Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Foreclosing Down the House

Señor Briem is a glass half full kinda guy when it comes to the FORECLOSURE CRISIS IN PITTSBURGH. Or, maybe it's glass half empty... I suppose it depends on whether you want to have a glass full of foreclosures or a glass full of homeownership... My guess is that you don't want a whole lot of foreclosures unless you happen to be playing Monopoly and you've just landed on someone else's Boardwalk*...

Anyway, Chris argues that Pittsburgh, compared to the rest of the country, is not experiencing A MASSIVE NUMBER OF FORECLOSURES that are leaving THOUSANDS HOMELESS, or is even ON THE VERGE OF ANOTHER GREAT DEPRESSION and is TESTING THE VERY FABRIC OF CAPITALISM, but rather that the situation here is elevated by our standards, but manageable. Certainly it is not TIME TO CRACK EACH OTHERS SKULLS OPEN AND FEAST ON THE GOOEY MATTER INSIDE.

His counter example is Cleveland, which experienced 50,000 foreclosures in 2007... which is roughly 10% of all mortgages in the metro area (2000 Census) compared to 3.66% for the Pittsburgh metro area during the same period.

Not to say that Cleveland is necessarily the metro-region that we want to compare ourselves to... but in any case we ranked 86th out of 100 Cities for foreclosures in 2007. That's certainly good news.

This information, of course, sparks the question: could there be something that this region is doing (*gasp*) right for a change? Is Pennsylvania particularly restrictive on its lending practices so that usurious loans are prevented? Do we have a core of social services that are helping to prevent foreclosure through credit counseling and warnings about predatory lending? Or is it that housing here is just so dang inexpensive that you'd have to be really lazy or upside down to get foreclosed upon.

*In either case, it pays to be the banker.

In a Foul Moody

I believe that I have been pretty consistent in my opposition to the Casino, any casino, in the City of Pittsburgh. In the long run, I think, the City is going to have to bear the brunt of a whole lot of negative externalities (traffic, crime, gambling/drug/alcohol addictions etc.), which were no countedt/will not be counted in the Financial Statements of PITG Gaming.

What profiteth a man that he gains $169 in tax relief but loseth his car stereo system to crack addled gambling addicts?*
And so on.

Actually, what would be worse (if there is such a thing as worse in this scenario) is a failed Casino in Pittsburgh. Apparently, both Moody's and Standard Poor's are a bit nervous that PITG is a big ol' dud. From Moody's:
The agency also assigned a 'B3' probability of default rating to the company and a 'Ba3' rating was assigned to its $10 million first lien three-year revolving credit facility and $370 million first lien three-year term loan, while a 'Caa1' was assigned to its $250 million second lien three-year credit facility.

Moody's added the rating outlook is stable, on hopes the Majestic Star Casino Pittsburgh casino project will be constructed on time and on budget, and that favourable demographics of the Pittsburgh gaming market along with the location of the casino itself will provide enough customer traffic and demand for PITG to ramp up successfully.

The stable rating outlook also considers the credit protection afforded by the interest reserves and construction contingencies that will be in place, Moody's added.
A Caa1 rating, by the way, is just slightly above the CaCa rating, which means that the company is full of crap.**

And from Standard Poor's:
The ratings agency has also assigned its ratings to PITG HoldCo's proposed $380 million senior secured first-lien credit facility, consisting of a $10 million revolving credit and a $370 million term loan, both due in 2011. The first-lien facility is rated 'B' with a recovery rating of '2', indicating the expectation for substantial (70-90 percent) recovery of principal in the event of a payment default.

S&P said it also rated the company's proposed $250 million senior secured second-lien term loan due 2011 'CCC' with a recovery rating of '6', indicating the expectation for negligible (0-10 percent) recovery.

The 'B-' corporate credit rating reflects the significant fixed-charge burden for the property, given the proposed financing structure that includes no cash equity and construction and start-up risks associated with the planned facility, among other factors, S&P said.
So, of course, you can see why Barden wanted to get out of his $3 Million commitment to the Hill District: he's going to need that money to pay off his debt service.

Now, while I'm sure that both S&P and Moody's have done their homework, there are a whole slew of issues that may still hold up the construction of the actual casino (including, but not limited to, the City Planning process, the Riverlife Taskforce Lawsuit, opposition from Northside Residents, and increasing construction costs). Considering that Barden has none (to repeat: NONE) of his own money in this project, and is solely relying on outside investment, I would worry that any increase in construction costs/delays in construction will just cause his interest expense on the project to balloon out of control. That doesn't even take into consideration the demand that may or may not materialize for slots only gambling or the competition that the Casino will have from West Virginia (who have table games now, apparently.)

So the scary thing right now is that Pittsburgh may end up with a cut rate casino that makes into, not a high class Las Vegas, but a cruddier version of Atlantic City.

* Doug 4:19 1/2
** This is not true.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Middling Media Matters

Same minor story about a Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation project in Market Square, but check out the slightly differing headlines:


Now guess which newspaper has a publisher who just happens to be chairman of PHLF (and, by extension the Savior of Downtown and Vanquisher of Tom Murphy).

Pecuniary Peculiarities

Saw this article in the P-G this afternoon:

Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Tonya Payne said today that she has a plan to fix and maintain the Hill District's damaged Freedom Corner monument that involves transferring ownership to the city and raising money for a trust fund...

The monument is owned by the Urban Redevelopment Authority and had been leased to, and maintained by, the Hill Community Development Corp. before that arrangement expired some time ago, Ms. Payne said today...

"Once it becomes city property, we can maintain it from the same fund with which we maintain other city monuments," she said. Then she will set up a trust fund that can only be spent on Freedom Corner's maintenance and improvement, and approach donors.
"It is a valued monument for the City of Pittsburgh that we can't afford to lose," she said. She said she moved $56,500 slated for unspecified work at Freedom Corner into the district improvement fund because she feared it could otherwise be snapped up for other projects outside of the Hill.
So let me get this straight:

Money that was earmarked for Freedom Corner, but not used, is going to be used to fund other projects in the 6th Councilmatic District. The property will be moved off the URA's books and onto the City's books. Money will now have to be raised to cover the additional expense that the City (I supposed Parks & Recreation) will now have to incur to keep the area maintained.

So really this is just moving money that was a restricted resource allocation to a specific project into a walking around fund, throwing the cost of the site back onto the books of the City, and a big F-you to the Councilwoman's enemies at (what's left of) the Hill CDC... especially those that are involved in the One Hill discussion.

Now, I'm no financial wizard or anything, so I'm really racking my brains to figure out how this is anything but a quick grab for cash by Ms. Payne in order to grease the wheels of her next council campaign... unless it really is just a big F-you.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

John McCain's Sordid Past

Last night on CNN, Three Card Monte enthusiast Bill Bennett started up again with the guilt-by-association meme viz Obama and Bill Ayers, former leader of the Velvet Underground. Sorry, Weather Underground... one is obviously a radical 60s left group the other is a radical 60s rock group.

Donna Brazile then proceeded to get all up in Billy's grill, saying that if Obama then Clinton and McCain's prior associates too.

She has a point about McCain, of course. There's a whole slew of associations in McCain's past that he needs to account for.

Par example: McCain's home state of Arizona opposed (until the 1990s) the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. McCain originally opposed the holiday, but later recanted his position. It can only be assumed, therefore, that the Senator must have had some acquaintances that were... let's say... a wee bit racist. Senator McCain must account for these friends and explain to us why their views haven't poisoned his outlook towards African-Americans.

Perhaps a more sinister example: McCain was born in the Panama Canal zone. The Panama Canal zone was later transfered by the US to Panama by Jimmy Carter. Jimmy Carter has recently been seen negotiating with Hamas, a known terrorist organization. McCain needs to answer the question as to why he allowed Hamas to gain access to the most vital intercostal waterway in the world.

But the most disturbing example: in 1967 McCain spent six weeks as the guest of the Viet-Cong where he made a propaganda video and learned first hand about torture. Can Senator McCain explain this relationship? What kind of anti-American deviancy was his mind poisoned with? Why is he trying to hide the fact that he was intimately connected with a group of people that systematically attacked and killed Americans throughout Vietnam? Shouldn't the media be covering this relationship a little more closely?

Just sayin'.

Pundits Sweep to Victory in PA Primary

(AP) Philadelphia - The mood in the Grand Ballroom of the Marriott Philadelphia Downtown was tense until around 9:04. A standing room only crowd of 2,950 people waited with baited breath as, on the large screen at the end of the hall, CNN's Wolf Blitzer announced his network's projection that Hillary Clinton had won the State of Pennsylvania.

Speaking from the rostrum, D. Allen Kosiyefsky founder and owner of popular internet political blog "The Beltway Bandits", called the announcement "A Victory for the cause of Punditry across this nation and a clear sign of the American Public."

"We came here today in the face of great odds, but, with your help, we have managed to squeeze out a win that will allow us to move on to Indiana, North Carolina, and even Puerto Rico, and to continue parsing demographics, citing anecdotes as proof, trivializing the significant, signifying the trivial, and generally fill up otherwise empty space across all media."

Many Pundits across the country had felt that a win by Obama would have put in jeopardy the ongoing narrative that had been constructed surrounding both he and Senator Clinton. The national narrative, which said that Clinton held an insurmountable lead in the Democratic Primary, had already been rewritten four months earlier after Obama's surprising finish in the Iowa caucuses. Other Pundits believed that even with a 5% margin of victory, the Clinton camp would have had to have pulled out of the race, citing a diminishing reserve of cash and an inability to connect with the average white male voter in a very blue collar, high school educated, barely-able-to-dress-one's-own-self, state.

With such a clear margin of victory, however, Pundits are looking forward to another two months of Democratic primaries to work on.

Adrianne Farfington, of the Farfington Plotz - an influential blog among liberals with too much time on their hands - called the extended primary "a relief".

"I think what most Americans don't realize is that punditry is literally keeping this country's economy afloat. With the loss of major manufacturing and the downturn in the housing industry, the only thing that we as a nation are actually producing is bloviation. In fact, we are the number one bloviaters in the world, followed distantly by the French, and the British. Indeed, with thousands of cable news channels and an uncountable number of websites, without punditry nearly 90% of "content" disappears. That immediately translates into a loss of billions of dollars in marketing and ad revenue that are churned out into the general economy. Ending the primary now means a 5 month lull in election related content, which could not be filled -- even by pictures of cats with captions on them"

Others disagree.


Mr. Kosiyefsky, however, remains optimistic.

"We're looking for a good run in Indiana. We think that Obama could pull this off, but it'll be a struggle, given the propensity of the urban areas to vote Democratic and the outlying areas to vote Republicans. However, with places like Bloomington and Gary, you're going to see a real focus on the effects of the economy. Indeed, 47% of voters, when asked, felt that the other 53% of voters didn't know what they were talking about. But hey! I have two more weeks to make up this shit; there's no need to shoot my wad now."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Vote, Dammit

Polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.

Anyone from the Commonwealth caught not voting, will not be allowed to post comments.

And don't think we couldn't find out...

Monday, April 21, 2008

Obama Web Cast

Just a quick observation about the Obama event at the Peterson Event Center in Oakland -- that's a pretty diverse dais up there: Barack, Michelle, Bob Casey, and Theresa Heinz Kerry.

That's three African-Americans and Bob Casey, if you're counting.

Victim 2008 - Dan Deasy Edition

Saw the following in someone's yard over the weekend and actually had to go back to get a picture:

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Read it closely folks. See if you can spot the eror(s).

By now, of course, our regular readers know this means war... this time in easily forwardable Motivational Poster form:

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And Finally...

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The Over/Under on Pat Ford

So, over the weekend I grabbed a drink or two (or twelve) with a handful of my compatriots here in The Bureaucracy and, of course, the discussion eventually turned towards the Pat Ford fracas, and we started laying odds on whether Mr. Ford would be back in the Pittsburgh Public Service realm or not.

I'm laying 2-1 odds that he's gone permanently.

I figure the way that he's approached the media, burned bridges, and decimated two City departments*, he's going to have a heck of a time rehabilitating himself and getting back into everyones' good graces. As can be seen with his relations with certain City Councilpersons, his manner is a bit... how shall we say?... brusque, and he has certainly not endeared himself to nearly half of City Council. Indeed, I'm sure that if was rehabilitated, he would be spending so much time being called before Council, he won't have time to do anything else. One has to wonder if, at this point, anybody will consider him to be an effective tool for mayoral policies or an effective administrator.

My guess is that he'll be cleared by the State Ethics Commission of any wrong-doing, but will ultimately decide that Florida is a much better place to work.

* I cannot confirm or deny the rumors that have been circulating that certain public servants in the employ of the City of Pittsburgh gathered for celebratory drinks when they found out that Mr. Ford was put on administrative leave.

Impound of Flesh

I saw this report from Friday's PG on redeveloping the City's impound lot:

Yesterday, in the shadow of the 31st Street Bridge near the Strip District, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl walked among the few hundred wrecked and abandoned cars in the city's impound yard, and nothing dented his impression that there must be a better use for the riverfront land....

Step one: Find a private operator to handle the storage and release of towed cars, at a different location still convenient enough for those seeking to reclaim their vehicles. Interested firms have until May 9 to submit proposals.
Step two: Cut a hole in the box.

Step three: Profit.

No, wait, I'm getting my jokes confused.
Step two: Cast about for ideas for redeveloping the 2-acre site, and possibly the 8- to 10-acre parcel next door, where city trash trucks now sit.

Step three: Work with the Riverlife Task Force and a yet-to-be-selected consultant to turn past and future visions of the water's edge into a comprehensive plan that could include a rewrite of city zoning rules for the shores..

"The idea is that the riverfronts are really precious property from every perspective," said Riverlife Executive Director Lisa Schroeder. She said an effort to revitalize a Y-shaped swath of riverfront is 60 percent done, with another 20 percent underway, and the Strip parcel would be a step toward completion. "We really feel like we're reaching a tipping point now."
Despite all the attention that this idea has generated in the press, this is actually a pretty old idea. Back when Tom Murphy was still in office, the idea was floated as a way to divest the City of some very valuable riverfront property that wasn't being used for its highest and best purposes.

There was a problem though: the City had to find itself a parcel of land to replace the impound lot and, because of the scarcity, most of the large parcels of flat land that were available were too valuable to devote to such a cause. The solution that was presented, whether real or in jest, was to purchase or lease property from the neighboring municipality of McKees Rocks and have them deal with it.

Personally, I thought it was a very clever and unique idea, even though it never came to fruition.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Business Casual Friday

We've been busy this week trying to return several thousand dollars worth of gifts from Lamar Advertising, so we apologize for any perceived lack of posts. Who knew it would be so hard to return 456 Cuban cigars and a 12,000 sq. ft. LED sign?

So, to make up for it we present:

Death Star Canteen Scene
(done with Legos and Eddie Izzard)


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Children Having Children

The Mayor's Office released this statement yesterday:

Erin and Luke Ravenstahl announced today that they have a proposed solution to Pittsburgh’s declining population. A joyful and grateful Erin and Luke are pleased to announce that they are expecting.
Which is actually pretty funny.

Of course, they're going to have to ramp it up if they really want to make a dent in the whole population decline thing. I have some handy tips here.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Ford alleges "conspiracy" between Housing Authority, Illuminati

Urban Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Pat Ford today strongly hinted that he was "smeared" about his receipt of gifts from a billboard executive as a result of his efforts to blow the whistle on Pittsburgh Housing Authority practices with certain members of an international, secretive cabal known as The Illuminati.

Speaking via telephone from an undisclosed location deep within the South Hills of Pittsburgh, Mr Ford lamented the fact that after 25 years of devotion to "the Brotherhood" he was "offered up as a sacrifice to the almighty Amun."

Mr. Ford is now on paid leave pending a State Ethics investigation as to whether his close personal relationship with a representative of Lamar Advertising unduly influenced and subverted established permit procedures in the erection of a large LED billboard on a new transportation hub at the corner of Grant and 11th Street in downtown.

In a seemingly unrelated matter, Mr. Ford was asked to resign as chairman of the Housing Authority Board under pressure from officials from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, who cited his role as Executive Director of the Urban Redevelopment Authority as a "conflict of interest."

Mr. Ford believes that there are more sinister motives at play here.

"Do you really think that it's a coincidence that this story broke on April 9th, the same day as the surrender of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox and the day that Francis Bacon, Frank Lloyd Wright and Lorenzo de' Medici all died? All you have to do is tie the pieces together, and you get a conspiracy that is at the root of our Civilization."

When asked to elaborate, Mr. Ford said "Omans! Omans! Find David Icke!" and hung up.

Calls to Illuminati World Headquarters were not immediately returned, however a source that wished to remain off the record believes that Mr. Ford's beliefs are unfounded.

"Does Mr. Fnord really think that with all the black helicopters, dead grey aliens, and a US Presidential Election to rig that the Illuminati even have time to be part of his parochial shenanigans?"

Calls to the Housing Authority were met only with mystical chanting of Ai Ai Meachum Ph'Tagen. Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Meachum Rl'yeh wgah'nagl fhtagn.

Friday, April 11, 2008

IDK My BFF Lamar

Our one and only "Big Fan" Shannon wanted to pass along the contact information for a certain corporation that obviously is in search of new friends. So if you feel lonely, perhaps you should call, email, or send holiday greeting cards to these folks.

Maybe one of you will get a surround sound stereo system out of it, or some cigars, or a tie of some kind.

Maybe they'll come over for a sleepover and you can braid each others hair and eat ice cream all night.

Or maybe you'll end up in front of a State Ethics Review Board.

Lamar Advertising Company

5551 Corporate Boulevard, Suite 2-A
Baton Rouge, LA 70808
Email: General Information

Corporate Fax Numbers
(225) 926-1005 Executive
(225) 923-0658 Accounting
(225) 928-3400 Legal
(225) 926-1192 Human Resources
(225) 927-1287 Real Estate & Antenna

Business Casual Friday

And now a palate cleanser for all of you that are sick of Lamar advertising, Pat Ford, and everything else related to scandal on Grant Street.

Actually, we'll make it a double. Er... triple.

Er.... a quinquagesimal.

Yeah, you heard me.

The Fifty Greatest Comedy Sketches of All Time.

This gift has nominal value and should not be construed as a payment or incentive for any current or future service on the reader's part.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

LED Scandal - Brief Commentary

Here's the thing, or, rather, several things that make up one mostly coherent point:

(1) Pittsburgh is a small town.

(2) We all run in overlapping circles.

(3) The political/government gang all run in the same circle.

(4) It is not surprising, therefore, that in many instances Public Officials may encounter their friends in the course of their duties.

(5) It is not inappropriate for friends to give friends gifts.

(6) Therefore, there may be times when friends give gifts to their Public Official friends.

(7) There may be times when friends request favors from their Public Official friends.

And now here's the catch:

Irrespective of whether anyone gets gifts from one's friends, it is the responsibility of a Public Official who, in acting in an official capacity, could make a decision that could directly benefit a friend to not make that decision. It is the responsibility of a public official to refrain from any activity that one might consider "impropriety."

What I'm saying is this: if someone gives a Public Official a gift of non-nominal value and later the Public Official must make a decision that will effect that someone, it is the responsibility of the Public Official to recuse him/herself from that decision... no matter how small that town is.

Pat Ford Fallout - Day 2

Let's get down to it:

With ridiculous lightening quick speed the Sirk-Ford-Lamar story found its way to a head, which is, in an of itself, an unusual occurrence for Ravenstahl scandals. Indeed, the Burkle, Yukon, Steeler tussle, etc. etc. languished for the length of a news cycle before they reached their apogee.

This scandal? The news hit and the mayor not only responded with cleaning house, but also told Lamar to stop with the making of the LED billboard within 24 hrs.

Now that's responsive government... a little too responsive if you ask me.

[There've been unsubstantiated rumors that the Sirk departure was already well underway prior to the news breaking and that this was merely a convenient and politically opportune time to dump her. I can't confirm that rumor.]

The swiftness and intensity of the reaction from the Mayor, however, makes me think that there's something else going on. I mean, he's done what the general public would expect: produce two political corpses. This should satiate our desire and we should move on our merry way.

But maybe that's just it. Maybe the plan is to have Sirk and Ford go down quickly so that the story dies. Maybe there's more dirt than meets the eye here and maybe, just maybe, the Mayor knew that a quick response would settle the matter before other stuff starts to get out.

Or maybe, Sirk and Ford are taking a fall for someone else.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

All Signs Point to Lamar

News travels fast.

I've revised this post twelve times in my head over the course of the day, and now, with this new development, I've had to chuck them all.

Here's all I've managed to salvage from my previously aborted posts:

If one works for the Fed, one cannot take a free anything, even coffee, from a contractor.

Getting a surround-sound system from a contractor would land one unemployed immediately, and in jail....

And, of course, there's Rule #2: "Never do anything that would cause Ed Bradley, Mike Wallace, Morley Safer, Steve Croft, Leslie Stahl, or even Andy Rooney to persue you down a hallway with a camera crew."
So, Heckofajob there Brownie.

I'm sure there's more to come... and I think there's a URA Board meeting tomorrow, maybe...?

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Things I Don't Understand

OK, I've been mulling over yesterday's Board appointment moves, and there are a couple of things that just aren't making sense.

Mostly it's this Tonya Payne move off the URA board and onto the Housing Authority board. Now, I've always been under the impression that the URA board is a pretty sweet assignment for a councilperson -- you get to claim credit for a whole lot of projects that you may or may not have had anything to do with -- and therefore the Mayor gives this honor to someone who he/she considers an ally.

Indeed, when Allen Hertzberg started to get all up in Tom Murphy's grill, Murphy bumped him from the URA board in favor of Sala Udin. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth at this, and a sense that Hertzberg had been -- as the kids say -- pwnd and smacked down.

So, why would Ravenstahl (1) replace a loyal ally (when she decides to show up for council meetings), (2) move the ally to a less desirable position (the Housing Authority), and (3) replace said ally with someone who has not been too friendly as of late.

There is only two possible scenarios that I can think of: either the Councilwoman wanted off because the position was too politically dangerous or the Mayor wanted her off because she was too politically vulnerable.

The way I see it is this: the major development projects in the city (the casino & the arena) are located solely within the 6th Councilmatic District. Now, the Councilmatic person has not, let us be kind, been particularly popular with a large segment of her constituents. This makes one wonder if, by being on the URA board, she puts herself in a politically vulnerable position if she makes politically sensitive (and above all bad) decisions.

The Housing Authority, by comparison, is fairly safe, as far as boards go.

So why would the mayor replace her with a political (one must not go too far and say) enemy? Well, I see two options: (1) the mayor is looking to make a new friend on a very nearly evenly divided council or (2) the mayor is looking for a convenient fall guy to face the wrath of the residents of the 6th Councilmatic District.

Of course, these are just theories... I don't really understand the intricacies of Politics myself.

Monday, April 07, 2008

The Solution to All of Pittsburgh's Ills

I don't know much about socio-economic development, but I can tell you this much: Pittsburgh would be the greatest city in the world if it just had more beautiful days like today.

Forget taxes, arenas, gambling, LED Billboards, take home cars, and other such twaddle; what we need is year round spring.

Can Grant Street legislate a bit of that up for us?

Here in My (Take Home) Car

OK, so on Friday the Mayor vetoed the Council Bill that would have cut back on take home cars, and then, in the same pen stroke, made the vetoed changes as an Executive Order. So it's abundantly clear now to those still not clear on the concept, that the issue was never really about the take home cars, but rather about who has the authority to manage the City: the Mayor or Council.

This issue, of course, has colored the last 4 months of the new Council and it seems that this will be a running theme for the foreseeable future.

So, at this point, Council could conceivably just let this whole thing blow over, chalk up a win, and get back to more pressing business... like a commendation for yours truly... but it could decide that it wants to override the veto, order the changes that are already in place, and thump their chests making a "Boo-ya!" noise.

And here's where it could get tricky: all the Mayor needs, it seems, is somebody with standing... say, a member of Public Works who had his car cut... to sue City Council for the change, arguing that they had no right to make the change, even though the changes have already been put in place.

The whole thing could end up in Commonwealth Court as a ruling on who has the power to do what under the City Homerule Charter... maybe even with City Solicitor George Specter representing Council, which would blow the strangeness quotient out of the water.

Given the current situation in Council (a lot of new members trying to assert their authority over everything), I don't think that this scenario is particularly unimaginable, even it is ridiculous and/or ludicrous.

Council has done plenty of strange stuff before. Like the epic Michelle Madoff/Ben Woods nude Jello wrestling.

That was weird.

"I think this would be a good time for a beer"

Happy 75th Anniversary

Mayor makes selections for broads

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl today submitted to city council a dozen broads, all of whom the young Mayor described as "real first class dames."

Two current council members, Tonya Payne and Darlene Harris, are among those selected. Ms. Harris will heretofore be known as "Hotlips" and Ms. Payne will be known as "Sweet Cheeks". Sports and Exhibition Authority Executive Director Mary Conturo, Mayoral Spokesperson Alicia Sirk, and County Real Estate Manager Valerie McDonald-Roberts, all representing City & County government, were also nominated.

Former Mayoral Chief of Staff B.J. Leber was passed over by the Mayor's Office, despite lobbying efforts by Councilman Patrick Dowd, who called her "a good looking doll with legs that go on forever."

Other broads selected include former Mayor Sophie Masloff, Philanthropist Elsie Hilman, Past President of Pittsburgh Black Nurses in Action Patricia Tucker, executive director of Women in Film & Media Faith Dickinson, Chatham University President Dr. Esther Barazzone, State Senator Jane Orie, and State Representative Chelsa Wagner.

All of the nominees are to get their sweet asses back into the kitchen and make His Honor a martini.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Business Casual Friday

And it's that time again, when we try to up our posting count by putting up random things that we find mildly amusing:

The Drunken Wine Critic
Jason reviews a bottle of Clos de la Vielle Eglise 2005, finishes it while watching the Food Network and playing Trivial Pursuit.

This is surprisingly similar to our creative process here at TADB... only we win at trivial pursuit.

Unless the answer is "Larry Flint".

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Bernardo Katz MIA

Monsieur Briem had pointed out this article from the Pgh Business Times to us earlier in the week, to which we had quipped that Mr. Katz "has either completed his degree in Portuguese or is planning very far ahead for Carnivale 2009."

Only later did we find out that Mr. Katz was a native Brazilian so he (1) already knows Portuguese and (2) from what we've been told only has a very thin strip of pubic hair.

The Tribune-Review has a non-subscriber only version of the story:

resident of Mt. Lebanon, Katz returned to Brazil late last year with three of his four children, said Max Feldman, his attorney.

"I talked with Katz in Brazil Tuesday, and he has instructed me not to talk to the news media," Feldman said.

n February, the URA filed documents in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court seeking to retake ownership of commercial buildings at 1600, 1601, 1602 and 1619 Broadway.

At that time, Katz was delinquent on payment of between $600,00 and $700,000, said URA General Counsel Don Kortlandt...

He was successful in some of his local investments. Along with a business selling rare musical instruments, he developed commercial holdings he purchased for $2.2 million in 2003 along Mt. Lebanon's Washington Road that are home to such successful restaurants as Aladdin's and Little Tokyo.

However, his plans for developing a $2.6 million complex of medical offices, a theater, stores and a senior citizens center in Beechview became mired in politics and never materialized.

State Rep. Michael Diven, R-Brookline, secured a $1 million state grant for a new senior center, contingent on matching funds. The city put aside $400,000, and Katz pledged the remaining $600,000, but could not get needed approvals to start the project.

Diven lost his seat to Democrat Chelsa Wagner, an opponent of the plan.
Now, it was Diven who pushed really, really hard for this plan, IIRC. Of course, Mr. Diven is no longer in office and, by some sheer coincidence, the deal has died.

It looks like this was a bad deal all along, perhaps driven by political pressure from both Diven and the former Murphy administration. I wonder if it was generally held that this deal was a big ol' sack of crap from the beginning (and everyone just played along) or if it was a gilded turd that Katz had managed to foist upon the powers that be.

I'm not sure which one would be worse...

I Feel So Consolidated

The desktop publishing in Western Pennsylvania got a big boost today with the unveiling of the Report of the Citizens Advisory Committee on the Efficiency and Effectiveness of City-County Government, which outline the need and made the case for greater inter-municipal cooperation.

That, or it was just a big excuse to trot out Pittsburgh historian Stefan Lorant.

Alternatively, it was a chance to add to my giant pile of "Pittsburgh Reports" that I'm currently using as a foot rest.

Probably the most surprising this about this report was that it was available to the general public about 20 seconds before it was finally unveiled. If you happened to be, say, the Mayor of Pittsburgh, however, the report was available to you long enough ahead of time, to give you ample opportunities to change your position on City-County merger.


The recommendations of the report were fairly complex, so let me break them down for you in words the average City Councilperson can understand:
(1) The City and County should work together;
(2) The City and County should continue to work together;
(3) The City and County should memorialize working together.

The Mayor has formally come out said that he's willing to support these recommendations, even if it results in the loss of his job. I say that there's really no need to stand on ceremony, and he should probably just resign now.

If you read the report closely, however, you'll see that the report is, for the most part, a pastiche of previous promulgated prose, purloined from prior publishers.

Or, in short: the same old shit on consolidation... only this time in a glossy Adobe Pagemaker format... with as many pictures as text.

But, hey! They *mean* it this time.

A Short Observation

The P-G is running the following headline:

GOP candidate Ron Paul draws enthusiastic crowd at IUP

I think "candidate" is a little much; Ron Paul is as much of a GOP candidate for President as I am a GOP candidate for President.* To me, this is like running a sports headline calling the Pittsburgh Pirates "Potential World Series Contenders".

Of course, I think that Ron Paul probably would draw a more enthusiastic, rabid, and crazy crowd than the Buccos... even on a dollar beer night.

*I believe that we even have the same number of pledged delegates.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

ADB Reads Craigslist So You Don't Have To

Saw this one on Craigslist today:

300 Liberty Ave w/ Extra Side and Rear Lots 1.3 acres - Pittsburgh PA 15219
Selling As Is Condition - $2,000,000 OBO
Needs Approximately $500,000 in TLC/Rehab - May contain Asbestos
After Rehab Approximate Value of Property will be $3,000,000
16 large floors Each w/ Built In Closets
Built-in DMV
Great View of Point State Park
New Roof and Electrical Breaker Panel.
Nice neighborhood.
Good Investment Property - Low Taxes.

Seller is downsizing and needs to relocate.

Call (717) 787-2500 for appointment. Ask for Ed.

* Location: Downtown
* it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

(with apologies to PittGirl)