Monday, December 28, 2009

A Bureaucrat's Aside Re: District 6 Transition

As today is one of the last days for Councilwoman Payne, I got to wondering:

Given the animosity between Ms. Payne and former Councilman Sala Udin, and
Given the fact that Ms. Payne is probably going to challenge Rep. Jake Wheatley for his State House seat, and
Given that the incoming Councilman Daniel LaVelle was an aide to both Udin and Wheatley, and
Given the well known animosity and rancorous election between Ms. Payne and Mr. LaVelle's supporters...

Do you think Ms. Payne will "drop a deuce" somewhere in the office, just out of spite?

ADB's Best of 2009

So as the year is winding to a close, we figured we'd write a post of all of our favorite posts from the previous year, which is, in no way filler because we're too hungover to come up with something new.

The posts that generated the biggest response was the four part G-20 Guide to Pittsburgh (I, II, III, IV), which nearly broke my visitor counter. Our favorite line of the whole series was:

At some point, steel happened and it defined the Region; then it stopped, which also defined the Region.
which was also very much enjoyed by a member of dead tree media (who shall go nameless for now).

To be honest, though: the initial idea was to be a post along the lines of "Dan Onorato Announces Pittsburgh Rules for G-20 Visitors," and was going to detail penalties for not observing the Pittsburgh left, stealing parking chairs, or wearing Cleveland paraphernalia. We started to write the post and then decided that the format was too restrictive, and opted for the travel guide instead. Then the damned thing near exploded.

But some of our other personal favorites:

Doug Shields Bows out of Mayor's Race (If you've been to a Council District 5 Public meeting, you'll be shocked to know that this is not a transcript.)

Angry Drunk Bureaucrat Slams Dowd's & Ravenstahl's Half-assed Campaign Finance Proposals (ADB is still running for Overlord, thankyouverymuch)

Zober Begins Work on Volume 5 of Enemies List (We got a few comments praising this post from people who have since disappeared under mysterious circumstances.)

Your Millenarianism for Today (Fun Fact: PA Liquor Control Laws were written by Moses.)

Anthony Coghill Wants to Show You His Crotch (At the heart of this blog, you will find a snickering 12-year old.)

Victims 2009 - Part 2 (If for nothing than the oblique Star Trek reference.)

Sneak Peak at Web-based Permitting (We worked very hard on the picture and crashed Photoshop three times.)

Adding to the Noise (The line "No more evil subsidized corn, Agnes" tickles us in a place that is both pleasurable and creepy.)

PA State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe Believes Dwarves Are Stealing His Socks (PA Politicians be crazy.)

And our least favorite post of the year?

This one, actually... as we felt it was a cop out and merely filler for the weekly quota.

2009 Burn List

As far as you know, we have a friend who every year assembles personal do-dads, newspaper clippings, photos, letters, etc. and ceremonially burns them over the remnants of his Christmas tree on December 31. In the spirit of the New Year, it is a cathartic chance to start afresh, free from the burdens of the previous year and to start fresh anew. Around here, we have plenty to throw onto our virtual fire:

* G-20: Good grief. If there was one Pittsburgh-National-International story that we got sick of during the year it was the G-20 brouhaha. Even though it only lasted for a few days, we were stuck with, not only the barricades, the traffic restrictions, a dead downtown, security up the wazoo, police overreaction, and pseudo-anarchists with unfathomable rage towards pancakes, we got hammered with nausea inducing, feel good Pittsburgh stories from the media telling us how great we were and how awesome it is in Pittsburgh. Perhaps it's our deep seated Catholic guilt, our annoying Protestant work ethic, or our lingering zen-like stoicism, but frankly we got tired of it and we just wanted to get back to our regular lives.

* The Great Recession: Of course, even if we wanted to get back to our regular lives, we couldn't as about 10% of us had been laid off. We watched friends and relatives struggle with trying to find a job, barely holding on to the ones they had, applying and reapplying for unemployment, losing their houses, or going bankrupt. We'll admit that once or twice we tasted the cat's food, you know, just in case we were going to have to resort to eating it somewhere down the line. Hopefully the worst has past.

* The Health Care Debate: Nothing this year brought out the worst in the country than the idea that people probably shouldn't worry about going broke trying to live. It has been a debate that, in more civilized times, would have been about the costs of Federal Government intervention versus the benefits of providing long term cost controls to the Citizenry, but instead devolved into petty partisanship, name calling, lies, and assorted blubbering craziness (both real and feigned). At the (near) end of the rancorousness, we sadly saw some of the worst aspects of our system exposed and came to the realization that a lot of the people we put into higher office are not just douchebags, but ultra-mega douchebags.

* Local Politics: And at the local level, we had another year of Lilliputian politics in Pittsburgh involving an (effectively) uncontested Mayoral race, a County Executive intent on doing nothing that would jeopardize his run for higher office, local elected "leadership" that can barely find its own asshole with two hands and a flashlight, and the stinking suspicion that money and election contributions (rather than good policy) is what happens to be driving Pittsburgh Government. Perhaps it is too optimistic, but I would like a month to go by without a story about political indiscretions, rumors of bribery, grand jury investigations, or City Council Circus behavior.

* The Mon-Fayette Expressway: It's on my list of things to burn every year, but, as the folks in Harrisburg have lost the receipt, I can't even exchange it for something nicer or more useful.

Well, that's my burn list. Feel free to add more in the comments.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A Bureaucrat's Aside Re: Tuition Tax - The Deadening

And so it came to pass that all that was wrong was now right and those that deserved to were certain to live a long and happy life.

Or did it?

There have been mumblings that the Mayor's Office was playing a high stakes game of chicken, in which the real goal was to get PILOT commitments from the Universities and from certain larger non-profits (like Highmark), which they did. Of course, that would mean that someone in the Mayor's Office was being particularly clever and was at least five steps ahead of the opponents at all time.

But, we know that this can't be true because, ipso facto people that work in local government are not very smart. Believe me; I am, frankly, dumber than a bag of rocks... and I like to think of myself as one of the smart ones 'round these here parts, because I recognize that I am, frankly, dumber than a bag of rocks. Other folks *cough* gastheif *cough* are not as blessed.

I'll tell you what's...er... telling though -- this picture of Lukey and Mark Nordenberg.



Notice the hand in the pocket (something that we've mentioned before). According to the Pop Up Video for Alanis Morisette's "One Hand In My Pocket" video, if someone always puts his hands in his pocket then this person might be lacking self confidence and so always feels uncomfortable around other people.

So, make of that what you will.

My One String Harp

If you've followed this blog with any regularity, you'll be familiar with my peculiar bugbear with regard to vacant land. If so, feel free to skip this post as it devolves into the typical rantings and raving you'd expect from someone who's obsessed with things like "tax increments" and "the name of Captain Picard's fish on Start Trek: The Next Generation."* If you don't know what the hell I'm talking about, keep reading.

From the P-G:

Blight and abandoned properties are a "growing crisis," robbing this region of millions of dollars. So says a report just released by Sustainable Pittsburgh, the host of a summit on the topic last week.

Vacant and decrepit land is a regional liability in marketing and attracting investment, said John Kromer, a senior consultant at the Fels Institute at the University of Pennsylvania and the keynote speaker.

"If people actually knew how much money they are losing by not having these properties on the tax rolls it might spur them to action," said Ginette Walker Vinski, communications manager for Sustainable Pittsburgh. "If you make the economic case on a regional level, there's so much money we could be making..."
Mike Madison jumps in with a proposal over here, in which he argues for a University sponsored land banking system, which the City does not have at this point in any workable form (although several other Cities do... the land bank bit, not the University part, that is). However, the most important bit being
Most of that vacant land is taxable in theory, but there is no tax revenue associated with it. It's not being developed.
Which brings me to my one string harp:

Back in the day, when the Sabre Systems property assessments first came in, the Pittsburgh City Council, in an effort to cut off its nose to spite its face, eliminated the land/building split on property taxes. Up until this point, land was taxed at a higher rate than the building that sat upon it. When the land/building split was removed, the combined value of the land & building were taxed at the same rate.

So, what this means is that under the old system, if you had a vacant property with a low value, but you were taxed at a really high rate; under the new system you have a vacant property with a low value with a really low rate. If you are a rational actor, therefore, under the new system it is in your best interest to keep a property vacant or a low value building in a state of disrepair, else your taxes go up. Moreover, because I depend on tax money to feed my family, if you're sitting on a piece of vacant property for an extended period of time, you're still paying a really high rate to the City.

I would be curious, therefore, to see what the rate of vacant and abandoned properties was prior to the elimination of the land/building split and the rate is currently. My sense, from nothing more than driving down Fifth Avenue, is that the rate of vacant and abandoned properties has gone up.

Now, I'm not saying that reinstituting the split is going to fix this property problem, but I am saying that it should provide negative incentives for people to leave property vacant.

But that's my one note tune and I guess I'm the only one singing it.

---
* A virtual cookie to the first one to know this one. No Googling.

Ravenstahl, Universities Reach Agreement

University of Pittsburgh President Mark Nordenberg and President of the ΓΟΠ Fraternity, Luke Ravenstahl, reached an agreement today that would not revoke the fraternity's charter in advance of the Homecoming Game.

"We do not think that it's right to extort money from the college," said Nordenberg at a press conference, "but fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life."

Both Nordenberg and Ravenstahl have been at loggerheads regarding the responsibility of fees in lieu of taxes for the Fraternity, as well as the presence of a dead horse in the President's office.

President Ravenstahl issued a statement saying, "The issue here is not whether we broke a few rules, or took a few liberties with our female party guests - we did. You can't hold a whole fraternity responsible for the behavior of a few, sick twisted individuals. For if you do, then shouldn't we blame the whole fraternity system? And if the whole fraternity system is guilty, then isn't this an indictment of our educational institutions in general? I put it to you - isn't this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can do whatever you want to us, but we're not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America."

Details of the agreement were not released, but sources close to the story indicate that the Fraternity will be lifted from double secret probation and will be returned their stuff, even the stuff they didn't steal. In exchange, the Homecoming parade will not be disrupted by marbles, tanks, or Kevin Bacon.

The ΓΟΠ Fraternity has been accused with dumping a truckload of fizzies into the swim meet, delivering the medical school cadavers to the alumni dinner, filling the trees with underwear every Halloween, and making the toilets explode every spring.

The Fraternity will be holding their annual Toga Party next Friday, which, they remind everyone, "will not be an orgy."

Details on the full scope of the deal are still forthcoming.

Greentree Man Accepts Responsibility for Muffed On-side Kick

Local Steelers fan Tony "Duckman" Sculluci issued a statement today apologizing for a failed on-side kick that nearly resulted in a loss to the Green Bay Packers yesterday at Heinz Field.

Mr. Sculluci had inadvertently allowed a friend identified only a "Joey" to momentarily place an Iron City beer onto his Terrible Towel, following a fourth quarter touchdown.

"We were all there in the rumpus room, and I had just finishing waving it and I put it down to grab some more nachos, when 'Joey' goes and puts his beer down on the towel. Next thing I know *BAM*! 9 Yards. I should have been more careful."

Insiders speculate that "Joey" is known Cleveland Browns fan Joseph Carey, a long time college friend of Mr. Sculluci, who may have purposefully placed the beer on the towel in order to guarantee a Steelers loss. Calls to the Carey residence were not returned.

Pittsburgh sports analyst and commentator Guy Junker says that this was probably not Mr. Sculluci's fault.

"I'm sure that the Steelers Organization appreciates the dedication of it's fan base and how personal they take the team's record, but one man's actions at home would not explain the poor execution of that play, especially considering the recent string of losses. If anything, it means that there are thousands of fans that are not wearing their lucky jerseys, aren't listen to the radio during the game, or haven't touched their Myron Cope bobble head doll prior to the game. Pittsburgh fans everywhere really need to step up their game."

A Steelers Nationwide alert has been issued by the Rooney Family. Steelers fans are encouraged to double their "fandemonium" and the team has shifted money away from the Offensive Line and Special Teams budgets to assist in these efforts.

Mr. Sculluci, however, remains penitent.

"I always knew that I had a mystical bond with my team, but I had no idea that it was directly connected to their ability to execute onside kicks. For that I am truly sorry."

Friday, December 18, 2009

Of Mice and Men

Caught this story in the Trib:

The cafeteria in Pennsylvania's Capitol was shut down and workers scoured the facility Friday after health inspectors found evidence of a rodent infestation and dishwashing water that wasn't hot enough.

The ground-floor cafeteria, a popular coffee and lunch spot for visitors to the statehouse and people who work there, was closed Thursday after state Department of Agriculture officials made an unannounced inspection.

"There were mouse droppings around the facility too numerous to mention," said Justin Fleming, a spokesman for the state Agriculture Department.

The droppings, which indicate the presence of live mice, are considered an imminent health risk, Fleming said. A leak that prevented the water in dishwashers from becoming hot enough to sterilize plates and utensils also was considered an imminent threat, he said...
The word "Under the Dome" is that the rats in the legislature were tired of the competition.

Rumors are that former Democratic Whip Bill DeWeese had been seen last week fighting a rodent for a piece of cheese. That rodent was later identified as Republican Minority Whip Mike Turzai.

The foul, disease filled festering vermin will be trapped and sent off to be used as snake food, while the mice will be humanely released elsewhere on Capital grounds.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Rule #35

*Creaks open ancient tome and blows away thick layer of dust*

Rule #35: It will always take longer than expected.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Historical Metaphors for Dummies

I don't do this usually, but from TPM:

At today's conservative "Code Red" rally against the health care bill, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) rallied the faithful with a fun historical and literacy reference: "It's the charge of the light brigade!"

The fun part here is that the Light Brigade lost that famous battle of the Crimean War -- they lost it badly, sustaining heavy numbers of deaths and injuries. They are celebrated not for victory, but for their bravery in taking on truly insurmountable odds in a military disaster.
OK, maybe if Ms. Bachmann had compared her compatriots to the British, or the Ottomans, or even the French following the charge of the light brigade, maybe the analogy would have been apt. But she didn't so it isn't.

So, Rep. Bachmann, here are some other things you probably shouldn't compare your friends to:
  • Pompeii
  • The Titanic
  • The Darién Scheme
  • Custer's Last Stand
  • Smoot-Hawley tariff
  • The Chevy Chase Show
  • Vanilla Ice
  • Day-Glo Attire
  • 8-Track Tapes
  • DiVX
  • Ishtar
  • This is a start anyway; I hope it helps.

    Grand Jury Indicts Entire City of Harrisburg

    A statewide grand jury has accused the entire City of Harrisburg, in a wide-ranging investigation into multiple different charges ranging from murder to removing tags from mattresses.

    This summer, several aides to high level legislators testified before the grand jury that hundreds of thousands of Harrisburgers had committed thousands of crimes. Investigators believe that these residents did, with malice and forethought, intend on committing criminal acts.

    Attorney General Tom Corbett, who led the investigation and who is charged with armed robbery, said that while the investigation has taken untold numbers of man hours, the results were "well worth it."

    "This just goes to prove that the entire City of Harrisburg, from the Governor to the guy that sleeps on Front Street is guilty of something and should be locked away forever." Mr. Corbett was then led away in chains.

    Governor Ed Rendell issued a statement from Dauphin County Prison saying that he was "disappointed" in the City and that he would appreciate a "Ile-fay" in a "Ake-cay".

    State Police closed in on the State Legislature as they voted on a bill to legalize table gaming, an obvious trap set up by the Attorney General's office. A warrant has been issued for State Senator Jay Costa who did not make the session. He is believed to be hiding with his brothers Dom, Guy, Jermaine, and Tito.

    The Grand Jury is expected to hand down more indictments involving Centre County and the 3100 through 3300 blocks of Winter Street in Philadelphia.

    Die Walküravenstähl

    In a move that was almost as unsurprising as the Mon Wharf flooding because of heavy rains, Auditor General Jack Wagner came out today against the proposed Tuition Tax.

    "What we're really doing is asking a select group of people to fund a specific entity of government -- in this case, pensions," said Mr. Wagner, whose office audits municipal pension funds. "It makes colleges in the city of Pittsburgh a little bit uncompetitive in comparison to their counterparts."

    Mr. Wagner said it's a particularly bad time for a new tax.

    "People are hurting. No matter where you go in Pennsylvania, the average person is doing everything they can to reduce expenses. It is not a time to increase taxes."
    Now, when you're a cynic it's hard to see this move as anything but cynical but...

    Well, let me first step back and lay my cards on the table: I agree with the Auditor General that this tax is a bad idea as it, (1) Taxes a population that does not necessarily have representation in the City or the State, (2) taxes a population that is generally low-income, and (3) taxes, of all things, the ability of a person to get an education. Now, as I was once a poor college student, I do remember long nights of nothing to eat but Ramen noodles because I was too broke to afford anything else (including beer), so I can identify with the monetary burden this imposes. I also find it ironic that with one hand the Mayor is touting the Pittsburgh Promise while with the other hand is trying to grab cash from the universities.

    Well, maybe that's not ironic -- in any case, back to the cynicism...

    I'm going to wager that the Ravenstahls and the Wagners are not good friends (call it a hunch). I'm also going to wager that Jack getting his digs in at the Mayor is going to win him some points with suburban, progressive, and student voters in the race for governor. I'll further wager that a calculated strike at Ravenstahl is a hit also at one of Wagner's opponents and Luke ally, Dan Onorato, CPA. I'd also wager that this kind of issue is a big enough that it can make news ripples across the Commonwealth, much like Tom Corbett's ongoing State Bonus Investigation.

    So, I really can't comment on story without sounding cynical, even though I am, but I'm not trying to be.

    Monday, December 14, 2009

    Carnegie board votes to extend due date for libraries

    After a public meeting today, the Board of the Carnegie Library has agreed to extend the due dates on the Beechview, Hazelwood, Lawrenceville and West End branches and will wave all late fees for up to a year.

    The library budget previously approved a budget that relied on up to $1.5 million of late fees from patrons that had borrowed the libraries but did not return them on time.

    The board said that they had managed to cover the shortfall through a combination of employee attrition, recycling old card catalogs, and not having books that were listed as available on the system, but some how "missing" and non-locatable.

    The libraries were stamped out as of December 14, 2009 and are due back December 14, 2010. Failure to return the libraries will result in the loss of library privileges.

    When asked for comment, Director Barbara Mistick told reporters to "Shhhhh!"

    Tuition's Own

    Our moment of clarity today comes from Harold D. Miller, with regards to the tuition tax:

    [O]ver 70% of the people who work at a job located in the City of Pittsburgh don’t live in the City. That’s one of the highest percentages of any major city in the country. In Philadelphia, only 42% of the people who work in the City don’t live there. In cities like Charlotte, Chicago, Indianapolis, Milwaukee, and San Francisco, fewer than 60% of the jobs are filled by suburban commuters.

    The reason so many people who work in the City of Pittsburgh live somewhere else is because Pittsburgh, with only 55.6 square miles of land area, is one of the smallest major cities in the nation. In most regions, places as close as Ben Avon, Edgewood, Fox Chapel, Mt. Lebanon, and Upper St. Clair would be part of the City, not separate municipalities...

    In contrast, most college students aren’t commuters, but residents of the City of Pittsburgh. In fact, more than 1 out of every 7 residents of the City of Pittsburgh is in college or graduate school. Many of them own homes and pay property taxes to the City, while others rent apartments and enable their landlords to pay property taxes. Many of them work while attending school to help pay tuition as well as living expenses, and as residents, they pay income taxes to the City on their earnings...
    So, what Harold is saying is that a hell of a lot of people that actually *use* city services aren't really being taxed by the City, while a sizable cohort that's already being taxed is about to be taxed more. And of course, the logical conclusion:
    The only way to avoid things like City tuition taxes and County drink taxes is for the Governor and Pennsylvania General Assembly to modernize local government tax structures and create revenue-sharing programs that enable regional public services to be supported by everyone who benefits from them...
    Of course, that ain't gonna happen any time soon. Any proposal of revenue sharing (read: "tax") or commuter tax (read: "fifth horseman of the apocalypse") will be voted down by suburban legislators who both want to keep their jobs and don't really give a damn about the City anyway -- unless they can find some way to get themselves in power.

    So, the logical conclusion is either that (a) the Mayor lacks the necessary cajones to actively and aggressively petition for some sort of intermunicipal revenue sharing plan or consolidation, (b) the Mayor lacks the political influence in Harrisburg to get anything like this passed, or (c) this is a desperate game of chicken with the state legislature in which the college students are innocent bystanders.

    If C... well... I'm not sure that the Legislature actually knows that the Mayor is playing chicken. He may need to let them know, as he's in a pimped out Geo Metro and they're in a dumb ol' Hummer.

    A Bureaucrat's Aside Re: Et in Arcadia Ego

    If you want a weird sort of bureaucratic memento mori, take a look at all the names scratched off an interdepartment mail envelope.

    "Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return... or retire, but not with a full pension, that's for sure."

    Sunday, December 13, 2009

    Urban Development Thoughts

    When the East Mall Apartments in East Liberty were finally scheduled for demolition, the location community organization ELDI held a street party in which the much maligned apartments were shot with paint balloons launched from giant slingshots. For years the building that straddled Penn Avenue was looked at, not only as substandard housing, but a physical barrier between Garfield and East Liberty. Still, for some, it was home.

    When the Mellon (née Civic) Arena was finally made obsolete, a local architect and preservationist proposed the saving of the structure as a park and a public space. For years the building that straddled what was left of Wylie Avenue was looked at, not only as a failed attempt at urban development, but a physical barrier between Downtown and the Hill District. Still for some, it was (at one point) the site of their homes.

    If someone was really clever here, they'd point out the strange parallels between the two stories with regards to neighborhood interests, the interest of the development elite, and the role of architecture reflecting differing urban narratives between the two interests.

    If someone was really clever, that is.

    North Side Institution Condemned by City

    City of Pittsburgh Bureau of Building Inspection yesterday issued a condemnation order on the Pittsburgh Steelers, a 76 year old North Side, yesterday after five weeks of complaints by local residents. All employees were ordered to vacate the premises as the team was in danger of imminent collapse.

    The Mayor's Office released a statement saying they were prompted to action after hundreds of calls to the City 3-1-1 line Thursday night.

    "The Bureau of Building Inspection has found serious defects in the teams foundations, as well as its so-called 'steel curtain.' The offensive line has not been able to provide sufficient protection against Raiders or Dawgs... We are ordering cessation of operational activities within the next four weeks."

    North Side residents applauded the City's move. "It's about time," said long time denizen Mark Lataf. "There's been suspicious activity going on over there for the last few weeks. You see a bunch of guys looking like they've been doing work, but nothing's actually getting done. It's a shame that an institution of that caliber has just let their season completely collapse."

    This is not the first time that the Steelers have faced such criticism. In 2006, it nearly collapsed after an employee dropped a dangerous item, which was only saved through the quick intervention of a floor manager.

    Owners of the Steelers have pledged to comply with the stop work order and will spend the next year on fundamental rebuilding.

    In an unrelated story, President Obama has recalled the U.S. Ambassador to Ireland for consultation.

    Wednesday, December 02, 2009

    County Submits Reassessment Plan to Judge Wettick



    In motions before the court, County Solicitor Mike Wojcik added "Swivel on it."

    Judge Wettick ordered the County to do something anatomically impossible, even for a medical student.

    Taxes, Little Taxes on the Hillside Made of Ticky-Tacky

    And so it came to pass that the Council of the City of Pittsburgh postponed a motion on a proposed tuition tax, and there was must rejoicing.

    Or something:

    The 7-2 tally on a motion to postpone the first of two votes needed to enact the 1 percent tuition tax came after emotional, and sometimes personal, debate about how to best spur productive talks that might lead to voluntary donations, a group request to Harrisburg for new taxing powers, or both. The universities issued statements today that any "meaningful conversation is dependent on the removal of the tuition tax from further consideration," in the words of Mary Hines, chair of the Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education board and president of Carlow University.
    The funny thing, if there is such a thing, about this whole brouhaha is how fixed the conversation has been around the service fees/taxes/blood-from-a-stone from the universities. It's sort of amazing that the debate was fixed right at the beginning: the solution to solving this year's budgetary woes is in the universities. While there are certainly very good reasons to see these institutions as a significant potential revenue contributions, there are not really any other discussions going on outside of the box, to use an insipid phrase.

    If council pushes through this tax (they will) and the universities follow through on their threat to sue (they will) and the courts rule in the universities favor (they could, but if nothing else they could draw out this process for years), the mayor and the majority on council is going to have to come up with another brilliant solution to the perpetual budget mess.

    That being said, I don't think I trust those people to find the sky if they were lying face up in a field.

    Of course, if I had my druthers, I'd use the opportunity to go back to the land/building tax split in order to encourage future revenue growth and economic development, but my druthers are in the shop this week.

    Perhaps we could do a City wide bake sale?

    Thursday, November 26, 2009

    Tuesday, November 24, 2009

    That Which May Not Be Named

    PittGirl or Virginia or Ginny or whatever nom de blog she wants to go by now made an excellent point about lawyers and the suing off of pantalones and what not and so forth. But, still here are some points that I feel to be salient... apropos of nothing in particular:

    * It's amazing how much information can come out after you feel that you are absolutely secure in a position. We have discovered, for example, that Clarence Thomas has uncontrollable flatulence.

    * Certain decisions are not made lightly, without great thought and reflection. It would be hard to believe that life changing decisions could be made over the course of only three weeks. This is why it took so long for the Obamas to choose a puppy.

    * I remember Michael Diven getting criticized at one point for showing a campaign picture of his "happy family," which, if I recall correctly turned out to be his fiancee and nephew.

    * The City of Pittsburgh (or at least Pittsburghers) is notorious for not talking out loud about giant elephants in the room, choosing instead to whisper quietly. It is a small City. Things happen. For example: we know you're bald Jim M.

    * Not denying is not a denial. Saying that you're not going to comment is a comment. Denying that you won't deny that will not comment, means you won't comment... I think.

    * Shoes drop in pairs, or in racks if you've happened to plow into a Payless.

    * Some things are more important than governing. Edward VIII gave up his kingdom for "the woman he loved;" Richard III gave up his for a horse. To each his own.

    * One can pretty much be a magistrate for life.
    As I said, irrespective of nothing in particular.

    Whither the ACCD Meeting

    I've been busy the last several months doing end/beginning of the Federal fiscal year junk, so I only got around to realizing that I couldn't find my invitation to the Allegheny Conference on Community Development's annual meeting, which we narrated in 2005, 2006, and 2007. We didn't do it in 2008, though as we couldn't stand another damned musical number about the Bessemer process, or some such nonsense.

    It's a pity that we couldn't make it last year as, according to my sources, this year's annual meeting was/is not open to the public. It's a further pity, as the region just suffered through the greatest spate of good publicity it's ever had in recent memory, and it would have made the event much more exciting.

    That and I do miss seeing Larry Dunn.

    Anywho, I can only assume that because they are meeting in secret, the Conference is practicing some sort of weird blasphemous ritual designed to pacify the blind idiot Elder God of the region, while Murry Gerber dances around its throne wailing about declining educational standards to the tune of a demonic flute. They're probably involved in cannibalism and Powerpoint slides too.*

    Ugh, Powerpoint. Glad I didn't have to sit through that again.

    ---
    *Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Pittsburgh R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn

    Monday, November 23, 2009

    A Bureaucrat's Aside Re: Prevailing Wages (pt. 2)

    So, if the City ponies up $600,000 to the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, would they be subject to prevailing wage requirements as well?

    I suppose it depends on when they try to enact legislation, I suppose.

    Thursday, November 19, 2009

    5 on 4

    So I saw this here picture in the P-G

    and I said to myself, "Self: which of those councilpersons have universities or large numbers of university students residing in their districts and are also going to be in office come January?"

    The answer didn't really surprise me.

    So if I were trying to stop the Tuition Tax, I'd want to start a 4 year, accredited university in Ricky Burgess's District, like, tomorrow.

    Wednesday, November 18, 2009

    A Bureaucrat's Aside Re: Prevailing Wages

    I find it interesting that this story and this story broke in the same week.

    I wonder what impact the former is going to have on resolving the latter, or, more fundamentally, if there's even a grocery store out there willing to go into the Hill District and also willing to pay prevailing wages.

    Looks like this could be a case of unintended consequences, n'at.

    Tuesday, November 17, 2009

    Ravenstahl Proposes City Budget Gap to be Plugged with "Magic"

    On the heals of its rejection by the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has announced that he will fund the City's budget through a combination of tax increases, service fees, and magic.

    "We've tapped every source of funds that are available," said the Mayor speaking to reporters following the ICA's board decision, "now it's time to conjure up some new ones. I'm proposing a 3% spell tax, along with an excise tax on potions, and a Wizard licensing fee, along with chasing rainbows to find pots of leprechaun gold."

    The Mayor also promised to locate a unicorn ride it to slay a dragon, and steal the dragon's horde. (A representative from Ms. Buchanan's office did not return calls for this story.)

    Dark magic has long been used to support so-called "supply side" tax schemes at the nation level, but this is the first reported use of magic at a local level.

    Councilman Ricky Burgess, called the plan "unworkable" and proposed a witch surcharge fee in place of the Mayor's proposal and a expedition to the lost city of Atlantis to make up for the nearly $15 funding gap.

    Professor John Levi, chair of the University of Pittsburgh Economics Department described both Councilman Burgess' and the Mayor's plans as "infeasible."

    "A declining City like Pittsburgh needs to reduce the level of services it has to provide and try to find some way to grow tax revenue in a sustainable way, without relying on phantom sources of funds. Plus magic doesn't exist."

    When reached for comment, a representative for Magician's Union Local 101 promptly vanished in a puff of smoke.

    Monday, November 16, 2009

    PG+ Tour

    In case you missed it, the Post-Gazette was running a free promotional PG+ tour today. Here's a sneak peek:

    Database Error: Unable to connect to the database:Could not connect to MySQL
    Ah. OK, let's try that again:
    jtablesession::Store Failed
    DB function failed with error number 145
    Table './plus_joom/jos_session' is marked as crashed and should be repaired SQL=INSERT INTO `jos_session` ( `session_id`,`time`,`username`,`gid`,`guest`,`client_id` ) VALUES ( '8pdce383e66rahqcn59lkkq3p4','1258392839','','0','1','0' )
    I see.

    Never mind then.

    *Clonk*

    And the can gets kicked down the road again:

    Allegheny County will appeal a Common Pleas Court order to complete a reassessment of all property over the next four years, County Executive Dan Onorato announced this afternoon.

    Mr. Onorato said the appeal would give the state Legislature time to deal with his call for a statewide solution to assessment problems. He appealed to the Legislature after the state Supreme Court earlier this year tossed out the county's decision to assess property at its 2002 value, establishing a base-year system similar to that used in most counties.

    Mr. Onorato said the assessment system has to be fixed on a statewide basis rather than county by county. A bill already approved by the state House would provide a two-year moratorium on new assessments in all county while the Legislature studies the issue and tries to come up with a new system.
    Now, I'm not disagreeing with our County CPA that the Pennsylvania Property Assessment system is as ridiculous and inequitable as a 14 foot drinking fountain for little people.* It doesn't make sense, when the State Constitution calls for uniformity, that Murrysville can have a base year system, but Monroeville cannot. Indeed, this is going to have to be something that the legislature needs to work out and set right.

    Candidate for Governor Danny-boy, can't have the burden of actually undertaking a court mandated reassessment, however. Any reassessment will inexorably lead to higher taxes in the County, which would spell doom for his campaign. Yes, better to letter the judges and representatives in Harrisburg take the fall than to sack up and show some initiative for once, lest the road to the Governor's chair be paved with hard decisions.

    Of course, this isn't really leadership on Danny's part -- it's politics.

    And the can gets kicked down the road to the next guy.

    ---
    * Let this simile roll around in your imagination for awhile.

    Thursday, November 12, 2009

    A Bureaucrat's Aside Re: Bonusgate (Part II)

    Wouldn't it be easier for Tom Corbett to indict everyone in Harrisburg and just figure out what they did later? There's enough of them; statistically, they're all guilty of something.

    Alternatively, anybody want to bet that Auditor General (and potential opponent for the Governorship) Jack Wagner releases a competing report saying that entire State House is grossly mismanaged and inefficient, just to show up Corbett?

    (Of course, where would anyone get an idea like that?)

    Wednesday, November 11, 2009

    Lest We Forget


    In Flanders fields the poppies blow
    Between the crosses, row on row,
    That mark our place; and in the sky
    The larks, still bravely singing, fly
    Scarce heard amid the guns below.
    We are the dead. Short days ago
    We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
    Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
    In Flanders fields.
    Take up our quarrel with the foe:
    To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
    We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
    In Flanders fields.

    Monday, November 09, 2009

    Tonight's Episode: "Brain Pain" or "Taxing your Knowledge"

    So by now, you've heard about this:

    Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl plans to propose a 1 percent college-education privilege tax to council today, in a move that's likely to set off a fight with the city's schools of higher learning.

    College and university representatives met with the mayor on Wednesday and argued against the tax, which would be assessed on a college student's tuition. It technically would not be a levy on the students or their schools, but rather on the privilege of getting a higher education in Pittsburgh.
    A ballsy move for the kicker from Washington & Jefferson College, I must say. Now, the administration is saying that they're using this as a way to bridge the gap in lieu of the Pittsburgh Public Service Fund from local non-profits, but I know better. This is political retribution.

    You see, back in 2008, a whole shit load of young, college people registered to vote for Obama and most of them chose to be registered in Oakland. Of course, these are your rank-and-file Democrats we're talking about: they're generally leftish folk, who have more in common with professors in Squirrel Hill than (say) a courier service account manager from the North Side. Based on a report from Pitt's University Center for Pulling Numbers Out of My Butt (UCPNOMB), these kids voted overwhelming against Ravenstahl last week. If these trend continue, you're just going to have more and more "smart" people that don't know their damned place and vote the party ticket, already. That has to be stopped.

    Why would Ravenstahl throw this tax on students, other than punishing them for voting for -- God help them -- Bill Peduto? Simple, really: in four years (or seven if you're still working on your PhD in Sociology because you're friggin' thesis advisor won't even meet with you anymore as she's on "sabbatical" down at Cappy's every night -- stupid tenure) you're going to vote in maybe one election. In four years, it's going to be a different crew of students who won't notice that their $40,000/year bill has gone up another $400.

    And it's not like CMU's going to up and move to California, or Australia, or Qatar or something, amiright?

    Still, it's a pretty shifty thing to do after we spent the last four months trumpeting our commitment to "Eds and Meds" in front of the world. Lord knows that if the City started taking a big bite out of union benefits, the Mayor would have been taped upside down to a flag pole with his underwear glued to his head.

    Actually, I think CMU has a robot that can do that; Lukey better not venture past Craig Street.

    Saturday, November 07, 2009

    Please do not Read the Last Post

    OK, a bit of a confession/apology to make here:

    I was rushed on Friday and didn't have a chance to read the post in full. Now, apparently this post contained some very hateful, mean, and disturbing things (which I will not go into here). Most of the time I do, in fact, write my own material, but I will admit, that particular post was ghost written on my behalf by Allegheny County Councilman Charles McCullough, who offered it to me at the last minute as a favor. Chuck claimed that is was a minor amendment to a previously approved posting, but I just got duped into posting the most vile and awful bit of filth, it seems.

    Like I said, I didn't have a chance to read it before it got posted, but it contained some very, very awful, disgusting, lewd, and amoral things. So anyone who did read it, I recommend that you clear it from your cache and forget about it. I've already deleted it so you won't find it here.

    I'm truly sorry for this incident, especially the part about the puppies and the rotissomat. That was horrible.

    Thank you, and again I apologize. (And shame on you Mr. McCullough for what you said about Rich Fitzgerald's hair and his sexual deviances!)

    Tuesday, November 03, 2009

    Election Day

    Vote already!

    ...dammit!

    Unless, of course, you're not voting for my candidate. In which case, our votes will offset, so neither of us should bother going to the polls. I'll hold up my end of the bargain if you will, I swear.

    Monday, November 02, 2009

    Something About Where the Choo-Choo Goes

    The city's newspaper of record finally caught up with its not-being-sued-by-Mylan rival and published a story about last week's East End Rail proposal to Council, which can be found here in all of its sic transit gloria.

    This proposal is appealing in that it seeks to do with 80 million bucks what the North Shore connector is trying to do with a zillion-bagillion bucks, which makes the calculations so much easier for those of us that don't have advanced degrees in hyper-imaginary accounting. There's a couple of problems in the proposal, however.

    First (and this is kind of addressed in the presentation), this proposal seems to be a bit like renting out a semi in order to haul a credenza a block and a half to your new apartment -- heavy rail is sort of overkill for such a short service area. Now, if the line went all the way up north to Indiana County or south to the Mon Valley, maybe these stops would make sense, but it currently seems a bit much. In the proposal's defense, it does say that the line should link up with other proposed lines, which makes much more sense. Indeed, if you're going to have this type of system, we should be thinking about using other heavy rail lines to create a network of suburban commuter opportunities, use light rail as "high speed intra-city connectivity," and use buses as local connectors. Heavy rail, however, doesn't seem to be the right tool for a relatively small service area with frequent stops.

    Of course, this gets to the second critique: the proposal isn't easily connected into the existing systems. If you want to get Downtown, you need to jump off and take another mode of transportation. While Oakland may be "bursting at the seams," Downtown is still the major commercial nexus for the region. Perhaps this criticism is a moot point, as it's fairly easy right now to get from Oakland/Lawrenceville/Hazelwood to Downtown anyway. Without expansion, however, I wonder if it makes sense to add in a fourth public transportation option into the mix, with all the extra overhead costs that may entail.

    Then there's RIDC's Bill Widdoes' quote, "CSX is a tough negotiator," which has to be competing with "Water is wet" for the understatement of the year award. CSX, it is widely known, doesn't want to deal with anyone, ever. Even simple "rails-to-trails" project on defunct lines get tied up in years of legal morass. Cities, States, Authorities have no eminent domain powers over rail lines, so it's nearly impossible to get anything done on the local level without begging, borrowing, or stealing (although it's usually limited to only the first one). IF CSX signs on (and it's a big "if"), maybe there's something to the proposal, but right now I'm not holding my breath.

    [This all sets aside the logistical nightmare of passenger rail sharing a line with freight rail should CSX actually agree to the proposal.]

    And then there's the giant elephant in the room: the Mon-Fayette expressway. I can't imagine that Whitman, Requardt & Associates didn't notice that their proposed alignment runs right through where the folks at PennDOT and the Turnpike Commisssion really, REALLY want to lay their pipe dream down. (I mean, you can almost hear their angry, frantic, disappointing mutual masturbation when you get near the former LTV site, so much so that it causes cats to yowl.) Now, don't get me wrong: this is a great alternative to the MFX circle jerk, but with bureaucratic processes and political weightiness being what they are, I can see the whole process being stopped because somebody, somewhere wants to build a fifty-gazillion dollar clusterfuck along the Mon, goddammit!

    Obviously, however, this is just a proposal, but it's probably one of the least insane proposals to come before City Council in some time and it would be a good first step in creating a high-speed, integrated regional transit solution.

    Which means, of course, that the whole damned thing is doomed from the get-go.

    Sunday, November 01, 2009

    A Bureaucrat's Aside Re: Halloween

    Last night on Halloween, I swear I saw the ghost of the late Councilwoman Tonya Payne on Grant Street.

    It was scary.

    Thursday, October 29, 2009

    You've Got Mail!

    Well, by now all of yinz have heard about this little bit of alleged cyber-snooping:

    Some Pittsburgh City Council members think someone's peeking at their e-mails. Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's administration insists the alleged snooping is a figment of council's imagination.

    That's the standoff that emerged yesterday from debate on legislation sponsored by Councilman William Peduto that would require the sign-off of the top city lawyer and Ethics Hearing Board chair before anyone could browse the e-mail in-box of an elected official or director.

    "If there are people who are reading our e-mails ...," began Mr. Peduto.

    "And you know there are," interrupted Councilwoman Tonya Payne.

    "... They're going to be referred to the District Attorney" under the new policy, Mr. Peduto continued.
    And while City CIS denies it, let me assuage Council's fears that they are being spied on: you are. I should know, it's my job.

    Here's what I've uncovered:

    * Councilmen Peduto and Dowd have had an ongoing email thread about which Star Trek Captain is better, Kirk or Picard. (Surprisingly, Peduto says "Picard").

    * Councilman Motznik has replied to 35 spam emails about "How to regrow your hair" and three about "Xtending your P3N1S 51ze".

    * Councilwoman Harris has forwarded on 382 picture of dogs with stupid captions.

    * Council President Doug Shields has only sent one email, but it was 5,389,203 words long.

    * Councilwoman Smith believes that if she forwards a certain chain email, Bill Gates will give her $5.

    * Councilwoman Payne prints off all her emails, writes a response on the printed copy, and sends the response via USPS.

    * Both Councilmen Burgess and Kraus actually use their email for Council related business, which makes their emails totally useless to read.
    Still, to be fair I've been reading the emails of the Mayor's Office staff too -- it's mostly Smurf erotica from John Verbanac.

    Pittsburgh Foundation Match Game

    As you may have heard, yesterday The Pittsburgh Foundation matched donations for Pittsburgh not-for-profits in a whirlwind online event. The available pool of matching funds of $300,000 was tapped out in 23 minutes with many potential donors locked out of the system and left unable to donate.

    Among the 350 organizations that received funding were the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank, the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, the Pittsburgh Public Theater and Pittsburgh City Theatre. There were, however, many non-profits that didn't receive any funding whatsoever:

    * The Luke Ravenstahl School for Legislating Good and Stuff,

    * The Zober Evil Foundation,

    * The Pittsburgh Pubic Theater,

    * Steel City Goat Spankers,

    * UPMC,

    * The Pittsburgh Pothole Appreciation Society,

    * The Jeff Reed Fund for Kicking, and

    * The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
    Better luck next time.

    Tuesday, October 27, 2009

    SWM 29 ISO BBI Chief

    This should surprise no one:

    Sergei Matveiev, head of Pittsburgh's Bureau of Building Inspection, has resigned effective Nov. 20, he said today.
    I haven't received a copy of the job description yet, but I imagine it to read (in part) as:
    A qualified candidate must
    - be able to function on less than 2 hours of sleep per night, following late night phone calls from the Mayor's Office and City Council persons...
    - be able to withstand blistering criticism and humiliation in the press...
    - be able to manage a department that is understaffed and overworked...
    - show no possible hope of advancing anywhere, ever...
    - be willing to be fired with out warning at any time...
    - be able to "creatively interpret" rules for developers who are friends of the mayor...

    Brown-nosing, book licking, and proficiency in Microsoft Excel a plus.
    I wonder if John Verbanac has any recommendations for the post.

    Friday, October 23, 2009

    PA State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe Believes Dwarves Are Stealing His Socks

    In an official interview to ADB+, PA State Rep. Daryl Metcalfe has admitted to our editorial board that he believes that dwarves are stealing his socks.

    "I´m not saying that all dwarves are stealing my socks -- the longbeards and firebeards are particular exceptions -- but my socks are going missing, and the only explanation is that dwarves are doing it."

    Rep. Metcalfe met with our editorial board (which he collectively refered to as "Alan" throughout the meeting) yesterday, and discussed topics ranging from his recent disagreement with Iraq war veterans to his belief that the current President is not a citizen of the United States. He spent most of his efforts, however, in discussing dwarves that are stealing his socks.

    "They´re probably using them to make formulas to brainwash us. That´s why I always keep my feet in water -- they´re like ants, they can´t get through the water. And they need you´re socks to brainwash you... no one else´s socks will work. I caught one of them once. He looks like my Bassett Hound Terry, but I could tell the difference. They´re sneaky bastards."

    The interview ended abruptly when Rep. Metcalfe yelled "Bats!" and lept out the window.

    More tomorrow in ADB+.

    Thursday, October 22, 2009

    John Verbanac Responds to Acklin Debate Allegations

    Cranberry businessman John Verbanac today denied allegations that he was, in fact, exerting influence on the Ravenstahl administration.

    In a televised debate last night, candidate for mayor Kevin Acklin suggested proof that Mr. Verbanac was a Dark Lord of the Sith, as evidenced by emails intercepted by Bothan spies.

    "Such accusations are baseless," said Verbanac in a written statement, "I am just an old man and a Senator from the Sovereign System of Naboo."

    These denials were immediately rebutted by the Acklin campaign, who has evidence that both Verbanac's aprentices were slain by Jedi in mysterious circumstances: former advisor Dennis J. Regan was found sliced in two at the bottom of a shaft on Mr. Verbanac's home planet, and Patrick Ford's severed head was found after a confrontation with Chief of Staff Yarone Zober. According to Acklin, both had become "extraneous" to Verbanac's plans, and were allowed to die.

    Kevin Acklin today released a statement indicating that Verbanac held key influence over the hiring and firing of city employees, the crafting of city policy, and is secretly creating an "ultimate weapon" in the form of some sort of moon.

    Several Jedi have anonymously offered their opinion that the Mayor has been under the influence of a Dark Lord for some time, although they say that the dark side is clouding their vision of who this Dark Lord actually is.

    Emails released make a veiled reference to an "Order 66," which was to be carried out should the Mayor win the November election.

    Pittsburgh City Council has begun hearings on the issue, and is expected to refer the matter to a committee.

    Allegheny County Names Ego After Cyril Wecht

    Allegheny County has officially renamed its County of the Second Class Ego after forensic pathologist, local Democratic Party fixture, man about town, and former coronor Cyril H. Wecht.

    Earlier this year, federal prosecutors dropped corruption charges against Dr. Wecht, 78, who had been accused of using his former county staff for personal gain. A criminal trial in the case had previously ended in a mistrial, although it was repleat with the phrase "cadaver stealing".

    When reached for comment, Dr. Wecht said it was "a great honor, although, frankly, Dr. Cyril Wecht was hoping for a bigger honor, for me, Dr. Cyril Wecht."

    Under Commonwealth statute, municipal entities are entitled to egos once they reach second class status, and become unbearable once they reach first class status.

    Wednesday, October 21, 2009

    ADB Responds to Proposed Public Drinking Ordinance

    Hey Bruce Kraus! You don´t know me! You don´t know any of me! Why should I, when you with your hair, and your big words look after and I when I knew you before... You used to be cool man! you used to be cool! And then, you with you and your coming down and... this guy, this guy, I mean... shit man. Shit.

    It´s like, society man, with all of the stuff and their street paving things, you know?

    That one time when we went off and ggreat with weio dfio lk jdio gin & tonic over apple watter sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssszzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

    Five dollars? Get out of here!

    Sunday, October 18, 2009

    Judge Wettick Orders Reassessment of Monopoly Board

    In a stunning break from board game common law, Allegheny County Common Please Judge Stanton R. Wettick Jr. Ordered Parker Brothers, Inc. to reassess the value of its properties on its classic board Game Monopoly

    "It is our determination that property values on the Monopoly Board, which have not been adjusted since its original creation in 1935, are fundamentally unfair, and we are ordering a total, and complete reevalution within 30 days."

    Local players had argued in front of Judge Wettick, that their purchase of Baltic Avenue at $60, was not commensurate with similar properties along the right side of the board, and were therefore being unfairly taxed once they built homes and hotels.

    "This is a victory, not only for us, but for property owners from Oriental to Pennsylvania Avenues," said R.U. Pennybags, Esq. who represented the plantiffs.

    The Parker Brothers have indicated that they will appeal the ruling.

    This is not the first problems the classic board game has faced this year. Several bankers went to jail in April, after it was determined that they were secretly embezelling money to fund the construction of hotels along Boardwalk. They were order to go to jail, directly to jail, without passing Go or collecting $200.

    Monday, October 05, 2009

    Senate leaders boycott Senate leaders' budget proposal

    (AP) Harrisburg - State Senate leaders today boycotted a conference committee meeting organized by state Senate leaders to discuss a state budget proposal and to introduce their own budget plan.

    Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi, R-Delaware, said today that Senate Republicans are fashioning a revised budget bill to compete with another revised budget bill that they released yesterday. The measure could be down voted in the Senate in favor of their other measure.

    If the House were to agree with the disagreement, their bill or their other bill could be on the governor's desk by late this week, or not.

    Details of the bill were unavailable at the time, but the other revised budget bill is believed to be $100 million smaller than the other budget bill that was previously agreed to the day before.

    House Democrats are proposing an alternative-alternative plan which is $1 billion less than the amendment to the previous amendment that substituted an alternative amendment to a section which was previously amended.

    Earlier, an aide to Representative Dwight Evans, D-Philadelphia, threw up his hands and said "I dunno, you tell me what's going on."

    The budget should have been adopted by the start of the new fiscal year July 1st, although the start of the new fiscal year had been previously amended to start December 1st.

    Tuesday, September 29, 2009

    312,819th Pittsburgher Interviewed

    The 312,819th and final Pittsburgher was interviewed today as part of a documentary about the media coverage of the media coverage of Pittsburgh during the recent G-20 conference.

    After an interview with documentarian Eric Stoll, Chuck Bridgeman of Brookline and an auto mechanic on Banksville Road said that he was "strangely honored to be the last interviewee".

    "I mean, you know, I would have loved to have been interviewed about the Steelers, that's for sure, or even the Pirates, but, you know, I suppose a meta-report on the media is just as good."

    When asked why he supposed that he was the last person in Pittsburgh to be interviewed, Chuck responded that his brothers "are the real talkers in the family" and that "he was surprised that he even got a word in edgewise." Both of Chuck's brothers Larry and Bill were interviewed earlier by Vanity Fair on the role of the G-20 in advancing the goals of Western Pennsylvanian cluster development strategies in the medical device industries.

    Of the over 300,000 interviews during the course of the G-20, most were generally positive, with the notable exception of a posthumous article written by Norman Mailer for Playboy, in which he called the Mayor "a dink." Mr. Mailer was obviously unavailable for comment on what he ment.

    Plans are already underway to cobble together the highlights of these interviews into a musical number, which will be shown repeatedly at the next Allegheny Conference on Community Development annual meeting.

    Monday, September 28, 2009

    A Bureaucrat's Aside: G-20 Post Script

    In retrospect, Danny and Lukey should have called for a region-wide black & gold week, and tailgated the conference.

    That would have made the protests a bit more interesting and coherent.

    Sunday, September 27, 2009

    Riots Break Out on North Side

    Thousands of Distraught Steelers Fans Pour into Street After Loss to Cincinnati

    Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

    Half of West Allegheny Vandalized
    G20 Police Force Nowhere to be Found - Citizens Frightened
    Shouts of "Dammit Jeff Reed!" Echo Through Nervous City
    Anarchists Denounce Holding Penalties

    G20 Protesters Still Missing

    The Pittsburgh Organizing Group and the Pittsburgh G20 Resistance Group are still looking for a group of protesters that apparently got lost during last Thursday's protest in Lawrenceville.

    According to official accounts, after a confrontation with police at Arsenal Park, protesters made their way up 39th Street to Liberty Avenue. While most of the group headed right, towards Downtown, a small number proceeded left towards Bloomfield. Shouts of "You're not supposed to be here," "Go back to where you came from!" and"Dahntahn is over dehr!" from residents were ignored by the lost group of protesters, who denounced them as "tools of the fascist police state."

    In the confusion, the lost protesters apparently proceeded up Liberty Avenue, towards Baum Boulevard and Centre Avenue, thence into Larimer, where they broke windows and set fire to homes. Damages to the neighborhood was estimated in the tens of dollars

    Organizers from POG and PGRP noticed the missing protesters after they did not show up for a early morning 2PM breakfast. The last sighting of the group had them heading east through Penn Hills, although there have been rumors that they have ended up in Wall.

    POG and PGRP have not requested police assistance in locating their missing comrades. Anyone who spots them is asked to Twitter their location to #LostG20.

    Thursday, September 24, 2009

    An Open Letter to G-20 Protesters

    Go home children.

    Because of labor protests, our ancestors -- Pittsburgh's ancestors -- got shot by Pinkerton Guards. That's right: shot. Not yelled at by police, not smoke bombs, not pepper spray, not sound cannons, not tear gas: shot. You know what they wanted? It wasn't the end of a world wide capitalist system, just regular working hours. That's it.

    Instead, they got shot at.

    There was a group of monks that walked across a bridge today.

    For peace.

    There was a group of protesters that dressed up as world leaders in Steeler uniforms.

    For hunger

    There was a group of protesters that hung from a bridge yesterday.

    For the Earth.

    While all spectacles, they harmed no one.

    So, you'll have to pardon us if Pittsburgh doesn't have sympathy after you smash our windows and mess up our fair city. We've seen it before; we're not particularly thrilled about what you're doing. Especially, considering we got shot at to allow you to do... whatever it is you think you're doing.

    Go home children.

    Wednesday, September 23, 2009

    Official G20 Map

    The only G20 map you'll ever need:


    Click here to embiggen

    And Now...

    A brief overview of what this whole G20 thing is about, courtesy of The Animaniacs

    Enjoy!

    Tuesday, September 22, 2009

    G-20 Protest Updates

    Our intrepid spies have been following the twitterbookfeeds, or something, and have cobbled together a list of tomorrow's pre-G-20 protests:

    People Unclear on the Concept Against Teabaggers - 9:00 AM, Grant Street - "Down with James Lipton!"

    Pyromaniacs United - 9:30 AM, corner of Frankstown and Larimer Avenues - "Gee, that Looks Flamable"

    American Nihilist Association - 10:30 AM, Corner of Forbes Avenue and Boulevard of the Allies - "Give Us Nothing or Give Us Death"

    United States Plywood Distributors - 11:00, S. 10th Street - "It would be a Shame if Your Store Windows Got... Broke."

    Pittsburgh Downtown Workers - Noon to 2:00PM, Various Locations - "We don't care about Darfur, AIDS, or Bailouts, Just Let us Eat our Bologna Sandwich in Peace!"

    Senator Jim Ferlo's Traveling Razzmatazz Circus - 12:15 PM, in the Allegheny Courthouse Courtyard - "We haven't had a protest in 20 minutes"

    Pittsburgh Related Dadists (Moo!) - 2:30 PM, in the Macy's Men's Ware Department, Near the Ties Downtown - "I Can't Believe I Said 'BONG!'"

    The Bilderberg Group - 4:00 PM, Duquesne Club - "Obey Your Corporate Masters!" (Scotch and Cigars to follow)

    Lost G20 Protester Support Group - 5:00 PM, Greyhound Bus Terminal - "Dude! This guy Chad was totally supposed to pick us up."

    Local Public Safety Officers - 5:30, Various Locations - "Here Hippie, Hippie, Hippie!"

    Pittsburgh Welcomes the G-20, but...


    This message was brought to you by your local Yinzer contingency.

    Monday, September 21, 2009

    G-20 Visitors Guide (Pt. 4)

    In which the author

    "O"

    the self titled

    Angry Drunk Bureaucrat

    discuffes miscellaneous miscellany

    that did not quite fit the other parts of his

    Guide to the Pittsburgh Region

    and which were

    Cobbled Together

    at the

    Last Minute

    and at

    Great Expense

    Fit the Fourth

    Language

    Pittsburgh English, popularly known as "Pittsburghese," is the dialect of American English spoken in Western Pennsylvania. Many of the sounds and terms are similar to the Midland dialect region or are borrowed from the immigrant populations that came to the region to work in the steel mills, and were a little too nebby for their own good. The dialect is noted for its monophthongization, which, if mentioned, most Pittsburghers will tell you they have no idea what you're talking abaht.

    Some key Pittsburgh terms and phrases for visitors:
    - Yinz - pronoun -You (plural).
    - Slippy - adjective - Slippery
    - N'at - "Et cetera"
    - Redd up - noun - a completely apolitical clean up of certain neighborhoods that just happen to be linked to prominent Democratic Committee members
    - Buggy - noun - a bus
    - Jumbo - noun - a Pittsburgh delicacy of couscous and minced cucumber
    - Chipped Ham - noun - a newspaper or leaflet
    - Blawnox - verb - to become sexually aroused
    - Chalfant - noun - a small swimming pool for children
    - Wilmerding - noun - a male sexual organ
    - Aspinwall - verb - to drink until the point of collapse
    - Jeetjet - noun - Oral sex
    - Jag off - noun -Dan Onorato
    Weather

    Unlike many places in the country (Vermont excluded) Pittsburgh has five seasons: spring, summer, fall, winter, and yuck. Temperatures during the year range from "cold as a witch's teet" to "hot as balls." While spring and fall are known for being pleasant, humidity during the summer months is oppressive enough to make one want to call a domestic abuse counseling agency. When combined with the local topography and the pollutants traveling from up the Ohio Valley, haze and smog have been known to kill people in their sleep, chop up their bodies, store them in the freezer, and assume their identities. On occasion, Pittsburgh does receive significant snowfall during the winter months; by "significant" we mean "enough to make people forget how to drive and turn into bawling children." The season of yuck lasts from late February to early March, and consists of 30 straight days of on and off graying. Residents are encouraged pretend that they are being attacked by Murky Dismal and Lurky from the old Rainbow Brite cartoons, to avoid thoughts of suicide... or, alternatively, go to a bar and "Aspinwall."

    Pittsburgh is noted for being relatively free from natural disasters, with the exception of minor floods in low lying areas. In the event of a major flood, people are advised to start building arks and/or praying to Santa Claus.

    Because of global climate change, it is expected that Pittsburgh's climate will more closely resemble Alabama's, so... you know, that'll be fun.

    Government

    Pittsburgh is a City of the Second Class under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and is characterized by a "strong mayor" form of municipal corporation. The City charter provides for a Council of elder statesmen to advise and approve City business, or, alternatively, any combination of people that won't shut the hell up in front of the cameras. There is a two drink minimum at all public meetings, which is strictly enforced.

    Pittsburgh's Mayor is Luke Ravenstahl, age 13 1/2, who has campaigned on a platform for the eradication of cooties, official monster-under-the-bed inspections, and getting drunken fights with police officers at football games. During his short tenure, the Mayor has enjoyed riding on the shoulders of Pittsburgh's reemergence to international prominence and ice cream. Mayor Ravenstahl's administration is completely and utterly devoid of any scandals that anyone will admit to in front of a Grand Jury.

    The Chief Executive of Allegheny County is Dan Onorato, notable for doing nothing that would inhibit his ability to run for Governor. He can be easily distinguished from an average book by the absence of a spine.

    Approximately 130 municipalities surround Pittsburgh in Allegheny County, and exist for reasons that no one can actually explain. Each municipality has its own Mayor, Council, City Manager, Police Force, Firefighters, Dog Catchers, Official Lamp Lighters, and Bureau of Horse Registration. You will know when you've crossed into a new municipality by the change in the condition of the roads.

    Also of note is former coroner Cyril Wecht, whose ego is already pissed that it wasn't mentioned earlier in this guide.

    Miscellanea

    * Relationship with Philadelphia:

    Despite being in the same Commonwealth, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are separated by 320 miles, which is roughly the same distance as Paris and Amsterdam. Like Paris and Amsterdam, the vast space between "Phillie" and "The 'Burgh" is a cultural backwater; in Pennsylvania it is referred to derisively as "Pennsyltucky", while in Europe it is referred to derisively as "Belgium." If you are visiting Pittsburgh, do not expect to be able to make a day-trip to see "the Liberty Bell," "Constitution Hall," or a winning professional baseball team.

    Cultural differences also exist between Pennsylvania's two largest cities. Philadelphia is known for its cheesesteaks, while Pittsburgh is known for its Pirmanti Brothers' sandwiches. Philadelphia is part of the East Coast metroplex; Pittsburgh is more of a mid-west type City. Pittsburghers are known as a friendly, affable people; Philadelphians have been known to throw batteries at Santa Claus.

    * Relationship with Cleveland:

    Cleveland sucks.

    * Relationship with Baltimore:

    [Ed. Note - Is Baltimore even a city anymore?]

    * Best times to visit:

    Never visit Pittsburgh the Monday after a Steelers loss.

    And Finally...

    The City was named by General John Forbes, a Scotsman, who named it after the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, William Pitt... so it's spelled "Pittsburgh" with an "H" at the end, like Edinburgh, (although without the weird Sean Connery inflection). It's not "Pittsburg" or or "Pitsburg" or "Shitsburgh" (if you're a bitch like Sienna Miller). Anybody caught spelling it wrong will be beaten without mercy by old Polish grandmothers as if you've stolen their parking chairs.

    And Even More Finally...

    While deep down they love their City, Pittsburghers are highly and vocally critical of it, to the point that it seems to an outside observer like they hate it here. That doesn't mean, however, that you're allowed talk trash about our fair City, Mr./Ms. Visitor. So shut your damned pie hole!

    ...jaggoffs.

    The Travails of Government Service

    I guess I shouldn't be wearing my "I'm from the Government and I'm Here to Help" T-shirt this week. From the Trib:

    Hazmat and emergency medical service workers examined two city Public Works employees this morning after a woman made a gesture as if throwing something on them near PNC Park on the North Shore.

    The workers were not injured, they showed no signs of contamination and they have returned to work, police said.

    The workers were emptying trash cans on Federal Street about 8:15 a.m. when a woman — wearing a beige head wrap and skirt — walked up to them, police said in a press release.

    Her hand was balled up in a fist, police said. She motioned as if she were throwing something on them and opened her hand, police said. The workers did not see anything leave her hand, but they immediately smelled "a foul odor, possibly perfume," police said.
    All things considered, this is pretty much average for local government service. It sure as hell beats public meetings, or being called to the table at Council.

    Thursday, September 17, 2009

    Judge Rules on G-20 Camping, Rallies

    From the folks at the P-G (with a special h/t to the Blackberry-dextrous Bob Mayo for giving us the blow by blow on this story):

    U.S. District Judge Gary L. Lancaster ruled today on a suit against the city regarding G-20 protest activities, saying that the city was within its rights in barring camping and a bridge rally.

    The judge said the the group CodePink will be allowed to hold an event at Point State Park from 7 p.m. Sunday to 7 p.m. Tuesday.

    The plaintiffs, represented by attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights, tried to convince Judge Lancaster that the city showed favoritism to state Sen. Jim Ferlo and his request to hold a Free Speech Festival at Point State Park. They also sought to have the judge order the city to allow the Thomas Merton Center to march through Downtown and stop on the 7th Street Bridge and rally on Sept. 25, and to allow various groups to camp out overnight in Schenley Park during the week of the G-20 Summit.
    Judge Lancaster also ruled on several other matters:
    *The Pittsburgh Organizing Group will not be allowed to march in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center;

    *The Allegheny Conference on Community Development is prohibited from using G-20 footage during its annual conference;

    *The Pittsburgh Darfur Emergency Coalition is required to be more upbeat about starvation and genocide in Sudan;

    * The City of Pittsburgh is within its rights to ban PVC piping and other items intended to obstruct a public right-of-way, but it is not within its right to require protesters wear their underwear on the outside of their clothing;

    * Protesters are not permitted to camp out in Kennywood park;

    * The Beastie Boys may reserve their right to party;

    * The Thomas Merton Center is mandated to get its shit together, already.
    No word on whether any of these rulings will be appealed.

    We Get Junk Mail

    I was cleaning out my inbox today and found this little gem:

    OK, first, somehow I doubt that British Telecom has a .cn domain level. Call it a hunch.


    Second, I've been "given 1,000,000 Pounds" reads like the beginning of an Office Space quote that ends with the phrase "two chicks at the same time."

    Third, "Provide your name, address, and occupation" is kinda vague, isn't it. I mean, who am I supposed to provide it to? Should I just yell it out the window? 'Cause... you know, that's what I did.

    Poor junk mail. Very poor. D-.

    Wednesday, September 16, 2009

    Baucus Healthcare Plan "Mostly Filler"

    (Reuters) Washington D.C. - Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus unveiled a much anticipated health care reform plan Wednesday containing nearly 90% filler, including graphs, charts, pictures, and other miscellaneous items.

    The plan does not call for a government run insurance option, as advocated by President Obama and most Democrats, but does contain nearly 50 pages of pictures of cats with silly, anthropomorphic captions.

    Baucus (D-MT) released the plan aimed at overhauling America's care system ahead of a vote scheduled in the Finance Committee for next week. After weeks of negotiations, it became clear that most of the proposed bill, aimed at pulling some bipartisan support, contained long, drawn out character back-stories and snippets of 1994 sitcoms.

    "The cost of America's broken health care system has stretched families, businesses and the economy too far for too long," he said in a statement. "The license plate said fresh and it had dice in the mirror, if anything I can say this cab is rare, but I thought 'Now forget it' - 'Yo homes to Bel Air'."

    Although Baucus held more than 100 hours of meetings over several weeks with a bipartisan group of Senate health-care negotiators known as the "Gang of Six," most of the plan was written by staffers at the last minute, in an all night drafting session yesterday.

    White House press secretary Robert Gibbs called the bill "very poor work" and threatened that Senator Baucus may have to repeat his term if he doesn't "step up".

    Senator Baucus said he plans on doubling his efforts on his final thesis "Actualizing the Potentiality of Multivariable Analysis Across Different Financial Vectors," which is currently made up entirely of the first 30 pages of the phone book.


    Above: Page 27 from the Baucus proposal

    Tuesday, September 15, 2009

    Special Additional G-20 Notes for Visitors

    Here's the nitty-gritty for members of the media, dignitaries, protesters, and assorted anarchists. If you're coming in from out of town, you should be aware of a couple of situations:

    First, as much as I like Pittsburgh, there is a strange strain of (let's say) xenophobia about it's populace. It's not so much outright antipathy about outsiders (indeed, we love showing off our City to visitors), it's more that we're really sensitive to criticism about ourselves. Don't get me wrong, criticism of Pittsburgh is the #2 Regional Pastime right after professional football... but it's more self reflection hand wringing than anything. We know our short comings; we know what we have to improve upon. We do not need other people informing us of the particular ways in which we suck.

    People have tried to make us "better" in the past. Outsiders who are brought into Pittsburgh to "reform" or "redirect" or whatever, are usually stonewalled until they give up in a huff. Imagine(!) the difference between going to your aunt's house and her saying "oh, my drapes look like shit!" and going to your aunt's house and you saying "oh, your drapes look like shit!". One scenario is going to end up with you getting beaten with her walker and tossed out to the curb.

    So, note to G-20 visitors: feel free to enjoy the City, but God help you if you speak in less than glowing terms while you're here.

    Second, you're not going to be able to get anywhere. Now, I alluded to this in the humorous portion of the visitors' guide -- that Pittsburgh is a near warren of dead end streets, one way boulevards, and 17 way intersections. That portion is all true and useful for day-to-day visiting. G-20, however, has changed all this.

    You out-of-towners who have secured hotels a mere five miles away from the conference center are in for a nasty shock. See, as is often mentioned, Pittsburgh is a City of Bridges, but it's also a City of Tunnels and other choke points. From the South Hills of Pittsburgh there are roughly 7 major ways to get to the other side of the hill and 7 different ways to get to the other side of the river. Considering that one of these routes is the major artery connecting Downtown and the Airport, we're getting prepared for absolute chaos. With the road closures, check points, mobs, etc. we're sort of expecting traffic jams of up to 3 hours long. (If you're from D.C. or L.A., this would be a "minor" traffic jam, but for those of us that are used to 15-30 min. delays, this is going to be a nightmare.)

    Third, Pittsburghers are a relatively pleasant lot (unless you happen to be a Cleveland Browns Fan), and we're going to be as helpful as possible. Remember, however, that we are bread from the same stock as those of the Whiskey Rebellion and the Homestead Steel Strike. We don't take kindly to people messing up our City and, dammit, there are still enough burly steelworker-types that will bring the fury if you start to cause trouble or try to move someone's parking chair. Pittsburghers are territorial and we don't like to start trouble, but we'll finish it.

    Seriously folks, a couple of beers and even the nicest looking, sweetest little babushka from the South Side will mess you up over a chair. More serious trouble makers will be set upon with the same fury as that reserved for visiting obnoxious Cleveland Browns fans.

    Fourth, with that said, we've been told to be on our best behavior. We will not, however, tell you the "secret routes" through the City.

    Fifth, the National Media should keep the coverage of Pittsburgh's steel history to a minimum. Yes, it was a big deal. Yes, it impacted the region. Yes, we have a football team named after it. However, it's over. Framing the discussion about Pittsburgh in terms of Steel is for lazy reporters, NFL stock films, and the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.

    So, here's the deal people: we didn't ask for this summit; it was foisted upon us. Don't make us regret it.

    Or we'll sic our Polish grandmothers on you.

    City Council Strikes Down Mask Ordinance

    Pittsburgh City Council is expected to vote tomorrow on a series of security ordinances related to the upcoming G-20 economic summit. Council already has moved to a final vote to strike down an ordinance that would have allowed protesters to watch the 2005 "comedy" Son of The Mask.

    "The city of Pittsburgh has been around for 193 years and has survived Ishtar, Glitter and Troll 2, and there is no reason that we need to make outlaws of people with poor taste in movies now." said Councilman Bill Peduto. "The test of cinema doesn't come with movies that are good. The test of cinema comes with movies that suck. This is one of those movies. And boy does this movie test us."

    Mayor Luke Ravenstahl proposed the ordinances last month after seeing a late night rerun of the movie on Comedy Central, and then spending the next day in the hospital for nausea.

    Councilman Jim Motznik said the Son of the Mask ordinance would have helped T.V., Movie, and Theater critics safeguard people and businesses when thousands of protesters gather Downtown as world leaders meet at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. "Tear gas, rock throwing, and even Molotov cocktails we can deal with, but this movie... it's horrible. A crime of Hollywood. What was Alan Cumming thinking?"

    In the sequel to the much more appealing Mask, Jamie Kennedy plays an aspiring cartoonist, who finds himself in a predicament when his dog stumbles upon the mask of Loki. Then after conceiving an infant son, "hilarity" ensues. It won the 2006 Razzie Award for worst remake or sequel.

    No word on whether the city will allow any showings of the Ed Wood classic Plan 9 from Outer Space. A final vote is pending.