Tuesday, January 30, 2007

An Open Letter to Jim Motznik

Dear Councilman Motznik,

Most of the time these open letters are scathing rebukes to unnamed persons, countries, or states of mind and not narrowly focused on one specific, identifiable person. In this case, however, we figured we'd make an exception. We and, indeed, nearly everyone in the Pittsburgh Online Community (the "Burghosphere" as it is occasionally, affectionately called) has noticed your little foray into online publishing world. We have also noted the use of this medium to attack critics of... well... we're not quite sure of "what" yet, but we get the feeling that it somehow devolves back to you. Still, now that you have made yourself known to this virtual community and, before you begin putting up "hit counters" or "blogrolls" or sign up for Pittsburgh Bloggers, we have one small nugget of wisdom for you Councilman that may save you years of embarrassment:


This is not a threat, by the way; this is a well thought out, reasonable piece of advice.

You are not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy. The simple rules of etiquette that you may have experienced in "the Real World" do not apply anymore. You are not a City Councilman anymore, just a douche with a keyboard and a cable modem... just like the millions of other douches with keyboards and cable modems. These millions of other douches have no regard for civility, niceties, or pleasantries. They are a vicious pack of dogs (Douche-hounds, if you would) salavating over the mailman that just walked through the gate. This will not end well for you.

We must say that you've actually gone out of your way to rile up some of the more antagonistic elements of the Burghosphere. We wonder if you are the kind of person that willingly throws rocks at hornets nests, waves red flags at bulls, or flicks Andy Sheehan's love spuds with a wet towel. These are not the kinds of things that sensible men (or women) do.

I mean seriously, you drew attention to a story that was already winding down. If you had just let the thing die, it would have. Instead, we have another news cycle of this pap about Luke and teh cops. You're the awful student in the back of class screaming "Teacher, you didn't assign us any homework yet!" If you and Luke are supposed to be "friends," the Mayor should seriously consider making you an enemy, if for no other reason than for safety.

And, of course, you decided to sink your newly found cybermedia chops into John MacIntyre, a man who is now almost complete bereft of media empire. Fester has more media pull than John these days. Jim, you could have called Rich Lord or your friends in the real media and said that you thought that something was up, but instead you go shooting your damned mouth off. Now you look like a yutz, which does not bode well for your cyber ambitions.

We noticed that you have not enabled comments on your blog as of yet, probably, one would suppose, in hopes of staving off the vicious commentary that would surely ensue. You may have thought that this would have solved the problem, but, in reality, you've just moved the discussion to other more seedy venues, of which you have no control. Eventually someone will come up with a parody blog "Jim Motznik Speaks Up" or "Jim Motznik Eats Puppies" or "Jizz Shitsprick Comes Out" or something like that. It won't be pretty for you, but the parody blog will have 10x the content and quality, and probably show a continual loop of the video of you running from the television cameras, and will thus draw more readers than your blog.

And then one day, some old, blue haired constituent will ask you at bingo "So why did you change your name to Jizz Shitsprick?"

But most important of all, and one that any person in your position should have figured out long ago: what you post here is now public record. In real life, you can avoid the cameras, set up spin doctors, or deny that what you said was what you said. In this world of blogs, you have effectively committed your words for eternity. You can't get them back now; someone's already cached them somewhere. When you least expect it, they will be dredged up and thrown in your face like sewage (you know what that is, right?).

Moreover, Councilman, you had to drop the S-word in your first post. Now, for those anonymous bloggers out there, it doesn't really matter. You, however, are a public figure! You remember when Cheney called that reporter a "Major League Asshole" or when he told a Senator to "Go Fuck Himself?" You do not have the latitude of the Vice President of the United States of America. You are the Councilman that represents all those bingo-playing blue-haired grannies in Overbrook. While, I'm sure that they've uttered a profane word or two in their lives, now they are going to be continually reminded that you are a dirty, dirty potty-mouth.

And finally, Jim: you may not realize this, but there are a whole lot of people on these here interwebs that survive on nothing more than blood. Your blood. My blood. Anyone's blood. Unless you are willing to go toe-to-toe with these psychopathic blogging machines day in and day out, you will fail.... and the bloggers will just be having fun.

So run along home before you get yourself hurt.

The Angry Drunk Bureaucrat

Tag(s): ,

Current Councilmatic Mood: Angry

If it weren't for the P-G, I would have never known that our own District 4 City-Councilman Jim Motznik has a blog. An excerpt:

OMG! Like Bill and his friend John are like, totally dissed Luke teh other day. We were all at the lunch table, and Bill was whispering to John, and John laughed, and like Luke totally knew what they were talking about. And I was like, "So what's the big deal?" And they were like, "Nothing." And they went back to giggling. And then Luke walked by and I don't know who shouted it, but someone said out loud "The Mayor used personal influence to evade arrest during a 2003 incident with police at Heinz Field."

I looks at Darlene (she's the weird looking new girl from that remedial school that always eats lunch alone. I think that she smokes, which is why she doesn't have any friends), and Darlene was totally shocked. I know it was Bill who got John to say it. He was the one that said he would be my best friend and then I find out that he was already best friends with Doug and that everyone was already best friends with Doug and I didn't even get to go to Doug's birthday party. But that's OK, 'cause Doug is such a ho.

So now I'm soooooo pissed at both John and Bill. I am never talking to them again. I'm going to my room to listen to some Linkin Park.
In another post, Jim finds out "What Member of NSYNC" he is. [Hint: It's the angry, erratic one.]


Monday, January 29, 2007

Nemo me impune lacessit, bitches

I was going to write on the thrilling announcement that Mike Dawida was running for Pittsburgh City Controller, but the sheer thrill of five people* running for chief auditor was just too much of a thrill for me. I believe that I may have the vapors, thrilling though they may be.

So instead, I'm going to focus on the true controversy that is facing our fair City: what to designate as Carnegie Mellon University's Mascot. From the P-G:

Every year, an anonymous student at Carnegie Mellon University struts around football games costumed head to paw as a Scottish terrier.

If it walks like a mascot and wags like a mascot, one could reasonably assume the "Scottie Dog" at Carnegie Mellon is precisely that.

Only it's not.

As it turns out, a school that has programmed robots for space exploration and cracked some of the world's trickiest computing riddles nevertheless falls short by one measure of problem solving skill: It has never in its 106-year history come up with an official mascot.

So the school has formed a task force to do something about it. The panel is asking students, alumni and others if the Scottie Dog now used informally ought to be Carnegie Mellon's official image, or if something else -- a robot, say, or maybe a bagpiper -- better suits a university with Scottish roots that has produced both Nobel Prize winners and Hollywood stars.
Personally, the thought of a beefed up little rat dog doesn't particularly inspire confidence in me. A Scottie Dog doesn't say to the opposing team: "We're going to kick your ass"... of course, neither does the CMU Football team.

I think that a more apropos mascot, one that would acknowledge the school's Scottish character**, would be something like The Highlander, and no, I'm not talking about Conor MacLeod (although the thought of decapitations and lightening would bring a certain drama to thee halftime events) or the robotic Hummer.*** I'm thinking of the Queen's own, who struggled with single-minded bloody determination, through the harshest of conditions, fed only on whiskey.

Sort of like CMU Students during Carnival...only with less vomiting and groping.

Or perhaps, the mascot should be named after some famous Alumnae: The Klugmen, spring to mind. Or the Holly-Hunters, perhaps. Or, better still, the Auberjonoises.

Unfortunately, those suggestions certainly don't do justice to an institution whose school colour is plaid and flower is a weed. A school that is charting new grounds in both technology and the liberal arts needs a mascot befitting this noble heritage. Therefore, I suggest the new CMU mascot: the Apotheosis of Praxis.

Or Lobster Boy. Yeah, that would work too.

*Compare this to the two candidates that are running for mayor. If the Internet has taught us anything, it is that it's easier to criticize someone for doing a job than to do the job yourself.

**Copper wire was first developed at CMU by two administrators in the Financial Aid Department fighting over a penny.



Saturday, January 27, 2007

Policy, Politics, and Pittsburgh

There's been a series of, let's say, events that have happened in the City of Pittsburgh recently that, while not connected, seem to outline some of the issues and themes for next few months, if not year.

First, Bill Peduto announced that he was running for mayor last week.* This was about as unexpected and telegraphed as the ending to Armageddon. Bob O'Connor wasn't even cold yet, and pretty much everyone within earshot of the clusterfuck that is Pittsburgh Politics could have told you that Bill was going to run. I'm actually surprised that there haven't been more candidates in this race. It's quiet... too quiet.

On a completely unrelated note, Ravenstahl and Onorato unveiled an agreement for City/Wounty Purchasing. As near as I can figure, this is the same strategy I used in college with my roomates. Although, when I did it, I called it "Dude, while you're up, can you snag me a beer and some chips?"

I can only hope that the Onorato/Ravenstahl relationship doesn't devolve the way that mine and my roomate did, with Ravenstahl cowering under Onorato's desk firing staples at him.

Setting my personal demons aside, the Ravenstahl/Onorato announcement completely pre-empted and overshadowed a demand by Peduto for a timetable on completing a merger. Now, I'm not saying that Ravenstahl is trying to co-opt Peduto's issues (or vice versa), but everybody better check their offices for KGB** listening devices.

Of course, if you believe what you read in the Trib's "Whispers" column, you may think that we're at the beginning of a war between the Five Families. Onorato supporting Ravenstahl; Wagner backing Peduto; Lord knows who the Milliones are backing. If Don Barden doesn't look out, he's going to look like this:

Photo Courtesy of the Carbolic Smoke Ball

And on a final, completely and utterly unrelated note: Pittsburgh City Council is going up to Harrisburg to petition the State to allow for joint municipal pension and health insurance purchasing. The benefit to the City of Pittsburgh is obvious: this would bail the City out of worst part of their debt, allowing them to reduce cost, and hopefully pass this big burden on to someone else. Our debt would be reduced and our bond rating would go up, allowing us to, you know, pave roads and stuff.

I've never quite understood the logic behind the law prohibiting this kind of joint purchasing. Basic economics would seem to indicate that if you start purchasing in bulk, you'll save more on a per unit basis; that's what Sam's Club is all about, right? I mean, it's done for other non-profit organizations as a means to control costs, so you would think that, logically, it would be a boon to municipal corporations and something that every tiny town, borough, or city would be pushing.

But no, that's not exciting enough! We need an arena! Gah!

Hey, while you're up, can you grab me a beer and some staples?

*Check out the pics over at 2 Political Junkies. If you're bored, you can play a game with the pics I usually play at Sam's Club called "Spot the Minority."
**My older brother, the Kinda Good Bureaucrat, he works for the NSA.

Tag(s): , , ,

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

State of the Union 2007

Some thoughts on last night's State of the Union:

  • The "Madame Speaker" thing at the beginning was a nice touch. It doesn't hurt to suck up to the hostess. Although, it's not really nice to co-opt large chunks of her agenda, pretend that you really intend to do something about it, and present some lame ass version of your own. Emily Post says that's rude. Next time, George should just bring Jello salad.
  • Pelosi, it appeared, was sending out Morse Code messages via blinking. I didn't catch all of it, but I think it spelled out B-U-L-L-S-H-I-... something.
  • Cheney's left side of his face looked odd; I couldn't tell if he was smirking or if he was having a stroke. Maybe both.
  • At one point it looked like Pelosi was kicking Cheney under the desk... and Cheney liked it.
  • "The Economy is on the move", but so is a brick tossed out of an airplane.
  • President George Bush telling us to increase fiscal discipline is like 30 yr old George Bush telling us we have "a bit of a drinking problem".
  • Notice that both Cheney and Bush drank water at the same time.
  • What the hell does the President have to do with eliminating earmarks? Pardon me a moment, but isn't that the job of, let's say, the legislative branch? Separation of powers? Hello?!? School House Rock Georgie-boy!
  • How did the Junior Senator from Pennsylvania score a seat next to Hillary and behind Obama? That's primo TV space, and it went to Bob Casey Jr?
  • Global warming is now a problem? Next they'll be telling us that the Earth isn't 6,000 years old.
  • The Iraq portion of the speech was like the 20 minute drum solo in the middle of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, except the drum solo can be entertaining.
  • John Warner and Arlen Specter looked less amused than usual.
  • "Civilian Reserve Corps" or as they used to call it: Haliburton.
  • Things seemed to be going along well until the special guest star appearances, when it seemed that the White House segue writer had been sacked.
  • Dikembe Mutombo needs to sit the fuck down before he goes over the railing.
  • This State of the Union brought was brought to you in part by Disney and "Baby Einstein." Wha?
  • Wesley Autrey sends much love to the POTUS and a shout out to all his peeps.
And for those of you that were counting, here's the final score:
Terror/ist/ism/izing or some variation thereof: 22 Occurrences
September 11th or 9/11 reference: 5 Occurrences
Al Qaida: 10 Occurrences
Freedom: 3 Occurrences
Democracy: 4 Occurrences
Osama bin Laden: 1 Occurrence
Saddam Hussein: 0 Occurrences

Good Night, and may God bless America.

Additional: Sen. Webb needs a neck.


PAT Down

I did not get the opportunity to vent my frustrations at PAT yesterday or today for the simple reason that I, like many others, work for a living. Looking at the proposed meeting schedule, I can only assume that it was designed by someone who is not similarly encumbered.

Let me put it this way: if the Port Authority of Allegheny County increases rates or slashes routes, it won't affect me much. I'll just end up driving a little more, car pooling, biking, or walking. I'm lucky like that and I'm sure that a large portion of my readership is just as lucky.

But instead, put yourself in the place of someone who isn't as lucky as us. Suppose you're someone who doesn't have the choice or the opportunity for multiple modes of transportation. Suppose your only real option is public transit. Suppose you're not lucky enough to have the kind of job that allows you to commute into town, or Moon, or Castle Shannon to complain. It seems silly to exclude, what I can only assume is, a large segment of the ridership from making their voice publicly heard.

Or, perhaps, it is a calculated move: this is not really the most politically savvy or organized cohort we're talking about. We don't need to worry about those kinds of people.

Still, my guess is that the true impact of these cuts won't be felt by people like me, but rather by people in the poorer areas who's only means of transportation is the bus or employers seeking cheap transportation for their low wage earners.

But, hey, it's not going to affect us, eh?


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The State of Our Union is Drunk

I'll get to the PAT Public Meeting, Bill Peduto's mayoral candidacy announcement, City/County Joint Purchasing, and various other sundry items sooner or later*, but for now:


I'll also have comments on that little bit of kabuki theater too, but I'll save that for when I'm good 'n hammered.

*I have a life outside of this blog, ya know.


Sunday, January 21, 2007

Dennis Regan Withdraws Name For Consideration as Steelers' Head Coach

Steelers Pick Mike Tomlin as Head Coach

Pittsburgh (AP) - Former Mayoral Aid Dennis Regan withdrew his name from consideration today as new Steelers Head Coach, allowing the organization to select Mike Tomlin as new head coach.

Steelers' President Art Rooney released a statement from his office: "We are deeply saddened that Mr. Regan chose to withdraw his name, we wish him best of luck in his future endeavors. We hope that Mr. Tomlin brings the same organizational skills and brute force as Mr. Regan would have."

The inclusion of Regan as a potential head coach for a major league football teams was seen by many as a controversial choice. Regan previously held no coaching experience in any professional sport. Critics of the choice claimed that Regan was only short listed because his brother's wife's cousin's ex-roommate was the sister of the guy who manages the front office. Regan had vehemently denied this claim:

"The fact that some of your political adversaries and mine would attempt to exploit this issue for their personal political gain and the fact that some members of the media would act as judge and jury with no facts is inexcusable and unacceptable," he wrote in a press release.

Rumors that Mr. Regan had assisted a Steelers' security guard who had had a run-in with a local Pittsburgh political official were also denied.

Mr. Regan did not elaborate on future plans, but he is expected to remain active in revenue generation for players.

In an unrelated story, Catherine McNeilly was demoted from assistant offensive line coordinator to backup assistant kickoff tee grabber.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

This Post Contains Nothing At All About Luke Ravenstahl

I was going to write about the new eatery coming to the old Lazarus building Downtown, complain about the lack of other reasonable activities Downtown after dark, complain about how "someone" should do something about it, and finally conclude that the market demand pretty much reflects what's out there and it's up to more people demanding evening activities downtown to really affect the market, so you better damn get up off your lazy collective bitch-assess right now and do something about it!!!

Instead I'm going to write about the Mayor's little run in with the law. Sorry for the misleading post title, but I figure that now that the MSM has broached the subject, it's safe to snark at. Besides, if everyone else jumped off a bridge, wouldn't you?

Personally, the answer is a resounding "No" as I am acro-, agora-, and hydrophobic. I won't go into it but I was once hit by a water cannon while standing on a mesa.

I digress.

If you haven't heard the alleged story yet, you probably don't work in City Government, or you've been living under a rock for the last 12 1/2 hours. Apparently Luke allegedly got into a bit of an alleged argument with a Police Officer in an alleged throng of people at an alleged Steelers game, words were alledgedly exchanged, there may have been some alledged pushing, and the (then) Councilman allegedly was handcuffed and brought to the alleged security office. There was *gasp* strong language used and Luke may have been *oh horror!* drinking, however, there is no record of what actually transpired and no charges were ever brought.

The best quote from Luke in the PG article, by the way, is

We couldn't control ourselves because of the force from behind.

But anyway, I think this is actually a really great opportunity for Luke.

First, the article intimates that he was drunk, or at least was indulging in copious amounts of libation. A couple more drinks and he'll almost have enough to match the first page of Bill Peduto's bar tab.

Second, run ins with the law are par for the course 'round these here parts. Just ask Cyril Wecht, Tom Murphy, or Ben Woods. Luke is in good (but unindicted) company. This scandal doesn't even have the corpse stealing angle of the Wecht case.

Third, if this is all Luke had on his wrap sheet when he was 26, he should consider himself very, very lucky. Let's just say that when I was his age, I had a very embarrassing incident with a Dodge Aries, a transgendered hooker, 17 illegal Haitian migrant workers, the FCC, an unidentifiable liquid in a test tube given to me by a friend, and a herd of goats (in hats). Under the terms of my settlement agreement, I'm afraid I can say no more.

Fourth, hell, this was at a Steelers' Game! I say if you aren't drunk out of your mind assaulting cops, you should be locked up... but mostly for your own protection.

Fifth, I think that it's refreshing to a see an Angry, Drunk Politician arguing with the police in front of a mob and getting dragged away in handcuffs. This is, interestingly enough, also how Andrew Jackson became President.

Sixth, The Angry Drunk Politician would make a really good blog name.


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Election 2007: Pittsburgh's 9th Council District

It's still early in the 2007 Pittsburgh campaign season and I'm still slightly nauseous from the November campaign., but I'd be amiss if I didn't at least slightly address the goings on in the most exciting race thus far.

No, it's not the Ravensthal/Peduto race for mayor; that one has all the makings of a girly slap fight.

And no, it's not the thrilling Pekora/Lamb race for controller (two Bureaucrats enter, one Bureaucrat leaves... the other leaves too, but with his sense of pride slightly hurt.)

And it's not the Bodack/Dowd race in Council District 7, although I always thought that a Douwd was an immortal being of false surroundings an appearances most commonly found near the destroyed colony on Delta Rana IV. I may be wrong on that point.

No, it's the 9th Councilmatic District Barnburner. Apparenly everyone in the whole friggin' district is running and everyone hates each other. From The New Pittsburgh Courier:

When [Rev. Ricky] Burgess sent notice of his Jan. 5 press conference, he named Ora Lee Carroll, executive director of the East Liberty Concerned Citizens Corp., as one of his key endorsements. Carroll, however, says she never gave Burgess permission to use her name and doesn’t support his race...

Along with Burgess, [Ora Lee Carrol] joins Rachel Cooper—daughter of District Judge Kevin Cooper, Milton Raiford, head of Imani Christian School and incumbent Councilwoman Twanda Carlisle.

If her own campaign falls short, Carroll said she would endorse Ed Gainey or Judy Ginyard of the Lincoln-Larimer Community Development Corporation, but she made it clear that she did not, and would not in the future, support Burgess for City Council.
Judy Ginyard later announced that she was also running here.

When you read the first article in it's entirety, a few things become apparent:

(1) Either Rev. Burgess made a deliberate slight at someone or someone's getting their panties in a bunch over a misunderstanding (the entire article isn't too clear on this matter);

(2) There are a lot of people jockeying for a position to usurp the incumbent or at least flex their political muscle to help that effort;

(3) As evidenced by #2, there is a very deep sense of mistrust about the incumbent for the district.

And, from the second, brief article:

(4) Is former Executive Director of a defunct Community Development Corporation really a good qualification for a Councilperson. I mean, I suppose Ms. Ginyard could run on the slogan, "I've driven a CDC into the ground, now watch what I can do for Pittsburgh."

Or maybe not.

Get out the popcorn Gramma! It's gonna get good.

Tag(s): ,

Friday, January 12, 2007

Pointless Milestones

The worst part of the job is waking up in the morning, opening up the paper, and finding out that you are a complete and total asshole. The obvious solution to this problem is to cancel your subscription.

Us bureaucrats are angry because we get no respect, we're treated like shit, and we're identified with everything that's wrong with government. We're the scapegoat, because we're easy. So we're angry. And we drink. A lot.

So I hope to accomplish nothing by this blog except...


Wait a second. This all sounds familiar. A little too much like deja vu. I think I've done this rant before. In fact, I'm sure of it.

Dammit all.

This rant brought to you by: Readers Like You. Thanks.


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Political Manoeuvres

Pat Benetar may have said that Love is a Battlefield, but the field marshals of Pittsburgh Politics are out on manoeuvres (none of which are Heimlich).

Let's take Mayor Luke Ravenstahl: On the last episode of "The Office of the Mayor" we found out that Dennis, aide to late mayor Bob, interfered with police disciplinary action against Francis, the brother of Marlene, Executive Secretary and "housemate" of Dennis. While Dennis is being considered for a promotion, Catherine alerts Council about the interference and, therefore, divulges confidential information, a violation of Police policy. Dennis resigns; Catherine is demoted. Catherine sues; Judge issues an injunction in her favor and against the Mayor.

You with us so far?

On this episode, Luke defends his position on the demotion.

Luke is in a bit of a political quandary here and has a couple of problems.

First, if he retreats, tail between his legs, and accepts the Judge's ruling, he's effectively said that he doesn't have the political capital/stones to enforce his policy decisions... and if you believe him, they are his decisions. This is not the best way for a young Mayor up for reelection in four months to be perceived.

Second, if he retreats, tail between his legs, and accepts the Judge's ruling, he's betraying the old school that got Bob elected in the first place. As he has to raise significant funds and bolster his political capital for the upcoming election, he can't afford to piss anyone off. If more people start to jump into the race, it will become harder for Luke to stand out in a crowded field.

Third, if he stands firm, wagging his genitals, and continues to fight for his decision, he's going to start looking just like part of the old school crowd that he apparently claims he's not. More precisely, it comes off as indicating that Regan's actions and the subsequent retribution is acceptable behavior.

Fourth, if he stands firm, wagging his genitals, and continues to fight for his decision, he's probably going to eventually lose, given the whistle-blower laws on the books in the Commonwealth. No one wants to be a loser.

If Luke had just waited awhile, two or three months, he would have been able to compile a paper trail for the demotion of McNeilly and then been able to spring the trap once the whole Regan thing had blown over. So, if anything, I hope that this incident has taught Luke that one valuable Klingon proverb:

bortaS bIr jablu'DI' reH QaQqu' nay'*

And I think that best sums it up.

*Revenge is a Dish Best Serve Cold. Stupid hu-Mans.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Santorum Joins Think Tank

Two things are wrong with the above headline, first published here.

First, the inclusion of the "think" part.

Second, the exclusion of the "shark" part.


"C" is for Arena (That's Good Enough for Me)

Now, I don't claim to be an expert on economic development, let alone a sports and exhibition authority, but this article in the P-G this morning on the new arena raised a couple red flags with me. From the article:

State and local politicians should go beyond Plan B to offer the Penguins something other cities can't -- a share of the profits in the redevelopment of the Mellon Arena site, city Councilman Bill Peduto says...

"This is the perfect opportunity for [Detroit businessman and casino licensee Don] Barden, the Penguins, the city, the county and the state to partner together," he said. "It's a great way to keep the team in Pittsburgh, redevelop the Hill, get Barden more involved in the community, and lessen the impact on taxpayers."...

He said the arrangement would be similar to that negotiated with the Pirates and the Steelers to redevelop land between PNC Park and Heinz Field. Both teams get a piece of revenues from the redevelopment, which is being led by Continental Real Estate Cos.
I've only been grudgingly a supporter of this type of big project/sports venue development and, again, I'm not an expert here, but there are a couple thoughts for you to chew on.

Before anything, if the proposed "Melody Tent Site" development does take place, I would assume that it would take the form of similar large scale redevelopment projects in the City by creating a mixed-income, mixed use development. So, basically you're talking the opportunity for small retail space (perhaps a grocery store!), some small office space, rental apartments affordable to low and middle income families, and for sale houses or condominiums. That's not to say that it couldn't be something totally different, but I think this is a safe City modus operandi to bet on. Financing for the development would probably come from a mixture of state and local funds, Barden's $7.5M/30 yr commitment, private loans and grants, and equity investment.

If I was the Penguins, this would not look like an attractive scenario for a couple of reasons. First, the ROI for this project is long term based on a non-guaranteed stream of income from the development. It seems unlikely that any small office, retail, or rental development would create a profit in the first year or even first yearS. If the Penguins are patient, they could be sitting on a tidy little sum eventually, but not until all the bonds, investors, and creditors are paid off or if there is sufficient cash flow.

That is, of course, unless the Penguins are capitalizing on the actual sale of the land and getting a share of those profits. Now, that's assuming that there are any actual profits to be had, considering that the value of the land to a developer and the developer's willingness to pay will be directly related to the ROI that can be (probably) achieved. So, again, if the development can't afford the sales price of land, it will either (a) not happen or (b) have to subsidized so that it can.

If I was any other group that received funding from the City (especially in areas that are in equally dire need of economic revitalization), I would be royally pissed. Either plan basically shunts already scarce economic development resources away from other areas in order to create an artificial profit for the Penguins. Morever, the $7.5M promised by Barden over 30 years really only works out to about $115 Million, not $225 Million, when you take the discounted value. In that case, the City or the Penguins would have to float a bond to cover those payments, an action that may or may not be possible given the financial concerns of each. If it's the City, floating a bond will restrict its ability to borrow for more critical projects.

Finally, if I was any of the groups in the Hill, I would definitely want a say in what would be going on in my neighborhood. While it is, in my opinion, nearly inevitable that the development would be mixed-income, mixed use, the actual ratio of the mixture is unknown. The desires of the residents may not be compatible with the economic profitability of the project, thereby forcing more public resources into the project.

So I guess what I'm trying to say here is that if I were the Penguins, I wouldn't think that this plan improves the City's bargaining position much. If anything, I would be looking for more up front money, maximizing profit as quickly as possible.

And notice I didn't mention anything about the profitability of the new arena itself.

Tag(s): , ,

Friday, January 05, 2007

Rule #25

About time to role out another one of these here Rules of Bureaucracy:

Rule #25: Never voluntarily relinquish control of an original document.

If you give a document to someone, they will invariably lose it.


These people can't be trusted with dressing themselves in the morning, let alone remembering where they put an original signed copy of an Ordinance correcting and amending Title Four, Article I, Chapter 416, section 416.02 of the Pittsburgh Code of Ordinances to set forth certain permit fees for temporary barricades and for repair or reconstruction of sidewalks.

My filing cabinet has a deadbolt and armed guard. I also keep a file labeled "Original Documents (Not Fakes)" in order to confuse would be thieves. The real documents are hidden in a top secret cave in West Virginia with the Original copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and Dick Clark.

Be warned: trespassers will be mauled by rabid ninja ferrets. I take the protection of my original documents very seriously.


Thursday, January 04, 2007

Glass House of Representatives

I didn't think that the myth of "The Liberal Media" was true, but this article in the WaPo has made me question that belief. Here's the highlight:

Thirty-one-year-old Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.)...walked into the House TV gallery yesterday to demand that the new Democratic majority give the new Republican minority all the rights that Republicans had denied Democrats for years.

"The bill we offer today, the minority bill of rights, is crafted based on the exact text that then-Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi submitted in 2004 to then-Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert"...

Omitted from McHenry's plea for fairness was the fact that the GOP had ignored Pelosi's 2004 request -- while routinely engaging in the procedural maneuvers that her plan would have corrected...

Anne Kornblut of the New York Times asked McHenry if his complaint might come across as whining.

"I'm not whining," he whined.
Obviously McHenry is unfamiliar with the famous Supreme Court ruling Finders v. Keepers (1790), in which John Rutledge, in his opinion for the Majority, wrote "Nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah," or the follow up case Losers v. Weepers (1856) where the majority reaffirmed Finders adding, "I'm rubber, you're glue; it bounces off me and sticks to you."

On the plus side, this is the first time since the '60s that Republicans have cared about minority rights.

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Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Gambler

When the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania legalized gambling, most of us assumed that it would be limited to slots. Little did we know that games of chance would worm their way into all walks of public life and little did we know that it would happen so quickly. And I ain't just talking about the blue haired bingo nights down in the church basement.

Here's the rundown on the games currently being played in Casino PA:

First, at this table, we have Democrat Rep. Tom Caltagirone of Berks County, Former Republican House Speaker John Perzel , Democratic Rep. H. William DeWeese, Republican Rep. Dennis M. O'Brien of Philadelphia and the rest of the State House playing a game of high stakes poker or possibly roulette.

Betting on Black was the new Democratic House Majority, with the exception of Rep. Caltagirone, who tried to draw to an inside straight with the Republicans, only to back the wrong horse when DeWeese brings loaded dice to the table. DeWeese substitutes a ringer for the House Speakership, and causes Caltagirone and the Republicans to fold. Caltagirone will probably later be taking away by casino security. If that metaphor isn't confusing enough, try reading it after half a bottle of Gewürztraminer.

Now with and effective majority-minority coalition running the State House, it'll be interesting to see if this paves the way for more transparent government or just be another exercise in political shenanigans and card counting.

I'm giving even odds on political shenanigans and card counting.

Second, we have the Penguins and Local Officials playing a high stakes game of chicken with the local hockey team and the promise of a new arena. The Lemieux Group is betting that they can squeeze out a bunch of concessions from local politicians, while the local politicians are betting that they can cobble together funding for a new arena in order to stave off a Penguins relocation. Lemieux raised the stakes today by meeting with officials from Kansas City, who are looking to add the Penguins to their collection of mediocre professional sports teams.

I'm giving 2-1 odds that the Penguins will relocate, but a new arena will be built anyway.

Third and finally, we have the Port Authority of Allegheny County playing a game of liar's poker with the public, suggesting that if new funding doesn't come through, fares will be raised and routes will be cut. PAT was sloppy, however: many of the routes that are on the chopping block wouldn't make sense. For example, nearly every route that uses the fairly new West Busway would be cut. Now, while I'm sure that Senator Specter enjoys the shortcut on his way around the Ft. Pitt Tunnel, but that is hardly a good sole use of a public resource. It sounds like PAT is trying to paint a doomsday scenario in order to push for more funding.

I'm giving 3-1 odds that the funding comes through; I'm also giving even odds that my route is the one of the ones that will ultimately be cut.

But remember, for what it's worth, the House always wins...

And always bet on black...

And don't count your money while your sitting at the table; there'll be time enough for counting, when the dealing's done.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Post New Year's Hangover

Just got home from the New Year's Eve Party; I had to bail early this year on account of work, which is a shame. Last year's party ended sometime in May when my friend "Bill" made the outrageous claim that he was the Father of the Swiss race, smashed a vace across his forehead, and barfed on the midget and then we ran out of those little cocktail weenies.

Still, that's nothing compared to the 2000 party, which, I believe is still going on; when I left, they were trying to figure out how to get down off the hippo.*

In any event, I seem to be missing two pairs of underwear (one of them mine), a whisk, a hard hat, a traffic cone, a policeman's helmet, a pair of stockings, and a goat. If anyone happens to find them, please let me know.

UPDATE: Mr. Whiskers has been found, but I think he had a hat when I lost him. If anyone happens to find the hat, please, again, let me know.

*Fools! Everyone knows you get down off a duck.

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