Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Everyone drinks beer in January

Who's surprised that the drink tax is on schedule to bring in more money than expected? Not me.

The drink tax has brought in $7.5 Million in the first 3 months of operation. Right on target to pay for the $30 Million it was earmarked to generate. Of course, that's ignoring profits from the car rental tax. That's also ignoring that over 50% of the liquor license holders haven't yet paid for March..

According to Onorato's spokesman, "We don't believe that you can extrapolate the entire year's collection when we are just in the third month." I completely agree. Clearly, the profits from the drink tax will only skyrocket in the coming months. I've rarely seen the South Side bars more crowded than a day last week when the weather was beautiful. People love to go out to the bar in the spring/summer/fall when they can sit outside and enjoy a nice cold beer. Don't even get me started on how Steelers season brings people out to the bar...

So what's going to happen with all this extra money? And what happens to the drink tax next year?

(reference: )

Monday, April 28, 2008

Oh, Barden...

So, there was enough public annoyance and talking about that Barden succumbed to not being a total a**hole. The money he promised to the Hill District will (in a roundabout way) eventually end up in the Hill District.

Thanks to the Post-Gazette and the Tribune-Review for reporting extensively on this subject and raising awareness of Barden's back-handed movements.

Of course, the bigger issue is why Barden (the dimwit) added money to the Hill District in his casino bid that was related to being awarded the arena area? Perhaps, in future bids, he'll stick to relevant items.


Sunday, April 27, 2008

Wine kiosks!

While I internally rebel against the concept of the PLCB (Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board) and all the red-tape and over-pricing and over-taxing associated with it, I am happy to find out about their upcoming plan for wine kiosks to be located in grocery stores or malls.

Of course, one has to wonder at a time when many states have banned cigarette machines on the basis of enforcing underage restrictions, that our state would create liquor machines. Thankfully, the legal problem is out of my hands and I only have the potential that wine will be easier to acquire in PA.


Friday, April 25, 2008

Dear Port Authority,

I want to take your bus, but it just doesn't make sense for me financially. I do not commute to the city every day, but I live in the city and I want to use the bus to go to events.

For me and my husband to take your bus to and from one of the events you have a full-page advertisement for in the City Paper, it will cost us over $10. Even including wear and tear on my car, and the ever-increasing price of gas, my estimate is at less than $5 for the ride to Lawrenceville or downtown, not to mention that it's definitely more convenient to drive.

How about instead of wasting so much money on advertising, you give me an incentive to take the bus? How about Friday night date nights with a 2 for 1 special on the bus? How about an off-peak discount? How about a discount for taking the bus to one of your advertised events? How about bus rides cost $1 on a Saturday night when the bars close to discourage drunk driving? I've noticed that's not the most popular time to ride the bus.

Right now, it's just stupid for me to pay more to be inconvenienced by public transportation, and if that's the case, it makes me feel stupid for helping fund your advertisements. I'm willing to go slightly out of my way to benefit the environment, but to pay more than double isn't justifiable. I wish that would change.


Monday, April 21, 2008

Here We Go

My reaction to assumptions about what Pittsburgh is and isn't:

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Who's Bitter Now?

"Barden wants to drop funding for Hill," according to the latest Post-Gazette. Unfortunately, reading the article which Mark Belko scribed for us gives me no idea if this is justifiable or not.

I'm just confused. In 2006, Barden won the bid to build his casino here in Pittsburgh based partially on his commitment to spend $3 million over 3 years on the Hill District. This week, he's requesting to re-neg on that commitment. Of course, the casino is not in the Hill District. That is where the new Penguins arena is going to be. Of course, Barden, the developer of the casino, wanted to have his fingers in the arena pie, too, so in a completely unrelated twist he offered money to the Hill District in order to cement this desire?? Of course, the gaming council has full rights over whether to decline or accept this request? What reason would they have to accept his request? Who could deny funding to one of the most downtrodden areas of Pittsburgh and probably the state of Pennsylvania?? A disturbing hatred of the district? A substantial gift under the table from Mr Barden?


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Benefits of Living in a Swing State

"[Bill] Clinton's speaking tour in 2005 included 43 speeches in 14 countries. He began in February and averaged about four speeches a month, usually charging about $150,000 per event. On occasion, the price was much steeper."

And area residents can go see him talk for free in Clarion, Kittanning, and Cranberry Township this week. Sweet.

(references: , )

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

GOP wants to cut Pa. income tax rate

The federal government is "spurring" the economy by sending me a check this Spring, why does the state of PA need to do this as well? I strongly disagree with the premise that sending people checks in the mail is good for the economy in anything but a super short-term pathetic injection. How about PA takes its extra 500 million dollars and helps out those people that are getting foreclosed on or increases education about getting a home loan in the first place? How about directly helping out small businesses that are going to be struggling under the impending recession? How about saving the extra money for a rainy day? Please, do not give me and all my brethren an extra $100 that we can go out and spend at Walmart and thereby fix the economy. I am a firm believer in the tried and true method of saving behind the scenes. My paycheck is never cashed at the bank. It's deposited and anything over my budget is immediately portioned off to savings accounts and investment accounts. My rainy day funds have saved me many times - like for when my water bill started jumping in Pittsburgh this year or my insane heating bills this winter or when my car needed all new tires.

Lastly, thanks to the good old GOP for offering to cut my income taxes at the expense of welfare. "GOP lawmakers also said there is wasted spending in welfare payments for low-income people's Medicaid costs and for cash payments made under the Temporary Aid to Needy Families program." How is money to Medicaid wasted money??? How about we actually fund adultBasic, a great sounding program to give affordable health care to adults in PA not making much money which has an average waiting list time of more than a year!

Please, PA don't throw away our money. Bad times are coming in the country, and in this state in particular. Nothing makes that more clearer than looking at these charts.


Monday, April 7, 2008

Silent Lies from the Suckup Committee

I just finished reading the city-county merger recommendation. I was hoping for a real examination of the situation with number crunching, pie charts, and a semblance of a worthwhile use of my time. Unfortunately, it's a fluffy piece pandering to the current and previous administrations that appears to make its recommendation based on previous invalid recommendations.

I can't help but be reminded of a recent quote of Mark Twain's that I read regarding American reviews. "We are too good-natured a race; we hate to say the unpleasant thing; we shrink from speaking the unkind truth about a poor fellow whose bread depends upon our verdict; so we speak of his good points only, thus not scrupling to tell a lie - a silent lie - for in not mentioning his bad ones we as good as say he hasn't any. The only difference that I know of between a silent lie and a spoken one is, that the silent lie is a less respectable one than the other." The committee report is full of useless silent lies, obscuring the picture of our city and county government and using up space where they appear to have no other valid items to say.

Silent lies?
"Committee members shared a genuine sense of gratitude to the Mayor and County Chief Executive for inviting them to participate in this important undertaking."

"The reporting of that record, then, should not be viewed as a criticism of the current Mayor and County Chief Executive."

"The current County Chief Executive and Mayor deserve great credit for pushing these processes forward."

"These deficits grew over the course of many years and were not produced by the practices of the current City administration."

"... we do genuinely respect the elected leaders who brought us together and gave us our charge."

We get it! You appreciate the current administration that clearly hand-picked you. This 15-page report really doesn't need to mention it more than 5 times!

And just to make sure that they weren't neglecting to pander to previous administrations, they had to also mention the late Mayor: "Allegheny County Chief Executive Onorato and the late City of Pittsburgh Mayor Bob O’Connor generally are credited with forging this long-overdue agreement. Nothing should detract from their ultimately successful commitment to that effort."

Instead of convincing me with logic and facts, I see a report that is preaching to the already believing choir. Being a new citizen of Pittsburgh, I have no idea what the right path forward is, and this report only makes me more confused.

I read that in 1929 the people of Pittsburgh voted by a majority to consolidate the government but that it didn't happen at that time because of a "technicality". However, I feel that the city of Pittsburgh has almost nothing in common currently with the city of 1929, and so I have to completely disregard all references to that historical note even though the committee felt the need to drone on about it for a few paragraphs.

I read that a committee met in 1996 and performed a study. They recommended that there be consolidation of services. However, I do not read any of the reasoning, merely the results. I have a sneaking suspicion that this previous study also did not rely on facts and logic.

In 2008, '... a RAND study commissioned by the Advisory Committee generally concluded that “the case for or against consolidation will have to be made on grounds other than incontrovertible scientific evidence."' It appears the grounds they chose were silent lies.

Hopefully, there will be more debate coming from this issue in future weeks and months. For now, I'm concerned about the merger as a city dweller. I'm concerned that it means I will have less of a say in my city government. I'm concerned that the needs of the city will be overrun by the needs of the suburbs. I'm concerned that Dan Onorato will have even more power and will disregard the will of the people even more. In theory, the concept of merging duplicative services sounds like a great idea. I hope someone does some research about it and presents that research to the people of Metro Pittsburgh.

(For reference, the report can be found here: