Thursday, August 30, 2007

PWSA Unveils Water Taxi Service to Oakland

Acting Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority Executive Director Greg Tutsock today unveiled what was described "a brilliant innovation in public transportation solutions for the City of Pittsburgh."

Speaking in front of an assembled crowd at the corner of Dithridge Street and Centre Avenue, Mr. Tutsock proudly pushed a button unleashing millions of gallons of water through the City streets. The water is to channeled into over three miles of connected canals, which will encircle Oakland and parts of Shadyside, allowing thousands of commuters easy, reliable, and unique transportation alternatives.

The ceremony, which was not previously announced because of a public relations error, came as a surprise to many in the Neighborhood.

Eric Graff, a Pitt student, said he was preparing to drive out of a fraternity house parking lot at Centre and Dithridge at 12:30 when "A wall of water came down. It was mayhem for a while."

Mr. Tutsock announced that today's ceremony completed Phase I of the Project. The Port Authority of Allegheny County is expected to launch the first of the inter-city water taxis some time in 2015.

Spectators in background watch PWSA Executive Director inaugurate the City's new canal system.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Penguins Unveil Plans for Mellon Arena Site

The Penguins last night revealed the preliminary plans for the Mellon Arena, which is to be replaced by a new arena to be built between Centre and Fifth avenues, Uptown.

The plans were shown at a public meeting attended by about 150 people, including Hill District residents and others interested in the future of the former Civic Arena site.

A Request for Proposals was released in May of this year to several design agencies, architecture firms and demolition companies to come up with proposed plans for the site.

Hundreds of responses were received by the Penguins, who narrowed the field down a handful of eligible submissions. Many of the submissions were duplicative, focusing on rubble, smoking craters, an large amounts of dynamite.

Two of the top five submissions came from graduate students at Carnegie-Mellon University:

Students from the School of Architecture proposed converting the retractable dome arena into a MagLev station for the heretofore still prosed MegLev line from the Pittsburgh AirPort to Greenburg.

Taking a slightly different tack, students from the Engineering College suggested "nuking it from orbit," adding, "it was the only way to be sure."

A consortium of artists funded by the Sprout Fund advocated a neighborhood fair in which the community would remove small pieces of the arena until it disappeared. The function would also include interpretive dance and levitating tables.

A group led by former City Councilman Sala Udin proposed selling the arena to Cleveland.

However, the panel of judges was most impressed by a submission from the Other One Hill Concerned Citizens Council Corporation who proposed leaving the Mellon Area vacant, demolishing a part of it, abandoning it by the City, letting the rest go tax delinquent, and finally letting it rot to a point where it becomes a haven for crime, drugs, and other vermin.

Speaking for the Penguins, Patrick Lempka, lead architect for the project, said that the OOHCCC proposal best represented both "the history of the Hill and fit in with the narrative and rhythm of the Neighborhood."

In a related development, 15 Hill residents who represent the Other Other One Hill Very Concerned Citizens Council Corporation, Inc. presented a list of demands to County Executive Dan Onorato insisting that any demolition to take place would happen without destroying any structures and with a 20% cut to the OOOHVCCC, Inc.

The County Executive Office did not return phone calls for this article.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

As flies to wanton boys mayors...

I saw this over here earlier today on my RSS feed, although I had previously heard about it on NPR whilst in the shower. First the Trib:

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said Monday he isn't worried about meeting a 90-day deadline to decide the futures of 11 city and authority directors whom he asked to submit letters of resignation by June 22.

Ravenstahl said he hasn't "formally accepted" the directors' resignation letters, but he has kept them in his desk. He said he expects to accept some of the letters after his staff completes a national search for potential replacements.

The mayor's comments conflict with a June 14 news release about the shakeup, which said the 11 directors had been "asked to serve the city in an acting capacity" while their job performances are evaluated.

Pittsburgh's Home Rule Charter requires the mayor to obtain City Council's approval for new directors or acting directors who serve longer than 90 days. The rule is one of the legislative checks City Council has on the mayor's office; however, the charter doesn't define a penalty for missing the 90-day deadline.

Of course, as The Burgher notes, (1) these jobs are up for the taking on the City's Website* and (2) he had asked for resignations back in June. In fact, we started running the Countdown Clock over here at ADB headquarters.

Now couple things:

First, it's not really important about the minutiae of whether or not Luke is going to appoint department directors and authority heads within the next 90 Days. Rather, it's the fact that he certainly seems to be taking his sweet ol' time about it.

Consider the following scenarios: You're a newly minted "Acting" Department Director. Do you (a) continue doing your job the way you always have, guns ablazin', (b) continue doing your job but devote more time to mayoral pet projects, (c) continue doing your job half-assed waiting for the axe, or (d) say "Fuck it" and high tail it out of there.

If you're former URA Executive Jerry Dettore, you've already picked "D".

Now, suppose that you're an employee under these newly minted "Acting" Directors. Do you (a) continue to do your loyal duty to the organization and your boss, (b) continue to do your duty, but to the mayor's pet projects, despite what the "Boss" might say, (c) continue doing your job half-assed, knowing that whoever the new guy is going to be is going to want to change it all around anyway, or (d) say "Fuck it" and high tail it out of there.

If you're most of the City Law Department, you've also picked "D".

So basically, your results are: (a) a mayor that shook up the box only to find that his Bureaucracy won't listen to him, (b) a mayor that shook up the box to create ephemeral change, (c) a decrease in productivity from his employees, or (d) a government with a lot of vacant positions to fill.

Or, (e) utter chaos, blood falling from the sky, 1000 years of darkness, dogs and cats living together... end of the world stuff.

Now, I'm no expert in management, but this whole experiment doesn't seem to be any one of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. I don't think "flailing wildly" would even clear the top 100, which would explain why they don't teach it at the Tepper School anymore.**

Moreover, what Luke is essentially doing is playing the same game I play with a string and my cats. I call it "Here's the string; no you can't have the string." When you play the game with cats and string, it's fun. When you play the game with employees and jobs & directives, it's not so much fun. To say "well, I asked for resignations and I posted your jobs, but I may not accept your resignations after all" is just cruel.

At least my cats usually get to catch the string.

Now, don't get me wrong: the Mayor can place whoever the hell he wants in whatever position he wants (with Council approval) to undertake whatever policy he wants. That's fine and no one is arguing that point.

The problem, however, is that right now he's just basically jerking people around...

Unless, of course, the whole point was just to eliminate Jerry Dettore and the Law Department.

*No Costas need apply.
**Maybe GSPIA

Monday, August 27, 2007

I believe this post is about Alberto Gonzales (but I can't quite recall)

So this is the obligatory post about the resignation of Alberto Gonzales.

Those of you that read this blog enough will not be surprised that I am not fond of Mr. Gonzales. There are, of course, certain ideological and practical reasons for this. I think, however, that the nub of my critique of the man runs a bit deeper than that.

When I was a Young Idealistic Drunk Bureaucrat, I used to believe that there were reasonably capable and competent people at the top of most organizational structures. While I may have disagreed with their political persuasions, I could be assured that they knew which Tab A fit into Slot B, metaphorically speaking. To use a sports analogy: though my mechanic rooted for the Cleveland Browns, he still knew how to fix my blown gaskets.

Indeed, I still believe that the highest complement that you can pay a Bureaucrat is that he or she is competent.

As I got older and more grizzled, I came to understand that those in power are not necessarily more competent than me (as indicated in the highly cynical Rule #16 over yonder), but I clung to the notion that at least at the highest levels of Federal Government, this competency was possible.

Gonzo proved me wrong.

Very wrong.

It's not so much that he was a crony (he was) or that he was a shyster (he was), but that he seemed totally and utterly overwhelmed by his job, a job that, according to the U.S. Senate at the time, he was supposed to be qualified for. He always seemed confused by principles intrinsic to U.S. laws that are reviewed in the first few days of the first year of Law School: little things like Habeus Corpus or "The Rule of Law." Something tells me that you could've pulled any law school drop out from Starbucks and you could have had an equally competent Attorney General.

Or worse: you could have gone to Greyhound station and the guy masturbating in the corner and it would have been an improvement.

If nothing else though, Gonzo did one thing that no one ever thought possible: he made John Ashcroft look good.

Good riddance.

Cult of the MFX

I think that every bureaucrat has a project that just won't die. The Mon-Fayette Expressway is one of those. From the P-G:

A biennial public hearing about funding road, bridge and transit projects in southwestern Pennsylvania could turn into a rally supporting the $3.6 billion northern section of the Mon-Fayette Expressway.

A dozen speakers, including local officials, have lined up to testify as a bloc Wednesday before the State Transportation Commission about completing the toll road in Allegheny County. County Chief Executive Dan Onorato and state Rep. Joe Markosek, D-Monroeville, chairman of the House Transportation Committee, are on the list.

They want to re-establish the importance of building the final 24 miles to Pittsburgh and Monroeville. Otherwise, when final design is finished about a year from now, a lack of funds could threaten one of the nation's biggest new highway construction programs after more than a decade of planning...

Mr. Markosek said no one expects the commission to identify or pledge funds for expressway construction. Not only is the estimated $3.6 billion price tag well beyond the reach of traditional revenues, but the state Legislature directed in the 1980s that the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission be responsible for building the expressway and a Southern Beltway as key elements of a toll road expansion program...
I kinda imagine these meetings to be filled with guys twirling Snidely Whiplash mustaches waiting for Little Hazelwood... er... Nell to get hit by the train. It's a cadre of rejected comic book villains named things like "The Exhaustinator," "Commander Concrete," and "Solomon Grundy & Trumbull, LLC."

But let's set aside the problem that there's no real budget for this project, nor any real political will, just a lot of people obsessed with building bypasses just to build bypasses. Let's also assume that the hold up of construction has not put the communities in the path of the expressway in limbo.

But, assuming that the ascertain that the Mon Valley still needs a limited access for manufacturing that disappeared in the mid 80s, here's my suggestion: acquire all the properties in the right of way, move them 50 ft. back and build a four lane neighborhood boulevard.

Heck, I'm feeling generous: throw in a light rail line down the middle an give everyone a gold sovereign.

Honestly, the whole "process" of the Mon Fayette has become so much of an ordeal, that we might as well just wait around until those eggheads over at CMU actually get around to building us them there flying robotic cars.

Imagine the tolls on THAT expressway.

Legendary Homestead tavern owner Joe Chiodo dies

To be replaced by another Walgreens.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Getting Out of the Fire

I have been hiding in my basement for the last several days, surrounded by my old copies of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management and my significant (albeit fleeting) wine collection, in a vain attempt to avoid the heat and humidity.

Frankly I got sick of all the sweat rolling down my back in between my buns of steel.* While this may be a turn on to some people, it just makes me feel disgusting and want to take a shower.

Coincidentally, this is the same reason I did not go to law school.

So, after I spend the day saving the City from certain doom, I spend the evening squeezing out the sweat from my clothing. Honestly, I have better things to do... like playing lawn darts or smuggling cell phones into the County Court House. Of course, because of the heat, the smuggling has been more uncomfortable than usual.

But, if you're Downtown and it's hot, play the game that I do after work: try to see how far you can walk without going outside. [Please note: the tunnel from the City County Building to the County Office building is restricted.]

Can it be winter yet?

*Weight, not hardness. Sorry if I ruined anyone's illusions.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Luke Ravenstahl Appears Before City Ethnic Board

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl insisted to members of the city Ethnics Hearing Board today that there was nothing wrong with his racial heritage, but board officials said they may want new rules clarifying such matters.

Mr. Ravenstahl attended a board meeting by invitation, rather than in response to any complaint, to address issues that arose from his participation in the City's Saint Patrick's Day Parade, Columbus Day parade, and the Kennywood Polish Heritage Day.

Ethnics board members did not accuse the mayor of misconduct but raised questions about the perception that such conflicting displays of ethnic heritage would lead to confusion amongst residents. The board plans to propose new guidelines that could cover public appearances and discuss them with the mayor, said the board's chairman, Sister Mary Patrick Murphy.

Speaking on behalf of the committee, Vice Chairman Rabbi Shlomo Rabinowitz raised questions about the Mayor's ethnic heritage.

"I mean, 'Ravenstahl'? What kind of name is that? Hungarian, I think, but it sounds sort of German."

"It's not German," retorted committee member and Troy Hill resident Hans Schlitterbahn," Polish maybe.

"Don't start with that again, Hans," responded Polish Hill resident Brygida Wiśniewski.

The Mayor has been under fire over the last few days following the poor turn out for the Pittsburgh DiverCity Festival. Organizers have blamed the Mayor's poorly established ethnicity for dragging down the event.

"O'Connor, Murphy, Caliguiri... heck, even Masloff, you knew what they were," said long time Bloomfield resident and DiverCity organizer Antonio Andolini. "But, Ravenstahl? I don't know."

Hill District activist Kerubo Mfume has called on the Mayor to effect real ethnic change in his policies.

"If the Mayor is not willing to associate himself with any ethnic or racial group, that is his choice, but it is a deliberate slap in the face to a city that prides itself in its rich diversity. The denizens of the City of Pittsburgh must stand up and take note."

While the City Ethnic Board is powerless to enforce any ruling, it will probably make a formal recommendation to Pittsburgh City Council that the Mayor officially change his name to "Alan Reese-Smith," take up golf, and summer in the Hamptons. An official ruling will be issued Thursday.

Hothouse '07

I am under the impression that there will be pie.

Monday, August 20, 2007

This Post is Made of 100% Recycled Content

From the Tribune-Review:

Parking incentives for alternative fuel vehicles. Urban gardening. Solar-powered security lights. "Green" education in city schools.

The ideas poured out as Pittsburghers stretched their imaginations to come up with ways to make the city a sustainable trendsetter.

The Pittsburgh Climate Protection Initiative -- a grassroots program created to help the city come up with a plan to save energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions -- is holding public brainstorming sessions in the South Side, Mt. Washington and Highland Park...

Among the suggestions at last week's meetings:

• Establishing a "green" hot line -- similar to the city's 311 line -- that people could call with environmental questions.

• Providing incentives for people who make energy-saving improvements at home.

• Better enforcement and management of the city's mandatory recycling program.

• Allowing hybrid and alternative fuel vehicles to use HOV lanes when there is only one passenger.

• Offering citywide bicycle rentals in which the bikes could be picked up in one location and dropped off at another...

Now, we've already talked about Green Economics here... and here... and here... and here and to, what I consider to be, an embarrassing extent, and yet the monkeys running the show still haven't acknowledged my brilliance.

Frankly, the suggestions alluded to in the article above aren't really particularly good and don't really go far enough, but are pretty much what we've come to expect from the general public. So, here are some alternative ideas that are far more practical for Pittsburgh City Government to implement*:
(1) An extensive recycling program of the City's Youth Policies program. No need to recreate a new committee each year, just use the report from the old one.

(2) Reduce city heating bills in the City-County Building by recycling the City and County Council hot air.

(3) Reduce road paving waste by not paving roads.

(4) In order to reduce harmful carbon emissions, install "scrubbers" to the lungs of Councilpersons Shields and Harris.

(5) As an auxiliary power source, attach a bicycle powered dynamo to the public comment podium in City Council: people would be allowed to talk as long as you could keep the lights on.

(6) Make the mayor carpool to the airport every time he flies with Ron Burkle.

(7) Install magnets to people migrating out of the Pittsburgh region, thereby generating up to 1,000 megawatts of power per semester as they try to flee.

(8) Dam the fountain at Point State Park.

(9) Make Whirl Magazine easier to recycle by mandating that it be the proper size to line bird cages.

(10) Research Pittsburgh alternative to Solar Power: Gray-Hazy Power.

(11) Improve access for alternative methods of transportation, not only bicycles and walking, but water taxis, kayaks, dirigibles, and hang gliding.

(12) Upgrade the city vehicle fleet to jinrikshas.

(13) Plant a tree every time the Mayor's Office uses the phrase "Moving Forward."

(14) Use old cat licensing legislation as decorative mulch.

(15) Three words: Interns, hamster wheels.
In my opinion, all of these alternatives are vast improvements over what is usually suggested: ensuring that public buildings exceed current building codes for heating/cooling; ensuring that public buildings meet or exceed LEED certification; using excess rooftop space for gardens or solar panels; reducing the thermostats by one degree in the winter and increasing by one degree in the summer; providing free green seminars and consulting to city residents; provide low interest loans and mortgages to early adopting green developments; mandate all HACP, PWSA, URA, and PPA projects be certified to a green standard; reduce paper used by implementing more eGovernment solutions; turn off lights when not needed; and establish some sort of neighborhood green standard.

Those are just stupid ideas.

*You're welcome.

Friday, August 17, 2007


In this business ad, I think the Post-Gazette is trying to make a subtle comment about diversity in Pittsburgh...

... but I just can't put the finger on it.

Nope, got nothin'.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Wall Street Collapses on News that "Past Performance does not Guarantee Future Returns"

New York City (AP) - The Dow Industrial Average plunged a record 9,221 points today upon a startling revelation from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.

Mr. Bernanke had been called to testify in front of the Senate Finance Committee on the subject of the ongoing home lending crisis. When asked pointedly by Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) as to what caused the current problems, Bernanke dropped a bombshell.

"You see Mr Chairman... uh... the thing you have to realize is that markets are subject to.. uh... volitility, if you will. Things change. Circumstances change. The Market changes. Just because the market does well doesn't mean it's going to continue to do well. Past performance does not guarantee future returns."

That last phrase sent the DJIA, the NASDAQ, and the S&P 500 into a tail spin. Within minutes the three funds had lost over 40% of their value. Trading was suspended for four hours.

Several of the larger banks including Citigroup and Bank of America arranged to invest up to $50 billion in cash in faltering funds. When they resumed trading, however, the plunge continued until trading was halted for the day at 2:34 PM. At the end, the DJIA stood at 3,640.53, a number not seen since the darkest days of the Great Depression.

Senior Analysts at Merrill Lynch and other financial management companies could not be reached for comment. Reports of thousands of sky diving accidents across the country are said to be unrelated according to the Department of Justice.

Howard Martin a senior economist with Global Capital Markets Inc., was distraught at the news. "If only the Fed Chairman had told us back in '86 that the market may fluctuate, I wouldn't have lost so much money today, or when the Dot-Com bubble burst in 2000... or when the commercial Real Estate bubble burst in '87. What next? Are we supposed to live within our means like animals? I have seven mortgages and three cars to pay off!"

There was some limited good news. Among the advancing stocks included Tin Cup, Inc.(up 5 3/4), Hobo Unlimited Ltd. (up 10 1/8), and Agglomerated Noose Companies (up 105 1/2).

Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson, Jr. was last seen crying in the corner of his office.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


OK, so PennDOT thought it was a good idea to release detailed safety ratings on Pennsylvania's steel deck truss bridges, the same design as the Interstate 35W Bridge that collapsed into the Mississippi River. It's not like we didn't have to worry about terrorism, bird flu, SARS, AIDS, school shootings, poisoned Halloween candy, flesh eating bacteria, sharks, botulism, anthrax, gang wars, roller coasters, cell phones, the Bush Administration, Iran, hoof and mouth disease, mad cow disease, peanuts, cats, flooding, tornadoes, earthquakes, pestilence, water turning to blood, combined storm & sanitary sewer runoff, asbestos, lead paint, small parts that could be choking hazards to young children, the International Space Station plunging out of orbit, illegal aliens, mine shafts, minimal allowances for rat feces, and the small, but real, possibility that Pauley Shore and Carrot Top may team up in a Joel Schumacher movie.

If all those things aren't enough to scare you, there seems to be a very real possibility that the Rankin Bridge may disappear out from under you as you make your way to Kennywood (or try to beat the traffic to the Waterfront). While I am normally a rational, reasonable person, the thought of plunging to my death in Rankin makes me completely mental.

What really makes me nervous, however, is that PennDOT is only reporting on the steel deck truss bridges. They haven't even begun on the through arch, concrete truss, box girder, compression arch suspended-deck, suspension, tied arch, or even lenticular truss bridges.

[Fortunately for Western Pennsylvania, our bascule bridges are fine.]

As if I don't have enough to worry about. And, of course, this being Pittsburgh, it's not like I could just live without crossing a bridge for my entire life, as I am not an old Italian woman from Bloomfield or my parents.

So big thanks PennDOT; you're getting my therapy bills.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Karl Rove

If you don't know by now that Karl Rove is resigning at the end of the month, you've probably spent the last 12 hours under a rock, or, like me cowering under your bed afraid of more severe weather, Steely McBeam, or more severe weather coverage.

The unexpected resignation announced in the new Rupert Murdoch mouthpiece was instantly picked up by the rest of the media, which was picked up by the punditocracy, which was picked up by blogosphere. These are the kinds of announcements that make liberal and conservative pants wet, albeit for differing reasons.

These are also the kinds of announcements that make those in the chattering classes seem smart... or try to seem smart anyway. Now, every minute detail of Rove's actions will be disected, analyzed, disected again, spun, and finally recycled into a C-SPAN "True Washington Story." It is an opportunity for every yahoo with a keyboard and a 50 baud modem to post compelling theories on why he resigned, who made him resign, and what "spend more time with my family" really means.

A lot of theories are going on out there by idiots who have no idea what's really going on.

Here's another one:

Karl was intricately involved in the firing of the U.S. attorneys and was ultimately worried that he would be called to testify in from of the Senate. Far from being fired for political reasons, however, the Attorneys were fired because they were involved in an international Illuminati conspiracy related to Karl's biggest secret: that he was the central product of the 1945 Roswell cover-up of 3 alien corpses that the AirForce hid in Area 51.

Karl Rove was created in a lab from genetic material extracted from an alien anus and combined with DNA from a young Richard Nixon. The US Air Force plotted to use the Alien-Human hybrid to infiltrate the Greys, who had crash landed to Earth on a reconnaissance mission just prior to the explosion of the Trinity Atomic Bomb testing earlier in July of 1945. The plan backfired, however, as the Greys discovered the plot and began an invasion resulting in a secret war between the Illuminati, the Greys and the Greys' Vampire allies, known on Earth as a series of conflicts including the Korean War, the 6 Day War, and the Falklands Invasion.

The elder George Bush, a high ranking member of the Tri-Lateral Commission (a joint venture between the Illuminati, the Masons, and Pepsico), secretly stole the young Rove away to Texas where he could be watched by other members of the cabal. The Illuminati believe that Rove's DNA holds the secret to defeating the eventual conquest of humanity and the Greys have tried desperately to retrieve what they consider to be theirs.

Rove's 3rd protector was George H.W. Bush's oldest son, George W. Bush who kept him out of the spotlight. The Greys realized by 1988 that Rove was involved with W and brought down the Hybrid's protector by slowly addicting him to drugs and alcohol. Bush's later sobreity was not the work of Billy Graham, but rather the replacement of George W. Bush's brain by a vastly complicated super computer controlled by the Greys. [Despite their advanced technology, they could never quite get the language function to work properly.]

Rove, knowing that he was about to be caught, propelled Bush into the public spotlight where Bush could be constantly watched by the media and unable to make any move against Rove. This culminated in the 2000 Presidential campaign, which was rigged to ensure that Bush would not slink into obscurity for at least 4 years.

Rove slowly built up a system of personal patronage around him to minimize Bush's effectiveness and to force the "President" into confrontations with Grey strongholds in Afghanistan and Vampire strongholds in Iraq. The President, however, was able to counter these moves through Grey connections in the Energy and Right Wing Media arenas. The current Wall Street instability, in fact, is merely a proxy war between the Masonic controlled banks and the Vampire controlled housing development industry. The Plame affair was an attempt by Rove to draw media attention to the attempts by the President not to invade Iraq.

However, certain Illuminati operatives in the Justice Department began to suspect that the President was about to move against the half-alien Rove. On March 12, 2007, Rove and the U.S. Attorneys hatched a plot that would allow Rove, now an effective captive of his former "protector" to escape the White House and relocate to a secure facility. The pretense of a politically motivated firing would give Rove enough cover to resign and avoid being killed by Grey death squads at the end of 2008.

The feints, double feints, triple feints, and scurrilous strategies that Rove used against the Democrats were merely covers for his own and the world's protection.

I am currently available for interviews with CNN, the Sci-Fi Channel, and Inside Edition. Please, no kooks.

Tick Tock... Tick Tock...

By my most liberal estimate, today is the 45th day a large chunk of the City government has spent without a boss. That is to say, it has been 45 days since the Mayor asked for resignations from a bunch of Department Directors and Authority heads. Now, while the lack of TPS reports has been a nice respite and the ability to work pantless has been tremendous, I think that everyone's kind of tired of working leaderless and directionless, like a group of blind nuns rowing for Yale.

Savor that metaphor, 'cause I worked on it all last night and I'm not willing to give it up.*

Frankly, I think that a lot of us have stopped making plans further than 30 days out in the expectation that the new guy (or gal) is going to change everything anyway. No use doing long term planning if your plans are just going to collapse faster than a French made bridge across the San Andres fault.** That's not a good way to run any organization, let alone a City.

Anyway, here's how it I see the deadlines so far, and remember the Mayor said he would fill the positions within 90 days:

Mayor's Deadline for Resignations......6/29/2007
Today's Date...........................8/13/2007
+90 days...............................9/27/2007
+90 business days......................11/1/2007
+90 business days (excl. holidays).....11/5/2007
Current Day............................45
Current Business Day...................32
Current Business Day (excl. holidays)..31

Now, let's throw a big ol' wrench into this mess: City Council recesses on the... tomorrow and reconvenes on the 7th of September.

Nice little vacation, by the way.

The Mayor can only appoint directors in an acting capacity for 90 days without Council approval... unless you're the City Solicitor, for some bizarre, made up reason... and Council ain't gonna do no nothing until September 7th (and even then...). So, it is doubtful that you're going to see any real movement any of these appointments until the week of the 17th of September. Nothing like the last minute, eh?***

Until then, however, I'll be wallowing in our leaderless mire like Arthur Schlesinger in a bucket of stuff that one might wallow in.***

* Metaphor... simile... could you even tell the difference?
** 20 minute Metaphor.
*** This is how you write a Masters thesis, not manage a City.
**** I think I'm just phoning these metaphors in now. I'll stop.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Memo: Last One Left at 414 Grant Street Please Turn Off the Light

Rich Lord in the Post-Gazette today:

Two years of tumult and austerity have prompted a flight of professionals from Pittsburgh government.

Nowhere is that clearer than in the Law Department, where recent resignations of three attorneys leave the city's courtroom pugilists depleted even as newcomers learn the ropes. Other departments, including Public Works and the Office of Municipal Investigations, are also short on professional staff, with effects that are being felt on the streets of Pittsburgh...

Professional staffing "is an issue that's not singular to the Law Department," said Mr. Ravenstahl. "It's an issue that government faces. When you talk about finding qualified professionals to do these jobs -- whether it's directors or just everyday, average employees -- because the public sector certainly pays less than the private sector, it is a challenge."

Since its 2003 designation as a distressed municipality, the city's white-collar work force has been subjected to hiring freezes, wage freezes and erosion of benefits.

The Planning Department has had a hard time replacing losses like Zoning Administrator Jeremy Smith, who went to the Riverlife Task Force.

The Finance Department has lost at least three high-level professionals in the past year.

The Office of Municipal Investigations, which looks into accusations of misconduct by city workers, has seven investigator positions in the budget, but only five people to fill them.
Of course, Mr. Lord has only hit the nub of the story. The truth is so much more dire.

In reality, out side of the fairly well staffed mayor's office, there are, in fact, only 5 employees in all of the City of Pittsburgh. Oh sure, you'll see people going into the City-County Building and those people may say that they "work for the City," but they don't.

Back during the filming of "The Mothman Prophecy" the Murphy administration actually began to invest part of the City payroll in Hollywood extras because of a strange quirk in state pension laws that cover employees and not retirees.

That and no one could actually tell the difference between the extras and the employees.

There are also phantom employees in the City, but these are mostly the people that are blamed for the screw ups. Something goes wrong, they blame it on Frank Golemkowski... who works in DPW... he's 50ish... graying hair... three kids... nice wife.

Anyway, if you can find him, it's all his fault. 'Cept he doesn't exist.

And finally, there are those employees that are just illusions, like the Loch Ness Monster.

Seriously, with low pay, poor benefits, little job advancement, rapidly changing goals, and fickle politics, who would ever actually *want* to work for the local government? Answer: No One. Ergo, any municipal employee you may meet is just a figment of your deranged imagination.

Which is, to be fair, far better than all the contractors that staff the County.

Saturday, August 04, 2007

Montgomery Scott: Public Enemy #1

Since the Minnesota Bridge collapse, I've been cowering under my bed, afraid to go outside into the built environment where a building may fall out from under me or a plane fall out of the sky on top of me. The mere thought of crossing over a bridge has sent me into panic attacks, and I have seriously contemplated how I can get to work without having to cross one.*

The cowering itself has started to affect the cats, who usually spend most of their time under the bed on weekdays. Apparently, I've been muscling into their space, and they are not happy.

This morning, however, I overcame the fear that my DSL line may explode and kill me and those close to me. Tomorrow I may try to venture into the public infrastructure, but I doubt it.

But, while I was peeing into unused water bottles, I came to a disturbing conclusion. There's a pattern to the collapse of the world trade center, the failure of the New Orleans levees, and now the collapse of the I-35W bridge: they are all engineered structures. There have been no other disasters in this country, except for engineered structures. I dare you to try to find a disaster that wasn't engineering relate, 'cause I know you won't try.

The pattern is clear. It's not the terrorists that are out to get us; it's the civil and structural engineers. It's a cabal, along the lines of the Masons or the Illuminati.

There's are secret Engineer "training camps" all around the country going by such innocuous names as "Massachusetts Institute of Technology," "Georgia Tech," and, most ominous of all, "Carnegie-Mellon University."

Lord knows what sick, Anti-American propaganda they are indoctrinating their followers with; they're probably right now holding meetings with secret, bizarre rituals involving slide rules and Star Trek.

We must track these Engineers down before they cause our water lines to explode, or our dams to break.

Until then, I'm staying under the bed with my windows duct taped and plastic over the doors... until the cats kick me out.

*The solution, it seems, is "learn how to fly."