Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Man, A Plan, A Consultant: Ravenstahl

Every now and then I get a little bit terrified but then I see the look in your eyes I read things in the newspaper that make me wonder if I've suddenly been transported into an alternate reality in which up is down, down is sideways, and sideways is a super-intelligent shade of the colour blue.* Other times, I wonder if I'm part of a fabulously ironic performance piece set on the stage of City Government.

I can't tell if this is all a brilliant study on the cognitive dissonance of the local populace or just some drooling Neanderthal slapping his genitals in my face. But Behold!

A Philadelphia-based consultant will start a study of city of Pittsburgh neighborhoods today, with the goal of providing detailed data and guidance on development investment.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl introduced The Reinvestment Fund at a press conference that announced the start of the $35,000 study funded by the city, the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the Surdna Foundation.

"We have to ensure that we are investing our limited resources wisely," said Mr. Ravenstahl. TRF's data will allow the city to rebuild "using hard data, instead of politics" to distribute limited funds.

Ira Goldstein of TRF said his organization will drive through every neighborhood, talk with community advocates, and comb data on housing, vacancies, abandonment, foreclosures and more. That "allows us to comprehend what's really going on" in neighborhoods.

That data will help local leaders answer a host of questions, he said. "In what way should [development] money be spent? Is that money for demolition? Is that money for infill housing? Is that money for a preservation program?"
Let's pause for a moment and consider the above statements.

(a)We're commissioning another study.

(b) And it will be based on real data...

(c) But we're going to really use it this time...

(d) And politics will not enter into it at all...

(e) We promise, cross our heart and hope to die.

Now, which part of the above statements do you think that I find most ridiculous?

If you said (f), "All of the Above" go raid your kid's Halloween Candy stash, 'cause you've earned it.

Let me first say that plans are good. I should know, as I've been involved in a lot of 'em. In fact, I would say that I generally use these plans every day. Why, right now, I'm using three of them as a footrest.

Plans are great... just ask Gen. George Custer.

And I think it's a great idea to bring people from Phillie to drive through every neighborhood, talk with community advocates, and comb data on housing, vacancies, abandonment, foreclosures and more. If nothing else, it'll increase the tourism dollars coming into the region.

Lord knows, no one in this city has ever driven through every neighborhood, talked with community advocates, or combed through data. The thought of this new "Re-Search" amazes me, and one day I hope that they will be able to tell me exactly how to make it through the day without pissing all over myself.

And I love "data". Data never lies**... analysts do, but no analyst would ever, ever, *ever* skew her data to meet predefined objectives and goals. Well, no analyst outside the current White House Administration, that is.

Most importantly, however, no politician is ever going to let something as flimsy as a plan or facts to stand in their way of providing walking around money to their district. What's more, no politician in their right (electable) mind is going ever let it be perceived that they are doing less than the absolute best for their district. What's even more, no politician that wants to run for office again is ever going to be stopped from grabbing as much of the pie as they can.

Sure, the plan is rational, but right before the spring primary, you'd better believe that the Plan will be thrown out in favor of "the best interests of the neighborhood."***

And by that we mean re-election campaigns.

*A "Hooloovoo"

** Or uses contractions.

*** I'm not even going to get into the whole "picking winners" vs. "addressing needs" debate (which sounds like what this is going to devolve down to) but I'm sure that there are other folks that will.


EdHeath said...

Um, ...wha wha what is economic development? I always thought it had something to do with promoting local business, with tax abatements or loans, so they hire more Pittsburghers or people from out of town who come live here.

Economic development is tearing houses down? Development is in the neighborhoods? No wonder the city is in the crapper.

Half-Baked on the Half Shell said...


...I wonder what the Reinvestment Fund feels about the Reinvestment Fund.

Funny that a Philly consultant would pick a same name for the same thing - which resides in the same city as s/he!!!