September 27, 2007

I don't see what all the fuss is about

Both Bram and the Burgher have provided excellent coverage of the "Luke to Boston Scandal" so there's no need for me to include the various media links, but I would like to discuss whether these kinds of personal snafus will really pay off in the end for DeSantis.

Though many folks are losing support for Mayor Ravenstahl, I am still unconvinced as to whether this will add any points to the DeSantis column. Don't get me wrong, MD is playing his cards quite well so far, but he's still lacking the "man of the people" interaction that would push him over the edge.

My feeling is that many of those who decide not to vote for Luke will likely just not vote at all, hoping that the right fit emerges by the 2009 election. In this case, Luke will still win, albeit by a small majority, and be given at least two more years to prove he can learn from his mistakes.

Going back to DeSantis, he is showing the first steps towards becoming a populist with his Walt Davis anecdote, but he still seems too wonkish and not enough drinkin' buddy. Furthermore, his intent on selling off city-owned property will likely disrupt the community planning process put forth by CDC's all over the city, and his start-up support plan sounds like a home run for outsiders but does little for many of those of whom he is asking for votes. His policies comprehensive, but he must convince people to vote for him compared to just not voting for Luke.

For Luke, stop going anywhere outside the city limits until the election is over. And just tell the truth. You went to Boston to learn about mixed income housing strategies and how they might apply to Pittsburgh. You missed a meeting because your overbooked and didn't catch the error, but you'll have another meeting in the North Side where you will be sitting front and center to listen to every single comment until all voices have been heard. Don't run from criticism, fight back with actions and counter-successes.

September 14, 2007

Downtown Dan

A little-recognized article flew through the PG yesterday about the conversion of the Century Building into new prix fix condos.

Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato said Downtown will be "the place for the next decade or two where activity" will be growing. He said the county is committed to making sure the Golden Triangle, as the hub of the region, continues to move forward.

"We're on a roll. You can easily fall off that roll if you don't pay attention to what we have here and the assets that we have. So Downtown Pittsburgh's going to remain a focus for the next several years for all of us involved here," he said.

I'm interested in what's between the lines for Donorato here. Part of the reason why the city is in such peril is because of the lack of county focus on development within the city limits - could this be a shift towards redeveloping Pittsburgh?

Don't get me wrong - I understand downtown by no means equals the city, but that doesn't mean the city couldn't use a little tlc from big buddy Dan. Understandably, his sights are set elsewhere, but the City and the Mayor could benefit from some county attention.

Focusing on redeveloping the parts of this city which are barely held together by boarded up windows and crumbling roads seems a better investment than promoting suburban development. Growth in the "greater Pittsburgh area" is ultimately dependent upon the health 0f the city - a strong Pittsburgh will do more for Allegheny County than growth corridors isolating the urban core.

September 10, 2007

And we're back

Sorry for going missing folks, you never know what's going to happen in the turbulent life of the intern.

I've come to the conclusion that Mayor Luke Ravenstahl is one of the best things to ever happen to this city.

Bear with me on this one, it has merit.

I've said in the past that I've doubted his experience (who hasn't), that I've been disturbed by his antics (fore!), and that I've been perplexed by his ethics (snicker). While these attributes prevent me from thinking him the best man for the job, his actions have brought more attention to city government and necessitated a attitude of watch-doggedness sorely lacking.

Everywhere I go, from Grant Street to Penn Circle to Brownsville Road, people know Luke's name and have an opinion. Perhaps the city has lost enough population that everyone's voice actually has a chance to be heard these days, but I'm thinking that there finally might be enough competition to challenge the hand-me-down politics that have guided our gradual decline.

I don't attribute Ravenstahl as the inspiration, but I think the attention he brings to local politics is promoting a feeling of publilc investment. People seem to once again have hope - hope that things are changing, hope that elected officials are listening, and hope that all this attention will necessitate intelligent decisions that promote the right kind of growth (and reduction) that this city needs so desperately.

Now whether or not this feeling will translate into easy victory for Luke is anyone's guess, but I'm of the mindset that a healthy challenge to the young incumbent (gasp) is good for everyone. DeSantis might even win on a fluke, and really shake things up. The takeaway is that this upcoming election, attention sponsored in part by Luke Ravenstahl, Mayor, will be the telltale indicator of this city's health. If things go as planned, and neither candidate bombs, a score of 35% or higher for DeSantis would mean that this city may actually turn the corner and correct some of its problems. If not, then my thoughts on hope, change, and intelligent decision making will go the way of the 30-40 year old demographic.

August 21, 2007

As if things couldn't get worse on the transportation front...

So it seems nobody picked up on this sunday pg story about the State footing the bill to repair roadways damaged by underground mining:

"Our roads are taking a considerable beating from longwall mining," said Jim Kleissler, executive director of the Center for Coalfield Justice, a grassroots nonprofit group concerned with coal mining. "It's incredible that they can keep doing this at taxpayer's expense."

Each panel of coal undermined beneath the interstate is costing Pennsylvania taxpayers $1 million to $2 million in repairs, due to a 1962 decision by the state Mining Commission not to purchase the mineral rights beneath Interstates 70 and 79 when they were being built.

How did nobody at the time think it might be important to preserve the ground under which our ROADS PASS OVER??!?!

So far, seven coal panels from the Pittsburgh coal seam have undermined I-79 in Greene County, costing taxpayers between $6 million and $12 million in repairs, and it isn't stopping any time soon.

Foundation Coal Company operates the Emerald and Cumberland mines, which are located next to each other, and together are mining 17 panels of coal 400 to 500 feet beneath the interstate. The panels cross underneath the roadway, and nine more are to be mined during the next two years.

The speed limit was reduced and two lanes of traffic were recently closed because the Emerald Mine is removing the eighth panel of coal, which is more than two miles long.

When the first panel was mined in 2004, the roadway cracked and heaved in both the northbound and southbound lanes, and guide rails were bowed and twisted. During the next three years as panels were removed north and south of the first panel at a rate of two a year, more of the same damage continued.

This State, and particularly southwestern PA has a huge looming transportation problem, and not just mass transit - might as well throw underground threats on the pile.

Just wait until ten years after 80 is tolled and see how much $ has to be thrown at repairing the PA Turnpike due to increaseed truck traffic, along with the focus that will be upon retrofitting our bridges.

Not only is the infrastructure crumbling - look at the logistical snafu that literally brought traffic to a stop during the February snowstorm.

Come wind, rain, sleet or hail, nothing can stop PA transit authorities from failing to deliver - or our officials from really understanding the scope of the problem.

August 15, 2007


From yesterday's trib op-ed about open records:

Among requested exemptions: 911 recordings, autopsy reports, salaries of mid- to low-ranking workers at state-related universities and applications for opening casinos. Says committee Chairwoman Rep. Babette Josephs, D-Philadelphia, "We all understand this is a balancing act, and we're looking to find the right fulcrum."

No refutation in this worthless editorial – what is the Trib’s argument for having these matters become public?

But hey, who doesn’t want their loved one’s autopsy report as part of the public record.

I’m all for open records, well mostly – though more discussion is necessary to solve the problem of open salary access (it’s already hard enough for government to attract the best people) and personal privacy (in matters like the one mentioned above).


From today's PG -

"Our bridge engineers use these numbers to manage our system and help us decide on prioritizing bridge needs," PennDOT Secretary Allen D. Biehler said in a statement accompanying the release. "The numbers should not be viewed as a measure of whether a bridge is safe or not. If a bridge is open, it is safe for travel." Mr. Biehler has said all 54 steel deck truss bridges in the state -- 28 owned by PennDOT and 26 others owned by cities or counties -- will be inspected by the end of November.

Brilliant. Just brilliant. Since the I-35W was open, I guess it was safe for travel.

How do these people get cabinet level positions? Does it require a removal of the brain-mouth filter?

August 13, 2007

Goings-on of interest

Just when you thought all the mills around here had closed, the PG finds this...

When Pittsburgh City Councilwoman Twanda Carlisle came under scrutiny last year for authorizing $27,000 for a controversial study written by her mother's boyfriend, she defended the study and its author saying, "He's a Ph.D. He's qualified." Lee Otto Johnson, who submitted the 85-page report on city health issues that consisted of reports written by other agencies and an essay on race and religion, does list a doctorate on his resume from Columbia State University.

But it's a school that never existed except as a company that sold phony degrees to people willing to buy them.

In another case that made headlines, the Pennsylvania attorney general sued the owners of a diploma mill called Trinity Southern University in 2004 after state employees paid $398 to obtain a master's of business administration for a cat named Colby Nolan.

Now everything makes sense. I understand where Tawanda was coming from - I’d be frightened of a cat with an MBA.


I’m just glad there wasn’t any rioting by the poor folks who still didn’t have power last night. Though this person sounded quite upset:

"I can't breathe. It's just horrible, horrible," said Sandi Pickering, who has been without power in her Squirrel Hill home since Thursday. "It's getting dark now and I'm freaking. I'm a nervous wreck."

Has anyone else ever been downtown the Duquesne Light customer service center?

Poor Sandi probably just got back and was emotionally damaged.

The best way to describe it is…jail. There is a big plexi-glass box at the reception desk surrounded by safety glass, accompanied by a security guard. No employees in sight. You sign in, and fill out a form, then hand it to the security guard. An employee emerges from the back, and presses a release to open the box from their side of the security glass. You wait until your name is called. You head back into a narrow room with four windows. You pick up a phone, and stare through more safety glass into the soulless cold eyes of the Duquesne light customer service representative who looks at you as if you are some kind of ferocious Mon River-creature.

Moral of the story, don’t let your roommate pay the electric bill so late that you are forced to go to electric jail to get it turned back on.


A sad day for Shadyside food and beverage connoisseurs .

Anyone who has ever been to Harris Grill (and perhaps, had the Cheeses of Nazareth) will agree the sooner it can be reopened, the better. Nice people, great outdoor seating area and atmosphere. A real shame.


For those involved in the Burgher’s comment area on this post - a timely musing in the PG:

Here's a quick snapshot of men's thoughts on their professional pursuits, according to an upcoming survey in the September issue of Men's Health magazine. A full 60 percent of men said they work 41 to 60 hours per week, while 82 percent said they take work-related calls after hours. At the same time, 24 percent said they spend half of their day or less actually working. Employees feel more entitled to breaks during work hours because they're tethered to the office round the clock, said David Zinczenko, Men's Health editor-in-chief. "Our definition of work has changed," he said. "We're much more likely to be connected to the office 24-7."

I’m wondering if someone from the Mayor’s office wrote that…


From The Comet’s headline…everyone should read this .


Way to go Bram.