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?