Friday, May 30, 2008

Business Casual Friday - Harvey Korman Edition

In honor of the passing of Mr. Korman, we present:

The Dentist Sketch

Goodnight Funnyman!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Scott McClellan's Book Reveals New Details About Bush Administration

Former Bush Administration Press Secretary Scott McClellan's new tell all book has revealed a string of allegations leveled against the President and his closers advisers.

Speaking with CNN, Mr. McClellan has most notably insinuated that the administration lied to the general public and Congress in the run up to the Iraq War.

However, other lesser known nuggets of information that prove potentially fatal to the President in the last remaining months of the administration:

* Vice President Dick Cheney regularly bathes in the blood of young children, which he believes will keep him "minty-fresh";

* McClellan's predecessor Ari Fleischer was once "Erin Fleischer";

* Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Karl Rove can, in fact, tell that it's not butter;

* Harriet Miers is actually Madame from Solid Gold;

* The invasion of Iraq was narrowly approved over an invasion of Tahiti by one vote (that vote being cast by John Ashcroft);

* Alberto Gonzales was appointed as Attorney General on a dare;

* That wasn't a pretzel that W choked on;

* The President hasn't actually met Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters;

* The Unitary Executive Theory was espoused after a night of Jaeger bombs and strippers;

* Paul O'Neil once threatened to punch John Bolton in the nuts.
More is sure to be revealed in the coming months.

Therrien Blames Lack of Banners for Penguins Losses

Penguins head coach Michel Therrien unleashed an expletive filled tirade towards the Mayor of Pittsburgh and City Council blaming them both for the team's back-to-back losses to the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup finals.  

"Where are the fucking banners already?  How do they expect us to win without over-sized giant fucking banners?" 

Mr. Therrien launched the invective shortly before the team's pre-game warm-up practice at Mellon Arena in front of members of the local media.  

"If those motherfuckers down on Grant Street don't get their fucking merde together, this fucking team is going to lose in four games."

Council members and the Mayor's Office have been at odds following a moratorium on outdoor advertising in the wake of the Grant Street Transportation/Lamar Advertising fiasco. 

Representatives of the Mayor's Office blame Council President Doug Shields for the current situation, calling his ongoing work "obstructionist."  Mr. Shields has blamed the Mayor's Office for jinxing the Pens. 

"I mean, seriously, do you really think that these loses are because the team can't defend the blue line, or capitalize on Power Play opportunities?" said Mr. Shields in an email. "No, it's because the Mayor won't let them put up their fucking banners."  Councilwoman Tonya Payne, who represents the 6th Council District, was not available for comment. 

Therrien remains frustrated. 

"These playoffs aren't about who scores the most points or which team comes out on top, it's about the ability of a city to put up giant banners advertising their local teams.  If we can't do that, the Red Wings have already won."     

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Friday, May 23, 2008

Business Casual Friday - Stanley Cup Preview Edition

Just a little something that combines the Penguins, John Williams, and the non-CGI portions of George Lucas:

Episode VI: The Penguins Return (Crawl)

The digitally remastered version will enhance Gary Robert's scariness.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Mayor Seeks Guidance on Attending Stanley Cup Games

Saw this in the P-G this afternoon:

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl wants to attend the Stanley Cup Finals, but isn't yet sure how that can happen.

"I'd like to go," he said of the Saturday night face-off between the Penguins and the Red Wings, in Detroit. "I have asked [the city Law Department] for guidance" on whether he should pay for tickets, travel and lodging out of personal funds, campaign money or otherwise.

He has ruled out the use of any public money on what, arguably, could be called official business...
The correct answer is: Buffalo Blues* in Shadyside with 200-300 of your fellow yinzers. As "way cool" as it may be to go up to Detroit, it would certainly be a whole heck of a lot more populist of Luke to sit elbow to elbow with guys discussing the intricacies of the hooking calls and calling for another "Ahrn".

* Any sports bar (or any other bar for that matter) in Pittsburgh will do. I just don't want to catch him stealing my seat.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Future Committed Resource Allocations

I was checking out Mike Madison's post over at Pittsblog today regarding Municipal Bonds, in which he sort of sums up things that Mr. Briem and Mr. Fester have been saying for quite some time now.

Of course, the scary part of this whole thing is not that the City of Pittsburgh is going to default on its current debt or even that the outlying municipalities are going to default on their current debt* or even that Lamar gave a toaster oven to the Mayor's wife's cousin, but that the City of Pittsburgh needs to continue to issue debt in the future in order to do... you know... *stuff*.

There are roads to fix, buildings to knock down, streetlights to hang, and so forth, all of which are paid for by taxes, yes, but, and this is the nuanced bit, paid on the municipal credit card with its bondholders and over the long run.

Now, this is fine, usually, but with a continuing pension obligation, nervous markets, and rumors of a return to deficits within a few years (despite this year's surplus), you have to wonder what the City's capacity for long term borrowing will really be in a few years... or if it'll have to either (a) find new revenue streams or (b) push these expenses off of its books to... well... somewhere.

But this isn't necessarily a financing discussion; it could just as easily be a foreshadowing of further reductions in City services... which may lead to a further decline in population... which reduces the tax base... which means the City can borrow less... which further reduces City services...


* Speaking of which, Team 4: you did a really shitty job with presenting those statistics. I mean, sure you give some wacky decimal debt service to expenditure ratio and a hard number for total debt service, but you don't break down things like terms, or rates, or even give the population of these municipalities to give anyone a real sense of how serious those problems are. I mean, hell, $495K in debt annual service sounds like a lot of money, but that works out to about $150/person in Edgewood, which seems reasonable. Of course, the data (and the story) that's presented doesn't get into those kinds of details that would make the information less sensational and more, um, useful.

For shame! Seriously. For shame.

On Green Grass and Fences

For all of our hand wringing around these here parts, it's usual to read an article about how Pittsburgh is a downtown economic development "winner." That seems to be the case, however, at least according to the Kansas City Star, which compares its own $4 Billion investment in its downtown with places like Charlotte, Pittsburgh, Oklahoma City and Denver.

Overall, The Star analyzed the downtown progress made in Kansas City and 13 peer cities. The downtowns were compared in 16 statistical measures, but these comparisons have limitations. Some national statistics only measure the first half of this decade. Plus, different downtowns are in different stages of rebirth, with some starting earlier than Kansas City did.

Given all that, The Star’s analysis represents more of a snapshot than a complete picture.

That snapshot, though, shows Kansas City’s downtown progress below average in more than half of the comparisons with its peers — measures such as new bars, new hotels and office vacancy.

Basically, even with $4 billion invested in downtown so far this decade, we still don’t measure up all that well with other downtowns.
The best line, however, comes at the end from the Mayor of Kansas City:
“Pittsburgh’s a winner,” Funkhouser said. “We’re not close to Pittsburgh. It’s got a vibrant street life.

“It’s what I hope we’ll be like.”
The grass is always greener, I suppose.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

County Executive Calls on Municipalities to Merge, Form Voltron

Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato met with about 20 local lawmakers Saturday to include them in discussions about forming a giant Japanese mecha robot to defeat the rising costs of pension debt and the evil King Zarkon from planet Doom.

In April, Onorato announced his support for a city-county merger after a 13-member Citizens Advisory Committee led by University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg released a study recommending consolidation. The Advisory Commission was heavily influenced by the success of Lexington Kentucky, 450 hours of bootleg anime, and about three bags of pot.

According to the study, the Pittsburgh Region, was originally one unified piece but was tricked by the witch Haggar into landing on a black comet with nearly the gravitational attraction of a singularity. The Region was then attacked by Haggar, and somehow blown into five pieces, which formed the five lions.

Onorato said that the land, sea and air teams must reform in order to maintain regional competitiveness and to defeat the Drule Empire.

Republican lawmakers were skeptical.

"I think we need to be sure that there are no loopholes that result in communities having to pick up the debt of other municipalities," said state Rep. Randy Vulakovich, R-Shaler. "And we still have to be careful about the formation of the Drule mecha and the Dracotron."

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl is in favor of a similar merger plan, based on The Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers, which he has dubbed "wicked awesome." Critics, however, have asked that he get off their damned lawns.

Discussions will continue in Harrisburg this week.

Philadelphia Mayor Nutter Loses Bet

(Reuters) Philadelphia - Fresh on the rout of the Flyers by the Penguins, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl wasted no time on making good on his bet with Philadephia Mayor Nutter by sending the entire Pittsburgh Pirate roster to the City of Brotherly Love.

Bets between municipal chief executives are not uncommon during high profile games, however, this NHL Eastern Conference finals was of greater importance because it was between the two largest cities in the Commonwealth.

Confident in his home team, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl used this opportunity to up the stakes with his cross state rival.

"We thought it would be a basket of ketchup or Primanti sandwiches versus a basket of Cheesestakes or something," said Mayor Nutter's spokesperson Douglas Oliver. "We were shocked when Mr. Ravenstahl put up the Pirates. We asked 'what would you get?' He said, 'We get rid of the Pirates.'"

Within minutes of the Penguins' shut-out, and even before the Prince of Wales trophy was presented, the entire Pirates roster was put in shipping containers and placed on a non-stop flight to Philadelphia.

Mr. Ravenstahl was proud of the move.

"It took bold, decisive leadership, but by the time Nutter realizes what's hit him, the Philadelphia Pirates will already be last in the National League."

Mayor Nutter has different plans for his new found team.

"I figure for awhile, we can use them to direct traffic or something. Eventually I hope to trade them to Des Moines for a half a packet of Lucky Strikes and a porno mag."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Edwards Endorses Obama

Invokes Landmark Supreme Court Case Bros v. Hoes.

Another, Another Aside

You're really starting to piss me off Blogger.

Another Aside

I caught this article in the P-G this afternoon, which I found interesting:

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's administration ordered the shutdown today of two Oakland apartment buildings that were plagued by long-running fire code violations, an aggressive new tactic in response to neighborhood concerns about persistently dangerous student housing conditions.

Using a power rarely invoked, the city's Bureau of Building Inspection gave tenants in the two buildings -- which have 12 apartments each -- until Monday to get out. They posted signs with the phone number of the University of Pittsburgh's off-campus housing arm, and reached out to Pitt to help relocate the students.
OK, that's not the interesting bit, this is:
Acting Chief of Building Inspection Dan Cipriani said his inspector cited the properties at 331 and 337 McKee Place in 2006 and is "getting no cooperation" in fixing the violations.
Did ya catch that? Didja?

OK, I'll add emphasis.

Acting Chief Dan Cipriani... Clear now?

Just so everyone remembers, the Mayor has 90 days to appoint full time heads of departments and Chief Cipriani's predecessor was fired back in September 2007.

So is the P-G just slow to update their Rolodex? Is Chief Cipriani still a temp? Did Council OK this? What am I missing here?

Business Casual Thursday

By now, everyone's seen the clip of Bill O'Reilly's f@cking outtake from back during his Inside Edition days. But it's really missing something... I don't know, how about:

Obviously this link contains not safe for work language and should not be viewed by those with small children, delicate sensibilities, or overzealous amounts of moral turpitude.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Brief Aside - The Dog That Did Not Bark

Has anyone else noticed that Lukey hasn't really been in the news lately?

I wonder what's cooking...

* No, this isn't ironic foreshadowing. Why do you ask?

Community Benefits Agreement

By now, everyone has heard that the One Hill group has officially signed on to a community benefits agreement with the Pittsburgh Penguins, the City and the County. Among the items that were agreed upon were:

• Provide $2 million, including $1 million from the Penguins, to finance a grocery store or other economic "anchor."

• Create a Neighborhood Partnership Program, giving businesses state tax credits for contributing to neighborhood development projects. Coalition officials said the program could draw $6 million over 12 years.

• Give Hill District residents preference for arena-related jobs and commit the parties to the creation of family-sustaining jobs, with health benefits, in the 28-acre Mellon Arena redevelopment zone.

• Establish a career center, partly funded for two years by the city and county, and require government officials to help the YMCA of Greater Pittsburgh develop a multipurpose center for youths, families and seniors.

• Require the city and county to fund a master plan for Hill development.
Like many of these types of deals, however, there were many items that were left, as it were, on the cutting room floor. Among these items were:
• Mario Lemieux must buy a fried chicken franchise on Webster Avenue, and offer free chicken every time Sidney Crosby scores.

• The Penguins must publish a pamphlet on famous black hockey players.

• The One Hill coalition will provide one first round draft pick.

• Tonya Payne will shave off her playoff beard.

• Luke Ravenstahl will receive a four minute major for game misconduct.

• One Hill Chair Carl Redwood will suit up as mascot "Iceberg" for 20 games a year.

• Ron Burkle will ghost write an 11th play for the August Wilson cycle, regarding the tribulations of cross checking in the black community.

• Dan Onorato will continue to suck up to the unions as part of his quest for the Governorship (Ed. Note - This was added back in at the last minute).

• SEA Executive Director Mary Contoro gets one free punch at anyone, any time.

• In addition to a Save-a-Lot grocery store, the Hill will receive a Kings Family Restaurant.

• Hill Leadership will stop taking credit for the work of their predecessors.

• The City has to explain what exactly the Stadium Authority does.

• Everyone will agree that "half-a-loaf" is better than "no-loaf at all."
No word, however, if people that opposed the agreement now will be allowed to claim credit for any success in the future.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Hillary Clinton Vows to Take Nomination, Unveils Giant Moon-based Laser

(AP) Indianapolis - On the heals of recent announcements that she would stay in the race until the convention and that she would try to get delegates from both Michigan and Florida, Senator Hillary Clinton has unveiled a giant lunar based laser.

Speaking in front of supporters in Mechanics Hall in Downtown Indianapolis, Senator Clinton appeared before her army of jack booted minions.

"They laughed at us when they said we were finished. They laughed at us when they said we should give up. But, now is the time that they will tremble before us. Now is the time that we shall crush our enemies beneath our heals. Behold! I bring to you the Clinton Lunar Death Ray, which will wipe out all these puny delegates, unless the DNC capitulates to our demands."

The Obama campaign denounced the moon laser as "the last act of a desperate candidate."

"She knows now that she can't get the nomination. She's only trying to forestall the inevitable," said senior Obama advisor retired General Merrill McPeak, who has been advising the campaign on foreign policy matters and giant space lasers.

"Besides, she knows that Senator Obama has hidden the plans for her moon base inside of an R2 unit and, once the plans are analyzed, it is only a matter of time before the rebellion finds a weakness. Even something as small as a 3 meter exhaust port could prove fatal."

Senator Clinton brushed off this criticism and, through a spokesman, called on Senator Obama to "embrace the inevitability of his doom".

Thinking Outside the Square

While we're on the subject of Urban Planning, I also happened to catch the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership's plans for Market Square today. You can see the plans here.

Your choices, apparently, are Minimal, Oasis, and Historic... all of which bring to mind scented candles that I have thrown away in years past.

All of these designs, however, share the same problem: Market Square is not a square, and no, I don't mean that in trivial technical sense that it's a rectangle.

For all intents and purposes, Market Square is now essentially part of a pedestrian mall that stretches from Fifth Avenue all the way to the Tomb of the Unknown Bowler in PPG place. In fact, once the proposed PNC park (small "p" in park) is built next to that new sky scraper, people will have a nearly unobstructed view all the way from the waterfall behind Heinz Hall to Mt. Washington.

That's kind of neat, actually, but all three plans do not deal with the longitudinal axis of what is essentially a long public space and how these three individual urban rooms address one another.

But that's just an amateur opinion and all...

Master (Planning)s of the Universe (-ity)

It is with heady anticipation that I opened my media kit from Point Park University to see what the architectural wizards over at WTW Architects came up with. Over all, it's not a bad plan for an "academic village" which includes the acquisition of the existing YMCA building, acquisition of several more properties along Forbes Avenue (across the street from the Piatt development), and a mess of public improvements to the streets, sidewalks, and trees.

Now, I've seen more than my fair share of institutional Master Plans, and frankly it is rare that any of them actually come completely to fruition. It is always more likely that bits and pieces of these plans are realized as the first shot is usually exceptionally pretty, but short on practicalities. Indeed, there are some hurdles to overcome in this one too.

The big question, of course, is what this all means to the future of Downtown. With the Government/Corporate corridor to the East and the Cultural District to the North, there is a real chance here to fill in that big, vacant hole in the middle of Downtown.

Setting the built environment aside, however, there is the proposition that Universities can be economic development engines. This seems more true, however, for schools like Pitt and CMU that can churn out spinoffs in Biotech and IT, rather than PPU which can churn out Liberal Arts majors.

Not that there's anything wrong with Liberal Arts majors -- some of my favorite baristas have degrees in Native American Literature or Political Philosophy -- but can a horde of conservatory and media studies students be a motor for economic development downtown? Well, surely for necessities, amenities and some residential, but can the University attract industrial clusters that build on regional assets and help to generate sustainable job growth? I honestly don't know the answer to that question.

Moving on: from the City's side, there's still no confirmation that there is any public support coming to this project. That may be a detail, however, as it might be simply a matter of undertaking public improvements in tandem with the University's plans. Or, it could be an upgrade that the University might want to contract with the City on.

The funny thing is, however, that PPU is, as all not-for-profits are around here, tax exempt. Physical improvements to properties will raise the value of the buildings, but will not raise additional tax revenue for the City. This becomes a more pressing issue for the properties around Fifth & Forbes, which seem to account for at least a couple parcels of the Master Plan, and for which the City and its affiliates paid a good chunk of change. The expectation, of course, is that these properties were eventually to be returned to productive (i.e. taxpaying) use. Should PPU be looking at snagging some of these sites, one has to question the rationale of picking up these properties in the first place.

Or maybe we're past that point already.

So mixed bag all around, I suppose... but at least they had the good sense to put the Student Union two doors down from the all night, XXX peep show place. THAT'S good planning right there.

Friday, May 02, 2008

*Cough* *Cough* *Hack* *Snort* N'at

Well, it seems once again that Pittsburgh gets placed on the top of one of those lists that no one ever wants to be placed on... and I'm not referring to the TMZ "Whoops: Crotch!" list this time. No, as they reported the other day, we're once again #1 in poor air quality. From the Pittsburgh Business Times:

Pittsburgh has traded in steel and smokestacks for high tech and health care, but the city fared poorly in a new pollution study.

Pittsburgh ranked No. 1 in the American Lung Association's "Top 10 U.S. Cities Most Polluted by Short-Term Particle Pollution."
Now, admittedly, the air up there ain't the greatest, but it's hardly this anymore:

Of course, that doesn't stop the media from thinking that all of a sudden it's unsafe to go out side with a white shirt on:

From Reuters UK: Pittsburgh, a former steel-making center once known for its sooty skies, is the worst U.S. city for short-term particle pollution...

From ABC News: Pittsburgh, America's "Steel City," snagged a second designation — albeit a negative one — this week when, for the first time, the American Lung Association designated it the most air-polluted U.S. city...

From the Philadelphia Inquirer: The ranking isn't good news for a Rust Belt city trying to show that it's no longer a steel town , there are no working steel mills within city limits anymore , but a vibrant metropolis with world-class high-tech, education and medical facilities.

And so on.

Not to minimize the seriousness of the Air Quality Problem in the region, but I'm sick of the meme* that says it's still 1892 in Pittsburgh and that Carnegie and Frick are moments away from bringing in more Pinkerton guards. There is (barely) any steel here anymore people! Our largest edifice to the Bessemer Process is just about to be capped with 12 giant letters as an advertisement for Pittsburgh's true industry: biomedical research and hastily filled out HMO paperwork.

Again, it's that image problem that we've never been able to fucking shake.**

This whole thing has gone on long enough and drastic action is therefore necessary: I propose that every time a news media outlet mentions Pittsburgh as a former Steel City or former Smokey City (outside of a purely historical context) the Allegheny Conference on Community Development must shoot a puppy.

It's the only way the world is going to take us seriously short of blowing up the Moon -- and I think that the ACCD is just evil enough to make it work.

* Cf. The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins and not any of those "Name Three Things About Yourself" or "LOLCat" emails that have been filling up my inbox.

** It doesn't help, of course, that the nationally recognized sports team is an homage to this industry and provides a convenient excuse for lazy sports producers to edit in stock footage of giant ladles pouring molten steel into vats.

Business Casual Friday

Because I was delinquent last week, this week's episode of Business Casual Friday is intense:

The Fifty Funniest Movie Scenes Ever

OK, I can't vouch for the funniest-ness of all these clips, but it'll at least distract you long enough so I can write a couple posts about City Planning reorganization and Smog.

I know you all are waiting with baited breath...