Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

City told to fix police station it is vacating. Perhaps they should leave it as it is and open it up for an annual Halloween party. What's better to scare kids with than cockroaches and mold? They might also consider doing some work on the place they're moving into up in Allentown.

In other construction news, after a long delay, the Hofbrauhaus Pittsburgh is well on its way. Perhaps they will actually meet their latest grand opening date of January 20, 2009. Something tells me that if the drink tax stays at 10% instead of dropping to at most 7%, there will be some more delays. Luckily, they're at least brewing most of the beer on the premises and can side-step the notorious Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board.

Houses appear to be getting worked on or demolished thanks to the neighborhood sweep program. That translates to one less eyesore on my street. If only progress didn't pair with corruption...

And straight from the horse's mouth, the Ravenstahl's have welcomed their baby Cooper.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Here We Go, Obama

According to the New York Times and Congressman John Murtha, Western Pennsylvanians are racists. There seems to be a lot of debate and head-scratching as to how Obama can win the election in this state (and so many others) while people judge him by the color of his skin. I have one word for the pundits: Steelers. The entirety of Western Pennsylvania in addition to being racist and rusty and old is also Steeler Country. It's not full of white-Russian-rooting Penguins fans. It's not even full of good-old-American-pasttime rooting Pirates fans. It's full of fans of Hines Ward, Troy Polamalu and Mike Tomlin. Of course, western Pennsylvanians can look past race and vote for Obama. He's the best candidate and they know it. Just like the Steelers.

Unfortunately, there are lots of smart racists, idiotic ACORNs, and even some Pirates fans out there. You make a fool out of yourself when you stereotype anyone - as McCain recently found out with Joe the Plumber. Hopefully, when Pennsylvania contributes to the election of Obama, we can all go back to rooting for the Steelers like one happy family.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Love in Cambria

"All I ever wanted to do was love Joann Long, she my soul mate, and now I blew it all, I love her so much I think I lose my mind. All I wanted to do was love Joann and have a normal life that will never be, I love Joann." - written by 51 year-old Mr. Philips, who stole $15,000 from his 85 year-old mother before strangling her and ditching her in some gamelands.

Someone never learned to share in kindergarten.

This reminds me of the bathroom graffiti I read this weekend:
"When there is world peace, we will be so happy."

In good news, there was a generous bump for the Pittsburgh Promise this week. Of course, it wouldn't have helped Mr Philips way out in Cambria County. Let this be a reminder you don't have to live in Pittsburgh to be faced with violence, drugs, prison sentences, and bad grammar. Old white guys in the hills do it too.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


Comcast really does care. They care for the cost of gas and the cost of health insurance. That's why they're raising cable rates in the Pittsburgh area this December just in time for the holidays. That's an extra 4% or so on top of the 4.5% they raised rates in February.

Recently I was made aware (via the Pittsburgh City Paper) that the city of Pittsburgh actually makes 5% of the Comcast yearly revenue in return for allowing them to sell us their cable here. Some city councilors are concerned that if Verizon comes to town (even if they also take that 5% off the top), the city will end up losing money because competition will cause the rates to drop. Boo-hoo, Pittsburgh. Stop letting us get fleeced by this "caring" monopoly. Give us at least one other choice for high speed internet in this city! Ever think that more people might be inclined to hop on the internet if it didn't cost $57.95 per month for this luxury?

Thanks to Twitter, I got this news directly as it was published by WPXI. Maybe that is a dangerous thing?

Monday, October 20, 2008

Too Close For Comfort

Last night at the sketchy bar up the street in Allentown, one man was shot and killed. One man was shot and wounded. Another man dislocated his shoulder from jumping over the bar in the middle of this madness. Thanks to these villains, both UPMC South Side and UPMC Mercy got some extra business last night.

Here's my official plea to UPMC, don't close the UPMC South Side hospital UNTIL the homicide rates drop in this city. We need you more than ever with the homicide rate on schedule to be the highest in a decade. There have been 55 so far this year.

From the homicide rate article, "Of the victims, 50 were black and 47 died in gun violence. The average age was just over 28."

I'm in the right age group, but fortunately, I have minimal exposure to guns in this city. I also prefer the bars on Carson St and I'm white as snow, so I think I'm still pretty safe.

As I've mentioned before, there is a police station scheduled to open in January, on the same block as last night's shootings. I have a suspicion the violence will be less prevalent in that location after the cops move in.

Of course, one sketchy bar shutting down won't solve our problems. Hopefully, the Pittsburgh Initiative to Reduce Crime (PIRC) will make a big dent though. If it does, it'll be the best $200,000 this city ever spent.


Saturday, October 18, 2008


Ranting on hold while I enjoy podcamp.

Keep an eye out for more interesting and engaging posts going forward. I hear people like pictures.

Happy to see at least one Pittsburgh politician is technologically savvy.

Friday, October 17, 2008

That One

What part of "Dedicated Transit Funding" don't they get?

I couldn't have put it better myself, but that doesn't mean I won't try.

Special quote from the above Allegheny Institute post:
"The section of Act 44 creating the ability to levy the [drink and car rental] taxes is called “Taxation for Public Transportation”"

In August, the sleazy Mr Onorato said this:
"Every transit agency in the United States has a local dedicated tax except us. We're the only ones who use local property taxes and that's why our taxes are high. Almost all use a local sales which I wanted to use but Harrisburg didn't give me that option." (reference)

So the tax act is intended for funding public transportation. Dan, the Taxman, has said that the tax was for the "transit agency". And yet, now, he's nit-picking the legal jargon to say that he can use the money for whatever road project he wants - after setting aside the $27 million for Port Authority and NOT GIVING IT TO THEM.

I want to have my cake and eat it, too.

I'm so glad this cake-eating monster is in power in the County and withholding money from mass transit without actually getting involved in union negotiations and now will waste OUR tax money on fighting a law suit against spending OUR tax money on MASS transit.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Good Night, States

Good Night, States - as good a reason as any to be proud of Pittsburgh.

This post courtesy of Third Thursdays at WYEP.

What a Surprise?

With prices of asphalt and dirt skyrocketing, it's really no surprise that the North Shore Connector mega-project is coming in over budget. With $700 BILLION federal bailout plans and $18 BILLION in earmarks making the news daily, we've become de-sensitized to a paltry sum like $15 million. Of course, even if the budget for the connector comes in at 10% higher than planned or $43.5 million, we have a long ways to go to "keep up with the Jones'" over in Boston. Their Big Dig came in almost $10 BILLION over budget or 250%.

Now, where is the media pressure for the transit union talks? This North Shore Connector won't be going anywhere in 2011 or any time if there's no one to drive the train.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Go Highmark!

In one fell swoop, Highmark has raised the green roof square footage in the city of Pittsburgh from 31,484 to about 53,484 (about 70%). I'm getting my numbers from the green roofs website. They list 5 sites with green roofs in Pittsburgh, including 2 at CMU and the measly 64 sq ft Children's Museum token of a roof.

Clearly, we as a corporate city have more work to do. If Ford can have the largest green roof in the country, and UPMC is building an LEED-certified hospital, where's their green roof? How about PNC with its flagship LEED-certified branches and office towers?

Highmark plans to lower their energy costs by 12% with this roof. Doesn't that sound like a good plan in the face of unstable energy prices and an unhealthy dependence of foreign energy? Somehow, no one seems to mention green roofs in their stump speeches though.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Gas Prices Dropping?

Both Equitable and Dominion have announced natural gas price drops. I personally am in Equitable territory, and I couldn't help but notice that Dominion's new price is significantly lower than Equitable's new price.

What do I think to myself?

Sweet, we live in the age of "Energy Choice". I can't pick my distributor, but I can pick my supplier. I'm going to save 20% on my gas this winter by choosing Dominion as my supplier instead of Equitable.

The reality?

I call up Dominion, and they inform that their pricing for Equitable customers is completely different than for customers they supply gas for. In fact, instead of the $9.63/MCF commodity charge, I would be charged $14/MCF - about the same as I am charged with Equitable. The $14 may or may not include the extra $1.61/MCF gas cost adjustment. I didn't get a clear answer on that one. If it doesn't, it's higher than I'm paying with Equitable.

I sure wish someone would explain to me how this travesty came to occur. If the utility companies are forced to "not make a profit" and need to adjust their prices quarterly to do so, how come Equitable is so much more expensive than Dominion? And how come Dominion can charge me more than they charge the customers they supply? These are the questions I'll be asking myself when my already high gas bill is 22% higher this winter than last winter and also coincidentally 22% higher than it would be if Dominion was my supplier. That's a few hundred dollars that I would have preferred to use for something else.

The latest news for Equitable? They're moving to downtown Pittsburgh. How did they get the money for it? Are they using the 22% profit they're making on me and thousands of other Pittsburgh residents? No, they're getting state and local subsidies for the move. Oh, well. Maybe some day I'll understand how this trickle-down economy works, but this winter, I'll be lowering the thermostat and putting on a sweater.


Friday, October 3, 2008

Let's Keep This Promise

Lately, it's been hard to wade through the overwhelming national news to grasp at the important local news. Today, this gem appeared hiding beneath all the fancy pictures and big text:

"From Pittsburgh Public Schools, CCAC received 258 graduates, compared with 199 the previous year when the Pittsburgh Promise wasn't available."

Simply put, Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC) has higher enrollment this year and a good percentage of that is from Pittsburgh Promise kids. Sounds promising. What's an extra bonus here is that the Pittsburgh Promise could easily cover the entire $1500/ semester tuition at CCAC and not put those kids at risk of losing a chance at education because of the current credit crunch.

Some information that would have rounded out the story would be general numbers from Pittsburgh schools. Did the overall number of students enrolling at colleges increase this year? Or did just more students choose CCAC instead of other options? I think it's to be expected that every year, high schools send more students to college. I'm sure there are many factors that have led to increased attendance at CCAC like its appeal of affordability in precarious economic times and its city wide bus advertisements. Also, time will tell if these new students succeed at their new school or fall behind and drop out. However, I do not look at increases like 30% lightly. That's a pretty impressive number for the first year of the Pittsburgh Promise and if even a small percentage of the increase is directly attributed to the Promise, it's a great accomplishment.