Sunday, November 12, 2006

Allegheny Conference on Community Development Review 2006

Somehow my invitation to Thursday's 2006 Allegheny Conference on Community Development Annual Meeting got lost in the mail. I'm going to blame last year's posting on the event, in which I used the phrase "Bassmasturbation" 147 times. Undeterred, I forged a crude invitation using old Post-It Notes, some glitter, glue, and macaroni and slipped in disguised as a Coro Fellow. Using a technique I learned amongst Buddhist monks in the Tibetan Himalayas, I passed unnoticed by several security guards and disguised myself as seat EE 29 in the third tier. There, I waited for 23 hours in total silence until the program started.*

And if you've never seen an Economic Development meeting begin with a musical number, you ain't never seen anything not like this before.

No, I'm not joking. The conference began with "The Grass is Always Greener" the opening number of the musical smash Pittsburgh: Quit Yer Bitchin', which the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette called "The feel adequate show of the Summer."

And jazzhands!!

Chairman & CEO of The PNC Financial Services Group Inc., James E. Rohr, made a very good MC for this event, with his penchant for stepping out from behind the podium and addressing his staff in the audience. It made the conference seem almost human for a few moments as he breezed through the same slides as last year with the same questionable statistics.** But he did try to get the positive energies flowing amongst the conference attendees.

Contrast that to the other speakers, who were focusing on Taxes, Workforce Development, Government, Transportation, and Regionalism:

  • John P. Surma Jr., Chairman & CEO, United States Steel Corporation and graduate of the William Shatner School of Public Speaking,*** managed to make the already boring subject of corporate tax rates so boring that we could have made it all the way to the Earth's Core.

  • Not every speaker was a former member of Second City, and American Eagle President Susan McGalla was no exception. There is a script Susan; please try to follow it...even if it is about workforce development.

  • Thomas L. VanKirk, CEO of Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC, tried to rip apart the podium with his bare hands which, for those of you who may be unfamiliar with it, is a legal maneuver first made popular in the landmark Supreme Court case Schenck v. United States by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes.
  • Mr. VanKirk did get the opportunity to introduce two very important guests: Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato and his kid brother Luke Ravenstahl, who spoke about governmental consolidation (especially the soon-to-be announce merger of the City and County Purchasing Departments) and really cool bikes. If you were hoping to drink every time Luke said "Moving Forward" would have been sadly sober, although you would have been blasted if you had chosen the word "Efficient."

    Also announced was a major investors trip to China who, apparently has $1 Trillion to burn. Don't know where they might have gotten that from.

    Michele Fabrizi, President & CEO of MARC USA, called on those in attendance to help "spread the word" about Pittsburgh. The conference provided a list of 10 Facts about the Region to be used, you know, in casual conversation with outsiders. For example:
    Sir, did you know that Pittsburgh boasts one of the largest collection of certified "green" buildings in the nation.

    I don't care asshole! If you touch the girls again, I'm going to throw your drunk ass out into the street.
    OK, perhaps it won't work in all situations, but here's some of the facts that YOU can use:
  • Pittsburgh's cost of living is 93% of the national average.

  • Our region lives within 3000 miles of 99% of the entire U.S. population.

  • The average cost of an existing home is less than or equal to 50% of the total cost of all the homes in the region.

  • All trees in the region take in Carbon Dioxide and release Oxygen, which is vital for life to survive.

  • Pittsburgh ranked 8th in the nation for made up facts per capita.
  • So memorize some of these facts and spread the word.

    Sadly missing this year, was Murray Gerber's tirade on Education, the general handwringing over the airport, and the word "Bassmaster". On the plus side, it did only run an hour and fifteen minutes, unlike the 2005 Conference Meeting which, I believe, is still going on right now.

    The best part of the conference, of course, is the meet & greet afterwards as everyone rushes the buffet. Conspicuous amongst the attendees were Councilman Bill Peduto, Congressman Elect Jason Altmire, Ex-County Commissioner and Weasel Impersonator Larry Dunn, and Ex-County Executive Jim Roddey (who bailed after 30 seconds). Conspicuously absent, however, was Luke who ducked out shortly after his bit, probably because it was a school night. Dan Onorato did hang out for awhile, pressing the flesh.

    The hors d'oeuvres were better this year, by the way, mostly because I was able to snag a few.

    The ensuing hangover, however, laid me out for three days.

    Perhaps next year, I'll be on the invitee list, and won't have to sneak out as an art history docent again.

    *This is all patently false.

    **The Pittsburgh Region, apparently, has more jobs now than it has ever had in its history.

    ***School Motto: Khaaaaaaaan!

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