Thursday, August 26, 2010

Designated Drivers to the Rescue

Anecdotal evidence walking in the South Side on a Friday night says that people in Pittsburgh have a major drunk-driving problem. But what do you do when you're drunk and you're out with your car? A new company aims to take away one pathetic excuse for the drunk drivers. You (or your concerned friend) call 1-877-U-BMYDD. For a reasonable fee, they will drive you and your car home. You can also reserve their driving services ahead of time on their website. But if you are the type of person to get smashed with your car, you're probably not planning ahead, are you?

Now, we just have to convince Pittsburgh drivers that they shouldn't be driving drunk. This week, there is a state-wide push to crack down on drunk drivers.
"Pennsylvania Department of Transportation officials said drunken driving increases as the summer comes to an end. According to records, last year there were more than 450 alcohol related crashes in Pennsylvania on the weekends surrounding Labor Day."
How about they "crack down" every weekend on the South Side? Of course, it's hard to have effective checkpoints when even the cops drive under the influence. But it's promising that BeMyDD is expanding to Pittsburgh after successfully launching in 3 Ohio cities. According to Men's Health, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Columbus are all doing better than us at addressing drinking with ranks of 73, 72, and 83 respectively, but Pittsburgh's ranking of 59th means there are a lot of cities with a lot more work to do. This is one list that I'm glad we're not topping.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Dear American Women

90 years ago today, your foremothers and forefathers were celebrating the passing of the 19th Amendment and your right to vote. The passing was the result of a multi-year effort fraught with ups and downs. Of the 36 required states, Pennsylvania was the 7th state to ratify the amendment. Many states voted against women's suffrage in 1920 including Mississippi who did not jump on board until 1984.

Don't waste your rights and the efforts of your foremothers. And don't forget that with enough effort, you can change the status quo.



Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Who Respects Freedom of Religion?

It's the dog days of summer in Pittsburgh, and elections are starting to heat up in Pennsylvania. Voting day in this mid-term election is Tuesday November 2. Joe Sestak is fighting it out with Pat Toomey to take Arlen Specter's space. Joe made waves earlier this year when he pulled off a Democratic Primary upset against Specter. In the meantime, he's gained some major support from the party with New York City Mayor Bloomberg endorsing Sestak this week in light of his pro-Constitution stance in light of the effort to build a mosque in Lower Manhattan.

"Joe believes there is a Constitutional right to religious freedom and separation of church and state that applies equally to all Americans," Sestak spokesman Jonathon Dworkin said. "But he is not looking to say what is best for New York - as long as that right is respected - he is focused on Pennsylvania."

Meanwhile, Toomey has spoken out against the building of a mosque in Lower Manhattan.

"It is provocative in the extreme to build a mosque in the shadow of ground zero," said Toomey spokeswoman Nachama Soloveichik. "Islamic leaders should be encouraged to move the mosque elsewhere."

A recent poll shows Toomey has pulling ahead in the Senate race with a 9-point advantage. Public Policy Polling finds that in spite of an advantage in registered Democrats, Democrats are less likely to vote in this election. I, for one, will be trying to prove them wrong on November 2. I hope that the Republican party pulls more stunts like trying to limit freedom of religion in the run-up to these mid-term elections because I think they will find that us Democrats do get riled up about more than "change." As soon as we start limiting freedom of religion, we stop being a free democracy and start on the path to a religious state. No thank you.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Wine Kiosks

In the past, I have lambasted the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board's newest project: wine kiosks. However, now that the wine kiosks are rapidly expanding and making their way to 14 Western Pennsylvania Giant Eagles by September, I'm starting to embrace the idea.

How they work? You're allowed to buy wine from a sophisticated vending machine.
A customer must first scan his driver's license by inserting it into a slot on the kiosk, then peer into a camera so that an LCB employee working at an office in Harrisburg can determine that the customer is the same person pictured on the license.
So what's the next step? Why not have independent stores with the same "safeguards"? Why not have Giant Eagle employ sommeliers next to their wine kiosk who can answer questions and determine which wines fill up the kiosk? Why not let Dreadnought Wines in the Strip District have their own kiosk filled with their own chosen wines?

Who's complaining? The Independent State Store Union. Members of this union know their jobs are at risk. It's unfortunate for the folks who work at the state stores. They have a pretty swell gig with a guaranteed pension in a market that has been ever-increasing for as far back as anyone can remember. But change is inevitable and cushy state pensions are on the chopping block. Ultimately, more options for buying wine will mean more jobs. So I say: Bring on the wine kiosks and may more change keep coming.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Ridgemont Rejects New Residents

I'm going to preface this post by saying I know nothing about this City Vista development other than today's news snippet in the Post-Gazette.
"The project initially involved nearly 500 residential units and 26 acres -- 10 of those in the City of Pittsburgh. After complaints from the city's Ridgemont residents, the plans were revamped to include only Green Tree at this time. Developers may revisit plans to expand City Vista into Pittsburgh"
But let me get this straight. A developer wanted to build a cross-city-border development in 10 acres of the city and one neighborhood turned it down. How about we raise taxes on Ridgemont residents since they clearly don't want an influx of property taxes and new resident wage taxes into the city coffers. Maybe they're not being taxed enough?

Let's look at the census assessment of Ridgemont:

Its population as of the 2000 census was 530 people. Down from 590 in 1990 and 884 in 1940. Of its 223 housing units, only 2 units were vacant which is an impressive statistic. Of those units a mere 26 (or 11%) are renters. Sounds to me like Ridgemont is fine with the status quo. They don't want any renters invading their peaceful neighborhood.

I understand that not every development is worthwhile, but when your neighborhood is losing population and your city is struggling, it is the time to welcome new housing stock. Let's hope when the developer comes back and wants to expand again, Ridgemont has the common sense to work with the developer.