Just some random part-time pundit complaining that I have too much time on my hands.
OK, insinuating that I have too much time on my hands.
Of course, this is coming from a guy that had enough free time to search "angry", "drunk", and "bureaucrat", in that order.
Thursday, August 31, 2006
Just some random part-time pundit complaining that I have too much time on my hands.
Posted by O at 7:55 PM
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
SONNY (after letting him in): What?Rumors are flying on Grant Street.
CLEMENZA (entering): There's more news about your old man. The word is out on the street that he's already dead
SONNY: Watch your mouth -- what's the matter with you?
CLEMENZA (after being pushed up against the wall): Jesus Christ; take it easy -- take it easy.
Posted by O at 11:33 PM
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
Saw this article today in the Post-Gazette regarding an "exciting opportunity" for the Pittsburgh Region:
US Airways wants Pittsburgh, Charlotte and Phoenix to compete for a new $25 million flight operations center employing 400 to 600 people -- a project that would supplant operations currently spread between Pittsburgh and Phoenix...The only way I could be less optimistic about this "offer" is if it was sent to me in an email by a dethroned Nigerian prince.
US Airways, the product of a merger last year between the old US Airways and America West Airlines, wants a new, single-story building of 60,000-75,00 square feet, with 6 acres of land and room to expand, if needed. The building should be low profile and high security -- befitting its status as the nerve center of the airline, controlling all flights for US Airways aircraft worldwide. The airline also wants to know if "there are tax abatements or other incentives that would make one location preferable to another," including "reduced building and equipment costs" and "operating expenses."
Last fall, a union official briefed by the airline said there was a "90 percent" chance the center would end up in Phoenix, resulting in the closure of the Pittsburgh center, located at RIDC Park West near the airport, and hundreds of local job losses. US Airways already has eliminated more than 9,000 local jobs while struggling through two recent bankruptcies and a severe industry slump since 2001.
It immediately smacked me of pre-1982 economic development policies which rewarded expansion and attraction with land, capital, cheap labor, and low taxes. Of course, this type of policy does nothing to tap into the intrinsic value of a region's quality or productivity, and basically bribes companies to stay.
So, the $64,000,000 question: should the Pittsburgh Region even bother and, if so, how much should it care? Answer: less than $64,000,000.
OK, seriously, how much do we really think it's worth trying to lure a company that (1) already screwed us royally by wiping out a couple thousand jobs and (2) may be bankrupt at any moment anyway?
Assuming that the office is fully staffed at 600 people, and they're all making around $45,000 a year (a good median number), the tax revenues to the State and the Municipality should yield a net present value tax revenue of around $1.2 Million over 10 years... if I remember my math right. That, of course doesn't take into consideration the multiplier benefits of any new construction labor or the increase of property tax revenue. UPDATE: The ADB's ability to do simple math gets pwn'd by some guy at UCSUR; see comments for details.
But even with all the nebulous multiplier effects and unknown projected benefits that may accrue, here's my policy recommendation: 3 consultants, 2 days, and one nifty Power Point presentation. Total cost: $3,000.
...$3,040 if they agree to my demands for a bottle of bourbon.
Posted by O at 9:15 PM
Monday, August 28, 2006
I hope this post doesn't brim over with verbal, dramatic, or Socratic irony, as it addresses a very serious issue... well, at least serious to me... and the overwhelming number of rhetorical questions I think that it may generate will probably do more harm than good. If it means anything to anyone, I will try to avoid claiming that Justice is the advantage of the stronger, and focus on a more practical question.
So, to cut to the chase, the question is this: what would constitute a "successful" Pittsburgh? The obvious question that precedes this very important question is this: "what do we mean by 'successful'"? *
This seems to be a very important series of questions, as there are several places out on the internet that seem to be very interested in the answers. What's more, there are a whole bunch of people out there that are professionally interested in what the answers are. And, there are a lot of answers.
My personal trinity of "success" involves jobs, low crime, and high quality of living. While these simple "measures of success" seem self-evident, I don't believe that they are nearly as simple as what they first appear to be. "Jobs" doesn't mean just "Jobs," of course, but "well paying, sustainable jobs." "Low crime" also would mean "the appearance of low crime; " "high quality of living" does not preclude high taxes or urban sprawl.
Of course, it's more than just jobs, crime, and quality of life; there are high school graduation rates, R&D transfer, number of children born into poverty, immigration, air & water quality, etc., etc. To try to put that myriad of data points into some sort of metric would be a hell of a task. Indeed, you could have a result were jobs went down, while environmental quality went up (post-steel Pittsburgh would be a good example); this doesn't necessarily mean that the City/Region was more "successful."
Politicians, of course, focus on "jobs" because it's something easily measurable and something that the electorate directly benefits from. Jobs lead to increased tax revenues, which lead to more opportunity for more programs. (Of course the other model says that an increase of public investment leads to an increase of the tax base, which leads to a lower tax rate and therefore more productive capital.) Anyway, jobs seem to be the easiest way to measure the level of success and one that people most often focus on.
But does this tell the whole story? I personally don't think so, as easy as it may be to measure. There may be a whole mess o' other metrics out there that more accurately measure what "success" entails.
Of course, therein lies the problem: how do we decide when we are "successful?"
Baring words like "synergy," "empowerment," "actualization of localized potentiality," and other buzzword bullshit, I'm open to suggestions.
Who knows? I might be the gal that sets policy on these kinds of things.
* I will avoid the question as to what constitutes "Pittsburgh."
Posted by O at 9:50 PM
Sunday, August 27, 2006
I got to thinking this morning during my Sunday morning bus ride (somebody has to keep PAT in business during the weekends), and it occurred to me that Bob O'Connor could be the greatest, most politically savvy mayor of the City of Pittsburgh, ever... and yes, I'm including David Lawrence, William MaGee, AND Ebenezer Denny in that list. Bob's a heavy hitter here.
Consider the following: in the recent past, Americans have found themselves bound together through crisis and adversity. The recent example of this are the events of September 11, 2001, which, for one brief shining moment, all differences in the country were blurred away. The President used this incident to push the country into one war, and then another; a successful political ploy.
Now, Pittsburghers, as a more concentrated community would feel this sense of "oneness" more acutely. Indeed, anyone who partied in the Southside, Lawrenceville, Bloomfield, Oakland, Squirrel Hill, Shadyside, etc. etc. the night of the XL Superbowl will testify to this. On that day, we were all Steeler fans... unless you were a Seattle fan, in which case we spit on you.
OK, now consider the following: the City Firefighters sold out of all the Bob O'Connor wristbands in a matter of hours, two banners are full of get well wishes to Bob, and the day that Bob was admitted to the hospital, the local network news covered it intensely. Truly, the outpouring of support was and has been immense.
BUT! Other than the "Redd Up" Campaign, I can't think of a single Bob policy that... actually, I can't think of ANY policies. I can't think of anything that has significantly changed for the better since January. What's more, I can't think of ANY bad news that has come out of City Hall (aside the 9th Council District fiasco) recently. In fact, the Bob O'Connor illness has actually cajoled a "get well wish" from the Trib.
If that had been Tom Murphy, the Scaife rag would have pushed assisted suicide.
Anyway, this is why I think that O'Connor may be the most brilliant Mayor the City of Pittsburgh has ever had: O'Connor's illness has distracted the citizenry from the crap that is whirling around our heads. Such strategic distraction is something I would have expected from a Karl Rove, but never from a local politician. What's more, the electorate is 100% behind Bob, but I doubt they could tell you what Bob has actually done for them. The result: re-election. Bob is clearly a mastermind of local Democratic machine politics!
Alternatively, Bob is still really, really sick and deserves our best wishes and hopes that he gets well soon.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
No, I'm talking about the elimination of an entire planet from our solar system, Pluto, by the nerds over at the International Astronomical Union. Well, when I say "elimination" I don't mean as in "as if a million of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and then, suddenly, silence;" surely the IAU is only equipped with the most basic of blaster technology. My guess is that these guys are unable to defend themselves against the common wedgie, noogie, or swirly given to them by the jocks at the NCAA.
The elimination came, and I am of mixed feelings about this, from Astro-Bureaucrats who demoted poor Pluto to a "Dwarf Planet", unable to "clear its neighborhood". This will not look good on Pluto's resume.
A couple of thoughts:
(1) Pluto is said to be the ruling planet of Scorpio, and is considered to represent the part of a person that destroys in order to renew.* So how, exactly, will this elimination affect my horoscope? Today, my horoscope said " You will face challenges and you'll be inclined to overreact a little. Stay calm and take what is said with a pinch of salt, because it will blow over just as quickly. " Where does that leave me now? Should I continue to remain calm or should I spaz out? Will this still blow over or will it linger? Shouldn't I just go back to bed, shivering like a little girl, unable to face the terror that awaits me in the world? SOMEBODY! I NEED DIRECTION FROM THE ARBITRARY POSITION AND ORBIT OF THE PLANETS!!! Or perhaps a valium.
* The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh is a Scorpio.
Posted by O at 2:28 PM
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Monday, August 21, 2006
A big congratulations to my old friend "K", who has decided, after too many grueling years in the private sector, to make the impetuous leap into the bowels of Bureaucracy, by becoming a full time employee of The Man.
So, in case you are reading this "K", here are some tidbits of wisdom that I have accumulated (over and above the jewels to your left there):
(1) Like any organization, the Government has it's share of political and personal problems that are more difficult to deal with that the actual technical problems. It has always seemed like the Government has attracted more of these defective people, although that's probably just an illusion.
(2) Everyone will want to talk about their GS Schedule. Avoid people that want to talk about how close they are to the next step.
(3) Remember, you are there to do the Public Good and do good by the public.
(4) Avoid the doughnuts. They are bad for you and will turn your shapely physique into a pudding-like consistency.
(5) Remember, when a politician lambastes "those bureaucrats in Washington", that's you now.
(6) Someone (probably your boss) will always be petrified about doing something that will jeopardize their political career, but not so much that they are doing something wrong.
(7) Learn to file.
(8) If you can't learn to file, develop total recall.
(9) The Country is run on a C+ Average.
(10) You're The Man now, Dog.
(11) Never tell all of your secrets at once.
So Mr. K, I hope that you make it through your 103 weeks of training. If so, you are well on your way to a lifetime of grey suits and a peptic ulcer... maybe a good retirement.
Posted by O at 9:05 PM
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.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:
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.
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.
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.
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?
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
More things that piss me off:
- Tourists - It is not my fault that you don't know where you are going. Now get out of my way!
- People That Don't Vote - If you don't vote, you lose your right to bitch. If you really care that much, you can at least show up and vote "present".
- Local News - I get enough death, blood, and mayhem in the course of my duties, thank you. I don't need commercials too.
- Places without Sidewalks - The oldest form of human transportation suffers another setback.
- Places without Sidewalks, but with Bus Stops - Why don't you put a giant bullseye on the pedestrians?
- Micromanagement - If you wanted to do it yourself, why didn't you do it in the first place?
- People that Don't Step to the Rear of the Bus - Yes, I really want to push past your three hundred pound, back pack laden ass... thank you.
- Accountants - You're an accountant; account for yourself!
- Agency X - Yes, you know who you are. Try doing your job for once.
- People Who's First Reaction is to Sue - You realize that you are responsible for the downfall of this country, right?
- Existentialism - Camus was a prick; so was Heidiegger. Both probably lived in Mt. Oliver.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
As Ms. Monongahela notes over at her place, anger and drunkeness are not mutually exclusive. We've noticed, however, that this blog spends an awful lot of time talking about Bureaucracy and Drinking, and awfully little time talking about Anger. We do not wish to give the impression to our loyal readership (all five of them) that we are not a pent up ball of fury.
Indeed, we are filled with the kind of rage that would have put that good night of Dylan Thomas back on Standard Time.
So, I've put aside tonight's filing, cracked open a beer, and present some of the things (in no particular order) that piss me off:
- "Apple-tinis", "Chocolate Martinis", and other "-ini" drinks of their ilk - A Martini can be Vodka or Gin; Straight-up or On the Rocks... that's it. Everything else is a fucking bastard drink.
- Commercials with too Much Subtext - I don't want to spend 30 seconds trying to figure out why Dad isn't invited on the goddamned weekend car trip or why the interracial couple has adopted hispanic children.
- Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand - A fucking waste of paper for people who act like self-righteous assholes.
- Supposedly Educated People that Say Words Like "Irregardless" or "Axe" (instead of "ask") - Stop sounding like a fucking idiot!
- Whoever Has Been Stealing my Shit - I will fucking shoot you with my Government issued crossbow!
- People That Have Somehow Gotten Hold of My Email Address - No, I can't solve you immediately urgent problem: that's not my job... it's not even my department... or my agency. Do you even KNOW my fucking job?
- Children - I swear to God, if you don't settle down, I will give you something to cry about.
- Parents - The above is your fault, you realize. I will also give you something to cry about when I rip off those parts that created those little hell spawn.
- Anything with the Word "Freedom" in its Name - If you really had "freedom" would you really need reminded all the time. Sort of like the guys that drive Hummers: if you had a huge penis, you wouldn't need to advertise that your penis was huge.
- People from Outside the City of Pittsburgh that Call Themselves "Pittsburghers" - Hey! I suffered through the Murphy administration, and you're from fucking Wexford!
- The Borough of Mt. Oliver - Pricks!
- "Popped Collars" on Golf Shirts - It looked like shit in the 80s, why do you think that it looks good now?
- Whatever Has Been Eating My Garden - Just look what happened to the asshole that was stealing my shit.
- The Weak Dollar - Takes away half of the charm of a cheap Canadian vacation.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
The [URA] board is expected to move forward tomorrow with a proposal by the History & Landmarks Foundation to renovate three vacant buildings at Fifth Avenue and Market Street for retail and housing.
The URA plans to purchase a deteriorating building at 439 Market from the city for $40,000, plus costs, and then sell it and two adjacent URA-owned structures to Landmarks Development Corp., a History & Landmarks subsidiary, for $257,000. The price would have been $300,000 were it not for a $43,000 credit History & Landmarks is getting to complete demolition on the city-owned building, which adjacent property owners have described as a hazard in danger of collapse.
One of the URA-owned structures involved is the old Regal Shoe Co., a favorite of preservationists. Mr. Dettore said History & Landmarks intends to keep the facades of all three buildings.
He said the foundation is considering either apartments or condos for the upper floors of the buildings and retail on the ground level. He views the project as a complement to much larger Fifth and Forbes initiatives, including the new PNC skyscraper, which will include housing, a hotel, and offices.
This is the same property, by the way, that the URA and City refused to sell to PH&LF back in August.
Had you been paying attention to some of my previous posts, you would have remembered this little gem from back in August, in which I made mention that Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation is, in so many words, a Dicky Cougar-Mellon-Scaife Production (tm). And, if you recall as I do, that the other arms of the Scaife Leviathan (including the Trib and the Allegheny Institute) have been not so fond of the previous attempts to "revitalize downtown". I find it interesting, therefore, that PH&LF has yanked its dusty ol' Landmarks Development Corp off the shelf in order to "help" the City in the development of downtown (and presumably receive some additional financial "help" of its own).
Could it be that Mr. Scaife was visited by the ghosts of Pittsburgh Past, Present, and Future and he's now mended his evil ways? Could Mr. Scaife and the LD Corp. have found a way to make money on a project where so many others have failed? Or could this just be an insidious plot to stab at the political corpse of his arch-nemesis, Tom Murphy?
Me? Having seen Murder on the Orient Express one too many times, I guess I can see the allure of corpse stabbing.
Tuesday, August 08, 2006
Monday, August 07, 2006
Deputy Mayor Yarone Zober (age 31) and City Council President Luke Ravenstahl (age 25) have reached agreement on a new City Solicitor, the seven month old foetus of City Law department clerk Jan Morrison, the soon-to-be born Zack or Stephanie Morrison. Mr. or Ms. Morrison will replace Susan Mallie (age 40) who was removed as part of a shakeup that also saw the departure of Mayoral Chief of Staff B.J. Leber (age 63) and Finance Director Paul Leger (age 82). The foetus was chosen over several other members of the City Law Department due to its personal loyalty to O'Connor (age 99), although political pundits are pointing to a $1,000 donation made in the final days of the November campaign.
Announcing the agreement, 138 year old Mayoral Spokesman Dick Skrinjar told reporters to get off his damned lawn or they'll never get their Frisbee back. Mr. Skrinjar then removed to his office to watch reruns of Matlock (age 12,073).
This announcement comes on the heels of the appointment of Bill Peduto (age unknown) protege Jonathan Soisson's (age 7) as Finance Director. Mr. Soisson has pledged to work with the Act 47 Board as well as the ICA, complete fiscal discipline, and to share the big red firetruck in the toybin.
Grant Street insiders predict the role of Chief of Staff to go to the Glint-in-William Lieberman's Milkman's Eye (age TBA). The anouncement is expected following nap-time tomorrow.
Sunday, August 06, 2006
BREAKING NEWS FROM THE POST GAZETTE:
Mayor Bob O'Connor appointed Yarone S. Zober, the city's policy director and recent appointee as general services director, to serve as deputy mayor today.I'm not sure what the opposite of "coming out of left-field" is, but this is it.
Makes you wonder, however, what would happen if O'Connor should, God forbid, take a turn for the worst. The obvious answer is that the President of Council would take over... interestingly enough, the only one in City Government younger than Mr. Zober, Luke Ravenstahl.
The Home Rule Charter, however, is unclear as to who would take over should the Mayor be only marginally capable and unwilling to resign from office, who would be in control? How do you determine if the Mayor is, in fact, incapable of fulfilling his duties?
I've purused the Charter and can't find the City of Pittsburgh's version of the 25th Amendment. Anyone willing to venture a guess?
Friday, August 04, 2006
Woke up this morning and saw this on my counter:
At this rate, by June 20, 2009 I will have had over 1,280,000 visitors. I hope that I have enough chairs for everyone.
A big thanks to Dave and Maria over at 2 Political Junkies for sending visitor two-oh-oh-oh-oh! my way.
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Representative Mr. Habay,
I was shocked, as you evidently were, that you were so hastily sent to jail by, what I only assume you would consider, an activist judiciary. It truly is a shame that a convicted former member of the Pennsylvania State House can't get a few more months to attend his son's birthday party, especially considering the hall is already rented. I mean, seriously, what's a few more months between friends?
Anyway, aside from that "incident" eight years ago when I was charge with carnal knowledge of an '85 Yugo, my total experience in jail consists solely of TNT's Shawshank Redemption marathon. However, I do believe that I can provide some valuable helpful big-household hints. Think of me of your personal Martha Stewart, but in jail.
First, you don't look like a very threatening guy, so my guess is that you're going to be hassled by some of your fellow inmates. My advice is that either you're going to have to kill a guy, or you're going to have to become someone's bitch. Now, as you're obviously opposed to two men... you know... a shiv can be made by melting down the end of a toothbrush, and grinding it against concrete. Aim for between the third and fourth ribs. Otherwise, your hands look delicate and your mouth is purdy.
Second, cigarettes are currency in the joint. I suggest you work whatever connections you have left in the GOP, and try to get your boys at Philip-Morris to get you a couple of cartons. Unless, that is, the tobacco industry isn't interested in dealing with nefarious scoundrels or people who engage in criminal activities.
Third, conjungal visit sex is some of the best sex in the world. It's even better with someone else.
Fourth, speaking of Mrs. Habay, she's going to have to learn how to "conceal" certain items, if you know what I mean. I suggest that she learn Yoga.
Fifth, try learning a skill while you're in the clink. My suggestion: law. I don't think that you could do worse by representing yourself.
Anyway, I hope that the delousing went well, and that your cellmate Bubba doesn't read the papers (or this blog). And, if Morgan Freeman is in there with you, I hear he can "get you things."
Best of luck,
The Angry Drunk Bureaucrat
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Sounds like the State Legislature is trying to pull an Alice, and is about to have a taste of the cake that says "Eat Me"... or is it have a sip from the vial that says "Drink Me?" I can't remember, but suffice it to say that if I see Don Walko playing a bizarre variation on croquet with an anthropomorphised deck of cards or Michael Diven disappearing behind his own smile, I'm going to up my meds by at least half.
Anywho, I'm of mixed feelings about shrinking the size of the Legislature. On the one hand, I recognize the necessity of providing ample oportunity for citizens to be represented by their government and the further necessity to provide a multiplicity of varying viewpoints in the policy-making process.
On the other hand, I believe that politicians should generally be imprisoned shortly after taking their oath of office, in the name of expediency.
Obviously the biggest problem in any change of legislative districts is going to be how the Commonwealth draws the lines. Certain populations (Democrat/Republican; White/Black; Rich/Poor) will obviously be at risk of being excluded and/or have their votes minimized. Gerrymandering isn't just advocating for the elimination of television.
No, wait, that's Jerry Mander, my bad.
Anyway, I don't really buy it: no one really advocates for the elimination of his/her own job, let alone their own gravy train.
Posted by O at 10:19 PM