Reciprocity at work here, echoing Fester's sentiments on reducing City Council, with a slightly different take.
Being a bureaucratic functionary of the Government, I am inherently suspicious of politicians. Bureaucrats and Politicians have different mindsets; one is supposed to be apolitical and impartial, the other is by definition political and partisan. I get nervous when Politicians attempt to micromanage the Bureaucratic process, especially when they micromanage with the intent of advancing particular interests rather than broad goals and policies. Good governance does not necessarily equal good politics. Good politics rewards ambition; good governance rewards farsightedness. Besides, politics makes me want to spend hours in the bath, scraping the filth off.
Anyway, one of the common symptoms pointed out of Pittsburgh's decline is the loss of talent across the board. I would assume that this would also include those in leadership positions. So, logically, we're scraping the bottom of the barrel here with our political leaders, and, let's face it, we're not the sharpest bulb in the drawer.
Now, my point is that with a larger council, we're actually both letting ambition counteract ambition AND getting a larger pool of the "talent" that is available. More people fighting amongst themselves over stupid stuff means less time spent on screwing us over. More people on Council means a higher probability that a "talented" person will fill one of the slots. So it would therefore be necessary to keep Council larger.
This is, of course, all academic bullshit: Pittsburgh City Council, in reality, does not follow the principles laid down in the Federalist Papers. Ambition, in this case, enhances ambition. "Talent" or "Statesmanship"* or "Political arete" is not the factor most of the electorate uses when making a decision. More likely, the voters choose candidates that they are familiar with or, more importantly, have brought tangible benefits to the individual voters. Candidates are fractured along district lines, with various degrees of political capital.
Like, d'uh, right?
So, and this is important because it concerns you, the voter: it doesn't matter how small you make Council. Sure, a reduction in size will save you some money in salary, but it won't make them smarter. The way that the system is currently set up, heavily weighted towards incumbents and those with money and influence, Council will pretty much always be a three ring circus.
Which would make public comment time the freak show, I suppose.
* A Statesman is just a dead Politician; Lord knows we need more Statesmen.
Friday, June 30, 2006
Reciprocity at work here, echoing Fester's sentiments on reducing City Council, with a slightly different take.
Posted by O at 11:36 PM
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
OK, I don't have much to say about the non-indictment of former Mayor Murphy.
No, wait, I have a couple things:
(1) I'm sure Mary Beth Buchanan did her due diligence, but there are plenty of things that she could still investigate. For example, during Murphy's tenure Pittsburgh's population declined 10%. Coincidence? I think not. What did Murphy know about this and where did he hide these people? Has anyone checked the foundations of Heinz Field?
(2) Now, Council wants to get in on the pig pile. I wouldn't call this a case of the fox guarding the henhouse... more like foxes trying to close the coop after the chickens have come home to roost. What does this mixed metaphor mean? Two words: incompetent foxes.
(3) I'm sure that Joe King, the head of the fire fighter's union, is completely sincere about his desire to reform City Council, working in the best interest of the City of Pittsburgh, and is not just trying to squeeze the last drop of cash out of a bankrupt City for the personal benefit of his union by reducing the number of Act 47 proponents on Council. Surely, the absence of a Murphy indictment is testament to this sincerity to advance the public good. Surely.
(4) Murphy has a long way to go before he reaches the corruption and musical styling levels of former mayor of Providence, RI, "Buddy" Cianci.
Bah! I'm going back to the Cyril Wecht case... at least there are corpses.
Posted by O at 10:50 PM
Friday, June 23, 2006
I don't have enough concentration, time, or sobreity to put together full and complete thoughts. Instead, you get the detrius of my mind... or more to the point, detrius from the blogs to the right there that I've been perusing, unbeknownst to their authors:
Anti-Rust has a good post on emminent domain on the anniversary of the Kelo decision.
Chris Briem is acting like he owns the joint over at Pittsblog while Mike Madison is MIA. Although check out his other blog, which is data heavy, verbose, and everything a bureaucrat is looking for.
A week ago, Fester had a good post on the Casino delay. Although I'd argue that at this point the City of Pittsburgh is a short term winner in the delay as it doesn't have to deal with the social problems associated with casinos... yet.
I don't like to be overtly political, but this post is pretty good.
And I really like Sophie.
And I'm hoping that at some point I'm worthy of a link, or some sort of shout out here.
Alright, I'm done.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Now, I'm usually a snarky, smarmy, unpleasant, and, above all, nasty person, but upon seeing Bobby O's "Redd Up Pittsburgh" Website, my cold, callous bureaucratic heart melted slightly.
But only slightly. I still hate the phrase "Redd Up," although now Bobby has taught me that the phrase comes from Middle English, which makes me think that it's something that Chaucer would have written:
Whan that April with his showres sooteAnd so on.
The droughte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veine in swich licour,
Of which to redd up is the flowr...
I actually like this website as it addresses a few of my particular pet peeves: (1) duplication of effort, (2) assignment of responsibility, and (3) [shutter] empowerment.
Let me start with #3 first, as it is my favorite. In his "get involved" section, Bobby calls out the citizenry, challenging them to get up off their duppas, quit their bitching, and do something. If this is [shutter] empowerment, I can deal with it.
To point #2: I'm sick and tired of people calling me about X when I do Y, and expecting me to know who does X... because, you know, I work for The Bureaucracy and I know everything.* So I'm glad that Bobby helping me out on this one.
And this gels with point #1: if everyone knows what everyone else is doing, or at least knows what everyone should be doing, no one has to duplicate efforts or do someone else's job. I like that; I hate doing other people's work.
So, as much as I hate the term, I hope Bobby O has luck with his Redd Up campaign...'n'at.
* Actually, I do know everything, but only in a strictly Platonic sense in that I've forgotten it and I have to remember it again.
Posted by O at 10:10 PM
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
OK, aside from Consultant-gate and Roethlisberger-gate, does it seem to anyone else that there's been a real dearth of good, meaty local news recently?
Is everybody in the City on vacation and is local government being run by interns?
Is everybody in Pittsburgh captivated by the World Cup?
Are we waiting on Bobby O'Connor to redd us up some news?
Or is it me?
Posted by O at 9:20 PM
Fifth, impeachment has me nervous for one reason: what devil we don't know would replace the devil we know? Going through my little rolodex of people in the 9th Councilmatic district, eliminating the people that are opportunists, political tools, ignoramuses, and down right idiots, I've come up with two people, and I think one of them is dead.I'd like to say that I beat them, but I don't think I did. The scurrilous dealing of the Pittsburgh Political Community are about as easy to understand as a James Joyce Mad-Lib. The experience is akin to watching Godfather Part II stoned, drunk, and being pummelled in a burlap sack: you have no idea what's going on, but you think it has something to do with Italians.
Anyway, some things that the article doesn't make clear and that are important to note:
(1) Just because a number of people in the East End seem to have aligning interests and have taken complementary actions doesn't mean that these people are allies.
(2) While anecdote does not equal data, it is clear to me that most of the players involved are not in this fight for the good of the people of the Council District, but rather for person glory and gain.
Now, read the P-G article again with that in mind and you'll share my concerns that the whole East End may just go down the shitter in a power struggle unrivaled since the Days of Our Lives episode where in exchange for helping Jan win Shawn Brady, Jan agreed help Nicole in her plans against Victor. Eventually, Nicole's plan took a deadly turn when she decided to kill Victor. Nicole ordered Jan to do the deed and Jan, believing Nicole would help her get Shawn, obliged. Jan electrocuted Victor while he was taking a bath! However, neither Jan nor Nicole knew that Victor was actually alive and well on Captive Island, Tony's brainchild to imprison his enemies...
I seemed to have strayed from the point a bit, which is this: politics sucks.
Posted by O at 8:49 PM
Friday, June 16, 2006
See, I'm away from my computer all day and I miss all the important news; like this. Voici:
The Rendell administration wants to sell a high-rise state government office building in downtown Philadelphia -- and possibly one in Pittsburgh -- to save money by moving the operations into leased space.OK, "important news" is a relative term.
Unloading the 18-story Philadelphia State Office Building could save the state about $52 million over the next two decades, said General Services Secretary James Creedon...
But, I'd like you to consider, for a moment if you would, how much space the City of Pittsburgh/Allegheny County Local Government and related authorities take up. Off the top of my head, there's the City-County Building, the County Office Building, the Morgue, the Old County Jail, the New County Jail (and courts), the Health Department Building(s), 414 Smithfield Street, 611 2nd Avenue, 100 Ross Street, 200 Ross Street, 240 4th Avenue, and space in the Old Alcoa Building (or the "Regional Enterprise Tower," for you neophytes). Now, there are other service buildings that I'm not counting and I'm sure there's several that I'm forgetting, but the principle is the same: the City and County governments take up a lot of space.
So, here's an idea: put all the city and the county bureaucrats under one roof.
Now, while, I realize that this will make us all a convenient target for domestic terrorists, I think that it provides a couple of significant benefits.
First: it'll cut down on property that the City and County owns. Granted, I doubt that the Morgue, the City-County Building, the County Office Building, the Old Jail, or the New Jail (and courts) could be eliminated, but that still leaves a whole hell of a lot of office space that could be reallocated more efficiently and previously tax exempt property could be added back to the roles. It would also eliminate, or at least create marginal efficiencies for, maintenance, utilities, and overhead. Still, this is not the primary reason to undertake such an endeavor.
Secondly, from a customer/public service standpoint, it would be easier to centralize a whole bunch of services in one place than to constantly shuffle the public from building to building. The current situation is like a marathon DMV.
Third, and most importantly, it is easier for bureaucrats to talk to each other when they are in continual contact with one another. It's called the Law of Propinquity or Propinquity Effect. In essence, you are more likely to talk to people that you see every day than those that you don't. Ergo, there's a better chance that good ideas will be passed to people during the course of casual conversation AND that the lower rung bureaucrats will talk to each other about what they're doing, hopefully resulting in new insights and ideas.
This, by the way, was part of the logic behind putting an ass load of non-profits in the Old Alcoa Building. [Not a joke, 'cept for the "ass load" comment.]
Anyway, I think this would be an interesting idea... although I have no desire to see people from the City's Forestry Division every day, let alone TALK to them.
Posted by O at 11:50 PM
Thursday, June 15, 2006
Foes of Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Twanda Carlisle launched a petition drive to impeach her yesterday, even as neighborhood groups criticized her for cutting them out of an effort to build stores in Lincoln-Lemington.And from the second article:
Phillip Martin, a 50-year-old Homewood resident, said he began circulating impeachment petitions in the morning, and had 17 signatures by lunch. The city's charter says it takes the signatures of 20 residents who are registered voters to begin the impeachment process...
Mr. Martin, a soldier in the Homewood-Brushton branch of The Salvation Army, is working with Ora Lee Carroll, executive director of East Liberty Concerned Citizens Corp., on the impeachment.
He said the petition does not include specific charges against the councilwoman, because he did not want to narrow the scope of any resulting proceeding...
Ms. Carroll was among a handful of community activists who appeared before council to criticize Ms. Carlisle for the proposed sale of nearly three acres of tax-delinquent land to Alex Development of Mount Washington. The property is at 1111 and 1113 Lincoln Ave.
Ms. Carroll and Judith Ginyard, executive director of Lincoln-Larimer Community Development Corp., said they have been working with Alex Development for nearly four years on a $1.5 million plan to bring a Family Dollar, ethnic grocery and other small shops to the site...
Ms. Ginyard ran against Ms. Carlisle in 2003, and has been rumored to be a potential candidate in next year's race for the council seat....
Council members voted 2-0, with four abstentions and three members absent, to sell 1111 and 1113 Lincoln Ave. to Alex Development of Mount Washington...Now, first, I understand that there are "coincidences," but it seems a little more than coincidental that these two items are coming up at the same time: a denied sale and an impeachment petition.
The nonprofit Lincoln-Larimer Community Development Corp. has a competing $1.5 million plan to bring a Family Dollar, an ethnic grocery and other small shops to the site. The group was working with Alex Development until recently.
"Turning this site over to a for-profit developer tells us that all of our hard work is down the drain," said the group's executive director, Judith Ginyard.
Deputy City Solicitor George R. Specter told council the city can't sell to the community group because city code bars the sale of land to organizations that owe back taxes. City records show that the community development group owes $5,679 in property taxes to the city and Pittsburgh Public Schools on its Frankstown Avenue headquarters...
Second, twenty signatures is all you need to impeach a council person? Shit, if I had known that was an option I wouldn't have bothered with this blog, instead putting my effort into getting rid of Michelle Madoff.*
Third, there are an awful lot of "community" groups out there with "plans". Some of these "plans" have been around for "years," brought out every now and then when foundations and other grant making organizations are looking for "results." I'd kinda like to know what kind of "results" this community group has had recently before selling property to them.
Fourth, seems a pretty clear cut case here of the rules: tax delinquent organizations can't buy city property until they are caught up on their taxes. I like rules.
Fifth, impeachment has me nervous for one reason: what devil we don't know would replace the devil we know? Going through my little rolodex of people in the 9th Councilmatic district, eliminating the people that are opportunists, political tools, ignoramuses, and down right idiots, I've come up with two people, and I think one of them is dead.
I would vote for the dead person; I have an axe to grind against the living.
* What do you mean she's gone? Dang.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Posted by O at 9:03 AM
Sunday, June 11, 2006
Last week Leadership Pittsburgh came out with their post-graduate thesis on merging the City of Pittsburgh with Allegheny County. The P-G had dueling op-ed pieces on the topic pro and con. The "pro-side" argues that "it will enable us to create, plan and execute our economic and social development more simply and with one consensus voice", while the "con-side" argues that the regional problems "can be found in the pervasive unionism that determines the business climate as well as a regulatory climate that treats businesses as villains and unions as heroes." While certainly the problems in the Western Pennsylvania region are not limited to the delimitation of municipal boundaries and certainly the sheer number of municipal boundaries is staggering, both sides in this argument are missing a very important point and one that needs to be mentioned here:
The Borough of Mount Oliver must be destroyed utterly.
I recognize that among my municipal colleagues, this may sound like an extreme position, but consider the following statistics:
Mt. Oliver Borough
Size: .3 sq. mi., located entirely within the borders of the City of Pittsburgh
Taxes: 2%, paid to the City of Pittsburgh
School District: City of Pittsburgh
So, you have this piddly-assed little pseudo-suburb, wedged in the City of Pittsburgh, leaching off of our economic development and public services. It's almost like its some sort of urban Switzerland awaiting a Pittsburgh Von Trappe family. Or worse, it's like Vatican City without the culture or men in funny hats. Or worse still, it's like San Marino without... well... fuck only knows.* Mount Oliver is a festering boil on the taint of the Pittsburgh Southern Neighborhoods; a boil, that needs to be lanced.
Mount Oliver serves no purpose except to make the cartographer in Pittsburgh's Department of City Planning cry. Same goes for Baldwin**, trying to muscle in on access to the Monongahela River for a total frontage of about 12 ft. These are affronts to the integrity of our borders.
We must annex Mount Oliver as it is rightfully and historically part of the Pittsburgh Fatherland. This is the only way that we can maintain peace in our time.
That is the true point of City annexation.
* As far as I know, the only point of San Marino actually existing is that Carmen San Deigo needed a place to hide.
** And it's not even Steven Baldwin.
Thursday, June 08, 2006
The One-Eyed Fat Man is coming up on his big 1-year anniversary of doing absolutely nothing, and enjoying every minute of it. We sat down awhile ago to discuss bureaucracy, the government, the current administration, and various miscellany over pizza and beer. Despite his years of work in the government (or perhaps because of his years), he is glad that the golden handcuffs are off and that he is no longer involved, especially considering the current administration.
occasionally, however, he's wont to throw out some pearls of wisdom from his long years of experience.
Politicians are often criticized for not living within their means and are blamed with ballooning deficits and debts. While "living beyond your means" has become synonymous with the American way of life, and oftentimes with the American Federal Government itself, on a more fundamental level, bureaucracies and governmental organizations are hamstrung by rules and regulations preventing them from spending money they don't have. Or, more bureaucratically:
Rule #20: Don't assume a fiduciary liability without a committed resource allocation.
Well... not all of the Rules can be zingers.
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
We have your filing cabinet. If you do not plug The Sprout Fund's Hot House '06, we will shred all of your files.
Last year's successful event attracted approximately 1,500 attendees and featured food and drink from 30 Pittsburgh restaurants and eateries. HOTHOUSE was named one of the year's top 5 parties by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and was lauded as the "top fundraiser" of 2005 by the City Paper.
We will send you a shredded document every hour, on the hour until you meet our demands. You have been warned.
Posted by O at 10:33 PM
With our increasingly data driven society it has become ever easier to delve deeply into arcane bits of information. The upside of which is that you begin to get a full and complete picture of what's actually going on in a system; the downside of which is that it is quite easy to become mired in the minutiae, and quickly spiral down into omphaloskepsis.* Alternatively, you may find yourself attacked at all angles by trival matters. We at The Bureaucracy call this "Death by Ducks", as it feels like you're slowly being nibbled to death... by... ducks....
Anywho, thanks to that bastion of Pittsburgh print media, the P-G, for alerting me to City Council's decision to put their invoices on the web. I was getting frustrated with Bill Peduto's accounting** and was happy to have this little diversion into Duck Death. I'm sure that all these invoices are legit, and their vendors are reputable, but on face value, they're almost kinda funny, actually:
- Would you buy $275.00 worth of stuff from a place named "Honey Boy"? Sounds like something Gary Glitter would visit in Thailand.
- What does General Services need with $39.60 worth of gas bottles? What the hell is a gas bottle anyway? If it is what I think it is, I'm sitting on a gold mine.
- I hope to God that they didn't approve individual invoices at the Council Meetings, else the $1.36 invoice from Equifax Credit Services for records check seems ridiculous. Assuming an annual salary of 9 Councilpersons of about $53,687 each (roughly), the salary of my girl Linda Johnson-Wasler, the salary of, say, three union camera men filming the meeting, not including the sunk costs of the facilities, and assuming that the motion to aprove the invoice took about 3 seconds... the $1.36 invoice costs an additional $.29. Or so.
- Who is Ray Sullivan, and why does he cost $250.00 for umpire services? And can he officiate the next Pirates game?
- Sandra Davis, PhD. seems to do a lot of psychological consulting and stress management work for the Personel, EMS, and Police Departments. This should come as no surprise to anyone in City government. The Personel Department knows 653 ways of killing a man with his own hand.
- Is $450 too much for Taser instruction or not? I would suggest not skimping on this, especially with the Personel Department still on the loose.
$1,500 in Duck prevention would be worthwhile though.
* See Bill? It's not that hard.
** I can't get the Councilman's numbers to add up. I think he used pi or an e or an i or something.
Posted by O at 7:50 PM
Sunday, June 04, 2006
It's interesting to read the City of Pittsburgh Department of City Planning report next to the Pittsburgh Gaming Advisory Task Force [Interim] report, and watch them do battle in a steel cage match of death. I say "interesting" because "exciting" is a word I use to describe implosions, ninjas, and their ilk.
This website, by the way, is also... interesting.
The City Planning report was written by professional bureaucrats; the Task Force [Interim] report was written by appointees. As such, the former is filled with pages and pages of dull, boring, stats and figures, and the latter contains the word "synergy" three times. The City Planning report comes out in favor of the Harrah's plan; the Task Force [Interim] report comes out in favor of Isle of Capri. Both consider the plans, as presented, to be inadequate.
The Task Force [Interim] report divides its evaluation into the following areas of analysis: (1) Site Design, (2) The Arena, (3) Facility Design, (4) Financial, (5) Diversity, (6) Traffic, (7) Site Control, and (8) Economic Development/Local Economic Spinoff.
The City Planning report divides its evaluation into the following areas of analysis: (1) Location Analysis, (2) Operations Analysis, (3) Site Plan and Design Analysis, (4) Building Design Analysis, (5) Socioeconomic Analysis, and (6) Transportation and Parking Analysis. The City Planning report also subdivides its analysis further, and weighs different criteria more heavily to attain a numeric score for each plan.
It's always interesting to note how different analyses approach a problem, and groupings are often a tell tale sign of their priorities. It's interesting that the Task Force chooses to highlight Site Control, while City Planning lumps it in with Site Plan and Design; City Planning also includes the Arena as part of its analysis, but only within the context of the proposals, not as a stand alone criterion.
Where there is overlap, there is some agreement and some disagreement. For example, both agree that the Harrah's plan is better in terms of traffic and transportation, although the City Planning Report quantifies that by saying that Harrah's is bested by Isle of Capri by a score of 48 to 56.5, where highway access and minimization of traffic congestion are weighted most heavily. The Task Force [Interim] report, on the other hand, merely says that Isle of Capri best fits the existing traffic grid.
It is interesting to note that neither of these reports addresses crime, poverty, addiction, drugs, or the sexual proclivities of certain horse/donkey hybrids. While the Task Force [Interim] Report does call for an examination of a strategy to mitigate the negative effects of gaming, it is merely a request, not an analysis. According to the City Planning Report, Harrah's does expect to create 2,332 jobs with an annual, average wage of $24,317; Isle of Capri expects to create 4,112 with an average annual salary of $26,000. The area median income for the Pittsburgh MSA, by the way, is $54,900 and can be found here. I'm sure the casinos will provide good jobs, at good wages, 'n'at.
The Task Force [Interim] Report also seems to give far more weight than deserved to a new Arena, which seems to be the big thing going for the Isle of Capri proposal. All else being equal, Harrah's proposal and the Isle of Capri Proposal seem equal, although a reweighting of priorities would surely tip the balance.
Anyway, just thought I'd share. I'm spending the rest of the night watching ninjas implode.
Thursday, June 01, 2006
I have been amiss recently in updating this thing, with new postings coming at seemingly random intervals. I am way behind in my New Year's resolution to post 365 entries this year. At this rate, I will still be posting for this year sometime early in 2008.
Point is this: I have a life outside you people.
It's not much of a life, filled with paperwork, yelling, and uncontrollable sobbing, but it's mine.
Anyway, there's this City Council attempt at reforming their own expenditures which would compel council members to get detailed, written contracts and time cards from consultants who receive more than $10,000 a year in city money. So, in case you we're paying attention this basically means, up until now, you could work for council as a consultant and never actually have a contract, outlined deliverables, or objectives, it seems.
This makes me mad, mostly because no one told me about this. I could have been working for City Council as a consultant all this time, instead of working in The Bureaucracy where they, get this, expect "results." Heck, the City contracting procedure is ridiculous; no one who actually works for City Council could actually get away with hiring someone without a contract.
OK, you'll say, this is already appropriated funds to the Councilpersons, and not a new allocation so a contract, per se, isn't needed, but that's really beside the point. The larger issue here is that those that are charged with the fiscal management of the City, should, at least, be showing the same level of fiscal responsibility that they are imposing on their underlings.
I think the silliest comment is from Ms. Payne who said: "It's always curious to me, how do we reform ourselves?" ..."Come on! That's not really going to happen ... We're going to find some loopholes to get through it anyway."
Yeah, and I'm an alcoholic*, but c'mon I'm always going to find a way to drink, so why bother trying to sober up?
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go fill out my Council mandated requisition forms to purchase a pencil.
*Actually, I'm not an alcoholic, I'm a drunk. Alcoholics go to meetings.
Posted by O at 10:15 PM