells fishy here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

City Councilman Unearths Magical Zoning Amulet

From America's Finest News Source: City
Councilman Unearths Magical Zoning Amulet

I, myself, wield a +3 Broadsword of Paperwork.

Nothing to see here, move along...

By the time you read this post, you will have already read it.

Miscellany II

Once again, between the requests for funding and the disbursement of funds and the requests for the disbursement of fundings, I have gathered a smattering of half-posts. Enjoy.


I appreciate that the Post Gazette noted the irony of a motivational program, whose theme includes increasing productivity, slowed productivity for thousands of Pittsburgh workers this morning.

Seriously though, what the hell?!? Were people really backed up across the City to get into a motivational talk by Ben Roethlisberger? I would get motivation from a 22 year old as much as I would get information on evolution from a Politician.

I didn't even know about this thing until I was waist deep in automobiles on the Boulevard of the Allies. This is what happens when people choose what they think maximizes their personal benefit at the detriment of the societal good; or, more susinctly: GET OFF THE ROAD ASSHOLE!

Speaking of the Boulevard, is that a female nipple on the Shadyside X billboard? As an avowed social conversative, I must say I'm shocked and appalled. My God! Won't someone please think of the children? My God! Won't someone buy me a membership to the X?

I see Pat Robertson is back into the KoolAid. Obviously, the good Reverend is referring to the Book of St. Bastard, Chapter 3, verse 12, which says Oi! Piss off arse face!

Who Would Jesus Whack?

I haven't heard the words "Yellow Cake," "Haliburton," "Downing Street," or "Karl Rove" in the MSM recently. Is our attention span really that short that we... OH! A squirrel!

More soon...

Monday, August 22, 2005


Here at the Angry Drunk Bureaucrat, we rely on reams of data from multiple governmental sources to package together substantial analyses of local government project, programs, and political trends.

When that fails, we rely on rumors and innuendo.

This post is the latter:

With a little more than two months to go, few people doubt that the Silver Fox is going to be elected to the Mayor's office. Despite the appearance that he's working towards a more equitable representation on City Government, many people are quietly jockeying for influence and patronage in the Bob O'Connor Machine. So the big question being asking amongst the Bureaucrats on Grant Street is, "Which Friend of Bob O'Connor is going to make us do what?" There is a strong feeling that these many "interests" out there are looking to run the City through Bobby O's office by influencing decisions from teh top down. Of course, there's a fine line here between legitimate participation in public process through access and, say, what sent Ben Woods to jail back in the day. So, we shall see what goes down.

Whatever happens is probably going to be more concerned with basic city services than the current Big Project system that Murphy has relied on. If rumors are to be believed, an O'Connor administration will focus less on Development of businesses, housing, and commercial and more on street cleaning, filling potholes, and picking up trash. While not necessarily a strategery for fostering active growth, it's probably more in line with the current capacity of the City... and it might make downtown smell less like urine.

Of course, gambling interests are probably looking for some return on their investment. Casino in 2006 in Oak Hill perhaps?

OK, I'm done with the rampant speculation.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Business Casual Friday

Another Friday has arrived as my blood pressure resets itself to something that can't power overhead sprinklers. Rolling boulders up hills has become time consuming and frustrating. I hope to get back to subtansive postings next week (including a suspected O'Connor Neighborhood Agenda and a redevelopment law being floated in the State House), but until then...


It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.



Wednesday, August 17, 2005

ADB makes the News

Angry, drunk Bureaucrats are running amok in Chicago.

OK, they're staggering amok...

And they're not angry, per se...

And there's only one of them...

But he is a drunk bureaucrat, which has to count for something.

[Via Fark]

This Blog Needs More Cowbell

Walken 2008

Friday, August 12, 2005

Business Casual Friday

Is it really Friday? Must be, as I'm wearing my Polo shirt and Dockers... just like everyone else.

THE GOLDEN REPUBLIC: Trash the Hotel Room

A quick little time suck: throw hotel furniture out the window and try to squash poodles.

Looks like my weekend is booked.


Thursday, August 11, 2005


Time to shake out my brain and clear out all the half posts, bad jokes, and rants without an ending:

Last week's Tribune Review Editorial page handed out a Laurel to Arthur Zeigler, the president of the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, for chiding the Murphy administration's single-developer mantra for Downtown's Fifth-and-Forbes corridor, and a Lance to Craig Kwiecinski, the mayor's spokesman, for bashing the Allegheny Institute.

No surprise, in my mind, that the Publisher of the Tribune Review, Richard Mellon Scaife sits on the board of the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation and Michael Gleba, Executive Vice President of the Sarah Scaife Foundation, who's board is chaired by a Richard M. Scaife, is on the board of the Allegheny Institute.

Funny that Pittsburgh is such a small town.

Who told guys that golf shirts with the collars up were back in fashion? What's next? Mullets? Camaros? Donnie Iris? Trickle down economics?


While we're on the subject of fashion, I don't care what the guys from Queer Eye say, checked shirts and striped ties do not look good together. You look like you either (a) are a slave to whatever the glowing box in the corner says is fashionable or (b) lost a fight with a quilter.

The Kansas Board of Edumacation has tentatively approved new state science standards that weaken the role evolution plays in teaching about the origin of life, i.e., they're going to support the concept of Intelligent Design as an alternative to Evolution.

Which is like calling a pancake an alternative to the internal combustion engine.

But I demand that Kansas also include the point of view which states that there's no such thing as evolution, and we are just the product of the delusions of the character Uncle Sid from Seinfeld.

Don't try to repress my beliefs!



OK, that's all that's come dislodged for now.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Lame Duck pt II

Oak Hill, formerly Allequippa Terrace Public Housing, is in the news.

In one corner is the erstwhile lame duck mayor, still stinging from the initial efforts to rejuvenate/alter the site back at the beginning of his tenure, but apparently committed to follow through.

In the other corner is the dark, slumping master of Oakland, the University of Pittsburgh who, if the prophecy is to be believed, will consume the entire neighborhood, as is written in Revelations 6:10.

Housing or soccerfield? Neighborhood or Pitt? Long term payoff or short term payoff?

I'm working on the Cost/Benefit calculations as we speak. Keep your pants on. The CBA isn't the point right now.

The point is this:

[P]rojects 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.
Just sayin'.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Wal-Mart and Rule #10

Scouring the world of news today, I ran across this little gem (via that source for all that is thoughtful, inane, and pornographic,

CENTRAL POINT, Ore. — Incorrect postage has cost Wal-Mart a challenge to a state Land Use Board of Appeals decision backing the city's denial of plans for a new 207,000-square-foot store.

Attorneys for Wal-Mart submitted their appeal to the Oregon Court of Appeals in Salem on July 1, dangerously close to the 21-day deadline for appealing the June 9 decision by the board.

While Wal-Mart filed the appeal with the court via certified mail, copies were sent to the city of Central Point and the citizens group Central Point First using regular first-class postage.

A court records spokeswoman, who did not give her name, told the Mail Tribune newspaper in Medford the case had been dismissed because the notice of appeal was "not considered to have been timely filed."
As I am not a fan of the Big "W", I can only offer a perfunctory "HA! HA!"

More importantly, however, it illustrates the principle of Bureaucratic Rule #10:
Bad, stupid policy decisions can be stymied by the rigorous and exacting application of the Law.
On the other hand,
Good, reasonable policy decisions can be stymied by the rigorous and exacting application of the Law.
Or, as synthesized
The rigorous and exacting application of the Law is to the benefit of society when used correctly to advance good policy and block bad, and the bane of society when used incorrectly to advance bad policy and block good.
In sum:
The Law is a harsh mistress.
Now assume the Legal position.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Business Casual Friday

Another Friday rolls around as we stagger our way into the weekend, blind, drunk, and stupid (if we're lucky).


UPDATE: More on The Flying Spaghetti Monster, via Fark.

Personally, I, like other inhabitants of Viltvodle VI, believe that the entire Universe was sneezed out of the nose of a being called the Great Green Arkleseizure. I suppose that I may be in the minority on this planet.


Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Pittsburgh Open Government

Despite what it may seem like from the outside, The Bureaucracy is not a massive labyrinth of twisted cubicles populated by dark hooded figures, trolls, and accountants. There is no great Big Book of Bureaucratic Rules that only 12th level Bureaucrats have access to (but only if you have a +3 Staff of the Auditors). The daily activities do not include eating puppies and worshiping the dark lord, as I have been accused of on several occasions.

That last one is not a joke; I have, in fact, been accused of being an agent of Satan. This may explain that when I get yelled at anonymously, I tend to get offended. I don't think people actually know what we do, so I get frustrated when I get lectured as to what I should do. That's probably one of my major complaints about this job, and the nub of Rule #11.

But I'm not here to bitch and moan about my problems... well, not more than usual, anyway.

So, I was poking around and finally decided to take a look at Pittsburgher's for Open Government, which, I must say, I'm not completely offended at.

OK, I am offended at the use of the word "proactive," which, as regular readers of this blog may remember, immediately disqualifies you from any serious political discussion. That word makes me so MAD!

I'll set my rage aside and move on... for now.

I'll also set aside the suggestion that we need more people to speak in front of council. For every person that gets up to speak cogently and coherently about pressing issues facing the City, there are five that believe that the Thetans are killing off their rose bushes. [Everyone knows that the Greys kill off rose bushes, duh.] I can't see giving Thetan bashers more opportunities to rant as a good thing.

I'm more interested in the access to public meetings and the records management aspects as it would make the blogging of City government so much easier. I can't count the number of times I've craved a copy of the PWSA Board Meeting minutes or to watch the SEA in action. It would be so hot to see City Planning Commission in steamy, sweaty, man-on-property action. If I could have easy access to those things, that would be friggin' sweet.

And VOILA! Instant, but informed, blog rants as we slice and dice our way through every nuance of every public meeting! No government official will be spared my smarmy, snarky vengeance! They will cower at my heel! All will be laid to waste!


Ahem! Sorry.

The drawback, of course, is that I'm already streaming C-SPAN, C-SPAN2, C-SPAN3, and PCN... I only have 3 TVs, so it's getting a bit crowded. I eat up bandwidth right now like Delta Burke eats up pudding.

Such is the Wired Man's Burden.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Strip Show

Impinging on my Economic Development fetishism, Furrow is commenting on why he's leaving the Strip District:

It's simply because you can't get sh*t done. Most of the food businesses close by 5PM, except for the restaurants. There's no traditional grocery store, drug store, convenience store, gas station, or dry cleaners in the Strip.
He goes on to muse about whether there is a tipping point of population which would drive development of these basic necessities.

The Strip, in my experience, is suffering from a problem unlike anywhere else in the City: a nascent neighborhood without a business district. This is the exact opposite problem you find nearly everywhere else in the City. Mostly you'll find desiccated business districts with declining homeownership.

The traditional City of Pittsburgh model is this: tiny mainstreets surrounded by neighborhoods. Think Squirrel Hill, Lawrenceville, Southside, Bloomfield, and East Liberty & the Hill before "redevelopment." [I would wager that, in the case of the last two, it was the destruction of this model that led these neighborhoods to decline.] This model makes sense when you have people that generally work in the same neighborhood in which they live, or have no access to personal transportation. Still, setting aside the trendier neighborhoods, this model is also replicated throughout the city: Elliot, Sheraden, Allentown, Hazelwood, Homewood, even, to some extent, Larimer. In those neighborhoods, however, you now see a shift away from the mainstreet and a continuing slide in the surrounding housing market.

With the advent of the automobile, you see this shift away from the development of these walkable neighborhoods and towards a more auto-centric design. This auto-centricism [if that is a word] then manifests itself as the prevailing idiom of design (wide streets, no sidewalks, front entry garages, small porches, etc.), further alienating the residents from their neighborhood as they now have to go to Pittsburgh Mills Mall (or whatever the fuck they want to call it) to buy a loaf of bread! Unless you want to live in any of the above functional neighborhoods, you're going to have to get into your car and drive.

Anyway, hyperbole aside, the Strip has this exact problem, it seems: neighbors without a neighborhood, more suburban than urban. The Strip does not fit with the traditional Pittsburgh model, as it has not been, at least for a long time, a place for people to LIVE, but rather a place for people to work and play. The model is out of whack. This dichotomy creates, as Furrow says, an inability to get sh*t done... and it seems to be a suburban model.

So, to raise Mr. F's question: is there a policy decision that needs to be made in this instance to provide a more "livable" neighborhood, or should market forces be left to their own devises?

My answer is Yes.