Monday, December 31, 2007

An Open Letter to 2008 A.D.

Dear 2008 A.D.,
As you may or may not be aware, at this time last year I offered my reflections on the passing of one of your predecessors, 2006 A.D., in favor of the more current incumbent 2007 A.D.  Indeed, my assessment of 2006 was quite negative and I cynically believed that 2007 would continue to be much the same. 
As the saying goes, the cynic is never disappointed. 
I realized, however, that I probably did not properly express myself in such a manner so as to affect any real change in the upcoming year.  Therefore, with that in mind, I am endeavoring to address you, the upcoming year, a bit more directly so as to make a positive impact on your annual development.  With that in mind, here is my advice to you: do not suck
Of course I do understand that, given how little the incumbent year has left you to work with, this is a difficult request to fulfill.  After a year of work, Osama bin Laden is still at large, war continues unabated in the Middle East, the value of the dollar has tanked, home foreclosures are on the rise, civil liberties continue to be curtailed, popular music continues its decline, people still know more about celebrities and reality T.V. shows than they know about their government (unless a senator is caught with his pants down in a "wide stance"), consumers continue to buy useless junk that they don't need, a Democratic Congress which has raise appeasement to near Chamberlain levels, unruly children continue to run amok, local politics continues to be roughly comparable to a three ring circus, global climate change has messed a whole bunch of things up, and no one has been able to adequately explain the continued popularity of "popped" collars. 
To make things even more difficult for you, 2007 has left you with an unfinished US Presidential campaign replete with a thousand different candidates, a million different policy positions, a billion hours of TV advertising, and exactly zero chance of a happy resolution.   This quadrennial fracas only seems to escalate, and it'll be up to you, sadly, to try to contain the melee. 
Of course, local politics was a crapfest as well from the general election, to the Ravenstahl arrest scandal, to the Penguins leaving/not leaving/leaving/staying, to the new arena, to the "Ron Air" Ravenstal scandal, to the mass firings of the departmental directors, to the Hill Public meeting Ravenstahl scandal, to the Twanda Carlisle indictment, to the Cyril Wecht kinda-sorta trial, Jim Motznik's short lived blog, the rise (and fall) of Mark DeSantis, Ravenstahl's ethics board scandal, an errant salad at the county courthouse, more useless studies and commissions, miscellaneous Ravenstahl Scandals (not elsewhere classified), a council asking for the end of state oversight, and the general, unavoidable feeling that the whole damned town is going down the shitter.
And to top it all off, 2007 took Kurt Vonnegut, the tragedy which was only slightly mitigated by the fact that Jerry Fallwell was "called home" and Alberto Gonzales was sent packing as well . 
There are, of course, things that could make you better.  Impeachments and indictments across the board would be a good start.  So would getting those civil liberties back.  A progressive and rational environmental and energy policy would be nice.  I would love to see the reemergence of statesmen over politicians.  Less backbiting and more collaboration on the local government level would also be great.   
Oh, and it would be super if you could bring back Arrested Development
So, my charge to you 2008: don't suck.  I realize that after seeing how badly your predecessor was you're thinking that there's no possible way that you could suck more, but 2007 said the same thing last year. 
The Angry Drunk Bureaucrat

Friday, December 21, 2007

Addendum to December 13th Guest Commentary

People of Pittsburgh:

I warned you that those dirty, smelly, pot smoking, sabot wearing, tulip picking, windmill chasing, whore mongering, polyglot, dike building, Ann Frank hiding, Eurotrash would be invading our fair Region and look what's happened:

Dutch company Royal Philips Electronics has agreed to buy Murrysville-based Respironics Inc. for $5.1 billion in a deal announced early today.
See! Now we're going to have to put mayonnaise on all of our french fries, start speaking Flemish, drink our beers warm, convert to Islam, and marry our cousins.

George Allen Mosley is Executive Vice President of the Americanize America Foundation and adjunct Professor of Racism and Intolerance at Liberty University

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Mayoral/Pittsburgh 250+ Fact Checking

Here's a quote from the P-G regarding Mr. Ravenstahl's inauguration speech:

He said a young George Washington saw the confluence of three rivers as "an ideal place to build a fort, to make a stand," and said that's what it is today.
While George Washington did survey the forks of the Ohio and did recommend the site as a location for a fort (later Fort Prince George), one should also remember that he also thought that building a fort, in the middle of a forest clearing, in a valley, with a stream running through it was a good idea too.

And then he surrendered to the French, thereby starting a world war.

So, take the whole George Washington thing with a grain of salt.

Twelve Score and Ten Project

The Pittsburgh 250 Project has announced its awardees (awarders? award recipients?) for regional and grassroots projects to receive a total of $1 million in funding for activities and events occurring during the region's 250th anniversary in 2008. Unfortunately for me, once again my submitted project (George Washington Pooped Here: a multimedia, full sensory examination of Pittsburgh Regional Outhouses, Privies, and other Toilets) was rejected in favor of Walkin', Fishin', and alleged Mule House related projects.


Still, a lot of these activities & projects are pretty damned cool. I'm particularly looking forward to the giant headless steelworker at the Southside Works, but mostly because I hope to use my anthropomorphism ray to crush my enemies.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

A Modest Open Letter to the Mayor: A Pittsburgh Promise Proposal

Dear Mr. Mayor,
I must congratulate you on your exceptional commitment to the Pittsburgh Promise program and your desire to provide college scholarships to qualified students residing in the City of Pittsburgh.  Indeed, such a program will not only encourage middle class families, who would otherwise flee to the suburbs, to stay in the City and will provide a much need impetus to the Pittsburgh Board of Education to keep their standards high. 
I must further congratulate you on your recent success in receiving a commitment from local health care giant UPMC to donate one million dollars a year in both outright and matching funds to the program.  I am sure that this act will encourage other civic minded organizations to donate what they can to the betterment of the city. 
There are two points, however, that I notice as a cause for concern.  First, even with the generous endowment of ten million dollars over ten years, the program is still a long way from being fully and sustainably funded.  If my estimates are correct, the program will need at least $100 million to be truly functional. 
Second, UPMC seems to seem fit to attach the extraordinary provision that its donation be counted as credit against future taxation, should enabling legislation permitting the taxation of non-profits be enacted.  This, to me, seems to undermine the very outcome desired from a future taxation of non-profits.
As you can see, the twin problems here of an underfunded program and an undermined taxation system basically creates a situation in which no one is better off.  I would like, if I may, present my own solution to our collective problem. 
You may or may not be aware, Mr. Mayor, that I am not just a humble civil servant and part time masked crime fighter.  In real life, I am actually the heir to a vast fortune from my grandfather's invention of that little plastic tag you find in clothes that is supposed to hold on tags.  My father, in a flash of financial brilliance used the money to patent the copyright symbol and bought the rights to the colour taupe.  We have also diversified to include holding in the Repossession and Credit Collections industry, news media outlets that specialize in the disappearance of attractive white women, and Internet porn.  Without displaying too much false modesty, I can assure you that we are very, very wealthy, so much so, in fact, that we briefly considered buying a local newspaper as a hobby and to advance the cause of the International Astronomical Union against the infidels that still consider Pluto to be a planet. 
With that said, I would like to personally donate Five Hundred Million Dollars ($500,000,000) to the Pittsburgh Promise, with no strings attached.
Given the generosity of my donation, however, you'll understand of course that there are strings attached to it.  Also, given the enormity of the donation, you'll of course realize that the strings attached will be commensurate with the amount.  In my opinion, however, my request is not overly burdensome. 
It has not escaped my notice, that the Pittsburgh Region lacks a cohesive, coherent leadership structure.  Some councils of government have had limited success and some cross municipal cooperation has worked, but overall there is generally a lack of coordination for the region's common good.  This problem exists, however, not only outside the walls of Pittsburgh proper, but within as well, where neighborhoods, corporations, politicians, and special interest groups battle for ever shrinking slices of tiny, tiny pie.  While risk is inherent in any major financial investment, I am not comfortable with throwing my money at any organization in such disarray. 
In my mind, there is only one way to solve this general problem: in the event that the appropriate enabling legislation is enacted, I will claim the office of King of Pittsburgh and Allegheny. 
We originally believed that we should ask for an election, an acclamation, or some other conveyance of the public trust, but we soon realized that would only undermine the legitimacy our reign, which must be based on the Divine Right.  Moreover, we can see how certain republican elements in the region would seek to invalidate, what we consider to be, our necessary and proper station. 
We promise to be a benevolent monarch, but you will understand that, as King, we will be assuming certain extraordinary powers necessary to the functioning of the office, including, but not limited to:
* The Crown will assume all publicly owned land in the Region;
* The Crown will be exempt from all taxation;
* The Crown will have the right to collect all taxes and fees;
* The Crown will have the right to raise an army for public defense;
* The Crown will have the right to summon and dismiss County, City, and other municipal councils;
* The Crown will give, upon the advise of his ministers, assent to all legislation; and so forth.
We believe that such powers are reasonable given the extraordinary contribution we are making to this region.  We may consent to be referred to as "King of the Pittsburghers" instead of "King of Pittsburgh" pending the advice of our ministers.
As our first acts,
* We would immediately dissolve all municipal boundaries in the area of "Southwestern Pennsylvania" to form the City-Region of "Pittsburgh and Allegheny".
* We would merge any and all authorities, boards, commissions, and so forth, as necessary.
* We would declare the Official Languages of the Region to be English and Yinzer English.
* We would begin to issue charters, titles of nobility, and letters patent in our name.
* We would establish several orders of Knighthood for Service to the Crown including the Order of the Angry Drunk Bureaucrat (OABD) and the Order of the Unnecessary Post-nominal Suffix (OUPS)
* We would invade Mt. Oliver, burn it to the ground, and sow salt so that nothing would ever grow there again.
* We would allow for indoor smoking, provided that the smoker is, in fact, on fire.
* We would sell the City's rights to the Casino to Erie.
* We will not permit any of our subjects to use the word "defenestrate."
Future acts would include putting down the inevitable peasant uprising in Mercer County and setting up Yinzer colonies in Washington D.C., Myrtle Beach, and South Florida. 
We are already preparing the crown jewels for our royal ascension and are accepting applications for Titles of Nobility.  Should you be amenable to this arrangement, we will arrange a time and place prior to our coronation for you to pay us homage. 
H.R.H. Arthur David Beverly the First, by the Grace of God, of the Kingdom of Pittsburgh and Allegheny and her other Realms and Territories King-Elect, Most Serene Dominus and Imperator, Defender of the Forks of the Ohio, Pater Patriae, OADB, OUPS, PhD
P.S. If you still want to be involved in our government, we can make you Marquess of The Charles Street Valley or Earl of Four Mile Run or something.  Think about it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Smithers! Unleash the Pittsburgh Promise Tax Credits

In regards to the announcement that local medical behemoth UPMC is asking for tax credits, PittGirl is torn between thinking that this is a brilliant move to reward the organization for its generous contribution to the Pittsburgh Promise and thinking that the Mayor is the toadying Smithers to Jeffrey Romoff's (UPMC's CEO) Mr. Burns.

I don't think I'm nearly as torn on the matter, except to say that Smithers is at least a competent toady.

In what can only be described as a high stakes shell game, the Mayor is pushing council to OK a pre-emptive tax break to a non-profit (untaxed under current law) for matching funds contributions made to a mayoral pet project.  Now, don't get me wrong, the Pittsburgh Promise idea has a lot of... erm... promise, but it's hardly the type of program that is essential to the City qua its function as a City, as would be road maintenance, public safety, zoning, tax collection, parks, etc.  Those things are the kinds of services that the City would be paying for with the money that it could receive from a UPMC tax contribution which it doesn't receive yet anyhow.  

Still with me?  Good.

So, if you can't figure it out, it sounds like UPMC is betting that the law will, in fact, be changed to allow non-profits to be taxed and is trying to pre-emptively offset its losses.  

The problem, of course, is that once UPMC does it, there is precedence for other non-profits to pull the same kind of crap, earmarking money that would have gone into roads/bridges/trash collecting/etc. for a mayoral fancy.  If that happens, we still have the status quo... which, as you know, is Latin for "the mess we're in."

Of course, the City may have the last laugh: if the Pittsburgh Promise works out, perhaps down the road we'll have smarter politicians and a smarter voting public that won't fall for this type of bullshit.  

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Guest Commentary by Private Citizen George Allen Mosley

When I found out that our beloved, family-owned Kennywood was to be sold to a private company, I was crushed. When I found out that it was being sold to a group of dirty, greasy, taco-eating Spaniards, I was enraged. Now, to make matters worse, I find out that the venerable horse racing institution known as The Meadows is to be sold to a bunch of goose stepping Nazi Austrians. Let me tell you, I am livid.

It's bad enough that those lazy, good for nothing Spaniards are jumping over the border and taking our jobs, but now we also have to contend with these Aryans trying to take over our world with their wienerschnitzel and their oompa-music and their ethnic cleansing.

I mean, whatever happened to good old AMERICAN companies, like Bayer or the Westinghouse Electric Company or Marconi? Why don't we have those kinds of red white and blue companies anymore?

Next thing you know, we'll be up to our ears in dirty, slitty eyed, monkey faced, Dutch coming here blowing up our churches, marrying our daughters, and driving down our property values.

When my grandfather immigrated here to Pittsburgh, it certainly wasn't so some foreigner could take his job.

George Allen Mosley is Executive Vice President of the Americanize America Foundation

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

(Feral) Animal Farm

If you've been following along in the P-G or on the Pittsburgh City-Council pay-per-view channel* you would have noticed that Darlene Harris is pushing to get animal control moved from Public Works to Public Safety, to wit:

Ms. Harris said Friday that she will propose moving the division from the Public Works Department to the Public Safety Department, professionalizing its management and shifting its focus. Then it can better control feral animal populations and teach people about pet care, she said.
Because, when I think of "pet care" I think of Michael Huss... or at least more than I think of Michael Vick.

Now, this all, of course, makes perfect sense in light of former Councilperson Twanda Carlisle assertion back in July that "In 2007, cats are more aggressive than they used to be."

I can only assume that this moves means that, despite all the joking that was done, Ms. Carlisle was absolutely correct and that there are currently roaming street gangs of cats, dogs, birds, turtles, hamsters, ferrets, and Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs assaulting old women, dealing crack, and generally terrorizing the populace of the City of Pittsburgh.

Or perhaps Al Qaeda is on the verge of developing the suicide Guinea Pig.

Or maybe Chinese counterfitters are saturating the American market is knock off Shitz Zhus.

Or maybe Super Chicken is off the Super Sauce again.

I'm glad we're on top of this situation.

*After 10 PM the legislation gets a little "blue".

Kennywood Bought Out By Spanish Firm

Announces new "Haunted Castile" Dark Ride
The Potato Patch to Switch to all Tapas Menu
Phantom's Revenge Roller Coaster Renamed "Franco's Revenge"
Rick Sebak Sobs Inconsolably
Flies Remain at Half Mast in Memorial

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Mayor's Office Celebrates Entire Week of Not F@#&ing Up

A month after he was elected mayor of Pittsburgh, and two weeks before his inauguration, Luke Ravenstahl managed not to fuck everything up for a whole week.

On one day, Tuesday, City Council asked for an end to state fiscal oversight; Don Barden said he'll move forward on his North Shore casino next week; and the mayor agreed not to veto an ordinance on police domestic violence. Late in the day, the Mayor decided against selling high school drop outs to UPMC for organ harvesting purposes.

Each decision was a tough one, but as the Mayor approaches his December 20th inauguration, he faces a long selection of potentially disastrous decisions that are yet to be made.

For now, the 27 year old Mayor seems content to rest on the laurels of the bad decisions that he has not yet made. Saying that "with the budgetary shortfalls and discussions with the County and the State regarding administrative mergers, there are plenty of ways that I can completely fuck up."

"I struggled with trying to get my message out there for a significant period of time because of some of the other things that arose throughout the campaign," he conceded, adding "I hope that the citizens of the City will realize that there are times when I will, unfortunately, not act like a complete horse's ass 100% of the time."

Mayoral spokesperson Joanna Doven in a press release itemized several ridiculously bad ideas that the Mayor had chosen not to pursue including using the Public Works asphalt plant to construction a giant statue of 1980s T.V. star Peter Scolari urinating champagne, paying off the City bond debt with his Discover card, and a controversial plan to sell the Fineview neighborhood for money for hookers and blow. The mayor also wisely chose not to tell a CMU computer science class that if they hung around with Asian students they "would get all slitty eyed."

Duquesne Law Professor Joseph Sabino Leger said the mayor's ability not to act like a total putz for a week is a sign of growing maturity in the young politician.

"Still, with the number of decisions that the mayor needs to make on a given day, it will only be a matter of time before he supports an amendment to the City Homerule Charter banning the use of gerunds. I believe he has a long way to go and we can expect more fuck ups in the near future."

The Mayor's Office's Task Force on Bad Ideas is due to present it's recommendations to the mayor on January 3rd at the City's first annual Children's Handgun and Liquor festival.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Rule #29

For Sue:

There's always a disparity between those that know how things work and those that have no clue how things work. Unfortunately, those that have no clue about the way things work, details of problems, potential implications of choices, and the law often find themselves in the role of "manager".

In the Governmental world, these are Politicians and their appointees.

So, you can imagine the problems that result when Politicians and their assorted cronies try to fiddle with is what is, by right, the responsibility of those with actual knowledge of the details, i.e., the Bureaucrats. There are oftentimes perfectly good reasons why things are done certain ways, whether it is because of precedent, law, or fiscal obligation. Appointees and politicians, who are not content to stay within their realm of general "policy," often find the need to meddle needlessly... with annoying and potentially disastrous results.

The One-Eyed Fat Man once referred to it as "Children playing with nuclear weapons." I put the resulting fracas a little bit more delicately as Rule #29:

Rule #29: It is very easy to make difficult decisions when no one has a clue what's going on.

Of course, no one should begin to even consider the slightest possibility that I'm even suggesting that this is in anyway a reference to the current Pittsburgh mayoral administration. Anyone who thinks so is sadly mistaken about that being in any way the case, for surely it is not... even if it was.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

This Blog Will Now Cost 10% More

OK, so the drink tax is now a done deal and only too late do I realize this was merely a trap to silence this blog.

On one hand you have a tax that funds the Port Authority; on the other hand, you have more expensive drinks at Gooski's, the Squirrel Cage, Penn Brewery, Mitchell's, Mullaney's, Piper's, D's, Big Jim's, Silky's, Sharp Edge (Emporium AND Creekhouse), Fat Head's, Ryan's, Kelly's, Buffalo Blues, and The Church. Your's truly is dependent on all of the above to power this blog.

Without the bus, I don't have the mind numbing tedium necessary to think up things like comparing the Mayor to a less competent George W. Bush without the whole "Male Cheerleader" thing.*

Without the drink, I don't have the fuel necessary to power my profanity laden rants and the protection necessary to keep the Downtown free WiFi waves out of my brain.

And, of course, I'm a contentious drunk, so I don't drink and drive... I drink and bus. [If you've never ridden the 61C and puked into the change box, well, you're a better person than me.]

But anyway, I'm not saying that the drink tax is directly aimed at me, but I have stocked up on beer, wine, vodka, gin, scotch, bourbon, port, mead, and sherry**, so I can exploit the "stay-at-home-and-drink-in-the-dark-alone" loophole in the law.

I hope you're happy, John DeFazio.

* Give me a break... I got a ride home today.
** But no Jägermeister.... that's just nasty.

Delays, Casinos, and What Not

Glad to see that things as silly as public approvals aren't holding up the construction of the new casino. From the P-G:

The city Planning Commission late today agreed to delay the public hearing for consideration of the design of the $450 million North Shore casino until Jan. 15.

The Riverlife Task Force early today sent the city a letter asking for the delay. As a result, the commission plans to hold the public hearing and the vote on whether to approve the design on the same day.

The public hearing had been scheduled for Tuesday, the same day as the ground-breaking ceremony for the facility. The ground-breaking will proceed as scheduled.
OK, maybe that's snark; getting a contractor to start, stop, start, restart, re-stop, and re-restart is about as painful as watching The Day After Tomorrow in a theater filled with 15 year olds. So, I can understand why Don Barden doesn't want to cancel digging in below zero weather.

No, wait, I don't... unless there's going to be hot chocolate... and space heaters... and it's inside.

Actually the most surreal part of the whole delay is that the attorney that held up the public hearing is Cliff Levine, a former Murphy appointee to the Planning Commission and former chair of the Zoning Board of Adjustments. I mean, if anyone knows the law in this matter, it would be Cliff.

In a larger sense, however, it seems like a microcosm of the current political situation in the City, where it appears that former long-standing political advisers have been pushed to the side in favor of new, inexperienced blood.

But maybe that's me.

Oh, and it would be nice if the public meeting wasn't the same day as the approval, but then again, I'm a big fan of being, you know, informed about stuff.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Snow Laughing Matter

There are days that I think that people of this Region believe that global warming has already pushed Pittsburgh into a climate more akin to Atlanta, and therefore are in no need of any of the skills useful for driving in inclement Winter weather.

Today, of course, is one of those days. So, for those of you that think that have already stocked up on milk, bread, and toilet paper and obviously think that we're going to die, I'm going to offer you some advice:

Stay off the fucking road.

Seriously, people. I know that we're not in northern Manitoba where it thaws out sometime around July 3rd, but we are in northern region and we should be prepared to deal with winter weather appropriately.

For example: as an alternative to driving down a hill with your foot on the brake, why not slide the car into 2nd gear instead, using the mechanics of the car to control your speed?

Or, if you have a truck, SUV, or other behemoth that has four wheel drive, why don't you learn how to use it. Alternatively, if you have a truck, SUV, or other behemoth without 4 wheel drive, why don't you just leave your car in the garage and slowly kill yourself through carbon monoxide poisoning, as you are obviously a waste of skin and good sense. And just to give you the little extra oomph you're going to need: yes, the world knows that you have a small penis.

Additionally, you may become aware that your car may not be able to drive in quite the same manner as it would when it is 80 degrees and sunny out. This may mean that your Toyota Tercel may not be able to make it up many of the "horizontally challenged" street in the City quite so easily. This does not mean, however, that you should gun your engine, slide sideways, stall out, and drift backwards into oncoming traffic. That is something that PennDOT in its driver safety manual calls "a stupid ass thing to do."

As a courtesy measure, you should clean off the snow laden roofs of your vehicles. As much fun as it can be to pretend that you're outrunning the blizard in your rear view mirror, those drivers behind you (of various degrees of driving competency) may use the opportunity to playfully plow into your rear end or, and this is my personal favorite, bust out your tail lights with a five iron concealed under the floor mats in my back seat.

And, of course to those of you that live in or visit to Lawrenceville: if you ignore the chair and take the parking spot that I worked for 20 minutes to clear out, I will bust your skull in.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

$53,402.50 per win (so far)

So, according to official reports, JoePa

was paid $427,220 in the first 10 months of 2007-- putting his year-end salary on track to exceed $500,000. He was paid $490,638 last year, according to the retirement system.
Now that's a good government job for you.

For comparison purposes the President of the United States makes $400,000, which is fair considering that Joe's record vs. the current administration is pretty good. If G.W.B. had the same record, we would still be losing in Iraq, but we would have won in Afghanistan, Iran, and probably France.

Joe also knows when to punt.

Penn State fans by comparison, however, are far more sensible but equally rabid as the GOP. They are also snazzier dressers.

Penn State has also never bugged Pitt's offices without a warrant.

So, in sum: Joe Paterno should probably be president. Couldn't be any worse.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Council favors ending Act 47 Oversight; Teenagers favor Dad giving them the car keys

OK, I come back from my Thanksgiving hiatus to find that (1) the city has opened up the fabulous span of the Hotmetal Bridge which allows people to bike/walk all the way, non stop from the Glenwood Bridge to the PNC First Side center and (2) that the crack addled City Council wants to ditch its parole officer.

The bridge is the good news story, in case you couldn't tell.

Now, don't get me wrong: I understand why City Council wants to have the shackles off. I mean, now that Twanda Carlisle's schemes have been foiled, everyone's going to have to work that much harder to rob the city blind on behalf of special interests. It's not like they can just give money away or anything.

While both the ICA (notice they're not fighting that one yet) and the Act 47 posses are a major pain in the ass, they are the sober David Crosby to the city's alcoholic Lionel Hutz sometimes.

[Was that reference too obscure? Sometimes I can't tell.]

Cutting out the Act 47 crew would be like stopping at step 4 in the 12 step process, which is "make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves," if you weren't already aware. At this rate, the City will have it's ultimate "spiritual awakening" (step 12) sometime around the same time as Lindsay Lohan.

OK, maybe not that long, but a really, really long time.

Hell, City Council telling the State that "it's fine" and "there's no problem" and "I can quit whenever I want to" is only going to lead to the City saying "I'm sorry I threw up all over your carpet, banged your roommate, and crashed your car into the Police Station".

This just won't end well... especially for the carpet, roommate, and car which, to carry the metaphor to the obvious conclusions would be the city roads, Cranberry, and, let's say, USAirways, respectively.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need another gin and tonic to wash out the taste of week old cranberry stuffing.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Allegheny Conference on Criminal Development Laments City's 65th Most Dangerous Ranking

With this week's release of a nationwide crime survey which pegged Pittsburgh as the 67th most dangerous city in the Country and at the threshold of Friday's annual meeting of the Allegheny Conference on Criminal Development, its chairman outlined the region's successes and pointed to the challenges that still impede economic growth in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area.

Victor "Jo-Jo" Strachi, upright citizen and chair of the Pittsburgh Crime Family said that the 67th place ranking should not be a sign of weakness to anyone and that the Region has a long, successful history in crime and it is moving forwards and upwards in the ranking.

The report looked at 378 cities with at least 75,000 people based on per-capita rates for homicide, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and auto theft. Each crime category was considered separately and weighted based on its seriousness.

Pittsburgh ranks behind Detroit which retained the top spot, but also Youngstown (No. 15), Cincinnati (No. 16), Dayton (No. 19), Philadelphia (No. 21), Reading (No. 32), Toledo (No. 47) and Columbus (No. 48).

"The region has made significant advances in the fields of Cyber Crime and white collar crime - we are particularly please with the work of former Council Woman Twanda Carlisle - and we have the unions, we have the gambling, and they're the best things to have," said Strachi. "We are disappointed, however, that they did not focus on these activities in this study."

Local CMU professor and noted criminologist Al Blumenstein agrees with Strachi.

"I mean, you look at how these surveys are crafted and you can see the methodological flaws right there. They're looking at rape, arson, murder, and rape, but they don't consider the more subtle crimes: blackmailing, racketeering, protection... crimes of a more 'Creative' nature."

While the ACCD will focus on these rankings in its annual meeting, Mr. Strachi said that the region has much to be proud of.

"These are wonderful things that we've achieved in this City -- and there's no limit to where we can go from here. This kind of Government knows how to help encourage it."

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Allegheny Conference on Community Development Review 2007

I should have known the horror I was in for when the Allegheny Conference on Community Development annual meeting began with a bagpipe solo.

If you recall, last year, the Conference began with a musical number. I'm happy to report that they decided to forgo a repeat of last year's Tony ignored performance and replaced it with a comedy sketch between Washington and Forbes.

You can't make these kinds of things up, folks.

I can't quite remember if it was the forced dramatic irony in which they juxtaposed 1758 Western Pennsylvania with modern Pittsburgh (Forbes Avenue, Most Livable City, Pirmanti Brothers, Terrible Towel, etc.) or the stilted delivery which bothered me more and made me want to drive an ice pick into my skull.

No, wait, the delivery was fine... it was the material that was awful. Next year, I'll have Christopher Rawson do the review for me.

And, by the way, Messrs. Bannon, Coll, & Flanagan: the blockhouse was built following the construction of Fort Pitt. I mean, if you're going to throw out anachronisms, at least get them right.

Anyway, despite all the mean, mean things that the Tribune-Review says about him, Jim Rohr is a very entertaining speaker, especially given the awful, horrible, no-good material he has to work with. I mean, they didn't even do a good job in trying to hide the fact that they basically stole a whole bunch of last year's slides. Yours truly actually remembers the bizarre 20-24 age cohort as compared to Boston or the weird corporate net-income tax graph; I know a recycled PowerPoint presentation when I see one.

At least, however, Mr. Rohr is fully aware that he is the only person standing between those assembled and the open bar. [He's also aware that those assembled are the only people standing between him and the bar.]

Still, it was a bit upsetting to see that the ACCD was only measuring a C+ average when compared against its 2006 goals. It did receive an A+, however, in only being an hour and a half long.

Back in my day, these things lasted for seven days straight.

CEO Mike Langley didn't have much to say, however, the statistics he pulled out that the per capita income in the region moved up from 60th place in the country to 48th place, merely seemed to indicate that we have a lot of retired and/or dead people out there. [If you mess with the denominator, your percentage looks better, faster.] I'm upset by the fact that they didn't draw the obvious conclusion: we should kill all the employed old people.

Susan McGalla and David Malone, who spoke on Education and "The Pittsburgh Regional Compact" need to learn that (a) they need not wear such ridiculous outfits and (b) together they are duller than a ball peen hammer. Additionally, the Pittsburgh Regional Compact using a spiky haired, headphone wearing, back pack clad stick figure to represent the region's youth is ridiculous.

Youth today have iPods.

Glad to see that former O'Connor appointee Paul Leger has found his way back to the conference, however, even if it was working on this area.

My summary of the Taxes and Regulation's section is as follows: "Dull... dull... dull... competive access to power... dull... clean air... dull... high corporate income tax rate... incoherent slides.

From the Local Government committee we find out that Southwestern PA has more governmental organizations that 22 state, that the ACCD has kinda blown off the City/County merger thing, we have a dysfunctional EITC collection system, and that this meeting is so important that the Mayor of Pittsburgh has decided to blow it off.... probably in favor of another golf game.

I am upset that, once again, ACCD did not actively advocate for conquering Mt. Oliver and burning it to the ground.

From the Transportation cohort, we are informed that PAT drivers have salaries that are too high and benefits that are too generous. It sounds like if it were up to the ACCD, PAT employees would be flogged with reeds or drawn and quartered.

As a blast from the bast, there was further hand-wringing over the airport, only this time it was about not having a major hub... even though originations and departures were up.

China apparently has agreed to a cargo shipping route with Pittsburgh, making us a major import hub for the East, and also relieving the region of its feral cat problem.

Oh, and we should all leave Pittsburgh on airlines that service people... like... immediately.

From the business development side, it seems that the best place in public service is the PRA, which is undertaking a junket to Europe with the PSO and a trip to India.

For what it's worth, I get to go to Overbrook next week... if I'm lucky.

From the marketing department: Image is up, Weeds is inexplicably good, Imagine That! is horribly designed, Trucks are good, and the Pittsburgh 250 ads are probably worth mocking.

Speaking of which, did you know that the ice cream scope was invented by a Pittsburgher... who was Black? These are other awkwardly conspicuous gender and racial facts can be found in the ACCD Pittsburgh 250 chronology.

But, to that end, the following Pittsburgh 250 events are taking place in the coming year: the opening of Point State Park, a Pennsylvanian "Tour de France" but in PA, a festival of lights, a wedding vow renewal, David McCullough will be brought out of deep storage, the Carnegie International, cake, lead will be turned into gold, and Murray Gerber will rant endlessly about the state of education in the region.

So, on the whole, it wasn't a bad night... and "Bassmaster" was only said once.

And the reception was good this year, even though Larry Dunn looked lonely again.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Pittsburgh: LEEDing the Way

Considering my previous postings on Green Economic Development, I would be amiss if I didn't at least mention the bill that was tentatively approved today by City Council providing for Green zoning "bonuses" for LEED certified building in LNC and other non-residential zoning districts.

You can read the text of the whole thing here, as part of the swanky new eGovernment Legistar system, which, frankly, sounds more like a Star Wars location than anything.* In a nutshell, if you build a LEED certified building you get to build your building 20% bigger and taller; outside a nutshell, the same rules apply, but the buildings are a lot bigger.

Now, don't get me wrong: I think this is a good idea for the City and an interesting way to encourage sustainable development without pouring bucket loads of money into projects. There are, however, some real shortfalls in the proposed plan.

First, it completely leaves out residential construction. While it's a great idea to encourage businesses to go greener, it does nothing to encourage green design at home. If I remember correctly, home is not only where the heart is, it's where the most unsustainable energy choices are made. If the city really wanted to make a real impact (over and above the existing International Building Code standards), it would include residential construction as well. Let's set that aside, however, as there are currently no real guidelines for LEED certified residential construction at this time.

Which brings up the second critique: the use of the US Green Building Council's LEED standard specifically in the legislation. Again, LEED is fine and all, but there are other rating systems out there. Just because a structure is not LEED certified does not meen that it's not "Green." Moreover, in order to get your LEED certification, there is a fee, paid to the USGBC, and performance auditing standards, paid to independent auditors, who have to certify that your building is, in fact, a green building.

Again, that's fine, except that council has narrowed the definition of "Green," and has given USGBC a virtual monopsony on what that terminology means.

And, yes, you do get a Green point for having a bike rack, by the way.

Still, there's no sliding scale for this bonus; developers only have to satisfy the "LEED Certified" criteria, with no incentive to reach Silver, Gold, or Platinum levels. One would have thought that if you go better, you should get a bigger bonus.

So, I'm not really opposed to this legislation (I mean, any chance for the City to get $500 from a Zoning Administrator's Exception or even more for a full blown site plan review, right?), but it just seems to be so narrowly construed that it's more of a pain in the ass than effective policy.

* That's no moon... that's an online database and document retrieval system.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Pittsburgh Tribune Review blasts Allegheny Conference, Demands Fucking Pony

In advance of its 2008 annual meeting, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review lobbed a bomb at the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, demanding that the Conference make good on its promise of a fucking pony for every resident of Western Pennsylvania.

In the 1940s, local business and government leaders gathered under the banner of the Conference to clear soot-filled skies, to lead a Downtown building renaissance and to spur area growth. The pro-business establishment, headed by Richard King Mellon, and the Democratic political machine, headed by mayor David L. Lawrence, joined hands forming the backbone of community and economic development in the region. Both Mr. Lawrence and Mr. Mellon were extensively lobbied by an international Pony cartel, although records of formal exchanges have been lost. .

"We have wasted too many years not focusing on the kind of things that can make Pennsylvania and the Pittsburgh area grow better," said Jake Haulk, president of the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, a Castle Shannon-based think tank. "If the ACCD can't provide us with fucking ponies, then they are completely and utterly worthless as a not-for-profit, public/private booster and organizer for the City of Pittsburgh."

Conference officials and its business backers insist it has no clue what critics are talking about.

"You are going to get opinions all over the board as to whether or not we're working on the right things, whether or not we're effective in working on the right things," said conference CEO Michael Langley. "But what's undeniable is, we have never promised anyone a rose garden, let alone a fucking pony."

"I mean, hell," added ACCD CEO Jim Rohr, "do you have any fucking idea how many fucking things are wrong with this goddamned region. Christ! You have Senators fighting Mayors, Big Businesses fighting Small Businesses, and a bunch of fucking, whiny sons-of-bitches with their thumbs up their butts complaining that nothing is getting fucking done. And on top of that, these motherfuckers want fucking ponies."

Mr. Rohr refused to comment on previous Conference promises for sunshine and rainbow farting unicorns as part of the Pittsburgh 250 Celebration, as he was lead away for a higher dose of his medication.

Pirates Lose to 1909 Miniature Versions of Themselves 4-0

Patricia J. Rogers, historic exhibits coordinator at the Carnegie Science Center, points out miniature fans throwing miniature hot dogs and miniature Coca-Cola at a miniature Kevin McClatchy.

'Hidden costs raise' US war price

"Rumsfeld insisted on adjustable rate financing," says Sec. Def. Robert Gates

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Mayor's Office Announces "There is Absolutely No Cause for Concern"

The Mayor's Office of the City of Pittsburgh today assembled a hastily called together news conference to report that "There is absolutely no cause for concern."

An anxious looking Joanna Doven, Mayoral spokesperson, told the assembled press corps that "Everything is fine and there's nothing to worry about. At all. Period. Any rumors to the contrary are false. Everybody should go about their business as if nothing is going wrong... which it's not. We are asking all citizens to please remain calm in the face of nothing in particular. "

She continued, "The City is not bankrupt, City morale is not at an all time low, the Mayor is not doing coke off his mistress's thigh, and a giant radioactive lizard has not escaped from the Pittsburgh Zoo and is not trying to devour the Koppers Building. The shear thought of those events taking place is laughable. No one has been harmed in any way, and there is nothing - repeat nothing - to be worried about. Especially the whole lizard thing."

When asked by Rich Lord, the City Hall reporter for the Post-Gazette, why the news conference was called if nothing is is wrong, Ms. Doven shot back, "I don't come down to your desk and tell you how to lose Pulitzers, do I, Rich?"

Ms. Doven later advised those assembled that should any of those events happen that they should take cover immediately, but they aren't, so don't.

A frantic Yarone Zober rushed into the room in a hazmat suit and jumped out the window, abruptly ending the press conference.

The Mayor's Office could not be reached for further comments.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Election 2007 (cont'd)

Compare the following map from Mr. Briem:

And from yours truly in 2005:

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This means something... this is important.

Brave New World

I'm sure some of you out there in Blog land would like me to say that I didn't post much last night because I was crying into my beer over the victory by Luke Ravenstahl over Mark DeSantis et al. In fact, I was crying last night over my stupid fucking-piece-of-shit router that decided to explode into little tiny pieces.

Perhaps the router was crying.

In any event, it's fixed now. And here's my thought on the aftermath and what happens from here:

(1) While Luke manage to win, he did, apparently, record the worst performance by an incumbent Democratic mayor since the City started to elect those types of people. This doesn't bode well for the Republicans, but I'm sure that it's piqued the interest of other potential 2009 candidates with little Ds affixed to their name.

Politicians, like the sharks they are, can smell blood in the water. If Luke doesn't show real results in the next year or if he continues to show the poor judgment tendencies he's shown in the past, he might want to consider running for a different office before a stronger contender reveals him/herself.

(2) The election added an air of legitimacy to the Ravenstahl administration who had been lambasted as an "Accidental Mayor" by his opponents. It also validated his policy and professional decisions over the last 14 months for what that's worth. I suppose that this means we'll be expecting more of the same.

(3) I'll predict a rash of more "housecleaning" in the works for City Government. My impression is that there are a lot of people who are "fully vested in pensions," as it were, and would rather not stick around for much more. I also get the impression that now that the election is over, Luke can finish his consolidation of power; a lot of Admiral Needas out there who have failed Darth Ravenstahl for the last time.

(4) On the plus side, it will give the Mayor's Office a bit more breathing room as they don't have to produce "results" as expediently. Perhaps they will back down on staff a bit too.

(5) Maybe they'll get a chance to get some organization together at the Mayor's Office, while they're at it. Perhaps in the next year somebody will eventually figure out what it is they're supposed to be doing over there.

In any event, eighteen months and we do it all over again...

Lord, get me a drink... and make it a double.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

2007 General Election Results: Winner Triumph Over Loser

The AP is currently reporting that across America tonight, Winners are besting Losers in elections across the country. In most races, Winners are pulling in well over 50% of the vote, except in some races where they are pull a mere plurality.

The Winners fended off challenges from Losers to fill in elected positions from school board to State Governors. No Loser has managed to win a race since the Hays/Tilden election in the late 19th Century.

The Winners suffered several set backs and missteps throughout their campaigns, but managed to bounce back. Their proposals and policies, combined with their political heritage and track record, made the difference in what had been a hard fought race.

Winners assembled at jubilant celebrations where speeches were made congratulating themselves and thanking their Loser opponents. Several other news reports indicate that balloons and confetti were dropped and the Fleetwood Mac song "Don't Stop Believing" was played.

"We are happy that the constituency has chosen to embrace our vision and we hope, with your help, to move us forward," said the Winners.

At the Losers headquarters, the Losers thanked their opponents for a good race and challenged the newly elected "to work in the best interests of the constituents."

Winners will serve their respective terms until the next election, when it is expected that Losers will again mount a challenge to their office.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Final Voting Predictions

OK, here's where I put my money where my mouth is... which is not as some may expect, firmly welded to someone's backside.

Here are some things that I'm keeping in mind:

(1) Registration: This is the basic one - Democrats out number Republicans in this City. If things break they have in past, the Democrat has the advantage.

ADVANTAGE: Ravenstahl

(2) Minority Voting Patterns: This too is a basic one - African Americans tend to vote Democrat. This is most apparent in the election of Jim Roddey (R) as County Executive years back; African American Neighborhoods just did not vote for him. The complication, however, is that the prominent New Pittsburgh Courrier has come out in favor of the Republican. Still, I'm going to wager that black voters in these neighborhoods are going to come out in favor of the party where they have the best chance of getting what they want.

ADVANTAGE: Ravenstahl

(3) Disaffected Democrats (Left Wing): Squirrel Hill, Shadyside, Highland Park, Regent Square. All these neighborhoods have been hotbeds of left leaning local politics and all seemed to break for Bill Peduto in the last general election. The question I posited may months ago is whether O'Connor supporters would have broken for Peduto or Lamb, but a similar question could be asked as to whether Peduto supporters would break for Ravenstahl or DeSantis. I have a feeling that it's going to be the latter.

(4) Disaffected Democrats (Right Wing): The South Hills. Anyone who voted for Jim Motznik probably falls into this category. While according to Mr. Briem these are the areas that have the most Republican support, I see them having a more pro-life, old-guard, conservative mentality than what Mr. DeSantis offers. They may be conservatives, but they are conservative *Democrats*.

ADVANTAGE: Ravenstahl

(5) Endorsements: Post-Gazette, Tribune-Review, New Pittsburgh Courier all endorsed DeSantis. For those Pittsburgh denizens who do not spend significant time on the Internet, this probably marked the first time that even the possibility of voting for a Republican even crossed their mind. It may plant a tiny seed of doubt.


(6) Off election year: Off year cycles are notoriously bad for turn out, but conversely good for the challenger.


(7) Weather: High of 43 with snow possible. Shitty weather = low turn out, which is also probably bad news for the incumbent.


(8) Steelers: I can barely make it into work after a MNF game, let alone function coherently. I'm going to guess that this is going to drive down the turn out just that much more. However, it seems that the Monday Night Football crew isn't really paying attention to the game anymore and have started blathering on and on about how great Tom Brady is... perhaps Steeler fans have gone to bed already. Still...


(9) GOtV: Ravenstahl has money and a party machine behind him to help with a last minute push. Every vote counts in these close elections, especially if #s 6, 7, & 8 come into play.

ADVANTAGE: Ravenstahl
(10) Media: Ravenstahl has consistently garnered bad press for himself, from the AirBurkle flap to the newest Playground Lead brouhaha. Normally any publicity is good publicity, but in this case it seems to show a flighty, distracted Mayor who cares more about the perks of the office than the job. DeSantis, on the other hand, has been getting a series of "could he be the first Republican Mayor since the Great Depression?" articles which paint him in a far more positive light.

So, with that all said I'm predicting Ravenstahl to win, but in a barnburner. DeSantis will, if nothing else, post the highest percentage recorded by a Republican mayoral candidate in memory.
No matter who wins, however, a politically damaged Ravenstahl is sure to face a crowed Democratic field when we do this again in 18 months.

Internet Bloggers Announce Strike

San Jose, CA (AP) - Following last night's announcement that the Writers Guild of America will go on strike last night, the International Brotherhood of Internet Bloggers (iBIB) announced that it would also call for a major work stoppage amongst it's nearly one million members.

iBIB had been negotiating along side the Writer's Guild as marathon talks entered their eleventh hour in Los Angeles and New York. The Bloggers are demanding royalties for "all the really good plots, scripts, and ideas offered for free on the Internet" are concerned about the increased number of Chinese bloggers that provide content at one-eighth the price of a union blogger.

Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, founder of the blog DailyKos, and Rob "CmdrTaco" Malda, founder of Slashdot, called on all iBIB members to immediately stop work.

In a speech released on YouTube last night, CmdrTaco ordered union members to refrain "from writing, producing, or uploading anything of substance or entertaining value on the web. It is only through the loss of our 'value added content' will management come to understand the services we provide."

Reporters questioned Malda if any of this "value added content" had previously been released on the Internet and, if so, where it might be found.

Markos added that until the strike was resolved, the union was holding back several items including a story involving Senator Larry Craig (R-ID) and Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY), a new seven question meme, and a video of a monkey and an adorably kitten.

Message boards across the Internet were immediately shut down, as virtual picketers in the popular MMORPGs "Second Life" and "World of Warcraft" assembled inside every major server. Thousands of unspayed, unneutered, and uncaptioned LOLCats were abandoned by their owners.

The National Alliance of Network Administrators (NANA), who had been negotiating across the table from iBIB, called the move "precipitous and irresponsible," however, they are secretly concerned that a prolonged strike would lead to an increase in the reading of books, magazines, and newspapers or even "going outside and interacting with real people."

No word yet on whether the United Porn Writers, Directors, Composers, and Amalgamated Skeeves will join in a sympathy strike; UPWDCAS makes up for nearly 85% of Internet content.

Reopened negotiations may begin as early Tuesday.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Error 414

For those of you that may be wondering, no, I was not the City employee that tried to rig the poll. I have better things to do than to try and finagle some meaningless online poll to the advantage of my current boss. For example... I'm a gardener, an amateur astronomer, a rock climber, a contributor to a nationally syndicated periodical, a musician, a database administrator, a biker, a sometimes architectural student, and Prince of Denmark. This leaves me very little time to do anything other than blog and eat.

To that end, I noticed that this story has gotten some ink in the media, in Pittsburgh and beyond. I think that's kind of curious, actually, considering that (1) the employee didn't seem to do it on company time or at the direction of his superiors and (2) IT'S A FUCKING ONLINE POLL.

Does anyone actually take those online polls seriously? I mean, anyone who's had more than 20 minutes of statistics will tell you that self-selecting respondants are invariably skewed and any poll that doesn't prevent against multiple votes is functionally useless.

Moreover, it's not like the guy hacked into an election machine and overturned thousands of votes for John Kerry in... let's say... Ohio.

But, and here are two quotes from the article:

"As far as I'm concerned, it was all in good fun," the mayor said.
"He did it as a private citizen. He's well within his rights as a person," Ravenstahl spokeswoman Alecia Sirk said.
I think those are reasonable responses to the situation at hand. Now, let us further extrapolate as to whether similar responses would have been engendered if the employee had rigged the poll towards DeSantis?

Or let's say that it wasn't a poll that leaned towards DeSantis, but, perhaps... a blog? Would the Mayor's Office be as reasonable if their Bureaucrats happened to be bloggers, moreover, bloggers critical of Pittsburgh Politics and Policies?

But, surely, those are just all in good fun and well within their rights as a person.

Right? RIGHT?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tales from the Crypt

And so I undertook this year's annual activity of handing out candy to neighborhood begger children, as is the tradition around these here parts.

Sometime around 8PM a child came and rang the doorbell, well past the designated Tick-or-Treating time period. He had a frightening costume. I assumed that he was a lizard or a zombie or something.

I asked him what he was and he said that he was "The Mayor of Pittsburgh." It was a very clever costume. I giggled at the thought of parents putting their child up to this act of political protest. So, I gave him some candy (*three* pieces, no less), patted him on the head, and closed the door.

Anyway, long story short: turns out is was actually Luke Ravenstahl doing door-to-door campaigning.

The moral of the story: Halloween is too close to Election Day and Luke really shouldn't be out after dark without his parents.

A Man, A Plan, A Consultant: Ravenstahl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(a)We're commissioning another study.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And by that we mean re-election campaigns.

*A "Hooloovoo"

** Or uses contractions.

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

Monday, October 29, 2007

Special Guest Commentary from Sleazy Vacant Property Owner


The Angry Drunk Bureaucrat asked me to write a special commentary on today's announcement by the mayor that he is "cracking down" on nuisance properties.

Now, under the proposed legislation it seems that any property that is cited for drug, gun, drunkenness, noise, or building code violations three times in a single month will be declared "a disruptive property". After three disruptive property violations, I believe that the property is declared a "nuisance." After three "nuisance" violations, you receive a demerit. You don't want to know what happens after a demerit. (Hint: it begins with "c" and ends with "-itation.")

Frankly, and this is speaking strictly for me and not for any of the other thousands of other nuisance property owners, I don't really care what the mayor does. Sure, I own shitty properties but I'm in Boca Raton... or in Wilkinsburg... or I'm dead... and don't really have time to worry about the activities going on in my properties. And, if I was worried about what was going on in those properties, you would be damned sure that I would have done something about it already.

So, what, exactly is the City going to do about it? Take my property with all of its liens and judgments on it? They would be doing me a favor, I can tell you. And what will they be left with? Just another vacant property that they can't shift.

The City can go ahead and try to find me, but if they really think that they have the resources, let alone the staff time, to launch such an undertaking they're obviously crazier than a shit house rat. I mean, they can barely keep up with the building permits, what makes the mayor think that he's going to suddenly be able to enforce a whole bunch of new regulations?

Or is he just going to fire BBI's staff one by one until someone complies?

Well, until the City rustles up another 30-40 employees, we'll be doing eight balls with the hookers back at my place on Penn Avenue. Feel free to join us; they'll be guns, drunkenness, noise, and building code violations for all.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

City's Wi-Fi survives U.S. Wireless financial woes

Downtown's year-old experiment with free wireless Internet service will continue despite the rec

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Ex-AG Thornburg Calls Wecht Charges "Baffling"

Ol' Dickie Thornburg making waves down in D.C. As covered in the Tribune-Review (for some strange reason):

WASHINGTON -- Public corruption charges against former Allegheny County Coroner Dr. Cyril Wecht are politically motivated, former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh told Congress on Tuesday.

Thornburgh accused U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan, a fellow Republican, of abusing federal law to target his Democratic client. Wecht, 75, of Squirrel Hill is charged with 84 counts of theft and fraud, and he is accused of using his public office for private financial gain.

"It is not the type of case normally constituting a federal 'corruption' case brought against a local official," Thornburgh told members of the House Judiciary Committee, which Democrats control"There is no allegation that Dr. Wecht ever solicited or received a bribe or kickback."
Now, this witch hunt, and let's call it that, if nothing else shows the sheer foolishness of the Bush Administration... but not for the reasons you might be thinking.

First, they went after Cyril Wecht.

Think about it for a second: Cyril Wecht.

The Coroner.

The Guy who lost to Jim Roddey for County Executive.

The Guy who spent 178 hours a week on cable news during the OJ Simpson trial.



If the Bush administration was seriously trying to use the Department of Justice to undermine major Democratic Party strongholds, they could've gone after someone with a little more, you know, oomph. I mean, heck, they went after Cyril and Tom Murphy, two men that were so unpopular that even their supporters don't really like them. Was it under achievement day at the Justice Department, or is this what we should come to expect from Liberty University Graduates?

Second, now I recognize that Cyril is a big mucky-muck in the party, but it's not like the local Democratic establishment is lacking other felons... or was Ben Woods busy that day?

Third, seriously, do we really want to inflate Cyril's already ginormous ego by making him a feature of a national GOP witch hunt? Now, at every party we're going to be barraged with Cyril saying "Oh, did you hear that I'm so important that the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy wanted to take me out? No? Well, let me tell you..."

God! He's going to be insufferable now. I mean, MORE insufferable.

And that's the last things that anyone wants: a more annoying Cyril Wecht.

Thanks W. Thanks a lot. Putz.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Ravenstahl Alleges Secret "Wink-Wink" with "You Know Who"

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said today that he was subjected to "You Know What" and offered a "little somethin'-somethin'" as part of "You Know Who's" endorsement process, prior to that "You Know Who's" decision to back his Republican rival, Mark DeSantis.

He drew comparisons and contrasts with "Some Guys You May Have Heard of But I Don't Know Their Names'" negotiations with then-Mayor Tom Murphy, in which the city agreed to "wet their beaks" weeks before the Democratic primary. "Those Guys" then endorsed Mr. Murphy, spurring a U.S. Attorney's Office investigation that ended inconclusively.

The hardball nature of his discussions with "You Know Who" "certainly brings up a lot of similarities with what took place [in 2001]," Mr. Ravenstahl said. "It was political, and it was right before an election, you knows what I'm sayin'?"

"You Know Who's" leadership asked him about whether members could win a "Wink-Wink," a "Nudge-Nudge", and a "Say No More", which starts Jan. 1, 2010, the mayor said.

But he added that there "wasn't necessarily a quid pro quo, you do this, I do that. ... I was unwilling to cave in to the pressure, I guess you'd say."

Mr. DeSantis said he made no concessions to "You Know Who", but just outlined his beliefs, which includes "a nod that's as good as a wink to a blind bat." He said Mr. Ravenstahl "accuses me of some kind of back-room deal, and I find that offensive."

When asked to respond, Mr. Ravenstahl said, "Hey, what do I know! You know? Bada beep, bada boom. DeSantis has his thing, and I have mine... and it would be a shame, if, you know, things happened to him, is all I'm saying."

The Mayor refused to be more explicit.

Monday, October 22, 2007

ADB Unveils Endorsement for Pittsburgh Mayor

We the Editors at The Angry Drunk Bureaucrat are usually above such petty things as "politics," or "elections," or "humanity," but we figured that we'd give it a miss this year and really boil down the Pittsburgh Mayoral Election to it's hard candy center, and get around to endorsing someone this year.

Unfortunately, as pointed out by our [now former] General Counsel, we are prohibited, under the Hatch Act to actively endorse or campaign for any candidate.

However, the Law has never gotten in the way of a Good Bureaucrat, who knows how to gracefully slide past a law in a manner completely unlike Katie Moss sliding by a line of coke.

According to our Brand New General Counsel, while we cannot actively endorse or campaign for any candidate, we can say that any candidate that we would support would be an avid reader of this blog.

And, supposing that all of the candidates read this blog [as they better damned well do] any candidate that would post on this site more than any other candidate would obviously receive more support.

And, supposing that all of the candidates left an equal number of posting on this site, the ones with the most well thought out, reasoned, and sensible policy proposals would obviously receive more support.

And, supposing all of the candidates had well thought out, reasoned, and sensible policy proposals, the ones that would make the most witty or clever comments would obviously receive more support

So, if any mayoral candidate happens to start leaving well thought out, witty, comments in these posts, they would, you would assume, have received more of an endorsement from us, if we were allowed to do that kind of thing.... which we aren't.

Now, we're not saying that we here have any political pull, but we are saying that it would be a shame to lose the endorsement of one of the paragons of the Pittsburgh Blogosphere.

That, and we did leave a flaming bag of poop on Les Ludwig's porch that one time.*

You've been warned, guys.

*Sorry Les

SCHIP on my Shoulder

Now that the brouhaha has passed, I can now say without fear of retribution, that I support the President's decision to veto the proposed legislation to extend health care benefits to millions of children.

I don't support his reasons for vetoing it. It seems a bit silly for a man who's spent bazillions of dollars in Iraq to complain about this nickel and dime crap. As the saying goes: penny wise, pound foolish... or in this case, merely, "foolish".

No, I support the veto of this bill for the simple reason that there are just too many damned kids, period. We need a good sickness to wipe a whole bunch of them out.

Everywhere I go nowadays, there are little 10 year old hoodlums with their skateboards and their rap music and their Pokemans, just hanging out looking for trouble. Just the other day I had to scare a horde of them off my damned lawn after they "accidentally" lost their ball in my yard.

You'd better believe that I kept that ball and put it with my collection of other various teenage paraphernalia that has landed in my yard or in my roof. Nasty little hell spawn are going to get what's coming to them one day. I'm sure the better parts of their personalities ended up on their parents' bed sheets.

Frankly, these kids are far too strong. A nice gap in medical coverage will be able to thin out the herd a bit. We need to think about the benefits of cholera, TB, and polio: shorter lines at the amusement parks, lower school taxes, and more dirty words on prime time television.

Of course, with the herd thinned, a new stronger breed of super children will emerge... which we can quickly put to work in our coal mines, cotton spinning factories, and hocking vegetables in the markets, where they belong.

Now, I can just hear the whiners say, "but the children are our future." These whiners are wrong; children are not our future, the elderly are. Have you ever known anyone in your life to grow younger? Indeed, we are plummeting headlong into old age, not youth. The Old are our future, even the children.

So, that's why I believe that children should not be given any free medical care at all. Annoying little brats don't deserve it.

Of course, none of this applies to my precious little snowflakes Kaitlyn and Cody. Any of you bastards say anything bad about our country's first astronaut/supermodel and President/Hall of Famer, I'll kick your head in.

That goes for your sugar addled, crotch fruit as well.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Massacre in Market Square

(AP) Pittsburgh - Several hundred civilians have been shot dead by the Pittsburgh Police army during a bloody military operation to crush a democratic protest in Pittsburgh's Market Square.

Tanks rumbled through the city's streets late in the day as the police moved into the square from several directions, randomly firing on unarmed protesters.

The injured were rushed to hospital on bicycle rickshaws by frantic residents shocked by the Allegheny County Democratic Committee (ACDC)'s sudden and extreme response to the peaceful mass protest.

Demonstrators, mainly students, had occupied the square for seven hours, following an op-ed in the radical newspaper Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by Associate Editor Dan Simpson.

Perhaps the most serious disease of a one-party state is that the ruling-party candidates feel no need to address any issues -- even the most serious issues -- that they don't want to address. In the case of Pittsburgh, one of these is consolidation of the city and county...

The most serious problem of a one-party state is that it does not offer the electorate dynamic leadership. It doesn't need to. Instead, it knows quite well that it can put forward the most mediocre of candidates and have them elected anyway.
Inflamed by these words, dozens of radical students from Point Park University and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh descended on the center of the City. But as the hours passed, thousands of people from all walks of life joined in, angered by widespread corruption and calling for democracy.

Witnesses report protesters vandalizing the statue of Richard Caliguri in front of the City County Building.

Throughout the day the ACDC warned it would do whatever it saw necessary to clamp down on what it described as "social chaos". Secretary General Luke Ravenstahl, in a speech to the Allegheny Conference on Community Development vowed to maintain "law and order."

US President George W. Bush said he deeply deplored the use of force, and UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he was "shocked and appalled by the shootings".

Amid the panic and confusion students could be heard shouting "fascists stop killing," and "down with the government".

Meanwhile reports have emerged of ACDC secret police searching the University of Pittsburgh campus for ringleaders, arresting those they suspect of co-ordinating the protests.

Lone protester defies Pittsburgh Police along the Boulevard of the Allies, disrupting rush hour traffic

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Peduto Supports Computer System to Help Pave Roads, Find Sarah Connor

For some reason, somebody forwarded me an email from People for Peduto on Pittsburgh paving practices and possible problems with public programs:

Today, City Council is holding a special meeting to discuss the idea of implementing a Professional Management System to determine which streets get resurfaced. In the 1990s, the city invested hundreds of thousands of dollars on a system that analyzes every street in the city. By 2000, the city had scrapped this system in favor of "eyeball inspections", opening the door for politics, rather than sound policy, being the driving factor in determining which streets get paved.
I swear, someone is secretly sending stupid submission, so that I seethe and snark scathingly.

[Whoa... better turn the Consonance and Alliteration down to a reasonable level.]

Anyway, as much as I support allowing objective criteria govern our policy making processes, I foresee a number of problems that will lead to this proposal being abandoned.

Please let me say again that I am in favor of this project, but have been in Government long enough to know when something is doomed.

(1) Objective Criteria - Establishing objective criteria is fine, but the criteria used will skew your results. In the streets case "number of pot holes" is just as objective as "alphabetical order of the street name".

(2) People are dumb - Well, maybe not dumb, but certainly irrational, misinformed, and lacking basic foresight. The angry woman down the street who thinks that the City is deliberately holding back street paving funds to her neighborhood is more likely to stand up in front of council and damn them all to hell than the rational woman who heard that PWSA will be replacing water lines in June.

Typically angry, annoying people are able to get their way, if for no other reason than people just want to see the end of them.

(3) Politics - On the other side of the coin, Politicians are not necessarily interested in the greater good for the Community. In general, they care more about getting re-elected than whether Garfield gets Penn Avenue paved... unless, of course, that happens to be in their district.

The first time process stands in the way of political expediency, process will go right out the window.

Until then, I'm setting my spam filter on high.

PA House Res 10345: Two Men Enter. One Man Leaves

By now you've heard about the failure of this attempt to reduce the size of the PA State Legislature from Eleventy Zillion Bagillion members to twelve.

I think the fundamental flaw in this law is that it doesn't capture the Public's attention, which admittedly has dwindled down to shaking the car keys at the Public and saying Oooooh! Shiny thing! until it giggles and claps its hands. Still, they are the Public and they are the ones that vote, 49.2% of the time... if it's not raining... or the TiVO is broken.

Now, I am in support of this bill, as it would force the State Legislators to get real jobs, like prostitute, snake oil salesman, or sewage maintenance artisan... you know: jobs that they've been trained to do. So, I suggest that the bill be made to be more *ahem* entertaining to the Public. Think of it:

Survivor: Harrisburg

Granted, the scenery wouldn't be as nice as, say Borneo or Palau, and, frankly, I don't really want to see any members of the Legislature in any advanced state of undress*, but the concept of a 253 person Battle Royale sends shivers down my spine. Hand to hand combat! Cage matches! Lisa Bennington / Cherelle Parker girl fights! Tribal Councils Caucuses! Mike Turzai surreptitiously making out with Lisa Baker when the cameras are off!

And think of the ratings!

That is, until Bill DeWeese tries to hunt and kill Mark "Piggy" Mustio or until CBS sues for infringing on the plot of Kid Nation.

*I'm looking right at you Sam Smith. Put your pants on for God's sake!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch

I suppose I need to explain my week long absence from this place. So, let me begin at the beginning.

Last Thursday (10/4) I got a very polite email from a Dr. Hejskulle Dublåsa-Jag who identified himself as being the official representative of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, informing me that I had, in fact, been nominated by Berit Brørby, President of the Norwegian Odelsting for the Nobel Peace Prize for "actions relating to the better understanding amongst peoples."

My first thought was, "Well, it's about time."

Dr. Dublåsa-Jag further informed me that I was, in fact, the leading contender for the prize and, barring any surprise, I would win the prestigious award. He left his number and told me to give him a call as soon as possible as there were "many things to work out."

I called him back and introduced myself to him. He was very polite and told me that the balloting was nearly over and that I was well ahead of the next leading contender. I told him I was very excited about it and was looking forward to receiving the award. He told me that this was a very prestigious honor and that "even Mother Theresa" was flustered when he called her.

I asked him if there was any protocol that I needed to follow at this point, and he said no, except that I should get together the money for the "honorarium."

When I asked him what that was, he responded that there was no real equivalent word in English, but it could be thought of as a pay in to the Foundation in order to ensure that future awards could be made. Essentially, the interest earned on the honorariums earn enough interest for the recipients in 50 years. The money is invested in high risk securities for 6 months, or until the ceremony, and is then returned to the awardee. The typical payment is around $500,000.

I told him that I couldn't afford that amount.

He paused for a moment before asking if there was any way to get the money, as it is one of the oldest traditions of the award, dating back to Alfred Nobel himself.

I told him that there was no way that I could come up with that kind of money in such a short period of time.

Dr. Dublåsa-Jag remained adamant saying that if I couldn't come up with the money, I would have to forfeit the prize.

Now, my mother told me two things growing up: (1) wear clean underwear in case you get hit by a car and (2) never turn down the Nobel Prize. I asked if the Norwegian Nobel Committee would accept a lower amount.

He told me that they did make an exception for Jimmy Carter, who was allowed to come up with a $100,000 deposit and that he would look into it.

Several hours later, he emailed me back saying that the Committee would accept the $100,000 honorarium and that they needed the money by Wednesday the 10th at the very latest. Wiring instructions were provided for my convenience.

I went around to all my bank accounts, drew down my IRA, cleaned out my retirement fund, and pawned several valuable heirlooms to raise the cash. At the last minute, however, I realized that if I wired the money to him, I wouldn't retain my Internet Anonymity. Same deal if I had sent a check.

So, I came up with a brilliant solution: I would fly to Norway and personally hand him the cash, thereby paying the fee, retaining my anonymity and getting a jolly trip to Scandinavia out of it. I packed my ski mask (because it was sure to be cold) and my gun (stowed, not carried on) in order to protect me from would be thieves.

Flights to Norway direct from Pittsburgh are few and far between, but early Monday morning, I hopped on a plan from Pittsburgh to Detroit to New York to London to Brussels to Copenhagen back to London to Trondheim International Airport. When I arrived, it was late Tuesday night... possibly the week before I left.

Anyway, I looked up the address for the Nobel Committee in Trondheim at the corner of Holstveita and St Olavs Gate. Turns out there was nothing there, just a guy who claimed repeatedly that he didn't know anything. (I later found out that he was lying.) I asked around and it turns out that the Nobel Prize is given out in Sweden, not Norway.

So, I rushed backed to the airport, got on a tiny prop plane, flew into Stockholm and rushed into the main offices of the Nobel Committee. I couldn't help but notice, by the way, the number of particle board chairs and tables in the lobby.

Anyway, the lovely Valkyrie sized receptionist politely told me, as she surreptitiously fingered the alarm button, that the Nobel *Peace* Prize was actually given out in Norway. So back on the plane I went to Oslo, briefcase of cash in tow.

To make a long story short [Too late] Hejskulle Dublåsa-Jag is Swedish for "Heywood Jablome".

And so, yours truly ended up being interrogated by Homeland Security for the last four days after trying to board a plane with a ski mask, a briefcase full of cash, and a gun.

To top it all off, they gave the friggin' award to Al Gore... and all because I couldn't get my honorarium to the Norwegian Nobel Committee in time.

To top off the top off, I still reek of lutefisk.