Monday, August 21, 2006

Small World/Small Town

I like to say that Pittsburgh is the biggest small town in the world. The degrees of separation between any two people, excluding hermits, are ridiculously small. If Kevin Bacon were from Pittsburgh, everyone would have a Kevin Bacon number of 2.. 3 at max.

Anyway, with that in mind, and not to step on anyone's toes, I saw this little gem of a news headline from the P-G:

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board released the percentages of ownership for 14 casino applications today, including three competitors for the lone stand-alone casino in Pittsburgh.

It shows that Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises owns 75 percent of a group seeking a casino license for Station Square, but other prominent Pittsburghers, including ex-Steeler Franco Harris, own the rest.

Mr. Harris has 4 percent of Station Square Gaming, the group seeking the license, with local businessmen William Lieberman and Charles Zappala owning 9 percent each. Prominent lawyer Glen Mahone, chairman of the Allegheny County Airport Authority, and Yvonne Cook, an aide to former county Executive Jim Roddey, are down for 2 percent and 1 percent respectively.

Those of you with a memory greater than a gold fish (three seconds) will remember that those of you with a memory greater than a gold fish (three seconds) will remember that those of you with a memory greater than a gold fish (three seconds) will remember that those of you with a memory greater than a gold fish (three seconds) will remember this article from the P-G not too long ago:

Each of the executives [nonappointed business figures with close ties to Mr. O'Connor's inner circle] are connected in varying ways, the most prominent being their joint participation in a slot casino bid from Forest City Enterprises and Harrah's Entertainment, the group hoping to get a license for Station Square. They include:

Charles Zappala, who works for Downtown-based venture capital firm G&Z Investments and co-founder of RRZ Public Markets, a municipal bond underwriter bought by JP Morgan in 2003. A donor to the O'Connor campaign last year, Mr. Zappala is a local partner in the Harrah's bid. His nephew, Greg Zappala, helped the city refinance $243 million in debt in May.

Glenn Mahone. A partner at Reed Smith, Mr. Mahone is the solicitor for the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, an oversight board created in 2004 by the state Legislature to help Pittsburgh deal with its financial problems. ICA's headquarters is in Reed Smith's Downtown building, on Sixth Avenue. Reed Smith received $60,000 in May for its work assisting the city with the $243 million refinancing. Mr. Mahone also is a local partner in the Forest City/Harrah's casino bid. His law firm gave new deputy mayor Yarone Zober his first job out of law school.

Bill Lieberman. An insurance broker and O'Connor fund-raiser, Mr. Lieberman was chairman of the ICA for parts of 2004 and last year. Mr. Lieberman was part of an effort in March to steer a city health care consulting contract held by Towers Perrin to his former firm, Hilb Rogal & Hobbs, according to the president of Hilb Rogal's Pittsburgh office. (Mr. Lieberman said he did not try to orchestrate a contract switch). A former Hilb Rogal executive, Mr. Lieberman still shares an office with his former firm and collects fees or commission if he brings in new work.

But, of course, this is all old news to us: in a City with Kevin Bacon numbers near zero, it's obvious that such fundraisers turned casino investors would have close ties to the Mayor. Certainly no one would consider such close between old friends to be anything other than above the boards.

Of course, in a City where your SO's plumber's mother is in a church group with your mother, such propinquity is hard to avoid. How else could you explain it?

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