Thursday, November 26, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

That Which May Not Be Named

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whither the ACCD Meeting

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

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

That and I do miss seeing Larry Dunn.

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

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

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

Monday, November 23, 2009

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

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

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

Thursday, November 19, 2009

5 on 4

So I saw this here picture in the P-G

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

The answer didn't really surprise me.

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

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

A Bureaucrat's Aside Re: Prevailing Wages

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 16, 2009

PG+ Tour

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

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

Never mind then.


And the can gets kicked down the road again:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, November 12, 2009

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lest We Forget

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

Monday, November 09, 2009

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

So by now, you've heard about this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Please do not Read the Last Post

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Election Day

Vote already!


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

Monday, November 02, 2009

Something About Where the Choo-Choo Goes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, November 01, 2009

A Bureaucrat's Aside Re: Halloween

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

It was scary.