In light of recent local events, Rule #32:
Any incriminating documents that you need someone to look after can be sent to email@example.com.
The Optimist says: "The Glass is Half Full." The Pessimist says: "The Glass is Half Empty." The Bureaucrat says: "What we need are 5 glasses, 1/10th the size." The Angry Drunk Bureaucrat says: "Where's my damned bourbon?"
Just a few observations about the role call vote at the DNC Convention -- the only time anyone actually cares about Guam.
Democrats Abroad, apparently, are allowed to split their votes in half. Must be Swiss.
Glad you could show up Florida.
Do the Hawai'ians have to wear leis everywhere they go?
Kansas is apparently famous only for being the home of Obama's grandparents.
Minnesota is really, really proud of their women's collage hockey team.
Nobody cares about Norman Maclean, Montana. Nobody.
Hey look! There's a black person in the New Hampshire delegation.
New Jersey made it a point to highlight the fact that they are the home to the Superbowl champions (read: "Suck it Massachusetts").
Everybody and their mother in New Mexico yields the floor to Illinois.
Illinois yields to New York... who hands off to Hillary Clinton, blindsiding Gov. David Patterson. She fades back...
Moves that the convention suspends the rules and moves that Obama be selected by acclamation.
And it's in the HOLE! It's in the HOLE! Do you believe in miracles?!? Elvis has just left the building.
Almost looked like a real convention there for a moment... and then they started playing "Love Train," drowning out Nancy Pelosi.
When you've been involved in a State Ethics Investigation about whether you've traded gifts for influence, the last thing you want to do is send out a request soliciting money to help pay for your legal bills on the matter:
Pat Ford, the city development czar who has been on paid leave since April during an ethics investigation, and his wife are reaching out to friends -- including developers who have worked with Mr. Ford -- for help with his legal bills...Don't know what to say to all that. I'm seriously dumbfounded. I'm beginning to get the feeling that this whole sordid saga is just an Andy Kaufmann-esque meta joke about local government, because that seems to be the only justifiable and reasonable answer to this level of shenanigans.
Ms. Sirk's e-mail says Mr. Ford is in the "fight of his life" and "he is committed to restoring his good name, his career, and the cooperative and productive relationships that he enjoyed with Pittsburgh's development community."
After saying that a confidential defense fund has been set up with Mr. Ford's attorney, she wrote, "I am contacting you because I know that you have worked with Pat in the past and appreciate how much he has given to our City. Pat wants what each of us wants, which is to move forward and get back to work."
Mr. Ford's attorney, Lawrence Fisher, said the fund was launched in June and has received "an outpouring of support." Neither he nor Ms. Sirk would identify who has given to the fund or how much is in it.
Asked if she was asking developers who work with the city for money, Ms. Sirk said via e-mail that the appeal "was a personal e-mail to friends. I never intended for the media to obtain a copy..."
Saw this in the P-G this afternoon:
Former city councilman Len Bodack Jr. has left the boardroom of the Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority for its payroll.So, really this is a step up for Bodack, considering his past experience in human excrement. Although, I suppose if your goal was a do nothing job, your choices were either PWSA or running for City Council again.
Mr. Bodack has been hired to a $56,000 job as maintenance supervisor at the agency, after serving on its board of directors as a city councilman. He resigned from the PWSA board (which is appointed by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl) after applying for the position this month.
He had been council's District 7 representative for four years before being beaten in the Democratic primary by Patrick Dowd last year, and lost a three-way primary battle for a state House seat this year.
Before joining council Mr. Bodack served as operations director for his father -- a former state senator and head of the county's Democratic Party -- and ran an auto repair shop.
However, don't most organizations frown on moving from the Board of Directors to employee?
Through our contacts in the Mexican embassy, we intercepted the following message, apparently originating in Germany:
Wir beabsichtigen, beginnt am dreiundzwanzigsten August unsere sechste jährliche Hothouse Veranstaltung in den oberen Stockwerken der Union Trust Building in Downtown Pittsburgh. Die Veranstaltung dient als Bühne zu präsentieren, welche einige der innovativen Projekte und Führer der aufstrebenden Gemeinde erfolgreichen Initiativen unterstützt durch Sprout im vergangenen Jahr. Die Siedlung im Detail ist links auf unserer Website. Sie informieren die Bürgerinnen und Bürger die meisten heimlich so bald wie möglich zu gestalten. Bitte rufen Sie an alle Aufmerksamkeit auf die Tatsache, dass das Ereignis erzeugt eine unglaubliche Chance für den breiten Querschnitt von Pittsburgh's geschäftliche und gesellschaftliche Kreise, die zusammen kommen jedes Jahr zur Unterstützung Sprout-Mission zu treffen und vermischen. Unterzeichnet - ZIMMERMANNNot sure what it means, but I've alerted President Wilson.
Posted by O at 6:57 PM
Matthew McTish, president of the company that bears his surname, gave $10,000 to Ravenstahl's campaign in December 2006. It is one the few five-digit contributions the mayor received between September 2006 and December 2007, the latest campaign records available.The folks over at 414 Grant Street go a little further:
Six Wilbur Smith executives, including company president Hollis Walker Jr., gave Ravenstahl a combined $7,500 between January and October last year, the records show. Wilbur Smith won three engineering consultant contracts worth $1.12 million in 2007.
The head of the engineering firm McTish, Kunkel & Associates that, according to yesterday's Tribune Review article, won a URA bid for work at the Technology Center after being the highest bidder gave a $1,000 campaign contribution to URA Board Member and PA State Senator Jim Ferlo on March 9, 2008. It should also be noted that Senator Ferlo also happens to be URA Board Chairman Yarone Zober's former boss.Of course, no mention is made of Trumbull's contributions to anyone... probably because they slyly run their contribution through their own political action committee, TC PAC... and, of course, that PAC gave generously to CAPAC (Constructors Association PAC), along with such names you might recognize like Ferlo, DeWeese, Roddey, Frankel, Stevenson, Orie, Wheatley, etc.
Saw this on Craigslist:
$13,000,000 100 year-old Government Office BuildingOK, maybe not on Craigslist, per se.
Barely renovated, 14 half baths.
Comes with own Housing and Redevelopment Authorities, Building Inspection, Planning, and Fire Departments.
Fester has already started doing a bit of local Kremlinology on the 2009 Mayoral race, and, despite his woeful unfamiliarity with the characters in Mayberry, says about 90% of what I was going to say, had I not been beaten to the punch:
The challenge for any challenger will be how to beat the Pittsburgh machine on a city wide basis. Beating the machine has not been that difficult in favorable demographic neighborhoods such as Shadyside and the 14th Ward. The last round of City Council races saw challengers beat multiple machine backed candidates, but the City Council new blood bloc has been ineffectively theatrical. So how does a challenger assemble an effective electoral and governing coalition within the city?Now, I'm not one to resist the urge to slice open the political entrails of Bill Peduto and Tom Murphy and try to divine some mystical prophecy about May '09. Let me go back to what I said three years ago:
The Pittsburgh Democratic machine is still the strongest and most powerful political unit in the city despite its trickle of losses over the past few years. The non-Machine candidates have a strong base in the city's East End and other gentrifying neighborhoods while the traditional Democrats do better in areas that are older, and generate less buzz. One of the core machine areas are the African American neighborhoods that run aside the East Busway.
I think the Obama coalition that that won the city by roughly 16 points offers a good example. However, I want to examine the past two large scale city machine runs for some lessons and contrasts.
In the 2005 primary, the late Mayor O'Connor put together a machine coalition against the East End Cupcake Classer Bill Peduto and the earnest wonk who cares about bond repayment reserve funds, Michael Lamb. He won a plurality with approximately 48% of the vote; his two major opponents each received a quarter of the vote and a variety of vanity candidates mopped up the rest. O'Connor won on the basis of the machine, and he won on a multi-racial coalition. Looking at the district level demographics (provided here), he did better in African American districts than he did in white districts.
Now let's fast forward this to the 2008 Democratic Presidential Primary. The city and county establishment Democrats on the whole backed Hillary Clinton. She won Allegheny County but lost the city of Pittsburgh by roughly sixteen points. She underperformed Bob O'Connor but this underperformance was not evenly distributed. The easiest breakdown of the difference between the Clinton coalition and the O'Connor coalition was by race; the more black a precinct was, the less likely Clinton would do well, and vice versa. This is in sharp contrast to Bob O'Connor who built his win on the East Busway neighborhoods...
The previous challenges from outside the traditional machine have failed as they can never expand past a limited geographic and demographic base. Right now that limited base is willing to vote for a ham sandwich over the incumbent mayor, Luke Ravenstahl. However winning Shadyside and Squirrel Hill will only allow one to become King of the Mardi Gras bar.
I see five different undercurrents in the Pittsburgh Democratic structure: the Old Guard, the Revolutionaries, the New-Old Guard, the Black Caucus, and the Leftovers.I still hold by this analysis, more or less.
The P-G had this article on the new "bike czar", who, apparently is supposed to solve every bike related problem in the city... which I presume to mean the fucking hills.
The new Pittsburgh bike-pedestrian coordinator's job, though, is to make pedaling or walking the city's 89 neighborhoods, car-choked pinch-points and steep slopes a little less of a thrill ride.Where the power to exalt every valley and make every hill low comes in is not indicated by statute.
Mr. Patchan, 32, of the South Side Flats, started work Aug. 4 and yesterday he got his marching orders from Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, Councilman Patrick Dowd and cycling enthusiasts who crowded Enrico's Tazza D'Oro, a Highland Park coffee shop...
Over the next two years, though, Mr. Ravenstahl and Mr. Dowd want to see tax credits and zoning preferences for businesses that accommodate cyclists, better bike route signs, more bike racks, local and national pedal-power events, and volunteer bike registration, among other things. They'd like to find money to repair city steps, with Mr. Dowd suggesting that the focus be on staircases that lead to transit.
My real interest in this story, however, comes from the assignment of the title "Czar" to this new position. One should remember that the erstwhile Pat Ford was given the title of Economic Development Czar before he decided to take gifts not unethically.
So what is it about this title of "czar" that has compelled the media and the administration to use it so frequently, over such equally impressive titles as "marquis" or "generalissimo" or even "high exalted grand poobah".
Does it evoke images of absolute power and authority over a given realm, or is it merely a warning to the officeholder that at any given time the proletariat could revolt and you may find yourself in front of a firing squad.
I'm obviously opting for the latter.
Mr. Patchan better start sending jaywalkers to the gulag now, before it's too late.
This story has been sitting in my news feeds for the last few days, so I figure I should be getting around to it. From the Business Times:
Pittsburgh officials Friday completed the foreclosure of four properties in the Beechview neighborhood acquired by developer Bernardo Katz in 2004 and 2005.Now, we've covered the Bernardo Katz saga elsewhere, and, let's be fair here, the whole thing is a big old clusterfuck.
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and other officials are planning to unlock the buildings in the 1600 block of Broadway Avenue in a noon ceremony as part of an ongoing effort to generate interest from developers in the properties.
The city's Urban Redevelopment Authority initiated foreclosure proceedings on the properties earlier this year after the agency said Katz failed to make timely payments on them.
In my browsing this evening I stumbled another one of those rankings from Forbes. This time it was America's Fastest Dying Cities. For those of you that don't want to click the link, here's the spoiler:
Canton, OHBut whither Pittsburgh? I, and I'm sure many of my 7 readers, are shocked that Pittsburgh isn't included. I mean, we suck, right? Right?
and of course...
Now, I wasn't surprised that the Pat Ford Ethics Investigation came back negative. Indeed, I believe that I had posted on another blog somewhere that I felt that Ford would be exonerated, but the real challenge will be what happens now.
[At least, I think I posted something like that... I could be back tracking, but whatever.]
The real challenge now is what Ravenstahl does now. Since Ford's departure, the URA hasn't collapsed (at least not that I can tell), so the acting folk in charge must be doing a halfway decent job. You have to wonder if Ravenstahl is willing to rock the boat on this one, or if he wants to put his guy back in the saddle.
And then, of course, there's the whole thing with HACP. I mean, Ford went off and talked to the Feds about the Housing Authority, so I'm sure that's going to cause some tension if there's any inter-authority projects.
And it's an election year. Whether or not this is a "substantial issue," the perception is the reality and Ravenstahl's political enemies will definitely try to make hay out of it. The only good news is that this story seems to have resolved itself in August instead of, like, March or April when it really, really would have hurt him.
And, of course, perception being what it is, you have to wonder if Ford will be as effective as he could be, or will potential clients feel that the rules are skewed against them.
Maybe the solution here is just to give Pat his old job back. Not the URA job or the HACP job, but the City "Development Czar" job. That way Ford can still pull the political levers and buddy up with Developers, but there's a nice little buffer between him and... well... being called in front of Council every other day.
Just a thought. I doubt it will happen at this point.
The decision, at this point, rests in the hands of the Ravenstahl appointed URA board, but perhaps Ford can make the decision easier by resigning with his reputation in tact.
I also doubt this will happen.
Just a brief thought experiment:
With the increase in gas prices, concern about the viability of foreign oil, and a collapsing housing market, one may suppose that there would be a return to denser, transit oriented development. If that happens, one of the first casualties, in my mind would be the parking garage.
The parking garage is a very specialized structure, serving exactly one purpose: to house automobiles while we're not driving them. They are usually very large structures, built of concrete, steal, and the occasional LED billboard, but all have the same function.
Now, I'm not suggesting that parking garages are suddenly going to be empty; the American desire to be a V-8 cowboy will probably never completely go away. I am suggesting, however, that if fewer people drive on a regular basis, operating parking garages becomes less profitable.
The result are old derelict structures, empty and taking up space. (Which, to be fair, is pretty much what most of the garages downtown look like anyway.)
So my questions are these: Are architects planning for the whole life cycle of these structures, i.e., what do they become after they fulfill their useful life? What do we do with the ones we may have coming up in the future? Can they become homes? Office buildings? Urban Farms? Or are we just going to end up with big ol' piles of rubble?
My mind flashes back to a probably apocryphal story about why the halls in the old buildings of Carnegie Mellon are sloped: if Tech failed as a school, Carnegie was planning to turn the buildings into workshops.
Do we have such foresight?
Saw this today in the P-G (and the Trib for that matter) and felt it deserved a comment:
The city is making its first application for state funds used to boost development near transit stations.So I did a little digging to try to uncover what this whole thing is about.
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl is sending legislation to city council today to apply for $300,000 in-state Transit Revitalization Investment District funds, to write redevelopment plans for transit hubs in three city areas: Beechview/Mount Washington, East Liberty and Homewood/North Point Breeze. The Urban Redevelopment Authority is also going to Allegheny County Council and Pittsburgh Public Schools for approvals.
TRID plans are under way for developments by light rail transit stations in Mt. Lebanon and Dormont. The city hopes to spur similar development near the South Hills Junction station as well as East Busway stops in the other neighborhoods.
Basically, the bill is supposed to be a tool to encourage economic development at transit stops (subway, light rail, busway, and train stations) and encourage more public transit ridership. Take an existing or proposed busway stop (for example), draw a half mile wide circle around it and you got yourself a TRID district.
Now, here's where it gets interesting:
Consistent with the existing authority or limitations of public transportation agencies to condemn and acquire land for public transportation purposes, such entities are hereby authorized to acquire and improve property located within a designated TRID for real estate development purposes...If I read that correctly, it gives PAT the authority to assemble property via eminent domain for development purposes within the TRID boundary.
Yes, the same Port Authority that has a half vacant garage sitting next to South Hills Village. Yes, the same Port Authority that dug a giant tunnel under the Allegheny River. Yes, the same Port Authority with persistent budgetary woes. Yes, the same Port Authority. But I digress.
If we go further on:
In conjunction with the formal establishment of the TRID boundaries, a coterminous value capture area shall simultaneously be created to enable local municipalities, school districts, the county and the public transportation agency to share the increased tax increment of real estate and other designated tax revenues generated by new real estate investment within the TRID.Or, as the folks down at PNC call it "a TIF". Y'all remember what TIFs are, right?
I can see this portion being used to support the improvement of roads, sidewalks, transit stations and water and sewer systems and the construction of new amenities like parking garages that support the economic development investment.
Now, don't get me wrong, I don't think that this a particularly bad idea (apart from the whole PAT involvement) and I think certain neighborhoods in the East End and the South Hills could potentially benefit from this project.
However, if this was truly forward thinking, we shouldn't be focusing on where transit is, but where transit should be and focus our regional development strategies on that.
And believe me, I got a few ideas where PAT can go.
Washington D.C. (Reuters) - In a turn of events that has left the 2008 Election in turmoil, John McCain has withdrawn from his Presidential campaign under pressure from the Federal Elections Committee following his comparison of Barack Obama to Hitler.
"This is not something I relish doing or I wanted to have happen," said McCain in a terse speech to assembled members of the media, "but the law is the law, whether it's Gravity or Godwin's, and I am forced to step aside."
McCain's withdrawal from the campaign comes mere hours after a television ad that ran in several media markets drew fire from the entire spectrum of the political establishment. The ad shows several still pictures of Barack Obama giving his, now famous recent speech in Berlin with a caption and a voiceover saying "You know who else the Germans liked? That's right: Hitler."
The ad was immediately brought to the attention of the FEC who unanimously ruled it a violation of the 1990 Godwin Law. The law imposes severe penalties to individuals who invoke the principle of reducio ad Hitlerum; in the McCain case, that penalty was a forced withdrawal from the race.
The McCain campaign had appeared desperate over the last few weeks, claiming a media bias for Obama. The campaign however, seemed to continue too lose its footing and began running ads claiming that Obama had not visited with US troops while in Afghanistan, that Obama was too much of a celebrity to be President, that Obama liked arugula, or even that he was the father of two black babies.
Former Washington Post columnist Allen Henry says that the pressure "evidently became too much for the McCain Campaign."
"You see all these ads getting more and more bizarre, and you see them basically grasping at straws. Without any real any focused, substantive attack it was obvious that the whole argument was just going to devolve into Hitler and Nazism. It's a shame really."
There's no word today about how this will effect the race for President, although anonymous insiders from the McCain campaign have vowed to fight on without him, calling his departure "a dead weight off our shoulders".
Senator Obama, meanwhile, continues to be awesome.
Pittsburgh (Sportswire) - Pirates Owner Robert Nutting has announced today that he has traded the entire roster for a sack of beans, which, according to Nutting are said to be "magic".
"I realize that most Pirates fans are going to question this decision," said Nutting in a late night press conference, "but I have been assured that these beans are 100% guaranteed as Magic by the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn."
Pirates fans were outraged.
A caller to Stan Savran's show on ESPN Radio called this the worst move in the last 8 years. "I mean, is the head office even trying anymore. They bring up new talent year after year, and once they get even the slightest bit good, they sell them like a fire sale."
Still, even after the trade, the Pirates still remain ahead of the Washington National's in ESPN's Power Rankings.
This is not the first time that Nutting has been involved in a controversial trade. Recently, Nutting traded Xavier Nady to the Yankees for four minor league prospects, last year he traded Jason Bay for 1000 bags of pennies, and three years ago he traded his chocolate pudding for a half eaten package of cheese & crackers at lunch.
Late reports indicate that Pirates President & CEO Frank Coonelly has managed to steal the beans, and has thrown them out of the window.
So it's August now, 116 days have past and we still don't have a hint of the resolution to the Pat Ford incident.
Napoleon was able to escape from exile, raise an army, take on Russia, England, Austria, and Prussia, and lose one of the most famous battles in history in less time.
Of course, Napoleon wasn't fighting the State Ethics Committee. If he had to battle those folks instead of all of Europe, he would have just probably rather stayed in Corsica.