Sunday, May 31, 2009

Pittsburgh Pontificating

An inside joke... but if you saw the print edition of this, can you believe they put an illustration of Moe there to go with my pontificating (otherwise known as my unctuous baffle-gab) on the G20 meeting that was in the PG today?

Maybe I have not been paying attention and this isn't new... but anyone notice the PG changes. Book section back in forum. Next page off the back page. Anything else?

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Detroit v. Pittsburgh

Folks are so focused on hockey and nothing but hockey that few are noticing the economic symbolism of Detroit v. Pittsburgh.

I actually believe that a lot of the recent spate of positive PR for Pittsburgh can be traced to a big writeup around this time last year in the Detroit Free Press contrasting the economic performances of the two regions of late. That story was: Detroit and Pittsburgh. Different City, Same Story. by Katherine Yung. April 14, 2008. The only link I see for at least the text of that article is page 15 of this from DCED.

update: Burgher Jon finds the cover story I mention in this link.

It was a big story for them. Top of the fold page 1 and really covered most of page 1 in its entirety including charts and graphs. I think it planted the seed for a lot of followup stories in other media. It was ironic that the Stanley Cup Playoffs came like a month later. If they had known that was going to be the matchup I wonder if it would have run. It came out just long enough before the Stanley Cup Playoffs that there was no connection. As I recall I had worked with the reporter working on that story for more than 6 months before it came out even, so it was a long time in coming.

But the Detroit Free Press has a really fun look at the rivalry today. You should read: Us (Detroit) vs. Them (Pittsburgh) -- now it's on. Study in contrasts shows why we're on top in the hockey world.


also today tin the DFP with yet another obligatory picture of a Primanti's sandwich. Do they get any copyright royalty from those photos?. Anyway, see also: Hockey rival's home is the Pitts. Cities used to be friends -- now it's on.

From me there is still my (now google enhanced) Rust Belt watch. That and if this story is really true, then I really would love to see stats on the spike in traffic today on the PA and Ohio turnpikes.

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Friday, May 29, 2009

on Pancakes and Polamalu

Folks can look up on their own some of the ever expanding media coverage of Pittsburgh's selection for the G20 meetings. One more blurb comes from the biz section of The Atlantic Online: Why in the World is the G20 Meeting in Pittsburgh?

A comment on that post reminds me of something. History will probably never discover a specific answer to the question of who is responsible for getting the G20 here. Is there any one answer worth having anyway? Can't we take credit collectively? But I will throw another name into the hat for consideration. Maybe my colleague Sabina is reponsible. Why? Remember: For Pittsburgh, There’s Life After Steel. By David Streitfeld. January 7, 2009

Just saying. But I am sure the pancakes helped. :-)

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Roddy on Recession (and did you hear the one about the G-20 coming to town?)

In fun I thought I could rename this the G-20 blog of record? I think that would be bloviating above my paygrade.

Just too much out there. The huge pension story today is completely subsumed by the G-20 stuff. Even the big reassessment hearing next week could be lost in the shuffle as far as the public is concerned. Both of those things are culminations of some of the biggest news stories impacting the city and county for decades, and how they resolve themselves will have impacts for decades to come. Could spend weeks writing on each of them. You would think there would be whole blogs focused just on the county's assessment mess which could now impact the entire state or the city's pension problems which will soon impact most everything. We'll wait until things blow over a bit. But if you are a real policy wonk, read the pension story and that little line about how the "city has long used calculations that "artificially" allow it to put less into its pension fund than it should."

But for now on the economy, that other minor little story out there. The Columbia Journalism Review is out with an interview with local PG reporter Dennis Roddy on reporting about the recession here. More on nearby recession impacts are all of the potential closings just over the PA/Ohio border that could result from the imminent GM bankruptcy.

And as much as we may be hyperventilating over this; one UN observer has commented that a) This has been a good year for Pittsburgh, but b) it also muses that what comes out of the summit could be remembered in history as the "Pittsburgh Agreement". Can you imagine? We have not been so important in world affairs since we helped create Czechoslovakia.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Protesters Cometh

G-20

OMG

Maybe they will do this again? Read about bloggers at the last G-20 Summit.

and why does this story come to mind? I think everyone in town is going to get to know the Secret Service pretty well before this is all said and done.

Man, everyone is already tripping over themselves.

I think RichL is up to three breaking news stories today... or is it 4?

and JG points out to me... you think the state can accelerate repairs of the Point State Park fountain??

This is an awful lot of work to go through just to bury the latest story on pensions.

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Maybe the last election post

I've put my post-election rant over on Pittsblog for those who are interested.....


ok... probably not the last. But at some point you gotta start looking ahead.

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the tyranny of ink and editors

A positive blurb on city finances written up in the Economist this week. A follow up of sorts of the last Pittsburgh focused article they did a couple years ago: How Now Brown Town which still gets points for best headline for a news article. Rest assured I probably data-dumped on the poor journalist more info on city finances than could have fit into the whole magazine. But the number of column inches that came out left only that little snippet from me. But maybe we can get them to come back for another story down the road.

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52 years ago

52 years ago this weekend demolition of the neighborhood once known as the Lower Hill District ceremoniously began. Looks like they probably held a party even. A book everyone should read: Root Shock, by Mindy Fullilove. Compare that to what was written contemporaneously.

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on the misery watch

PNC Bank CEO Jim Rohr has some pessimistic comments on the economy being reported by the WSJ.

The AP has developed a pretty comprehesive interactive map of economic conditions across the country. Worth a look is their new Economic Stress Index.

on the Hurricanes' misery.... Cowhergate has risen to the level of being mentioned in the USAToday.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Statue of Liberty: 1, Pittsburgh Republicans: 0

One less mayoral candidate in the fall. Breaking news via Mr. Wander's own site is news that Luke Ravenstahl will be the Republican nominee for Mayor. And that is after a bit premature victory blog post last week. Per his blog the unofficial count as of now (Wednesday afternoon?) is:

Luke Ravenstahl - 497
Josh Wander - 147
Others - 245
Absentee ballots (uncounted) - 241

At 147 votes he would not have made that 250 vote threshold even if LR had not garnered the most votes. Makes you wonder if the Republicans were at least semi-organized against against such a write in campaign.

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Beyond the Compass Rose

A flat world note for GIS geeks... I had to learn via Digital Urban , the amazing folks at University College London, about The Geospatial Revolution on Penn State Public Broadcasting.

I've actually been on a minor crusade to get Pitt to restart it's Geography Department which was one of the last academic departments to be formally disestablished here a few decades ago. Thus far no traction, but I believe it is an idea whose time will come. I'd be curious to hear from any alumni: faculty, staff or students.

and just a funny GIS note to end the day. An out of state visitor came to my office via rental car the other day. She got lost of course as is routine for visitors. I asked how and basically the answer was simply: "But I was using the GPS". Yeah, but this is Pittsburgh.

Anyway, enjoy:

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more Burgh property for sale on ebay.... and why Allegheny County lost their assessment appeal

Remember Elwin talking about noticing some Homewood properties for sale on Ebay and my comments on his comments. Just caught this current ebay listing for a property in Garfield. This house is not far from where I live. Looks like a NJ owner is trying to sell the property for $5K on ebay. Good deal eh? I love this line "Make no payments for 3 months on this purchase - eBay MasterCard".

Property is 5322 Kincaid St. which you can look up on the Allegheny County Assessment site. It lists recent transactions on this property. In recent years it looks like it was foreclosed on, then transferred to HUD, and then resold recently for $700 to the new NJ owner who obviously thought he was getting a good deal. Probably bought it unseen and thought he was going to flip this for a quick profit. Ironic thing is that at a purchase price of $700, selling it for $5K would be quite an appreciation assuming he has had no other major expenses.

The recent transactions are:

LYNCH VAUGHAN
1/10/2008
$700

HOUSING & URVAN DEVELOPMENT
3/8/2007


$1
FEDERAL NATIONAL MORTGAGE ASSOCIATION
8/28/2006
$2,373

The difference with the Homewood sale Elwin caught is that there the back taxes were unpaid. It looked to me it was going to be an expensive proposition to get the taxes paid up which distorted the value a lot. Here it looks like the taxes are mostly current although 2008 county taxes were only paid last month. I would want to check city and school district taxes before touching this one. Probably a couple grand coming due this year even though the property looks boarded up and likely isn't habitable. So anyone buying to try and flip probably needs to invest some $$$ after purchase.

Here is the assessment kicker. This property that can't be sold for $5K, has a recent sale of $700 is assessed at $29K. So roughly 40 times the only datapoint that exists for current market value. Not only that, but it looks to be assessed at twice its nearly identical house next door at 5324 Kincaid. Despite being in obviously better shape than 5322 it is assessed at only $15K.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ohio News Roundup

Cheap fares to Paris we have, but if only the airport could snag something comparable to this. Toledo is about to get some, albeit prompotional, $9 airfares. Not missing a zero, NINE dollars.

***************

Poor Cleveland can't catch a break in economic news. I am not sure we have a comparable story to this even in the worst of times. It looks like folks have been stealing live telephone wire for their copper from a bridge. Our thieves usually only steal cables and pipes that aren't in use anymore.

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Healthy Burgh?

OK, who believes this? The American College of Sports Medicine just put out a report that ranks Pittsburgh #16 out of 50 regions in a fitness index they compiled. You think?

Must be from biking up all those hills everyone is doing. Or not.

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You think biking up that hill is hard.

And yet another French-related post. Ok, this idea obviously needs work and I know its been a tough slog just to get bike lanes painted on some avenues in the city. But Pittsburgh has to be the best city in the world to experiment with this device: Le CycloCable. Imagine getting up Sycamore St. without a sweat:



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Monday, May 25, 2009

Too many bricks

Not a new photo. This is from a couple years ago, but a photo I took myself. I think it says it all. At the time these were new bricks being staged for installation outside Soldiers and Sailors Hall:





Lest we forget. The guest books for each of the above are at:

Sgt Russell Kurtz
Cpl Russell Grant Culbertson

Sgt. 1st Class Daniel A. Brozovich
Sgt. Thomas Vandling Jr.

Pfc. Shelby J. Feniello

SPC George A Mitchell
Cpl Dennis Veater

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

"Pirates.... sitting deep in attendance cellar"

Via The Biz of Baseball has a quick analysis of Pittsburgh Pirates attendance thus far this season:

The Pirates are an interesting case to look at. In 2008, up to May 21, six of 21 games at PNC Park (they had one rainout on 5/12) saw attendance below 10,000 (9,735 on 4/9 and 9,798 on 4/10 against the Cubs, 8,444 on 4/21 against the Marlins, 9,544 on 4/24 against the Cardinals, 9,788 on 5/7 against the Giants, and 8,805 on 5/21 against the Brewers). In 2009, they see four games with attendance below 10,000 (8,790 on 4/20 and 9,917 on 4/21 against the Marlins; and 8,482 on 5/4 and 9,775 on 5/5 against the Brewers). However, attendance is pretty much flat compared to last season (down 0.28 percent compared to last season), which sadly means with Florida and Tampa Bay increasing attendance, the Pirates well sitting deep in the attendance cellar.



and you need to realize those are season-to-date numbers itemized in the full post. What they say about more recent attendance is something else given that attendance early in the season was up significantly.

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almost done

I was about to give my 500 word version of an election wrap up, but I realized I needed to put out some background before I get to that. So for the moment I will leave the figures below to speak for themselves. These are my estimates of the election results broken down by race. The graphs plot out each voting district by race and votes for each candidate. The figure at the end is my summary of estimates of what these graphs imply the overall results were for each candidate by race. I think I will leave them unlabeled intentionally. Does anyone have any doubt which graph goes with which candidate.?











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Saturday, May 23, 2009

to blog is to........

More blog angst or something out there again. Matt H. seems to be rethinking, Bram is moderating comments, Big Ben has impostors , PittGirl has a new home and who knows what some folks will do without a campaign to foil off of for a couple months at least.

I honestly still don't know what to make of my blog here. An ongoing experiment is about as far as try to explain it to myself. But in noting the latest news blurb about the Chicken Hill development, I was curious how many folks had watched the community youtube video I mentioned in a blog post. If you call up the "statistics and data" pulldown on that particular video it looks like more folks clicked through to that clip via this blog than via KDKA. That isn't bragging, I just find it curious and it wasn't a big number from any site. Says more about the online readers of KDKA online than about this blog.

It still cracks me up though. One of the opening lines: "Our Town Doesn't want to be supersized. " Somebody has watched too many Frank Capra movies. Not anything to do with whether that project itself should move ahead... but it is a pretty telling sign on the economic change in the region that anyone is worried about 'supersizing' anything in Pittsburgh... in the city of Pittsburgh no less. If only we can get the Port Authority to think supersizing, not rightsizing. Yes Ken, I know I know: 'We can't afford it'. Lots of things we can't afford being susidized these days. Alas, for later.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

If only Cuban moved back home.....

Businessweek profiles a book that includes a profile richest person in Akron. Fine, but unless I am missing something Pittsburgh is missing in the profiles of the richest person in 100 places across the US. Anyone find any other locals in there?

You know though... I have not looked at the Forbes list recently. Would Cuban be the richest person in town. Probably not even close when you consider the random billionaire or two we have around. Who is the richest person actually residing in the region? Druckenmiller?

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How low is low?

Hey look, Act 47 is alive. I could parse for a week on what they just put out, but I think I will save any comments until after the next pension board meeting which I think will be next week. I do wonder why they didn't wait for that meeting first. Anyway... Barn door, please meet the horse.

Hey, really look. The Unemployment Rate in Pennsylvania didn't go up in April for the first time in 14 months. Hmm.... We will learn the latest on the region's unemployment rate next week and local employment counts for April later today.

Remember the split tax? Chapter on Pittsburgh in a new book just out on the land tax by the Lincoln Institute: Land Value Taxation: Theory, Evidence, and Practice.

****

At some point I am going to look more at the super low turnout in the city for the election. I had posted a few signs that foreshadowed that result, but it still was remarkably low. Consider there were 3 active city council races that should and probably did push turnout up. You really have to wonder what the turnout would have been if those races had been quieter.

But a quick factoid to put this all in perspective. In the November general election the total ballots cast within the city of Pittsburgh came to 159,578. It is certainly apples and oranges to directly compare general election turnout with any primary. But by my quick count that compares to total ballots cast in the City Tuesday of 50,257, 46,518 were registered Democrats and 3,739 Republicans. As a general rule I typically thought primary turnout here comes in about half that of what happens in generals, not less than a third.

The last general election was obviously an historic event that will not be repeated, certainly not in an off year election. But it still is odd to think that there are potentially over 110K additional voters just in the city proper that could vote in the fall, more than twice the total number of ballots that were cast in total on Tuesday.

and I would say this is a bit premature, but Mr. Wander thinks the numbers bode well for his write in campaign. My guess that LR garnered more R votes this time around than last, and there might have been a few other folks getting write in votes as well. Nonetheless I guess this counts as a 'victory' PR: http://joshwander.blogspot.com/2009/05/election-results.html

We'll see.

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Great White North Live

I clearly like talking about Canada. Now I get to talk about Canada to Canadians. I am scheduled to be part of a panel live on Canadian TV this evening at 8pm.


The Agenda with Steve Paikin. The topic: Hamilton (Ontario) Without Steel. So no, I will be talking about Pittsburgh, just to Canadians. Sure sounds like a familiar theme.

Somehow they say you can stream the show via that web page, though I am not quite sure how.



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and more D 4

Potter has parsed this more than I am going to do, but a map to go with that. I do wonder though.... Will Motznik leave the boots for Natalia to use when needed?



Percent Rudiak - City Council District 4

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

More fun with maps

For those who want a more interactive experience playing with the map of Tuesday's election returns:

http://ucsur-gisdata.ucsur.pitt.edu/gis-pub/default.aspx

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quick and dirty version

Quick and dirty version. Will probably redo these later:

Percentage Dowd



and
Percentage Robinson

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Let's parse

These are the results for each candidate by City Council district FWIW. Not quite what I expected, but close. Anyone else notice the single biggest surprise? Skip that for a moment. The 2nd most interesting thing is that I know everyone is going to be talking about the Rudiak win. Note how the district she just won (D4) is also the district that a) had the single highest % for Ravenstahl and b) lowest % for Robinson. Chomp on that some.

Ravenstahl


Dowd



Robinson


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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Desperately Seeking Voters

So I am the last person in the world who gets to poke fun at anyone else's spelling.. but the typos on the election returns are funny. It was saying 'canidate' like a zillion times for quite some time. You couldn't miss it. And near the top it still says 'prinary'.

The first factoid of the night... almost done and it looks like the mayoral race is going to have around 44K votes cast when all is said and done. 4 years ago in the city mayoral primary the 7 candidates split 58,843 votes between them. Almost a third more than tonight. Can't explain that by population loss over the last 4 years. Weather? Message? Candidates? I count, you decide.

What's weirder. On Channel 2, the mayoral race was like the third story into the newscast. Even after something about Najeh Davenport's car being stolen. That's pretty telling about a lot of things, and not just city politics.

addendum.. the knock down drag out Murphy O'Connor 2001 primary had 53% more votes cast for mayor (67,657) than tonight.

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and so it ends....

As this is posted the atomic clocks at the Naval Observatory say the time is 8:01pm Eastern Daylight Time. All polls should be closed. Certainly nobody reading this post will be swayed by anything I say here at this point.

There are always surprises. I have no idea who will win Pittsburgh City Council D4, but other than that that nothing looks terribly close. Clearly the LR campaign has been spending money to push their numbers up as far as they can. They probably think they have a chance at 70%, though I would be shocked if they got that. In the 60's is an easy bet. How the Dowd-Robinson split works out will be interesting and how their votes are spread in the city will be worth looking at.

So before I see any early results... if I had to guess: 64-22-12-2.

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En attendant Godot

where are those numbers?

While a few of us wait to obsess later on tonight.... most here will have seen this already, but the quanititive political junkies may be interested in the political history compiled in a report I did once:

Voting Patterns by Race in Allegheny County

Anyone want to take a guess which one factoid in there I think could bode an interesting race in the fall.

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What if someone held an election during the NHL playoffs?

Slightly more seriously.... Just curious, but I really would like to know the median age of poll workers in town.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Blue Collar San Francisco

Via the East Liberty Post is a catch that the NY Post lists Pittsburgh #23 as a summer travel destination. That's a new one on me. Brunot's Island over Long Island?

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théorie des prix

I am not sure how France has become a theme the last few days. Nonetheless, a few months ago the PG had an article about how Delta dropped the price of its new non-stop flights to Paris. That article fromMarch explained the fares were down from their initial special offer of $1,200 to a low $700.

Things must not have picked up much. I can attest you can buy right now round trip non-stop tickets from Pittsburgh to Paris in the middle of peak summer season for all of $530 RT, around $610 including all taxes and fees.

That price is amazing to me regardless of what it says about demand for the flight. What little I know of the black box of airline fare setting isn't worth getting into here. Clearly the overall industry is hurting. But just out of curiosity I tried to see what fares Delta would give me for other itineraries that you would think would be cheaper. NYC to Heathrow for example. Looking at identical dates to what I bought for a Pittsburgh - Paris trip, I couldn't get anything lower than $630 (before taxes and fees) which would be pretty amazingly low in itself for the middle of the summer.

To be fair, it's a new service and all. But you can't claim it lacks in visibility between the earned media in the press and the paid advertising I see around. That and what I hear are some deliberative corporate policies locally I hear of trying to encourage folks to buy Delta tickets on the flight for European travel.


What gets me curious is the news about how we, the royal we, have made a deal with Delta guaranteeing a certain amount of passenger demand for the new flight. I am curious how that deal is written since it seems to me that there could be a principal-agent problem in there somewhere. Delta ought not to have much incentive to lower fares so low if they have a third party paying them if they don't fill the seats. But I have no idea whatsoever the particulars of that deal... I just can't get out of my head the idea that somebody Downtown is paying for part of my ticket indirectly.

With that I will surrender to the brief spasm of political numerology that is about to take place.

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Sunday, May 17, 2009

NYT on Mayor's race

NYTimes looks at the mayor's race with an early quote from Mr. Mike aka Pittsblog fresh off another interview with Dutch Public Television. Does that make him Ambassador Mike? In the online version is one of the few NYT links to a Pittsburgh blog. Is it the first since the CSB earned the first such mention?

to parse a bit.. the NYT says no Pittsburgh mayor since Lawrence has gone on to higher office. That would be more accurate if it said no mayor has gone on to higher elected office which is what is meant anyway. Pete Flaherty resigned as mayor to become the Deputy Attorney General under Jimmy Carter.

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Inside the ACDC at H minus 48 hours

I've always thought one of the few independent Burghosphere looks inside the rank and file of the ACDC are the thoughts of PittsburghGuy. He has just posted his thoughts on Tuesday's election: Hillary's votes, Luke's Money, Patrick's face. Worth a contrast with his comments heading into the election 2 years ago. That and an earlier post also gives some perspective on this whole current tempest over misleading campaign literature.

and I'll give him credit for speaking up, but Mr. Wander has responded in the comments of the previous post.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

La bougeotte

One of the arguments that was bantered around when the county converted from the old mechanical voting machines to the computer systems in use now was that supposedly there would be increased opportunities for write in candidates to win. I guess the idea is that the keyboard would be easier than writing in a consistent name in the little boxes you had to use in the machines. Really organized write in candidates would distribute little stickers that could be used as well. I am not sure it has worked. At least I have not heard of any write in candidate coming close to beating candidate named on a ballot. In fact, I have not ever heard of any measured vote count for a write in candidate in a race with someone already on the ballot.

Yet now we have the most contested election in the entire primary: who will win the Republican nomination for mayor of the City of Pittsburgh? Since nobody bothered to go to the effort of filing petitions you have an entirely write in campaign.. a campaign with the distinct possibility that it will be won by someone who isn't a Republican. Last time it took a pretty dedicated effort to get Mark Desantis to get enough votes to beat out LR for the Republican nomination. I have actually asked my lawyer friends if they knew what would happen if one of the candidates on the Democratic side lost but wound up with the most Republican votes.. Could they be on the ballot as a Republican? I have not gotten a clear answer. But ignore that for now.

Now both papers are reporting that there is a candidate seeing the Republican nomination in the primary on Tuesday. The original PG's version says that Mr. Wander Could not be reached for comment. I am pretty sure rule one for all potential politicians is that you really want to return phone calls from reporters. The Trib version has a sentence more of description saying he: "earned a master's degree in public and international affairs from the University of Pittsburgh".

Not quite sure how they got that information since he isn't quoted directly. You would think you would get some sort of quote from the guy if you got a hold of him in person or via a spokesperson (ok, probably no spokesperson as yet). If the Trib's description is correct then the candidate to be has to be the same as the author of this blog:

http://joshwander.blogspot.com/ This was the blog big on pushing for the Desantis write in campaign if I recall which would be consistent.

But then it gets odd:

"Josh Wander is currently serving as the elected Pennsylvania State Constable for the Borough of White Oak, located in the south-western area of the state. My top priorities in office have been protecting the security of our country, defending the public, and ensuring equal justice for all. " (emphasis added, web site as of May 14, 2009)

White Oak is not part of the city of Pittsburgh to begin with. The White Oak web page currently lists Mr. Wander as the Constable. But hey, who updates web pages very often. It's unclear if there is a statutory requirement for a constable to reside in the jurisdiction to which they are elected.. and I am not a legal beagle, but there appears to be a common law requirement that you have to live in the community you serve.

Then it gets odder. While there isn't much paper trail on the whole 'community organizer' thing that he is described as in the news articles. No biggie, but he has certainly been in the news. Per the Trib he is the force behind a website that once once dedicated to sending the Statue of Liberty Back to France. No joke. Don't believe me? check out: Giveitback.org

That site introduces itself with:

Give the Statue of Liberty back to the French!

Located in New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty was a gift of international friendship from the people of France to the people of the United States and is one of the most universal symbols of political freedom and democracy...

Now it is time to give it back!
They can have their damn Statue!

Well then. If I were this guy, I would start my campaign with a press conference in the French Nationality room in the Cathedral of Learning. He could propose it be converted into the Tajik room or something. Maybe lock himself to a desk or something for some earned media. Not sure he is going to be going on many European junkets or marketing trips if he were to become mayor.


Then the oddest: He also seems to be a published fashion critic, if that is him as well. Probably not, but you never know.

I'm just thinking what the fall debates and forums will be like if this really becomes the Republican nominee. Which all leads to the ultimate question of why the local Republican party does not find someone to get petitions signed and get on the ballot in a normal way. Registration advantage or not, if they believed in their own party you would think they would want a legitimate candidate to shape the debate whether there was a chance of winning or not. The alternative is what is likely to happen again which is either a circus or a candidate who loses to a Democrat for the Republican nomination. That falls somewhere between embarrassing or pathetic.


Cynical as it is, the only explanation that makes sense is Potter's which be put in Slag Heap that the Republicans locally are actively pursuing a strategic retreat as it is called. The last thing they want is a contested race for mayor in the general election because it will only increase Democratic turnout and hurt their chances in the statewide judicial races. Read: Where have all the Republicans gone. It may sound like a pretty short sighted strategy, but makes more sense than anything else that fits the circumstances.


Other than that I am open to suggestions why they let things like this happen? It's not like this is the only cycle where they have fielded no candidate, or very marginal candidates at best. Since he has this military background there is a military saying that sums this all up: Whiskey.........

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Young engineers leaving coming to Pittsburgh

It the numbers are too tedious. As I typed that post yesterday a related story popped up in my news filter.

How about a story of a real live young college graduate getting a job and moving to... Pittsburgh? Just an anecdote from Indiana: Purdue grads enter competitive market

Must be a typo of some kind. Someone better go interview this guy quick. the media folks may descend on him like locusts and the medical types may want to distill his DNA to see what makes him tick. I hope he sneaks past Border Guard Bob.

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Friday, May 15, 2009

Youth-Burgh

Year and years ago I wrote that we're getting younger every year. A recent round of census data written up in the Trib is generally consistent with that prediction. If you look at the median age of all the states in the nation, Pennsylvania is still pretty old, but you have to look at the trend. Where once Pennsylvania was ranked as the 2nd oldest state, barely behind Florida... the Commonwealth is now ranked 6th pretty much as predicted. That trend will continue. If you look at the growing migration out of places like Michigan, I bet that migration looks a lot like ours did: younger workers leaving and taking their families and their future families with them. Who is staying is very age selective as we say, made up disproportionately by those who are older who have less opportunities to move in search of work. Thus those places will likely be getting older faster, and faster than even may have been projected in the past. That and the recent news that international immigration rates are slowing dramatically will also change the patterns. It has always been the case that intl immigrants are generally younger than average. The flow of immigrants into a lot of states other than Pennsylvania have been a big driver for their faster growth rates. The only odd thing to think about.. Pittsburgh just can't win in some ways. Just as the relative economic conditions might begin to attract immgrants that have all but shunned the region in recent decades, the flow of immigrants is decreasing to some of the lowest levels in years.. leaving fewer potential migrants to arrive here.

So no, the title of this post is misleading. Long long way to go before anyone ever looks at us and say we are a 'young' region. Quite honestly, it will probably never be. But where we were once the extreme case in lots of demographic metrics, the trend is pushing us at least toward a certain type of normalcy. It is also true that eventually the elderly population here will increase. Yet compared to everywhere else in the nation, Pennsylvania comes in absolutely lowest (literally 50 out of 50) in terms of the projected percentage increase in the elderly population over the next several decades. Yet even last means the elderly population is going to grow by about 50%.

The oldest state in the nation. You think Florida? Try Maine.

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Free Cyril - Cyril Freed

Not really the knitting here, but the news from the Cyril Wecht case has produced a couple thoughts. The first is Cyril needs to update his web page. More than a little out of date at this point. I do like his online petition which may be the only truly bipartisan initiative in town. He used to have a blog of sorts there as well, really more news announcements. But maybe if the case really is finally over with (potentially) we will get a real blogging Cyril. If ever there was someone that blogs were made for, it has to be the world's most famous doctor/lawyer/politician/pathologist/TV pontificator and seemingly perpetual litigant. He can legitimately comment on most any topic catching the public's interest.

I wonder how many folks online realize that Cyril was once county commissioner and top Dem in the city? Or that fighting between Wecht and Caligiuri factions within the party makes any and all current feuding seem pretty trivial. Not only that, but if Arlen is Mr. Single Bullet Theory, Cyril is Mr. Anti-Single-Bullet theory. From the JFK assassination to OJ Simpson.... the latter half of the 20th century could be described as the 6 degrees of Cyril Wecht. I think my Wecht number is 2.

It also reminds us of the other little mystery in the local legal universe. It's just a bit odd that there has not been a new US Attorney appointed by the Obama administration. Just presuming that the reason there hasn't been normal turnover following the presidential election is because they don't have someone to appoint.. or are for other reasons not choosing not to appoint someone... the question becomes why?

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Why unemployment is still going up

It may be Ohio, but none of this is good for us. News from Ohio on ever more job losses there. See the map the Columbus Dispatch has there: all those counties highlighted on the eastern border of Ohio are as much part of greater Pittsburgh as anywhere else. A lot of what it talks about are steel plants there. It is remarkable how the global steel industry has all but shut down for the time being. Production around the world is down 50-70 or more percent in some countries. If this was 1982 here... it would be a lot worse than 1982 here. Think about that.

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Not related.. and just to be clear I have no idea the answer. But I wonder who in town is going to:

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

evil New Urbanism?

update: DNJ at the Post Gazette has some comments on all of this on her City Walkabouts Blog.

Would James Kunstler understand what is going on here? I was there when I think Kunstler last came to Pittsburgh for a public presentation, though he was here for a book signing I believe more recently. Scares me to realize it was almost a decade ago. For those who have heard him in person, whether you agree with all he says or not, almost everyone learns something and absolutely everyone is entertained. In an odd way he has been invoked in a debate before City Council... but I doubt he or anyone else realized it. And I really don't know which side Kunstler would be on even if he did know.

But the Trib today covers the debate in city council over a zoning exemption required to build a 400 unit apartment building in Ridgemont (aka Chicken Hill) in the City of Pittsburgh. The story focuses on a pretty creative youtube video from folks obviously opposed to the project. I really am not commenting either way on the project itself, but the video is really curious. The theme/title is "Small Town America versus New Urbanism".

A minor point is that I am not quite sure the New Urbanism moniker applies to the project, whether the developer would like to label it that way or not. I suppose someone thinks NU is just a synonym for density and nothing more. Last I taught Urban Economics I would explain there is a little more too it than that. Otherwise it might be urbanism, but it certainly isn't anything new. But the "Small Town America" claim is really curious. This is a neighborhood in the middle of a major city (or so we like to think) in America. A city that has is so often quoted as having lost half it's density since it's peak. Maybe the title would have been a tad more accurate as: Old Urbanism vs. New?

All that being said, none of it really matters. Like political ads, or any advertising for that matter, these things are judged by their impact. I have no idea if the video is responsible at all for the update today that the project has failed a preliminary vote in city council today. Is it any surprise folks from out of town often get confused when they get caught up in anything like this here. Debates like this are just off from what you would see elsewhere. Here you have a self described small town community group, that isn't from a small town at all opposing a New Urbanism project that isn't really New Urbanism. It confounds me.

What is also interesting is how similar the public debate over this project sounds compared to what happened at the Don Allen site. I can't find a news article that really gets into the gory details on that, but the short version is in this Trib article.

But check out the video which you have to admit is effective... gratuitous Springsteen soundtrack near the end or not:


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Hockey on the mind

I still can't get over how this is the guy who was going to buy the Penguins... In the Canadian press today:

Hamilton goes hockey crazy over potential NHL team: BlackBerry mogul Balsillie has southern Ontario buzzing with hope.

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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

LWV likes Carmen

The Greater Pittsburgh League of Women Voters Clean Campaign Committee is out with their grading of the mayoral candiates. It is a tad curious in that I don't see the actual report on the LWV's web site.. and you would expect there to be a bit more reporting on something like this. Yet all I see is the PBT blurb.

I was going to say that it was odd they didn't ding Ms. Robinson for her lack of filing of a campaign finance report, but it looks to have been filed on the new county web site. Lots of curious things in the new county filings. The late Mayor Caligiuri's campaign committee is still out there and making small donations with about 30K left in the bank. It showed a contribution I thought, but it was just interest on their remaining assets. Twanda has a closeout report which isn't news at all in itself. But who her treasurer is a bit and not only that but signed his name as Dr. Lee Otto Johnson. He is the fellow who 'authored' the report which got that whole disaster rolling and who was also sentenced to house arrest for his role in the Carlisle affair. I mean, come on.

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Long Tail News..... or All the news too boring for ink

Via the WSJ yesterday: Fitch Downgrades FSA; No More Bond Insurers At AAA Level .

Why care? For one thing, the SEA bonds paying for the new arena are variable rate bonds insured by FSA. But, I've gone through that in the past. So if anyone doubts it's a flat world. It seems to me that the SEA's budget in coming years is at least at marginally dependent on the sovereign credit rating of the nation state still known as Belgium.

I told you it was boring.

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In re: Pat Ford

Just looking at the video of that big check Pat D. had for Pat F. Downtown yesterday got me wondering if the former economic development 'czar' had made much news in his new job just downriver. I don't see much news per se, but there is a writeup in teh April newsletter of the MPO there. See page 5 of this link. Remarkable in that there is no mention at all of any troubles at all along the way. Reading that I would not only hire him, I would consider beatification. I wonder what happens to props like that big check once campaigns are over with. Someone should mail it to Weirton. That or I have this image of Bram walking down Route 22 to hand deliver it.

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and for the alternative media version of what is happening in Jefferson County Alabama which precipitated the SEC investigation that has generated media attention here because of the similarly generated travails of the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority. A more staid version of same was in the Financial Times.


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Not quite sure what this means, but PFM, as in Act 47 PFM, just had a big investment from some Pennsylvania banks.

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Foreclosures R not us

Mentioned yesterday, but here is a link to the full article now available from Crain's Cleveland Business:

Different states: Cleveland, Pittsburgh neighborhoods share much common ground, yet are miles apart in number of foreclosures

How different are Pennsylvania, especially Western Pennsylvania, and Ohio foreclosure rates? The map I blew up from an Atlantic Monthly article looks like this:


So, I dunno.... I bet if there were a factoid saying foreclosures here were 1% higher than average it would be top of the fold on page 1. But some in depth research from the Federal Reserve showing how low foreclosure rates are here and...... you gotta read the Cleveland news just to hear about it.

and guess what? It wasn't an accident!

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Lumber company: down for the count. Lumber prices: up

PNC Chairman Jim Rohr interviewed on PBS' Nightly Business Report yesterday evening discussed the state of the NatCity merger and also sounded a bit positive on the overall economy as well.

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Monday, May 11, 2009

who is whining now?

Obligatory Penguins post: Wasn't there was some banter in the hockey world. I think the Capital's were saying the Pens were whiners in some form or another.

Just taking a look again at Ted's Take, the blog of Washington Capitals' owner Ted Leonsis.. .he has a post today just reminding folks of some news item from over a year ago bemoaning, not something that happened on the ice, but what someone says is an unfair ticket policy here???

Gotta find the miniature violin I keep around for this sort of thing.

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they still use steel in cars right?

Just the fact that this headline exists is remarkable. Someone out there is at least thinking about Detroit without GM. See from CNN: GM likely to stay put in Detroit. It's a little like US Steel moving its headquarters out of Pittsburgh or even out of the Steel Building. Oh, wait, it's not like we never lost a corporate HQ.

Speaking about steel, debt and bankruptcy... has anyone noticed that on the list of Chrysler's biggest creditors, US Steel is listed #13.

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and for all those who really doubted how low our foreclosure crisis is compared to that just up the road in Cleveland. Some may remember the map illustrating how stark the difference the foreclosure pattern was at the PA-OH border. Below is the leading story right now in Crain's Business Cleveland. The "city to the southeast" is us:

Different states
Researchers with the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland say the city to the southeast has done a far better job of keeping people in their homes than our town. It seems much of the blame can be focused on state policies, or lack thereof.

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dollars and political sense

So... if you missed it there was some reporting on the state of finances of the candidates in the City of Pittsburgh mayoral race. It's curious in several ways. The mayor's campaign reports it has spent $661K on the election thus far. That's an awful lot given I have heard no disputing the talk that polling shows him well into the 60's. What is more telling is that I hear more buzz of folks looking seriously at Robinson. She will still be coming in third, but any gains on her part might even the split of votes between her and Dowd which would make polling in the 60's that much more formidable.

So why spend so much and on what has all of that $$ been spent on? One big cost has to be the serious media buys many will have noticed by now. Multiple television ads playing throughout the day add up to some serious change. The LR campaign has almost bought more media than Geoffrey Fieger of late. Someone suggested to me that the sheer amount of ads being run, especially when there were none (or few?, I don't recall any but memory is fading) put out in the race against Desantis is a sign of weakness. I sincerely doubt that, or at least doubt that it's being driven by any fear of losing in the primary. I really have to wonder if the real point is to try and bluster Harris from mounting the fall race he has announced.

At the same time the Dowd campaign reports raising $74K thus far and remarkably only spending $33K in cash over that time... which is an awfully low number for a mayoral campaign. Makes you wonder a bit how they keep the lights on metaphorically. Even the non-campaign run by Peduto 2 years ago had raised $187K even before the filing deadline. Peduto would likely have had a much higher number by this point a week from the election. It's kind of sad that on the list of Dowd's biggest contributors you have $5K from someone who gave the same amount to LR's campaign (and is the same person who gave Peduto 10x more, $50K, 2 years ago). I am not quite sure the point of giving to both unless that is the $ amount needed to get a listing in someone's rolodex Blackberry. Certainly not a big vote of confidence for either candidate over the other. But wherever the money is coming from, even if well produced there is clearly not much money to run the one commercial the Dowd campaign has come up with so far. Delano says it was scheduled to run only once.

Then there is Ms. Robinson who is reported to not have filed at all the required financial report by the statutory deadline. It's possible she has not passed the $250 spending threshold that would require her to file, but she has placed enough print ads around town to clearly be above that. Not good, but does say a lot about how far you can get on sheer effort. That she can't even get a financial report in on time is a sign of just how little organization she has supporting her. She is clearly on track to win the dollar per vote metric, possibly by orders of magnitude.

While we are getting all the local pols mad at us, it's worth noting that the Trib passes on a rumor that into the Arlen-go-round is a potential Mark Desantis candidacy for senate no less. Even the Trib finds the idea a bit incredulous and for my own part I would hope he learned something from the last election. I thought for sure one of his key promises was that he wasn't a 'politician' and wasn't looking for higher office, he was just in it to contribute to the city. Nonetheless it's hard to see how he would even conceive of succeeding in a Republican primary where Arlen saw no prospects. Maybe they are suggesting he is thinking of running as a Democrat?

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Bonds gone bust

More on PWSA bond deal in the Trib: SEC may sue city bond deal adviser. You can read the allusion to potential litigation in JP Morgan's quarterly SEC filing. (see the section near the bottom subtitled "Part II Other Information") Why is this happening? Looks like the SEC under Obama is upping its enforcement budget.

The filing says the the SEC is looking at litigation against JP Morgan for past practices in their municipal bond business.. a business that has the local Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority in a world of hurt. In fact as I pointed out last fall , up in Erie the school district there has been suing JP Morgan over the same exact type of deal. What I don't understand at all, politics or not, is why the PWSA is not considering suing JP Morgan for it's deal gone bad. The deal here is a whole lot larger than the Erie deal (Erie's swaptions were for $37 mil) and the losses and fees incurred as a result are proportionally larger as well. Have they even asked JP Morgan for any restitution?

Lest anyone think this is all just an artifact of the whole financial crisis or just some politics associated with the mayoral campaign... which seem to be the only defenses of the PWSA...A must read column from Bloomberg really applies to the bond business here: Magic, Mumbo-Jumbo Were Used to Sell Muniland Swaps. That's Bloomberg's title verbatim for the record, not anything I made up. Again, that column is also from last fall... It's talking about Erie's swaption deal, but it could have been about the PWSA's for all intents and purposes.

More explanation of what happened in Erie is from another fall article in the Erie Times: What did public pay? No time to go poking around in Pacer... anyone know if that suit really exists and what its status is?

If you read the Trib article you see quotes like this from the PWSA folks: ""Now is not the time to enter the fixed-rate market."". That is saying that now is not a good time to refi a municipal bond and implying they may need to wait until they get a better rate in the future. Well, there may not be any better times ahead. See this from Forbes just the other day on the lurking risks to muni bonds.. each of those things can only impact interest rates upward. And that is before we get into the inflation risks some are expecting as a post-stimulus hangover sets in.

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and just for those who thought my comment on potential bankruptcy for Pittsburgh in the CP last week was unwarranted. Take a look at the growing talk of municipal bankruptcy across California and elsewhere. I have pointed out in the past that from debt point of view, the City of Pittsburgh is in far worse shape than the City of Vallejo California, currently in a bankruptcy proceeding.

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Saturday, May 09, 2009

Yanni really exists?

I have to admit that when I first read them, I didn't quite process the headlines that said Yanni is responsible for the Penguins having to play again today without a day off after yesterday's game. Then again, I am not quite sure I realized Yanni really existed in the first place.

But on that.. buzz going around about billboard material provided by Washington Capital's owner Ted Leonsis via his blog: Ted's Take. I probably shouldn't say this for a few more days, but it's kind of a neat blog if you scan it. Some personal insights straight from the source. Could be a model for others (if not Ron Burkle or Mario, maybe a hint to David Morehouse?) Will be interesting to see what Leonsis blogs after the Capitals' season ends in the next few days.

Also: WashPo has some neat video perspective on the two game marathon:

http://voices.washingtonpost.com/capitalsinsider/two-nights-two-cities-two-game.html

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Friday, May 08, 2009

If you own a bike - watch this:




....and if you don't own a bike... go buy one.

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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Snail mail saves the county.....

... for at least a few more days.

I am fascinated by the seemingly minor news today that Judge Wettick has postponed any ruling on the county assessment imbroglio until next month. According to the story, he met privately with lawyers, but can’t hold a formal hearing at least until he gets the case files back in the mail from the state supreme court. Whether the meeting today was always meant to be an informal meeting, or if he only realized that he couldn't hold a hearing until after summoning the parties I wonder a bit. But it remains a reminder that even in an Internet world, some things are governed by the pace of snail mail.

What it says to me? (repeating and revising some thoughts I had put in comments on a previous post) If he had scheduled a hearing before realizing he couldn't yet, it wouldn’t be the biggest of deals; it would hardly rise to the level of calling it mistake even. But when you consider that this is the judge who I am told has never been overruled on appeal, it’s the little mistakes that are telling. If he scheduled an informal meeting even before he got the file back, the point is much the same. Either way, the man is not giving anyone a moment’s pause.

By all accounts the judge is personally and professionally an extremely reasonable man. But you have to wonder what he is going to say or do if the county once again tries to get out of an actual reassessment. He seems pretty far past a breaking point when you consider he has long since felt the need to play lawyer in this case.. he honestly probably knows more about property assessment than anybody in the state at this point.

What happens next? I suspect that if the county tries to delay a reassessment, he may start out by ordering county to begin by implementing the 2005 reassessment numbers. Those numbers were basically ignored despite the county's own expert testifying under oath that they were pretty good if not better than the numbers being used now. From a purely practical point of view, those numbers ought to be good to go today and would be a much more recent set of numbers than the 2002 numbers in use today. That would certainly shake things up. Would also give the county a lot of incentive to get going pretty fast given how angry people got at those numbers.

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Green Cities report

Worth a look. Just out is a report from the Living Cities project on Green Cities which includes Pittsburgh in it's benchmarking. I see in the transportation section Pittsburgh looks to rank lowest in the percentage of income that working families spend on housing and transportation.

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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

All Arlen All the Time.....

Just reading the tea leaves everyone else is... but watching the Arlen-go-round I wonder if he is having second thoughts about switching parties.. or even about running for re-election.


So just for fun I have added another predictive market on inking... See the site where you can 'bet' on the answer to:


Will Arlen Specter run for Senate as a Democrat in 2010?

Check it out. Register.. bet... invest...


I just have to wonder if he will either go the literal "I" route at this point... or maybe just skip this whole circus altogether. Maybe someone can find him a law school to be the dean of somewhere?

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still floating over the Mon

It is a remarkable statistic in the headlines that 20% of US homes are 'underwater'... worth less than what was is owed on their mortgage. That's not less than what was paid, less than the mortgage. Much scarier is that in Las Vegas that number is 67% via Zillow.com. Zillow does not seem to even report a comparable number for Pittsburgh in its profile for us. I suspect our 'underwater' metric has to be one of the lowest in the nation, not just because home values have not declined as much if at all.. but that compounds with higher and longer ownership patterns as well. The Las Vegas metrics are just plain scary all around. An estimated 99.5% of homes losing value over the last 12 months. 46.9% of home transactions were foreclosures. How is that possible?

But if you look at that zillow profile for Pittsburgh there are a few interesting things. The weakest part of the local real estate market according to them is for condos. There is continued appreciation in the lowest end of the local market.

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Crackberry on ice

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Tuesday, May 05, 2009

two weeks to go

I just don't have it in me to comment on the debate...

Maybe just an old post on why we even have primaries in the first place? May seem like it's just normal, but it wasn't always the case and much of the world still does not have anything similar to the American primary process..... and it all started in Pennsylvania.

also.. from when voting machines were new... A film called Behind the Freedom Curtain (also see part II). Check out the dude smoking coming out of the voting machine.. And in Part II there is a great line about how machines eliminate errors due to a range of reasons that sounds like a line from Recount. Also in part II is a scene where someone is marking huge paper ballots with a huge "void" stamp.

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Google scares me

Well, not because of this, but it does... just a little. Via Governing is a tip that the google data machine is up and running. See what google tells us about unemployment rates. Remember my own interactive unemployment tool? Kind of sad in comparison.

Check out the charts you can make. Here is a comparison of Allegheny County, Wayne County (Detroit) and Cuyahoga County (Cleveland). No more need to manually create my rust belt comparison ever again.

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Monday, May 04, 2009

ditto

Ha.. thought I was commeting on the debate didn't you?

I won't say more... but does this sound familiar? From up the pike:

Chrysler accused of misleading Twinsburg about keeping plant open after bankruptcy

and while it's not what I am alluding too... there is also a relevant piece of history in that it was supposed to be a Chrysler plant that was to be built at the site that would become the Volkswagen plant and then the Sony plant in Westmoreland County. Chrysler made big promises and actually got so far as to start building before backing out.

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home-less municipalities

I have not looked at this recently... but once I calculated that Braddock, PA had the 2nd highest year round housing vacancy rate in the state... second only to Centralia, PA which was formally evacuated by the state due to underground mine fires.

But there is a local AP news story running that says nearby Monessen is now the state's emptiest town.

Either way.. I suspect the only reason either municipality shows up is because you don't see similar data for specific city neighborhoods. But I have not seen the AP data or their methods. Pittsburgh has a few areas that probably match anything going on in Braddock or Monssen

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recessions again

There are several versions of a graphic out there comparing the time series impact of past recessions. I thought I saw one on the NYTimes, but here is a version I see in Time Magazine online here.

Then after looking at that, I have put the same national recession data on top of the local comparable data. The way I would interpret these graphs is that the cumulative 'pain' of a recession is not just the overall level of job loss, but also how long it lasted. So think about the area underneath those graph lines to compare the different periods and geographies. In other words think the integral. Beyond that, I will let the graph speak for itself. You can click on the image to get a larger version.



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Sunday, May 03, 2009

no reason


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Saturday, May 02, 2009

Assessment unnews

Because the issue has been so quiescent over the last couple of years there are many who don't realize how toxic the whole property assessment debate has been in town. It's been a rosetta stone of local politics and a whole lot more. If you had to pick just one topic, it's possible that property reassessment was the biggest story in the county for more than a decade. Think billboards times 10. No, make that 20. From the time Larry Dunn fired all of the county's professional property assessors and attempted to freeze all reassessments (thus prompting the litigation that would seem unending) until last week few issues ranked higher on a scale of political kryptonite. Political careers have been made and ended, protests held and millions of dollars spent on the how's and why's of property assessment.

Yet... now with what may be the single biggest event in Allegheny County's multi-decade reassessment imbroglio, you sense a great sense of...... nothing? It's like the tree that falls in the woods. Was there even a thud? Are people burnt out from other economic news? Fearful of swine flu making property assessment irrelevant? Obsessed with Penguin fever for the moment? I really don't know.

Maybe everyone just does not know what happens next? Dan O. started out all but saying that he was going to defy the ruling. He seems to have realized his rhetoric was a bit over the top and has backed off quite a bit. No line in the sand being drawn. No doubt Allegheny County will be reassessing all properties soon. We can debate a bit whether it is for the 2010 calendar year or not, but progress will be made. Judge Wettick has spent more than a decade issuing ruling after ruling all telling the county it must implement a modern assessment system. Those orders have been thwarted by not one, not two, I really am not sure what the full count of politicians and bureaucrats, along the way. One thing is clear from the ruling issued by the state supreme court, the case is now back squarely in Judge Wettick's, now virtually unappealable, domain.

Maybe next week I'll address the question of who the winners and who the losers are in the reassessment that will come in due course. The short answer is that it's awfully complicated. Most everything I have heard from everyone guessing at an answer is at best incorrect. Each homeowner's future tax bill will depend not only on how her or his own property has appreciated (or depreciated in some cases), but will also depend on how all of their neighbors' values have changed as well. Even if we could deconstruct the county's (unused) reassessment data from 2005, that is still 4 years ago. Lots has gone on in both local and national real estate markets over that time.

Some news from beyond on the assessment decision:

From the Philadelphia Inquirer: County must reassess.

Legal Intelligencer: Allegheny Reassessments Invalid, Supreme Court Holds

Pocono Record: Pennsylvania Supreme Court puts Monroe County property valuations in question

Cumberland Sentinal: County officials study court decision on reassessment

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Friday, May 01, 2009

random history

I regularly drive by the Bride Mural on Penn Avenue in Garfield that was painted by the late Judy Penzer who died on TWA 800 more than a deade ago. Got me thinking a bit about what happened to her brother Richard Penzer. He was the NYC developer that arguably could be described as the the guy who really started the latest round of redevelopment Downtown with his rehabilitation of the Gimbels building. Anyone remember the Pittsburgh Magazine cover of him kind of swimming in cash bills floating all around. I do not jest. His later story is too complicated to get into here even if I understood it, but Penzer's holdings got caught up in a lot of Jewish legal proceedings that I have no idea how it all worked out.. But he kind of disappeared from the scene personally even before his local business dealings were unwound.

So just out of curiosity I ask Mr. Google what is up with him. A Jerusalem Post article from last year says that there were legal proceedings against one of his former Pittsburgh business partners who is alleged to have threatened to plant a bomb in Penzer's car in anger over how his Pittsburgh deals ended. Who knew?

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