PittsburghJack's Place: October 2004

PittsburghJack's Place

an outlet for political animals to share news, views and expose truths.

Merging City-County Governments

Monday, October 25, 2004
This piece on merging City & County Governments comes via Pittsburgh blog, Bizz Bang Buzz.

Election Related Stuff

Wednesday, October 20, 2004
Thanks to Fester's Place for pointing out the upcoming National Celibacy Day. And, via Exit Stage Left, take a look at the Bush Twins' Awesome Blog here.

The Voting Dead

Sunday, October 17, 2004
On tonight's newscast, WTAE-TV investigative reporter Paul Van Osdol ran a piece about deceased residents of Allegheny County voting after their death. The investigation found that half of those voters on the rolls over the age of 90 are dead and that several of them have cast ballots posthumously. The practice of the dead voting is not new, but it is about time that attention is paid to this and other voting irregularities.

Since the voting is done at the precinct level, it is not an easy task to impose controls to prevent the practice. The blame cannot be placed upon the county election bureau, but I suppose a system can be developed and put into practice that cross-referenced the voter rolls with a list of the deceased. That would, however, be a daunting task in a county with 900,000 registered voters.

Tomorrow, Jim Parsons takes a look at people who are on record as having voted twice in the same election.

There have been elections in the past few years in Allegheny County that have been extremely close -- Bob Cranmer over Coleen Vuono in 1995 and Bob O'Connor's loss to Tom Murphy in 2001 are two that immediately come to mind. Unfortunately, to challenge an election is very costly to a campaign. I do believe that in many elections over the years, however, it would have been money well spent as the outcome of some could have been overturned if the dead and other fraudulent votes cast were not counted.

The future of Pittsburgh - Allegheny County?

Wednesday, October 13, 2004
The MetroVisions Special Report of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is an interesting series of articles on municipal government fragmentation, mergers and tax and services sharing. Considering the duplication of services which exists in Allegheny County, with 130 municipalities, and the financial crisis much of the region is experiencing, the future of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County must be mapped out if our region is to get back on the track to prosperity.

Where there's smoke, there's not always fire

Monday, October 11, 2004
I urge my fellow citizens to see through the smokescreen being erected by the city's firefighter union with regards to the referendum which is to appear on the general election ballot next month. Despite the wording, the referendum is not really about the issue of increasing/maintaining a standard recommended response time to emergency calls. Simply put, it's an attempt by the union to block the progress of the Act 47 recovery team in getting the City of Pittsburgh back on the track to financial good health. Union President Joe King is on record as saying that he'd prefer to "let the city go broke" rather than bring his department in line with where it should be according to the experts and compared to other comparable cities. He and the firefighters just cannot accept the numerous independent studies that question King's assertion that cuts in the department would jeopardize public safety. The fact remains that while the city's population has declined over the past ten years, the Fire Bureau budget has nearly doubled to $60 million -- even while firefighters only respond to about 60 fires a year. As a matter of fact, compared to cities of the same size, our fire bureau is overstaffed and over-stationed. And as a group, the firefighters are the highest paid city workers, eclipsing even the salary of Mayor Tom Murphy, with several earning in excess of $100,000 per year. There was a scandal surrounding the contract concessions that the firefighter union received before the heated mayoral primary election in 2001. Murphy agreed to extend the sweet contract terms, which included a no-layoff clause for the firefighters, and which was ratified just eight days before the primary election. That action cost the city dearly, both financially and in depriving Bob O'Connor the opportunity to lead. As a condition of ratification, the union reportedly had to publicly endorse Murphy, which it did. The 850-strong union backed the mayor, who narrowly defeated O'Connor by 699 votes. That action played a major role in defining the city's current financial crisis. We cannot allow the pursestrings of this city to be controlled by any self-serving group. The future of our city is more important than any labor union or city department. The firefighters of this city do their job extremely well -- nobody is denying that, but that is not what the referendum is about. And the labor unions are an important part of the fabric of the steel city, but the purpose of the referendum is not to affirm one's pro-labor stance. We cannot lose sight that the future of the City of Pittsburgh potentially hangs in the balance of this crucial vote. It's that important.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Confessions of a Shopaholic: Going broke was never this much fun ...

It is outrageous that City Councilmember Twanda Carlisle, knowing the financial crisis that our city is in yet refusing to do anything to help the matter, chose to spend $2400.00 on books. Among the more than 120 books that she charged to the city tab were cookbooks, romance novels and, for $27.99, Bill Clinton's autobiography "My Life." According to the P-G article, Carlisle indicates that these purchases are part of her promotion of reading among her constituents and support of African-American authors. As I understand the role, that is not part of her official duties and certainly shouldn't be something that the taxpayers of the financially-strapped City of Pittsburgh should be footing the bill for. If Carlisle wants to buy books, that's all well and good. But, she should pay for them as you and I do. And perhaps, she should also do a little shopping around -- I bought my copy of Clinton's "My Life" for $17 at Sam's Club. I think it's a little ironic that among the titles that Carlisle charged the city for were "Confessions of a Shopaholic" by Sophie Kinsella and Leslie Esdaile's "Sistahood of Shopaholics."

As if this weren't enough, according to WPXI-TV investigative report, Carlisle also requested that the city pay over $20,000.00 over a four month period to a man who lives with her mother. Carlisle said the payment was for a health care study. Again, perhaps someone should clarify for Carlisle what her role on council is -- the city does not oversee health care policy. Making matters worse, as reported in the P-G, when asked last week about the payment, the man hung up on a reporter. And this past summer, he stated in an interview with WPXI-TV that the payment was for "writing talks and speeches" for Carlisle, not for a health care study. Like all council members, Carlisle received $99,445.00 for council staff expenses. Could her paid staff not write her 'talks and speeches?' Is the man who lives with her mother an expert on health care policy? Why could neither Carlisle nor the man who received the payments be upfront when asked what the payments were for? And finally, why is Carlisle wasting her time on issues like health care in which the city has no jurisdiction?

Frankly, as a taxpayer and homeowner in the City of Pittsburgh, with a stake in it's future, I am insulted that a council member would make such a mockery of and have such little disrespect for the taxpayers and the system. If our elected public servants on city council do not spend our funds more wisely, especially when doing so with such blatant disregard for their bosses -- the taxpayers, perhaps it's time for the city to place some restraints and greater controls on how the funds are being spent. Or perhaps it's time to replace the irresponsible council members with ones who will have the best interests of their constituents and the City of Pittsburgh. The voters in District 9 should keep this in mind the next time they go to the polls to elect their representative to city council.

Good to be in D.C.

The guys at JibJab are at it again with another hilarious election animation for both liberal wieners and right wing nut jobs. Click on the GOOD TO BE IN D.C. link. And if you haven't seen THIS LAND yet, you'll find it there also.

Living Political History

I received the following email over the weekend, which was probably written in response to this article about legendary Democratic 12th Ward boss Dock Fielder. It certainly provides some food for thought.


Fri, 8 Oct 2004 18:00:33 -0700 (PDT)


Send an Instant Message "xxx" Add to Address BookAdd to Address Book


Fwd: living history



Thought you might find the following interesting.
Note: forwarded message attached.

Forwarded Message [ Save to my Yahoo! Briefcase | Download File]


Mon, 27 Sep 2004 07:48:43 -0700 (PDT)




living history


tomflaherty@alleghenydemocrats.com, jotoole@post-gazette.com, stolliver@tribweb.com

Plain Text Attachment [ Download File | Save to my Yahoo! Briefcase]

there was once was a time, not so long ago, when a candidate of either political party didn't have a prayer of winning an election without first sitting down with a handful of gurus affiliated with the democratic party of allegheny county ... dock fielder and bubby hairston, phil frasca, frank bruno and guy petrone, tommy martinelli, sam tiglio, frank gigliotti and/or the wagner brothers, don kovac and harry kramer. and if one didn't know who any of these guys were, they just simply weren't ready to hold public elective office in this town. of course, it was rare to receive the blessing of all of the aforementioned, but if one were lucky enough to walk away from ameeting with fielder, petrone, bruno, tiglio and hairston, that candidate was most certainly assured a victory in his/her race and the rest of the party, when the wheels were well-oiled, usually followed inline with their support. critics can say what they want, but i've lived through those days and the quality of the candidates and loyalty of the party faithful cannot be compared to what we have these days. if my candidacy were on the line, there is no doubt in my mind that i'd prefer the blessing of the gurus than a series of series of disorganized meet-ups attended by a bunch of independent thinking and even more disorganized activists who, when it's all said and done, aren't worth more than their own vote.


Pittsburgh is just so welcoming

Friday, October 08, 2004
The Allegheny Institute for Public Policy on Thursday issued a report outlining how the Pittsburgh Parking Authority, through unnecessary rate hikes is actually proving to be a disservice to this city and is actually serving to dissuade visitors from enjoying what the City of Pittsburgh has to offer -- or at least what's left of it. Perhaps this authority has long outlived it's welcome. Or perhaps, closer to the truth, they were never really welcome but just something that we all were forced to put up with. Whatever the case may be, I think those empowered to do so would listen hard and finally do the right thing by disbanding this useless agency. If, as the city states, their concern is that private parking companies would not build parking garages and the authority is needed to get this done, then fine -- build the garages, step aside and let the parking professionals lease, manage and control the costs of the garages. I somehow think this line of reasoning to be a bit far-fetched seeing the amounts of cash that Alco, for instance, is willing to pump into development for casinos, that they'd not jump at the chance to build and own a parking facility in the heart of the city. And, on the subject of parking, it's time the city takes a serious look at their longstanding practice of towing the vehicles of legally parked vehicles. It's clear that the no parking between 7 - 9 and 4 - 6 spots only serve for a way for the city to pocket $120 for each car towed from these spots. And to make matters even worse, many meters lack the proper warning signage. The practice is rude, ridiculous and tells visitors that they're not welcome in our downtown area. Don't be fooled into believing that the streets have to be clear of parked vehicles to open up a line of traffic during rush hour. That's simply not the case, as if you'll notice, those curb lanes do not serve as regular lanes of traffic during rush hour or any other time of the day. Having vehicles parked along the curbs does not block, slow-down, increase or otherwise affect the moving lanes of traffic in any way. That is something that I have noticed for years and have become embroiled each time I see some poor sap's car towed. And if that's not enough, the rudeness of the traffic cops and the tow truck operators towards citizens and visitors speaks wonders and is reason enough for may not to return to the city. Is this the kind of reputation the City of Pittsburgh wants to have? The city should be doing everything it can to welcome visitors to our downtown. Unfortunately, our backwards city is doing just the opposite. Instead of making more parking available, especially during games and special events, Pittsburgh posts no-parking signs or bags over the meters rendering those spots unusable. Why? So the opportunity exists to ticket and tow as many vehicles as possible when they know downtown will be jam packed with visitors. Boy, that's a great idea -- punish the people that come to enjoy the city's offerings. Is it any wonder that our downtown and the businesses within it are suffering?

I'd like to say my piece on the novel idea of maybe making available to the taxpayers and visitors the hundreds of parking spaces normally used by the well-paid city and county government workers for free ... but I have to cut this short and run out to feed the meter. I only get 7 1/2 minutes per quarter, you know.

Mayor Sala?

Thursday, October 07, 2004
Once the upcoming general election is history, the eyes of all of the political animals will be on the race for Mayor of the City of Pittsburgh next spring. We've all heard the possible contenders: Murphy again, O'Connor, Ricciardi, Lamb, Frankel, Tom Flaherty, Udin and Walko. At this point in time, I will not speculate on who amongst them will or won't or should or shouldn't be on the ballot for that coveted seat. It would, however, be an absolute joke if Sala Udin seriously considers a bid. If that were to happen -- and being familiar with the politics of this region and the fact that most of our public servants are only self-servants, it probably will -- the public should be outraged. Since being elected to city council, Samuel Howze -- I mean, Sala Udin -- hasn't served the city or district 6 particularly well and in my opinion, didn't deserve re-election in any of his races. One of the many things about him that I find really disturbing is the fact that he has not, after 7 years, explained to his bosses (that would be you and me, the taxpayers and homeowners of this city, with investments in it's future) where he spent his summer vacation in 1997 and how he put 3,500 miles on a city-owned automobile in seven weeks. Udin is the only member of council with a city-owned car, which is to be used for city government related business only. Not to be driven outside the area and used at the whim of the elected officials and with no explanation. Oh, he's been asked about it a few times over the years. But Sala, for whatever reason -- probably because he's one of the self-servants, didn't feel it was necessary to make clear to the taxpayers just exactly where he went and what he did. And this guy is wanting to be our Mayor??? So, in doing my part to keep this selfish, pompous man off the ballot, I will ask once again. Where did you go, Sala?

The Pittsburgh skyline


Wednesday, October 06, 2004
Welcome to PittsburghJack's Place -- where you will read truths not found elsewhere. Many of the political animals in this town need an outlet and, my friend, that would be Jack's. Share the dirt that has been driving you nuts. The rest of us need to know. Trust me, when I tell you, my friend -- the so called 'public servants' in this town will be shaking in their boots when they realize that their every move is being watched. They must realize that working for us is a privilege and not a right. We will no longer stand for the abuses which have become commonplace in the Pittsburgh/Allegheny County political arena.