Thursday, April 29, 2010

Green Spring

If you think it's been quiet in this neck of the woods, you're right. But it's not because I haven't been blogging. Between Earth Day, Pittsburgh hosting World Environment Day, and general Spring feelings, I've been focusing my efforts on "Green is Good."

Check out the recent posts on Pittsburgh's air quality (bad but getting better if we keep fighting) and the state of rail in Pennsylvania.

Now go plant a tree.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Pennsylvania Governor Candidate Rundown

Since I'm officially registered as a democrat in Pennsylvania, I get the dubious honor of voting in the May 18 Democratic primary for Governor.

The Candidates:

1. Dan Onorato. Our very own chief executive is running for governor. Love him or hate him, he is a controversial fellow. Recently, Chris Potter has reported some highly questionable behavior in Dan's courting of both the pro-life and pro-choice constituents. Dan has accumulated a sizable war chest, so expect to see lots of him on TV in the near future.

2. Joe Hoeffel. Montgomery County Commissioner. Progressive. Joe has really reached out to everyone in the state during this race. I had the opportunity to meet him in Pittsburgh last Fall before I even knew who he was.

3. Jack Wagner. State Auditor General. This is a local boy from Beechview who's gone on to have a long career in state politics including stints as Pittsburgh Council president and State Senator.

4. Anthony "Tony" Williams. A State Senator. This businessman grew up in urban Philadelphia and turned to politics to save his community.

The Issues

In fact, it seems like the candidates agree on most issues. They all want to fight corruption in Harrisburg. During a debate last month, they were cordial and found little to disagree on. Today, in honor of Earth Day, the candidates released a joint statement agreeing on taxing the Marcellus Shale natural gas, renewing Rendell's green programs, and enforcing clean-air regulations.

Honestly, I'd like these candidates to try to differentiate themselves more from each other. At this point, it seems like a popularity contest. According to a recent poll, Dan Onorato has the lead with 20%, but Joe Hoeffel and Jack Wagner are not far behind with 15% and 13% respectively. However, there are still a whopping 47% undecided.

Personally, I'm leaning towards Joe Hoeffel. His outreach campaign has impressed me, and he isn't afraid to speak strongly and clearly about his socially progressive leanings from health care to his pro-choice stance to the environment.

If you're registered as a Democrat, don't forget to vote on May 18.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Pittsburgh Springs Open

It's springtime in Pittsburgh. The flowers are booming, and we're surrounded by news of new developments, plans, and openings.

Here's just a smattering of the new businesses popping up I've noticed in the past month:

The Sharp Edge is opening a new location downtown. This is really a coup for downtown as the Belgian Beer mecca has opened many suburban locations and only has one city location. As this new business will be just down the street from Seviche, Sonoma Grille, and August Henry's Saloon, I'm looking to this section of Penn Ave to become a downtown nightlife haven, just as Fifth Avenue is becoming a retail haven.

The Fairmont hotel has opened with a LOT of fanfare. They are courting the Pittsburgh community with special party after gala-event after special party. China Millman, the Post-Gazette's super-critical food reviewer even seems to have fallen in love with them and their new restaurant, Habitat. For more restaurant opening information, check out Ms Millman's timely blog, "First Bites." I'm looking forward to Kevin Sousa's new venture, Salt Of the Earth.

The biggest opening of the year will inevitably be the Penguin's new home, the Consol Energy Center. The new arena has already attracted concerts such as Lady Gaga, Pink Floyd's Roger Waters, and Rush.

Of course, the city isn't the only one gathering up the openings. Ross Park Mall is booming with recent announcements of an Apple Store, California Pizza Kitchen, and (the most buzz-worthy) Crate and Barrel.

If all this news doesn't make you think the recession is passing and everything is rosy in the Pittsburgh area, I don't know what will.

Of course, not everything is staying. While Mellon Arena's fate may be up in the air, UPMC Braddock is ready to be razed. Robert Morris University announced today that they are contracting their efforts to the suburbs and leaving their landmark downtown building. But I'm guessing some developer out there sees that as another downtown opportunity.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Luck and Parking

Over a year ago, back in the heart of the recession, when the Pittsburgh parking garages were added to the chopping block, I begged the powers-that-be to hold off instead of risking a fire sale in light of the poor economy. However, it turns out I was wrong. The snail's pace of government has brought us full circle to the tail-end of the recession. Combined with the Pittsburgh's international exposure during the G20, we have managed to wrangle up 7 solvent international companies to bid on lease of the garages. Impressive timing or good luck? I don't know. But full steam ahead to see what the bidders have to offer.

As to whether leasing the garages is a good idea? I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt. And with a variety of folks interested, I'd say the odds are pretty good that we can strike a bargain that doesn't immediately screw downtown commuters while giving a much-needed infusion to the pension fund. If Mayor Ravenstahl and Pittsburgh City Council can continue the good cop/bad cop routine for this whole process, we may even come out ahead. How about for a few extra million we let them install those fancy credit-card accepting parking meters like they have in Mt Lebanon? Then no one will have to carry any quarters around unless they're headed to the casino.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Homeless Follow-Up

Less than a week after my blog post on homeless people in Pittsburgh, one of those unfortunate souls met with his death in a South Side "camp." The Post-Gazette points out that the victim, Dennis Farley, a US Navy veteran and father, was not actually homeless, but often spent time at the camp near Giant Eagle. I'm happy to report that the Pittsburgh police thoroughly investigated this homicide and have already arrested the alleged killer. While his life may have slipped through the cracks, at least his death was resolved quickly. However, I'm guessing any new million dollar security cameras will not be recording this section of Pittsburgh.

Friday, April 2, 2010

On Cameras and Crime

Do cameras deter crime? Do cameras help solve crimes?

I breathed a sigh of relief yesterday when I learned that the police had arrested the alleged shooters of the retired fireman who was killed and left on the street with his dog guarding over him. The police credited these arrests with the use of surveillance cameras in the area. Without the cameras guidance, the police may never have discovered the perpetrators of this crime.

It's not too surprising that in light of this news and the recent rash of homicides in the city (including the innocent bystander that got killed by a stray bullet in Homewood last week) that Mayor Ravenstahl is renewing the charge for more cameras on our streets. With federal stimulus money still up for grabs it should be a no-brainer to put in a request for more funding. Of course, given the city administration's track record for incomplete and late stimulus requests, it's lucky for them that Carnegie Mellon has joined forces in the city's request. After last week, when a student was pepper-sprayed and robbed on Ellsworth Avenue, the pricey university has plenty of reason to be step up security.

Some may express concern that more cameras are an invasion of our privacy. I agree, which is why I favor strong regulations on the storage of any footage. But when teenagers are killing people in our streets, strong measures need to be taken. It's up to the judges and our laws to make sure that the information stored on our cameras isn't abused.