Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Shovel Like Your Life Depends on It

Like most people, I let out a sigh of relief when the city publicized a post-snowmageddon reprieve for parking tickets and shoveling fines. There was just too much snow too quickly for most of us to keep up with it.

After two weeks of reprieve, this Monday February 22, meter maids were back out in full force. Of course, it's going to take a lot more time to get fully up-to-speed in areas like Allegheny Center where many meters have fallen over victims of over-ambitious snow plows.

I can't find official word on the shoveling fines being re-instated.

On Sunday, Ernestine Ross was walking in the streets of Homewood because the sidewalks were not cleared. She was hit by a car and is in critical condition. Last week, as I was walking down Arlington Avenue in the street, I turned around every few feet with every intention of jumping into a snowbank if a car came too close. I had a few close calls as it were.

If you're driving, pay special attention to folks that may be in the street.

If you work in the city, please for the sake of people like Ernestine Ross, start fining folks who aren't shoveling their sidewalks (and clear the city sidewalks like most of Arlington Avenue.) I've already submitted my 311 request to clear the sidewalks on Arlington Avenue.

If you haven't yet, shovel your sidewalk like your life (or the life of your neighbor) depends on it. Because it does. 2 weeks is at least too much time for a reprieve, especially in the case of Ernestine Ross.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Profiting on the Troubled

When I read about a Strip club opening up next to a space for recovering addicts, I can't help but think about how "economizing" on space wound up with a mental health, drug and alcohol treatment center, which introduced mentally disabled Jennifer Daugherty to her killers.

Maybe we'll have public outrage spreading beyond 30 neighbors against the impending West Carson Street strip club when a woman is murdered there. Until then, "sex sells" as the protest signs say.

In the meantime, Rivers Casino is looking for dealers. With the introduction of table games at Pennsylvania casinos, the Rivers Casino is planning to hire 300 to 350 new employees.
"Mr. Barnabei [the casino's vice president of human resources] said the casino had seen a lot of interest from dealers at casinos in West Virginia or other areas who are from Pittsburgh and who want to work closer to home or their hometown."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Beer Revolutions

I'm all for relaxing liquor laws and restricting the PLCB, so at first glance State Sen. John Rafferty's proposed new bill to expand beer sales sounds great. But even I have to blink an eye and hold on a minute when I read this:

'A crowd of about 150 people, many from the Sheetz store chain, held signs calling for a "Beer Revolution" in Pennsylvania, with others reading "I Drink and I Vote," "Free My Beer" and "Get Your Hands Off My 6 Pack."'

Sheetz is involved in this proposed beer legislation in a very heavy-handed way. And this multi-state chain is involved because they see a lot of dollar bills in their future, not because they truly believe in the freedom of beer sales.

When Sheetz is the business writing the bill, the beer distributors are going to be hurt. According to the Post-Gazette:
Currently, most beer is sold by state-licensed beer distributors, and only by the case or keg; under the new bill, they also would be able to sell one or two six-packs.

And this "revolutionary" new law doesn't actually fundamentally change our antiquated system of limited beer licenses, it merely changes which business entities can buy which licenses.

Pennsylvania, it's time for a real beer revolution by the people and for the people - not a Sheetz gas station revolution. If Sheetz can be the motivator that's great, but let's have our state legislators actually tackle this issue in a fair and balanced way.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Long Live Blogging

Way back in 2006, a new study finds blogging was more popular. Do I need to remind the study-makers that: "Facebook was then opened on September 26, 2006 to everyone of ages 13 and older with a valid e-mail address."

People used to blog more because it was the medium. In the advanced age of 2010, when people want to write a restaurant review, they go to yelp or urbanspoon. If people want to micro-blog, they go to twitter. If people want to find out what their Mom ate for dinner, they go to facebook.

And as for the crisis that only 14% of teens blog and 10% of adults blog, that still gives us over 200,000 blogs to peruse from the metro-Pittsburgh region alone. I think that's enough. Dare I say the ones that we lost were (in general) worse? To see a sampling of the many blogs that are left, head to pgh bloggers.

As for blogs, these findings beg a question: If their writers are more likely to be older, why aren't their musings characterized by more maturity?

You know what? When I blog, I'm immature. I call names. I don't research all the facts before spouting out an opinion. You know why? I don't get paid to blog. I blog for fun, and I clearly don't have an editor breathing over my shoulder. Chris Potter, over at the City Paper, has some interesting perspective on whether our esteemed newspaper journalists are also immature.

And some day, when Matt H is Mayor of Pittsburgh and Bram Reichbaum of the former Pgh Comet is the lead news anchor on KDKA, I'll be reminiscing of when I used to read their immature blogs.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Two Snow Stories

What do people respond to? News and information.

Given the age of Facebook, Twitter, and Blogging, people expect information to be flowing constantly. As long as you have electricity and an internet connection, you can send out information on all these mediums and more.

Throughout snowmageddon, the Port Authority operated a twitter feed under the name @pghtransit. This user often gave updates people didn't like. The news was for a a few days really shitty with only a small fraction of Port Authority buses running. But @pghtransit continuously responded to folks, gave updates, and referred unknown questions to someone who might know the answers. When the Port Authority website was buckling under the weight of thousands of extra users, @pghtransit replicated service updates to the Port Authority blog. Port Authority gained countless amounts of goodwill through this storm.

On the other hand, the city of Pittsburgh claimed the city was plowing at full capacity and shut the hell up. The one access point users had to the city? 311 (when the line was open) which is by its nature a one-way street. There are no personal follow-ups from 311. The one response format? Press conferences from Luke Ravenstahl who assured us that he was doing better.

Why not have someone in the storm center sending out updates on Twitter? So simple. So cheap. Even Port Authority could do it. People don't need to just hear good news, they need all the news. To be fair, @nataliarudiak and @billpeduto did an admirable job of sharing their knowledge and complaining about the city services on twitter this weekend, but unfortunately, they didn't have enough information to actually be helpful to us folks trapped at home.

If you want Port Authority updates, go to twitter, their blog, or their website. If you want to know when your street will finally be plowed, I have no idea. But if you find out, please let me know.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Yet Another Snow Day

On Monday, I thanked professionals and neighbors alike for their hard work during this storm.

But not everything was hunky-dory in Pittsburgh during this storm.

Businesses are suffering because people can't drive or ride to them. Schools are going to be extending their school year and/or eliminating holidays after 3 days of cancellations. Those who showed up at their office jobs spent hours in the car or on a bus to get there. My neighbors shoveled out 2/3rds of my street realizing that a plow would never appear, and there are countless other stories like this.

Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak of the South Hills (the hardest hit and probably least-plowed area) will be heading up a task force on the handling of this storm.

What will she discover?

That even when this storm showed itself to be the big ugly monster it is, our esteemed officials continued to treat it like an average storm. They did not pull out all the stops until well into Monday, and by then it was too late. Saturday morning, the state of Pennsylvania declared a state of emergency, but the city of Pittsburgh didn't declare an official state of emergency until more than 48 hours later. Pittsburgh's utter lack of strong leadership made itself apparent this weekend. We will survive this storm, but its poor handling is making it all that much harder for our businesses to stay in business, for our students to learn, and for our workers to work.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Snow Thanks

2 Days Later

  • Thank you to all the good Samaritans who helped their neighbors shovel.
  • Thank you to the plow drivers who worked ridiculous shifts to bring the roads to the almost-passable states they're at now.
  • Thank you to the Port Authority bus drivers braving the roads so the rest of us don't have to. Check out @pghtransit for service updates.
  • Thank you to the Duquesne Light electricians who restored my electricity in 24 hours or so.
  • Most importantly, thank you to the many restaurants and bars that managed to open, so I had someplace warm and fun to go while waiting for power to be restored.
  • Lastly, thank you to the Trib and Post-Gazette for finally picking up on the ridiculous water authority stunt I complained about 3 weeks ago.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Mass-transit-acre Volume 2

It's been over 6 months since my last installment of the mass-transit-acre. That's not to say there haven't been accidents in the meantime, but this week's accidents were especially avoidable and/or destructive. Luckily, no one was killed.

Feb 2: Port Authority bus drives into a parked PennDOT salt truck. The driver received severe leg injuries.

Feb 3: This morning a crash involving a Port Authority bus and a car at CCAC in West Mifflin left the driver of the car with serious injuries.

To keep us all a little safer, the US Department of Transportation outlawed truck drivers and bus drivers from texting while driving their vehicles.

Now, if we can only get them to outlaw reading the newspaper...

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Looking Ahead in Pittsburgh

One door closes, another door opens and all that.

UPMC Braddock officially closed on Sunday, but today County Executive Onorato announced plans to demolish the former hospital and build office-space in its stead.

Mayor Ravenstahl vetoed prevailing wage legislation on New Year's Eve, but the new crop of City Council has once again unanimously passed prevailing wage legislation.

I watched Flashdance last night, and can't help but appreciate the work that the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust has done in minimizing the city's strip clubs. 25 Years from now, will I be praising them for ridding the city of casinos? Or cursing the overwhelming amount of art galleries, theaters, and music venues?

Pittsburgh Comet has closed its doors. Who will fill the void? Time will tell.