Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pittsburgh City Planning Misplaces Neighborhood

In a secret memo obtained by The Angry Drunk Bureaucrat, the Director of the City of Pittsburgh Department of Planning admits that her department has "misplaced" the Neighborhood of Chartiers City.

The memo, written by Director Noor Ismail to Mayoral Chief of Staff Yarone Zober outlines a series of events over the last three weeks that led to the realization that an entire neighborhood was missing.

On January 16, 2012 City Planning Staff made an attempt to survey the basic conditions of the Chartiers City neighborhood as part of the overall PlanPgh initiative. The staff members, who are not named tried to access the neighborhood attempted to travel down Chartiers Avenue from Sheraden, however, found themselves in McKees Rocks, rather than Chartiers City. They made a second attempt, this time from Windgap, but again, found themselves in McKees Rocks.

Google Maps confirmed to City Planning that the neighborhood no longer appeared in any of their databases and had simply vanished. The Pittsburgh Department of Public Safety has not reported anyone missing and has not fielded any calls out of the ordinary, leading City staff to individually question whether the neighborhood ever existed in the first place.

Ms. Ismail goes on to say that she believes the area to be a "space-time nexus where the normal rules of our universe simply cease to exist", much like the final act in the movie 2001. She advises the Mayor's Office to evade any questions from West Pittsburgh residents and simple respond that "they are aware of the situation." City officials are to contact paranormal researchers and any Scottish natives of the town of Brigadoon.

This would not be the first time the City of Pittsburgh has lost a neighborhood. In 1998, East Oakland vanished under circumstances that officials describe as "best not to go in to."

More as this story develops.

All of Our Buses Must Sail in the Same Direction

Ed. Note: This is a long, rambling post about Economic Development and the Port Authority, that contains nothing funny and no vulgarity except for one "shit" and a "twat"... and since you've passed them already, you can be assured that the rest of the post is G-Rated. There's an inordinate repetition of "two", however, which we can't account for, but it does provides for a nice Manichean dualism of sorts. We'll pause for a second while you go look up what "Manichean" means in an online dictionary and try to to figure out what in the name of holy hell we were trying to get at. Anyway, feel free to skip this entry and move onto the next post where we'll probably make fun of... let's say... Chartiers City.

With today's Big Ol' Transit Meeting and the impending opening of the Northshore Connector, I figured we'd take a few moments to discuss some more esoteric points of contention about the Port Authority, mostly because I enjoy playing with transit models in my head, but also because I feel the need to need to use the word "esoteric" in a sentence.

Before we begin, however, let's recognizing two things that are important in framing the discussions about PAT: money and money. I feel the need to repeat these points in my discussions about PAT, because they seem to be fundamental assumptions that most people are oblivious towards.

First, there is a difference between Operating Funds and Capital Funds. Operating Funds are those sources of money that allow you to pay for staff, supplies, rent, repairs, etc.; Capital Funds are those sources of money that allow you buy and build stuff. In the Port Authority's world, Operating Funds pay for drivers, advertising, mechanics, schedules and so forth, while Capital Funds get them buses, parking garages, and tunnels underneath the Allegheny River.

Second, these funds are always separate and by statute the twain shall never meet. You can't use Capital Funds to pay for Operating Expenses. Ever. So, for the people that complain "Oh they have money to build the Northshore connector, but why don't they have the money to keep my bus route?" the answer is: PAT was granted a large amount of Federal, State, and Local money to build the Northshore Connector and ONLY the Northshore Connector. If they tried to use the Northshore Connector money to pay their drivers, Steve Bland would be in jail right now. The complaint about service cuts is, at its heart, a complaint about fairs and state and local operating funding.

[As a side point, those in any Local Government know that if you tell the Federal Government that you no longer want the money that you had asked for, the Federal Government pretty much ignores you the next time you ask.]

Now with that out of the way, let's get back to today's meeting. The P-G reported

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald opened the all-day hearing saying the loss of transit service could reverse economic gains seen recently after decades of stagnation.
Let's dissect that for a moment, shall we?

I'd say that there are two major strains of economic development happening in Pittsburgh today. The first being the traditional bricks & mortar that the URA, County Economic Development Department, Allegheny Conference, et al. try to foster. The tools used are familiar: site development & remediation, loan interest loans & grants, TIFs and tax breaks, etc. Philosophically, this kind of economic development can range from lowering barriers to entry for marginal companies to outright "Smokestack Chasing."

On the other side, you have non-traditional economic development, typically coming out of the universities centered around technology transfer and knowledge in general. This is generally smaller scale stuff (the proverbial two man start up working out of some guy's apartment) and is fostered by the free exchange of ideas in and around the university community. These are incremental changes that start to build a wide base for certain industries, but often they result in big things: Google in Larimer, 31 St Studios in the Strip, or UPMC... well, everywhere. The Politicians have a tough time with the non-traditional economic development as there's no building, sewer line, parking garage, or other bricks and mortar "thing" to point to and say "Hey! I helped with that; vote for me."

Which leads me to my point about PAT and Economic Development.

There are two ways that I see PAT influencing Economic Development in and around Allegheny County. First is the traditional way -- new infrastructure, transit lines, and bus routes allow new areas to open up for development and allow old, built up areas to grow without getting choked. Consider the Northshore as a new area and Oakland as a built up area. Through the Northshore connector (arguably), the Northshore becomes more closely integrated with Dowtown, allowing for expansion of the otherwise congested Golden Triangle. Transit in Oakland, meanwhile, reduces the need for space wasting parking garages and impossible to find street parking, thereby allowing more people to come into Oakland on a daily basis.

Which brings me to the second way that PAT can influence Economic Development: moving people around. Think about the late 28X bus route for a second. This route helped commute high wage earners from the Western suburbs into Downtown, while moving low wage earners from the inner city to retail jobs out in the suburbs. So, if a business has a reasonable access to high skilled workers from downtown or low skilled workers in the suburbs, the cost of doing business goes down for the business owner and the cost of being employed goes down for the employee.

So, here's my question: is PAT leading in economic development or is it following?

Let's go back to the Northshore and Oakland again. While the Northshore Connector concept goes back to the days of Skybus, it didn't really get its legs until Stadiums (Stadii?) were already being built. Clearly, PAT was reacting to a development opportunity, rather than using it's resources to help make the site more attractive. Similarly, Oakland is bursting at the seams nearly 20 years after the Spineline concept was proposed. Because of the fear of the cost involved in such an expensive undertaking, PAT is proceeding down a more cautious "Bus Rapid Transit" model, instead of something more integrated with the existing T-Line or at least something off of the existing right-of-ways.

It seems to be a case of institutional myopia. PAT is, in a sense, the one Economic Development engine that straddles both the City and the County. Indeed, it's very presence has a huge impact on the flow of commerce in the region, its air quality, equal opportunities for employment access, physical linkages, site development, and so on and so forth. It is, however, run very much like a bus company. Which is a shame, as there's a real opportunity here to think of PAT as something more than just a conveyor of people and a place for smelly college students to complain.

What is to be done? I'm not sure. Certainly, one of the basic changes that need to be made is to try to see the Port Authority as more than a bus company at the State and Municipal level. Transit Oriented Development (TOD) and Transit Revitalization Investment Districts (TRIDs - a type of TIF area around transit nodes) need to be integrated into the Port Authority's long range plans, rather than a mere afterthought. If this is already happened, PAT is certainly not keeping it a good secret.

In the end, a Port Authority that's thinking about more than transit, but how the Region develops around transit will be a better Port Authority.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Presidents Day

As Presidents Day slouches upon us once again, it's time that we here at ADB pause for a minute to educate and enlighten our otherwise troglodite-like readership with facts about the 43 (44 if you count David Rice Atchinson, and I mean, who does?) men that held the highest office in the US of A.

George Washington - Known for being a Surveyor, General, Statesman, Farmer, Slave Holder, Whiskey Maker, and Father of His Country, Washington created the phenomenon known as "resume padding."

John Adams - 2nd President of the United States who was played memorably on the screen by the voice of KITT from Knight Rider and slightly less memorably on the stage by Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation.

Thomas Jefferson - Roundly considered to be the most intelligent of the men to have held the office of President, Jefferson was the inventor of the lazy Susan, which makes you wonder who he named it after and how lazy *she* was.

James Madison - Holds the record for being the shortest US president. Also held the record for furthest tossed dwarf from 1810-1831.

James Monroe - Was voted "President most likely to be mistaken for James Madison by 7th graders in 200 years."

John Quincey Adams - Son of the other John Adams. First in a long line of reasons why nepotism in US politics is a bad idea.

Andrew Jackson - Called "Ol' Hickory" in popular parlance. Enemy of the British, Native Americans, and Banks, he personally foiled his own assassination attempt. Still doesn't deserve to be on the $20 bill.

Martin Van Buren - First in the long line of forgettable Presidents, Van Buren is frequently autocorrected as "Van Bureau".

William Henry Harrison - This entry is almost as short as his Presidency.

John Tyler - "His Accidency". Assumed the presidency upon the death of William Henry Harrison. The only President to be considered a traitor to his country, until the invention of hyperbole in the 1970s.

James K. Polk - 11th President and creator of the dance craze called "The Polka", which killed thirteen men and women in a freak accordion accident in 1848.

Zachary Taylor - "Ol' H.R. Puffinstuff" was a former Mexican War general known for his flamboyant kitschy attire and penchant for the wenches and dying.

Milliard Fillmore - Four times as funny as his eponymous right-wing comic strip and three thousand times as relevant.

Franklin Pierce - M*A*S*H doctor during the Korean War, known for his drinking, womanizing, and maudlin humor. Played by Alan Alda.

Jame Buchanan - The US's only bachelor President. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Abraham Lincoln - "The Great De-pantsinator" Guy on the penny and the $5 bill. Not a very big fan of live theater.

Andrew Johnson - Tennessee Democrat turned Unionist turned Vice-President. Impeached by radical Republicans for spurious reasons. Fortunately that kind of thing would never be allowed to happen again.

Ulysses S. Grant - "Ol' Drunkypants" made alcoholism into a national pastime. Probably not corrupt, but a favorite among corrupt people.

Rutherford B. Hayes - The nation's first black President and founder of the Polka Dot party in honor of James K. Polk.

James Garfield - Loved lasagna, hated Mondays like they were trying to assassinate him. Should have been more wary of crazy people instead.

Chester A. Arthur - Part man, part sea lion. Once wrestled with Queen Victoria for a fortnight over the correct pronunciation of the word "aluminum". Nearly expelled Michigan from the Union, "just because."

Grover Cleveland - "Ol' Non-Consecutive" fathered a child out of wedlock (maybe), which still did not hurt his showings at the polls.

Benjamin Harrison - Filled the nation's quota of Harrison Presidents until 2022.

Grover Cleveland - "Ol' Non-Consecutive" began the nation's fascination with poorly made sequels.

William McKinley - Always a slave to a trend, McKinley decided to die while in office.

Theodore Roosevelt - America's first certifiably crazy President. Not crazy "I'm hearing voices from my astrologers" crazy, but more "I'm going to go wrestle a lion, because I can" crazy. He's the guy that Chuck Norris makes jokes about... with the added benefit of most of the crazy shit turns out to be true.

William Howard Taft - So fat, when he sat around the White House, he sat around the White House. Had more Chins than a Chinese phonebook. Only President to need his own zip code.

Woodrow Wilson - Visionary who promoted the league of nations following WWI. Also a closet racist.

Warren G. Harding - Arguably the worst President ever. Not so much corrupt as incompetent, he had the good sense to die before anyone got around to indicting him.

Calvin Coolidge - The less said, the better.

Herbert Hoover - "Ol' Depressionator". Seriously, ask your Grand Parents what they thought about Hoover. See if they respond without spitting.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt - Less crazy of the two Roosevelts, probably because he was being held back by that metal chair. Led country through the Depression and WWII and was still getting a little tail on the side.

Harry Truman - Only President that could fire Douglas McArthur AND sell you a hat. Probably would have smacked you for looking at him funny.

Dwight "David" Eisenhower - The guy your parents, Granparents, and the GOP wistfully remember as presiding over the most idyllic time in US history.

John F. Kennedy - Like Theodore Roosevelt, but replace "Crazy" with "horny". Banged everything that wasn't nailed down, and then was banged himself.

Lyndon Johnson - Had largest penis of anyone in his cabinet. Used to wave his member around the halls of the White House and urinate on document, just because he could.

Richard Nixon - "Ol' Tricky Dick". Corrupt as hell, maybe more so. I understand that the Devil has some qualms. Resigned in disgrace when it was discovered that everyone really was out to get him.

Gerald Ford - Only President born a King. Known for the many things he stood for and for an equal number of things he fell over.

James Earl "Jimmy" Carter - America's only sweater wearing former nuclear submarine technician President. Introduced the word "malaise" into the political lexicon and became the whipping boy for the Republican party for the next generation.

Ronald Wilson Reagan - Depending on who you talk to, either the greatest President that ever lived, or a senile old man. Now an object of bizarre fetishism by the GOP, his name cannot be uttered unless in solemn reverence.

George H. W. Bush - Proof that a guy whose family worked with the Nazis can still make it in this country.

William Jefferson Clinton - "Slick Willy" presided over the longest period of economic expansion in the nation's history. Also presided over another expansion... in his pants. Impeached, but acquitted, but you knew that.

George W. Bush - A reminder of the reason the US doesn't allow dynastic succession.

"President" Ballrog HUSSEIN Sombrero Fartbongo II - Kenyan-Hawaiian Marxist-Facist Muslim-Radical Black Christian Community Organizing, ACORN sponsoring, arugula and brown mustard eating, teleprompter using, usurper-in-chief. Possibly the anti-Christ, but possibly worse.
Now, off to Wikipedia to make all of this true...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Local Man Doesn't Understand Why Government Project Isn't Done Already

Amid news that the Port Authority is mere weeks away from completing the much touted (and much maligned) North Shore Connector, local man Ron Seibert held a press conference today decrying the fact that it was taking so long.

Flanked by a contingent from the Pittsburgh Myopticon Society, Mr. Seibert vented his frustrations to reporters.

"The Port Authority has been working on the North Shore Connector since 1994. What's the friggin' hold up already? Why didn't this get done, like 10 years ago. Seriously, how hard is it to dig a hole?"

Mr. Seibert's views were shared by others in the audience.

"You know, for all the time they have spent digging the tunnel, they could have extended the light rail to where I live in McMurray," said a Mr. Rod Davis. "I mean, that's like a piece of cake; it's like right there".

The multi-million dollar project has come under fire since its initial planning phase in the 1990s, with many people referring to it as a "boondoggle" or a "tunnel to nowhere".

PAT project engineer Hubert F. Horder defended the project.

"These things take time. It's not like we have some sort of magic wand here at the Port Authority. We can't just make a wish, and suddenly plans and specifications and rights-of-way and materials suddenly appear. We don't have a genie that grants exceptions from EPA requirements or a fairy that gives us DoT fund. We don't pounce around on unicorns singing 'La-De-Da-De-Da-De-Dah!' nakedly dancing around a magic fire while elves and dwarves do our bidding! We're Engineers and Accountants and Bureaucrats dammit! We don't even know what magic is!"

Mr. Horder's explanation, however did not sway Mr. Seibert.

"Even though I have no idea how Federal funding allocations, geology, or transportation engineering works, I'll bet me and my brother Steve could have had that extension up and running in like a week and a half".

Luke Ravenstahl Still Waiting For Valentine's Day Card

Despite it being two days ago, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl is still waiting patiently for a Valentine's Day card from someone.

The Mayor has been vigilantly watching his hand made Valentine Mailbox at his desk hoping that someone would drop in a card or perhaps some candy. Despite checking nearly every 15 minutes, his construction paper box remains empty.

Mr. Ravenstahl had earlier expressed an expectation that the Rooneys, Ron Burkle, and Snoop Dog would all send him a card. To that end, he made his mailbox twice as big as normal "to fit all the cards" he was going to get from all of his friends. As of 7 PM Thursday evening, however, it remained empty.

His Chief of Staff Yarone Zober expressed concern over the Mayor.

"We had a big party, you know, and everyone was passing around Valentines to each other and I guess we all just didn't get Luke a card. I kind of feel bad for him. I mean that's got to crush him to know that no one is willing to even get him a card."

The Mayor's Press Secretary Joanna Doven said that the Mayor is fine.

"OK, Luke's a weird guy, you know. We can see him picking his nose and wiping I under he desk. And there was this one time when he called Darlene Harris "Mommy" and wet his pants in front of Council. But, that doesn't mean we hate him... He's just not Valentine material. Now Ed Gainey? He's dreamy."

Other members of the Mayor's staff have secretly tried to persuade City Government employees to take pity on the Mayor and send him a Valentine, but to no avail thus far. Certain members of he Finance Department are still a little creeped out after Ravenstahl hung out in heir offices for weeks after they got him a Birthday cake last year.

"It's kind of sad and I'd like to do something for him," said Zober, "but I don't really like the guy that much.

Monday, February 13, 2012

PWSA to be Managed by Poo-Flinging Monkeys

Acting quickly following the decision Friday to seek a management company for the embattled Authority, the Board of PWSA today accepted a proposal from a troop of monkeys to manage and reorganize the agency for the next 18 months.

"This kind of radical shift in thinking is exactly what we need to right the organization's problems," said Board Member and Pittsburgh City Councilman Patrick Dowd. "I'm hoping that the next few months will see better responses to developers, a a clearing out of institutional dead wood, a better customer service system, and, of course, the throwing of large amounts of feces."

The Board was initially impressed by the submission of the Monkey Troop, which had outstanding references from the John McCain Presidential bid and New York socialite King Kong. The Monkey Team has previously used shared grooming, patriarchal hierarchy, and the throwing of excrement to turn several Fortune 500 companies from the brink of bankruptcy.

The PWSA Board, however, failed to assert its dominance over the chief male "Coco" and agreed in the contract to limit their liability and indemnify them against all actions, including, but not limited to "Grizzly beheadings in Paris","Old Ronald Reagan films," and "sharp rate increases".

PWSA is still suffering from a failed water line insurance plan that was ruled in court to be illegal. It has been without an Executive Director for two years and without a competent Management Team for at least twice as long.

In recent months, Mr. Dowd had criticized his fellow Board members for dragging their feet on the replacement of the former Executive Director, arguing that "even a [expletive deleted] monkey could do this job better than what we got."

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, however, is reporting tonight that the selection of the new Primate Management team may actually be the result of nepotism. Rumors have begun circulating that one of the Monkeys is closely related to another Board Member, State Rep. Dan Deasey.

Run out of Town Without a Rail

If you're among the three people in the City of Pittsburgh that care about this kind of thing, this news story probably hit you very hard.

Harry Davis & Company announced plans today to auction off the assets of Maglev Inc., a McKeesport-based high-speed rail developer that filed for bankruptcy in July.

The auction is scheduled for 10 a.m. March 6 at the company's former research and development facility, located at 1905 Technology Center in McKeesport...

Maglev Inc., was created in 2003 to develop a high-speed magnetic levitation train that would link the Pittsburgh International Airport to Pittsburgh to Greensburg. But the company failed to secure federal money for the project. A $28 million federal grant announced in 2009 was never released.

Among the items to be auctioned off are industrial equipment, office furniture and intellectual property for the Maglev Positioning and Table Software.
Indeed, this should really come as a surprise to no one; after several starts, a competing "slow" MagLev planned between the Civic Arena and the USX building, and the general disinterest about new transportation ideas both in Western PA and across the Country, the only real surprise is that the company managed to hang on for almost 10 years before exploding, like I would assume, a Maglev train filled with TNT, crushed dreams, and puppies.

OK, maybe not the puppies.

But there's always a bright side: I for, one, am looking forward to scavenging the parts necessary for my own person Hoverboard.

Back in 1989 Robert Zemeckis promised us all Hoverboards by 2015 in Back to the Future II. Twenty-three years later, we're still waiting. What's up with that? Step it up Hasbro!

Anyway, I'm hoping to head down to the Maglev fire sale and pick up some industrial magnets, a pair of Nike Mags, and a slice of dehydrated pizza.

And God help them: the Hoverboard better work on water.

Monday, February 06, 2012

Red Square Protestors Evicted by Judge

(VOA News) Moscow, Russia - A Russian Federal judge has ordered the removal of several hundred anti-Putin protests after occupying Moscow's famous Red Square for the last four months.

Judge Kristina Vardanova had previously given the protestors three days to remove themselves from the space. The deadline passed today at noon as several protestors remained defiantly at the site.

The remaining anti-Putin protestors have braced themselves for a potential forcible ejection by Russian Police.

Protestors have protested ongoing anti-democratic action by the Federal Government, as well as undue influence of Russian mega-corporations, including energy concern Gazprom, which has already admitted collusion in manipulating the price of gas in Europe. Critics of the Russian Prime Minister have further alleged that his ties to national oligarchs have undermined the fledgling democracy in the country.

Pro-Putin and other non-aligned Russians have shrugged off the criticisms, saying that the system works for the vast majority of the Country.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has offered tacit support to the protestors saying that, "We are supportive of the rights and aspirations of the Russian people to be able to make progress and realise a better future for themselves". The Prime Minister denounced the statement as interfering with Russia's self-determination, adding that the protestors do not have a clear objective, and are merely naybobs of negativity.

As night falls on Red Square, the remaining protestors voice hope that the irony isn't lost on Americans.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Mitt Romney Realizes He's Reliving Stupid Comments

(Columbia News) Punxsutawney, PA - After what has seemed to him as being as upwards of 10,000 repetitions, Mitt Romney has come to the understanding that his is reliving the same stupid comments for eternity.

Having grown tired of the campaign season, Governor Romney has found himself endlessly repeating the phrases, "Corporations are people, my friends," "I like being able to fire people," and "I'm not concerned about the very poor".

Romney is not sure why he is continuing to repeat these phrases and why he keeps waking up to a Sonny and Cher tune every morning.

Experts indicate that the former Massachusetts Governor is suffering from an existentialist crisis, which may spiral down into long term depression and a loss in the General Election.

The only resolution to this problem seems to be an attempt as making himself seem at least somewhat human and possibly hooking up with Andie MacDowell.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

City Council Votes to Cut Off Nose to Spite Face

Pittsburgh City Council has given preliminary approval to a bill that would assist itself in cutting off its own collective noses to spite its collective faces.

"There are days when we look in the mirror," said Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess, "and we think, 'Gosh, we're just so dangled ugly; we need to punish our ugliness.' We believe that this bill will resolve our problems once and for all.".

Following the release of new City of Pittsburgh Beauty Standards, citizens have complained en masse that Pittsburgh City Council is just too damned ugly and that "something must be done.".

The bill was sponsored by new Councilman Corey O'Connor, whose father had successfully sponsored a similar bill back in 2001. As a result of that bill, Jim Ferlo lost a significant quantity of blood, which led to his run for state Senate the next year.

The legislation would offer a bulk rate deal to Council members and their staff who are angry about how how they look. In all, a team of nearly a dozen surgeons will be on hand to assist.

Council has budgeted $150,000 for the procedures.

A final vote is scheduled for next week.