Saturday, August 29, 2009

Go Away, Creeps

Dear Creepy Planned Parenthood Saturday Morning Protesters,

Quit it. You creep me out. Don't you have anything better to do with your time?

Seriously, Planned Parenthood may allow abortions, but it also gives all women access to reasonable gynecological care and birth control. It prevents way more abortions than it performs. And if women can't get access to birth control, they will get pregnant. Because people have sex, and no matter how many 10 foot tall signs of dead fetuses you hold up (4 this morning), people are going to have sex. And no matter how many signs of dead fetuses you hold up, people are going to have abortions. It's just a matter of how emotionally scarred they are by the process. The only thing you're going to prevent is normal people (like me) who just want reasonable women's health care, but don't want to walk through your gauntlet.

Instead of supporting the underlying causes of Planned Parenthood and giving women another option, you would prefer that women are prevented from receiving any care. You would rather scar women than treat them.

According to Planned Parenthood's website: "82 percent of our clients receive services to prevent unintended pregnancy." That's 4 out of 5 women that are walking through the doors of Planned Parenthood. They're trying to prevent getting pregnant, and you're trying to shame them and deter them from walking through the door. Let's be honest, you're probably causing more abortions by stopping these women from getting birth control. Because they may not be willing to risk your ire for some pills, but they sure as hell aren't going to turn back when they're in a critical situation, pregnant with a baby they can't bear.

So quit it.

And if you agree with me, donate some money to your local Planned Parenthood. Maybe you could pledge-a-picketer, so that every time someone is standing out there waiting to harass someone who probably just wants birth control, you'll know that they're supporting Planned Parenthood.


Friday, August 28, 2009

Port Authority Plans

Port Authority is finished with another round of their system revamping. Overall, I'm pleased if personally a bit disappointed. Check out the final draft plans as well as my thoughts over at "Green Is Good".

Thursday, August 27, 2009

It's Up To US

From the excellent Post-Gazette columnist Brian O'Neill:

"The switch from President George Bush to President Barack Obama has been universally seen as dramatic, but this much hasn't changed: The American economy is still based on filling our cars with imported gasoline so we can drive to the mall to buy Asian goods so foreigners can loan us back the dollars to finance two wars on the other side of the world while we sink further in debt."

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

2 State Bills You Should Be Paying Attention To

The Pennsylvania State House may not be able to pass a budget, but they can sure screw over the residents of Allegheny County. Yesterday, 2 very important bills passed some of their final tests.

1.) The Property Re-Assessment Bill. The State Supreme Court ordered a re-assessment of Allegheny County. Dan Onorato with the support of lots of other sniveling counties in the state, have pushed the state house and senate to put this court-ordered re-assessment on hold for 18 months. The Senate could have their final vote on this one as early as tomorrow. Then it's in the hands of Rendell.
Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park, said he had serious doubts about the bill, which has already passed the House, but voted for it yesterday "to keep the process moving.'' He said it may be unconstitutional for the Legislature to tell counties to ignore court orders on reassessment.
Yes, we are moving forward by not moving anywhere for the next 18 months. Is that enough time for Mr Onorato to get elected governor and think of a smarmy way out of this sticky mess?

2.) The Pension Bill - which also determines Pittsburgh's parking taxes. Here the state wants to take over the city's pension funding as well as any other city or municipality facing less than 50% funded. Pittsburgh's pensions are funded at an abysmal 28%. In theory, it sounds like a great idea to out-source this responsibility because clearly Pittsburgh has been failing at it in an unprecedented manner. But at the same time, is the State really any more responsible with their money? And why the micro-managing? Why does this bill include over-arching wording about the parking tax? It should be either a pension bill or a parking tax bill. Luckily, after the Senate votes on this one, it will be lobbed back to the House.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Dread Lord Zober Goes To Church

As you all know, awesome Pittsburgh blogger, Pittgirl unveiled herself yesterday, shedding the cloak of anonymity and putting her job at risk to continue the noble effort of blogging with snark. You can find her at That's Church. The backlash she was most afraid of "Lukey" and his puppetmaster, the "Dread Lord Zober."

Zober and Ravenstahl were in a forgiving mood yesterday. "In the interest of moving Pittsburgh forward, Dread Lord Zober and I have decided to let bygones be bygones and let this one slide. And that's church," Ravenstahl said in a statement.

Of course, it would have been interesting to see the public backlash if she had received the ire of the current mayor. Would the city's love of Pittgirl (i.e. Your Majesty) override their contentment with the status-quo-democratic-mayor? Clearly, Mayor Ravenstahl didn't want to find out. Or maybe he just has a sense of humor. If so, thanks to Ginny for unveiling that.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Fitting Tribute

In his will, George Sodini bequeathed $225,000 to University of Pittsburgh. They said "no" to the money.

It's unfortunate because this would have been a great opportunity for the University of Pittsburgh to counteract the negativity wrecked on this region by this pathetic shell of a man. How about using the money to help fund women's programs at the university? Perhaps self-defense classes? Rape counseling? Hiring a new professor of Women's studies? More funding for women's athletics? Of course, I am not recommending that anything be named in his honor. But maybe he would roll over in his grave knowing that his money will be benefiting generations of young women that he attempted to undermine.

However, I do respect the University of Pittsburgh for this stance. It is not easy to turn down hundreds of thousands of dollars. And if the money can end up in the hands of the victim's families, that will also be a worthwhile place for it.

Think Small

Why did Pittsburgh win the iPhone App "space race" when Boston announced their app over a month ago? Is it because we have a younger mayor? No. It's because we're small. Less bureaucracy means more flexibility.

Instead of being born in an official policy brainstorming session, the city iPhone App was one of Councilman Peduto's many ideas. When Councilman Peduto saw a need for a city iPhone App, he did not go through the proper channels. He did not contract a company. He just started a conversation with a local start-up company who saw some opportunity for synergy. YinzCam wrote a simple, easy-to-use app, and now you can download it. End of story. David always beats Goliath.

Another example of smart small local companies is Deep Local. This start-up is working with Port Authority to create and test Route Shout, which allows you to make use of phone-texting to find out when the next bus is coming.

Obviously, we're not going to be able to build a new light-rail line using these methods. But little quality of life improvements can add up to make a big difference in our city. Any other examples I've missed? Can Pittsburgh become the city where new, innovative ideas are given a chance without needing to jump through hoops and fill out paperwork in triplicate? Can we be the city that attracts entrepreneurs that are sick of the status quo. "Every journey begins with a single step." And we've taken the first small step.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Carnegie's Legacy

After Andrew Carnegie funded his first United States library in Braddock, he went on to fund 1,689 other libraries across the nation. While he may have favored the Pittsburgh region, Carnegie's generosity covered the globe from here to Fiji.

In addition to 19 libraries, Carnegie also built spectacular museums in Pittsburgh. However, he did not invest the money to sustain these great cultural institutions forever. He wanted the city to fund their day-to-day responsibilities. Today, RAD (that pesky extra 1% sales tax in Allegheny County) funds 70% of Carnegie library operations. The rest is funded by state and federal government alongside generous modern-day donors.

Maybe Carnegie's greatest legacy to Pittsburgh is not the buildings he left behind, but the responsibility to continue paying for those buildings and maintaining them. There are few Natural History museums, library systems, or arts institutions that can rival ours. In spite of population loss and economic downturn, our citizens have continued to pay for these places through sales tax and donations. None of us would dare let Mr Carnegie down.

Once again, the Carnegie libraries are facing financial issues. Do they close libraries, cancel or limit services, or find new ways of making money? Time will tell, but I'm pretty sure our community will manage to step up and lend a hand to those who depend on the library:
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh will inspire in the citizens of our region respect and responsibility for life-long learning, citizenship, and civic participation.
Let's all do our part to help them follow through on their vision.

Yesterday, on a blazingly hot day in Pittsburgh, I visited the air-conditioned Carnegie Museum of Art. I ooh-ed and aah-ed at the artwork of Van Gogh, Teenie Harris, and Kara Walker. Thanks to Carnegie for starting this vision and thanks to Pittsburgh for continuing to follow through.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Dear Kevin Acklin,

Please publicly renounce your campaign supporters who are disputing Harris's petition signers. I am one of those signers (a valid one as far as I know). I signed his petition because I want more choices, more voices, and more ideas in this election. When I was asked to sign the petition, I confirmed that I was a voter in the city of Pittsburgh.

In entering this Fall's mayoral election, you are fighting an uphill battle. Your supporters would be much better serving your campaign in phone banks and knocking door-to-door. Instead they spent a pathetic number of hours scrutinizing the competition by analyzing the 3,270 people who are happy to see another name on the ballot.


Monday, August 10, 2009

The Bike Lobby in Motion

Over the weekend, the Rivers Casino re-opened the North Shore trail section their year-long construction was blockading. They also erected signs which said that bikers were not allowed to ride their bike on the trail past the casino, and instead had to dismount and walk their bikes, a rule that was actively being enforced on the trail. This immediately caused an uproar amongst the biking community. But a funny thing happened. Mayor Ravenstahl and County Executive Onorato both jumped on board the bikers side. As of this afternoon, the crisis is over. The signs will be changed to say: "Proceed with Caution."

The casino spokesman whined: You didn't have to go to the media. You should have just called us.

The city of bikers rolled their eyes collectively: You didn't have to put up the signs.

As a side note, some fresh bike lanes were painted in the Strip District this weekend.
Are things changing in this city? And do we need to be wary of the power of bikers? And most importantly, is there anyway this new faction can be motivated to bring about change in the city beyond their two wheels?

Friday, August 7, 2009

What Does Social Media Mean to Me?

As everyone who reads this blog knows, I'm a relative Pittsburgh newbie. As of last Fall, I had already been blogging for almost a year in relative seclusion - going for months at a time without a comment. Then I read in the City Paper about Podcamp Pittsburgh - a free event showcasing social media from Twitter to blogs to any other way you can get your voice out there over the web. In 2 short days, I met lots of people, learned some tricks of the blogging trade, and became an avid Twitter user. Today, most people I know in Pittsburgh are from relationships that started that fateful weekend.

So to me, you could say Social Media means friends. It has also resulted in more visibility and feedback on my blog, and more reason for me to keep blogging and bugging you all. Last year, while I was at PodCamp, one of the well-to-do venture capitalists said (paraphrasing) "You need to blog about something interesting. You can't just be another city politics blog and expect to be successful." I think he has a thing or two to learn about success. Social media redefines success. Here success is counted in re-tweets, blog comments, and personal interaction. Or at least that's what I make of it.

This October is PodCamp 4, or my second PodCamp. I hope to see lots of familiar and new faces there. I hope to find more inspiration to keep blogging. I hope to finally try a 649. Have you registered yet?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Yinzer Dogs at Large

I was about 8 when the leash laws came to Haverhill, Massachusetts. We could no longer let our Beagle mutt roam the streets at will. Instead, she had to stay fenced in our backyard. After decades of leash laws, dog owners are now starting to demand some leeway. Back in Haverhill, they are trying (and failing) to establish dog parks.

In Pittsburgh, we are lucky to have some dog parks already in place in Frick Park, Hartwood Acres, North Park, and South Park amongst others. But dog-owners want some place where they can go after work, some place that's convenient. And folks in the city don't tend to have spacious fenced in backyards. In the South Side, dog-owners recently took over Armstrong Park at 12th Street, which generated a great hullabaloo amongst area residents and was cracked down upon with fines and signs galore. This generated such a ruckus that Councilor Bruce Kraus has now admirably involved himself in the issue, and plans have been drawn up to create an official dog park in the South Side. Save the hospital, build dog parks, crack down on al fresco dining, what can't this man do in the South Side?

The catch? This convenient, well-landscaped, multi-zone dog park is going to cost the city $200,000 which it doesn't have. On the other hand, some community activists over in Lawrenceville are building their own dog park with minimal landscaping and minimal cost. Which do you think will be built first? And where will the next renegade dog park pop up in the city?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Look Twice

Look twice, save a life.

That's the motorcycle awareness motto, but it's my new motto for bicyclists. Pittsburgh has a ton of bicyclists around especially in the college student neighborhood of Oakland. Yesterday the driver of a white Ford pickup truck didn't look twice. Today Mr. Ruihui Lin is dead.

Look twice, save a life. Try it.

And as a city, let's get serious about bike safety. Some bike lanes in East Liberty are fine and dandy, but let's put some on Forbes Ave or Fifth Ave. Those are seriously treacherous routes that are crucial for the college student biking community.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

3 Ways for PWSA to Make Money

Pgh Comet and nullspace have already sunk their teeth into the Iron City / PWSA debacle enough, so why am I writing about it? Because I pay my exorbitant water bill and I'm pissed that yet again, the PWSA is considering raising rates.

I have some cost-cutting recommendations for the Water Authority.

1) Actually charge for water use. (We're looking at you, Pittsburgh Zoo. How are those new sharks getting along?)

2) Once you charge for water use, actually demand payment. (We're looking at you, Iron City.)

3) Make your bills quarterly. You will save postage, paper, accounting, check-cashing time, etc. This is standard practice in other cities. Plus, people feel better about being ripped off when it's only 4 times per year.

As a side note, I commend your cheap-as-chips, minimalist website. Who needs fancy graphics and design? Just a waste of taxpayer money.