Monday, May 31, 2010

Paleofuture cities, paleofuture finance and just simply the future

Lots to catch up on I suppose.

Via the Transportationist, which says it is via David Brin, but from Popular Mechanics is a really cool paleofuture pictorial of Cities of the Future.

h/t to Otis White... but does anyone have any inkling at all whether there is a local version of this story from Atlanta: Paying a price for risky schemes, Derivatives meltdown costs metro Atlanta entities $394 million. Several hundred local municipal pension funds near by.  I would say it would be a newsworthy story if we didn't have this problem. Oh yeah. Beyond the PWSA of course.  Were they the only example here?

You might have caught that the PG's Cutting Edge blog roundup on Sunday caught my comments here last week on teaching Mandarin in the schools.  Think that was in jest?  Check out the news from the other day that Indiana is going to partner with the Chinese on Economic Development.

and this is just about the present, but you have to love lists that rank Salt Lake City and Pittsburgh together.


Memorial Day 1944

Memorial Day 1944 in Pittsburgh saw the launching of LST-750 from the makeshift ways of Dravo Shipyard on Neville Island.  LST-750 would not officially get the name, but it was unofficially called the USS Allegheny County and had been paid for with war bonds purchased locally.  The moment may represent Pittsburgh's peak as a shipbuilding region. 

LST 750 would be sunk just 6 months later at the Battle of Leyte Gulf. You can now even see the location in this mashup.

These are not big ships and circumstances required speed in their production.  Today it might take years to build something similar. I only mention that because it really does say something about the folks who built it when you consider the ship's end. LST 750 was hit by both a Kamikaze attack and then by an aerial torpedo, yet still didn't sink! It was irrevocably damaged and was then ordered sunk by additional gunfire from a nearby destroyer once its crew abandoned ship. It really is hard to imagine such a small ship taking all that and yet still remain afloat.  In all likelihood the crew at the time has all passed by now, but if there was anyone around we really need to find them and at least get some oral history of the ship.

The launching was a big event with news reports saying 25 thousand people came out to watch as Mrs. Clifford Heinz Christened the ship.  Mrs. Clifford Heinz is more known today as Vira I. Heinz and one of the founders of the Heinz Endowments.

The scene above may soon be repeated as has been dreamed from one of the first posts here.  What is going to be a big event I suspect is that in September a sister ship, LST 325, is slated to come to Pittsburgh along with the reunion of the LST Association.

My strange career has even taken me onboard a latter day LST, having once taken the USS Boulder transiting from the East Coast to Guantanamo Bay many years decades ago.  Like their predecessors, the newer (even the newer ones are all now all retired) LST's had flat bottoms to facilitate their beaching.  So if you liked being rocked to sleep they were the ship for you. I just can't imagine what was like beating out though the weather of the South Pacific, which is known to include more than a few hurricanes.


Sunday, May 30, 2010

All those who serve

The PG leads it's Memorial Weekend Sunday edition with coverage of the efforts to allow veterans of the US Merchant Marine equal status with their uniformed brethren of WWII.  The story was mostly about a new merchant marine memorial in Butler.   The Trib covered the forthcoming dedication ceremony on Thursday. It's not a new story by far and on the bigger story of benefits the mariner-veterans are not getting I remember this PG story from 2004.

So I admit more than a great deal of sympathy for the ongoing battles the mariners still fight.  My father served as a member of the US Armed Guard, which were gun crews placed on merchant ships in WWII to defend them when they were almost inevitably attacked.  Thus he served in the Navy itself and would be a veteran without any doubt. Yet in reality he served side by side with the same merchant marine crewman who continue to fight to be recognized even as veterans.  There is this thing about ships in combat.  It's not really any safer to be the guy behind the gun or the wiper deep in the engine room.  To put it in perspective, the US Merchant Marine in WWII suffered a greater proportion of deaths than any other service.

If the dangers of torpedoes and diver bombers seem like ancient history, there is the more recent story of mariners in the pirate hijacking of the Maersk Alaska last year.  But below is the best picture explaining what the Merchant Marine continues to do today.  Click on the pic to get the higher resolution version which really comes closer to explaining what the sea is like in what was really a spring squall in the Med.   It's hard to imagine what merchant marine crews of WWII convoys routinely went through braving things like winter storms in the North Atlantic; often in mass produced, let alone much smaller, Liberty ships bolted together in days. No weather satellites or GPS to help them navigate the storms either. 

MV Cape Texas in the Mediterranean Sea in March 2003. On the deck is equipment of the U.S. Army’s Fourth Infantry Division.


Saturday, May 29, 2010

But for the Bricks

Not a new photo, but again just a reminder that it's not about the cookouts. 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:

Pure coincidence, but Dennis Veater is also the focus of a CNN video out for Memorial Day as well. 

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


Friday, May 28, 2010

What Westinghouse Wrought

On obituaries I missed this that Michael Jordan passed away the the other day as well.  No not that Michael Jordan, the one that had a much bigger impact on the history of Pittsburgh.

One of the better pieces out there anywhere in the nexus of journalism and history was the PG series looking at the whole sordid tale: Who Killed Westinghouse?

My summary is just a bit shorter.  Jordan wanted the big media lights, but was stuck running what some thought was merely an old industrial company.  He wanted to run CBS, so Westinghouse bought CBS, became CBS, and then just ditched the residual which was what Westinghouse had been for a century. Business hubris run amok.

It gets to some real questions of how Pittsburgh survived the recent decades.  Westinghouse's dissection was not the result of any of the same structural forces that did in the steel industry here.  Some maybe, but not the bulk of it.  Many of the parts of Westinghouse were and in some cases still are competitive enterprises, but the collective Westinghouse and its synergy in technology was taken apart by Jordan and Co. never to be put back together.

The impact on Westinghouse on  the the region is recognized by many, but the memory is fading.  What we have of a technology base in the owes much of its existance to the people and enterprises brought here by Westinghouse in one way or another.  From the remnants of Westinghouse Nuclear (no need for the qualifier anymore) to a long list of companies that would take too long to go through.. the common thread is W.   The Westinghouse R&D complex was one of the best in the world for decades at what it did creating technology and was in and of itself one of the main draws of migrants (international and domestic) into the region for decades when there were few other economic reasons to move here?  Many communities of folks are here because Westinghouse brought them here and the vast Pittsburgh transfromation we talk about would not have been possible if they were not here.

So if Pittsburgh was able to rebuild itself with what Westinghouse left us, imagine the history if Westinghouse had not been torn apart. Sorry for the rant.  BP may be in the news, memories of Enron are fading... but what Jordan destroyed for such inconsequential gain is unmeasureable.  When it comes to sheer business ego that ignored the consequences, the story of Westinghouse and CBS may top them all.


Pension Pulse

Mentioned a few days ago was the report from the Pew folks on the state of city finances that included some benchmarking of the City of Pittsburgh.  At the bottom is their main table on the comparable situation of city pension systems for 11 cities.  A few fascinating things in that.

[update: Ha.  Check out footnote 49 of the Pew report linked above.  I didn't catch that.  Also check out the Trib's update on the city pension situation Friday. Was that in Friday's paper? or posted online on Friday?]

First off, there was an update to the numbers even in the brief time since that report came out.  Per the news yesterday the city's pension system is funded as of the and of March at 29%, not the 34% in the table below.  Does not change our ordinal ranking (can't be worse than worst) so who cares?  Hold that thought.

That 29% is the state of the pension system as of the end of March.  Anyone notice what has happened in financial markets over the last 7 weeks?  Bloomberg box says things are not good compared to the levels of April 1.  So unless the city has dumped a lot of additional cash into the system over that time, the funding level is not 29%.

Note the state of Detroit's pension system.  Many know the state of all things financial in the City of Detroit are far worse than most anywhere else these days.  Yet somehow the Detroit pension systems were overfunded in 2008, and really are only down to only 85% following the wall street miasma of late.  How is that possible?  Could it be because of something I have pointed out in the past that the Detroit Pension system has a transparency eons ahead of us when it comes to their pension system.  Try and find any data comparable to what Detroit makes available on their pension system here.   If there is another explanation for why Detroit of all places is so far ahead of Pittsburgh in pension funding I think it would be a great discussion to have.  That and why nobody really cares about the lack of pension information the city puts out confounds me.

Note how far Pittsburgh's funding level is below all the others.  What isn't talked about thus far, and what I bet gets little comment is whether a net gain of $200 million from the monetization of the parking assets is enough to make a difference.

The only thing people care about is getting to the 50% level that is nominally needed to prevent a state takeover of the pension system.   Let's say the city does net $200 mil from the parking assets.  That would move the 29% to 49%, maybe for sake of argument say it gets us to 50%, it will only be by a decimal point.  It is the funding ratio where the city was at around 2002.  Things looked peachy at the time.

On the Pew chart 50% would move us from having  the absolutely lowest funded pension system to just barely above Chicago and Philadelphia... just barely.  50% is a pretty dire state of pension funding by any measure. 

Add it all up and what do you get?  If the 29% is not really where we are at right now...  just a few % points below that make it that much harder to get the system over 50%.  How much more would be needed and where will it come from is a potential question.  Deep down I suspect the uber-low interest rates in the bond markets these days ought to produce a higher set of bid prices than might have been expected when this process all got started.  Time will answer that more definitively, but when the bids come in they will look like big numbers.  Big or not the question will be: Is it enough?


Thursday, May 27, 2010


There will be a lot more written about his long career, or about what he has been up to recently, but I suspect that if he could have written his own epitaph it would be simply:  John G. Craig Jr. - Newspaperman.  1933-2010.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Bubble vision

Go kill a tree and you can check these out in quaint old ink.   Here are the Manyeyes' interactive versions of what the City Paper has running in today's edition.  

See the Pennsylvania statewide gubernatorial results by county for Onorato, Wagner, Williams, and  Hoeffel.

Seriously, that tree is already post-pulp.  Maybe we can get the CP to sell out?


The good, the bad.... and the sugary

The good and the bad.   Pew has updated its look at city finances which includes Pittsburgh in their benchmarking.   The good: we are only city they look at which is showing a budget surplus this year.  The bad: the worst funded pension system by far. 

Their Pittsburgh synopsis:

Thanks to deep budget-cutting under state fiscal watchdogs, Pittsburgh started fiscal 2010 on January 1 with a modest surplus. But flat revenues and high labor costs soon flipped the city into the red, and by mid-May it was projecting a slight deficit through the end of 2010. The city’s pension funds lie at the heart of the problem, creating a huge extra cost for the general fund. The pensions had a funded ratio of 34 percent in 2009, the lowest among all 13 cities.

Struggling to prevent a state takeover of its pension system, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and city leaders have been exploring several potential revenue sources to present to state legislators for approval. The ideas included leasing about 20 city-owned garages, raising the voluntary payments to the city made by nonprofit institutions, privatizing the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, raising a tax on earnings, hiking parking fines, and imposing a sugar-sweetened drink tax.
So we are like Splenda-burgh.  Half bad calories and half some mysterious chemical that will save us from ourselves.


Where is that Marcellus Shale blog we need?

Bloomberg with some in depth thoughts on all things Marcellus today.  Worth a read.

One side impact of Marcellus shale and the ever lower price of natural gas.... it's too cheap to build windmills.  Weren't we suppose to get all those green jobs for our steelworkers building the wind turbines?  I saw the ads, it must be true.

Kind of interesting that former President Bush has gone on the speaking circuit and one of his first major speeches is about wind power. Not quite sure what to make of that.

and I don't really see much notice of this here....  I pointed out BP was making Making marcellus related investments, so the British are coming...  but so are the Asian sovereign wealth funds... So the Spanish own Kennywood, the French own the cabs and now the Chinese are going to own our natural gas (well.. not yet, maybe someday).  What's next?  The Japanese are going to buy Westinghouse or something like that.  What then?

I still think that the most efficient economic development strategy for the region would be to fund the hiring of a Mandarin teacher for every school.  Would be a lot cheaper than a lot of other things we try.  Think of all the earned media we would get.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Parking elasticity

Parking fines doubled....  city expects revenue to double.  There is this little thing called price elasticity.  There could be data here for a great natural experiment.  Oh, nevermind. 

I still want to know how this all works with a privatized meter....   Who gets the ticket fee if you are parked at a privatized meter?  I really don't know.

Gotta run, I better go check my meter.


Darning the region

Just in passing THE headline of the day: Dow 10,000: It could happen today


Another topic, but in local wonk world the Trib has big, if not entirely unexpected, news.  When Alcoa itself moved out of the now "old" Alcoa building it was news enough to make the NYT.  I always thought Paul O'Neill was something of a genius for getting the building off his books so quickly and with scads of earned media to boot.  1996 was not the worst, but far from the greatest of years for the Downtown real estate market and I wonder what the market would have paid for it back then.   I'll let others comment on the symbolism of this past headline from soon after it was rechristened:  A Skyscraper Symbolizes New Regional Coherence.  Big wonk (capital W)/Columnist/Urbanist Neil Pierce once wrote about the building: Knitting Pittsburgh Together.  With aluminum thread no less I am sure.


and incidental to all that...  a $10mil building put onto the property tax rolls is a palpable bump to city and school district property tax collection.  Would it also be hit by the huge transfer tax as well?  Could be enough for more than a few miles of asphalt.


Monday, May 24, 2010

How much success like this can we handle?

Now this from Cincinnati about how our airport is a model of success.  Something for them to emulate as they endure the rapid de-hubbing of the airport down there... more collateral damage from the ever-consolidating airline industry in the US.  See: Ex-hub now serves region, has lower fares. Is Pittsburgh the future of CVG?  Just think.  If they want to emulate us now, what will they think if we lose a few more direct flights?

Which reminds me...   what is up with the plan to sell the parking lots at the airport to pay off debt?  Just asking. 

and just checking in on the latest stats on the airport... I was looking at the chart there with the time series of total passengers using the airport by airline and looking at just how far USAirways specific traffic has fallen.   From servicing 11.5 million passengers here in 2002 to 1.1 million in 2010.  So a drop in excess of 90%.   I bet some folks probably still think USAirways is the largest airline here.  Not!


The Occupations of Pittsburgh

Some good stuff looking at the labor force of Pittsburgh in this analytical piece in the Sunday PG: Where the Jobs are and Aren't.   Occupational analysis, especially over time is fraught with definitional problems... but the scale of occupation change in the local workforce is pretty immense.  What occupation was really decimated here in the region in recent decades?  Some production occupation related to steel?  I think the occupation that declined the most (other than lead typesetter of course) is telephone operator.  We had one of the major Bell TelephoneATT international phone center which still needed operators long after the rotary dial first decimated the occupation.  All gone for the most part.

If you want here is an excel file with a complete list of employment by occupation in the Pittsburgh region indexed to national employment and wage levels.  All sorts of fascinating local factoids buried in there.  Ever wonder how many attorneys there are in town? But overall it is all a lot of data to absorb.  More visually and interactively you can check out my treemap of employment across all occupations in the Pittsburgh Region.

And something that may be a few years out of date, but it still is the best data we have on this and I will all but guarantee that qualitatively very little has changed.  Details of employment by occupation in the county and region broken down by both race and gender I have here:  EEO Occupations Patterns for Allegheny County and the Pittsburgh Region.  Honestly, that is far more important than the aggregate numbers on how we work.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

More maps

Each of these deserve their own commentary, but for now I'll just dump the maps out there for those who care. 

The results from PA20 for Ravenstahl, Keller, Tuinistra and Purcell.

In the state committee race for PA38 I've made some maps of how each candidate did in their ordinal ranking by district.  Separate maps for Frazier (who came in first), Arena (who got the last slot coming in 5/6), and Jimenez (who lost out coming in 6/6).


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Pondering Pennsylvania Political Participation

Sometimes I miss opportunties to at least appear prescient.  I actually drove across Kentucky last month and heard a whole local NPR piece on the now well-known Rand Paul whom I had never heard of before. I thought it was fascinating and was going to blog something, but figured it too far afield.  The only link I could toss out there was his status as a 2nd generation diasporan. That must count for something.  Does he have relatives here?  Maybe he comes to visit and is a regular at Primanti's? 

But this WSJ piece on the now infamous senate candidate reminded me of something I wonder about occassionally. The article parses the differences in political philosophies out there, differences that just don't get accounted for by only two major parties in the US. There are a lot of third parties out there, but most are small when it comes to registration, influence or public notice at all.  Pennsylvania has a whole slew of registered political parties and in the past I have counted the party registration in Allegheny County.  Beyond the D's and R's there is obviously the Green Party and of course Libertarians, although you may get an oversize impression of their activity because the ubiquitous Mark R must have his name embossed on the public lectern in City Council and elsewhere.  But that is just the beginning.  There are also registered members of the Constitution Party locally which is different from the Constitutional Party.  Do folks really make a distinction between those two when registering, or is it just a persistent typo? The Constitution party has 4 times the membership of the Constitutionals, but all recent registrations are in the latter; go figure? Who are all these folks and do either really exist any more as organized parties?  A Patriot Party has long had members on the books both locally and statewide, as does the Consumer party, though not many recent additions. Never forget the Reform Party, where is Ross Perot when you need him?  I thought someone was starting some new Trinitarian party here? What happened to that?  Maybe some of these groups are just artifacts of past hyperactive political participation? There is even a (as in singular) person a year who registers as a socialist, which is the smallest named party in the registration stats. Technically it's the Socialist Worker party which at least historically is actually more Trotskyite...  the closest active Communist Party seems to stick to the other side of the mountains,  probably because of the drubbing it took out here in the days of Matt Cvetic.  Small numbers not withstanding there was at least some evidence those folks were still around, but the Parkway Left has gone dormant so I dunno? 

and it's all more convoluted than that.....  The "all other" category of party makes up the third biggest group of registered voters, and that is distinct from those who formally register as "independent" which is itself different from those with "no party".  I'm told some of the other other parties include the Prohibition Party, which according to this web site has had its single biggest success in the 21st century here in Pennsylvania, electing a Tax Assessor in Thompson Township, Pennsylvania. Anyone have a comprehensive list of political parties in Pennsylvania?  That may be one of those lists that is almost impossible to compile.

Seems to me that however you classify the Tea Partiers, they are awfully lot more substantial than all these extant third parties in the state these days combined.  Could Pennsylvania become the first state they actually register as a formal party?


Florida invasion

You know, we can dominate all the academic (and pseudo-academic) ratings games we can, but at the end of the day it really does come down to counting those who vote with their feet.  

Thus it really is worth pointing out what Jim R. caught in Florida news  of folks fleeing the Sunshine State for Pittsburgh?? Ok, just one 'folk' and 'fleeing' may be as misused for them as it often was for us... Nonetheless, lots of positive Pittsburgh thoughts in that article as well.  I'm trained to not make too much of anecdotal points like this, but I am pretty sure you could have gone several decades where it would have been impossible to find a single story of someone leaving Florida because they could only find work in Pittsburgh, let alone see it written about in the Florida media no less.   It really does not compute.

The fact that this is all in the middle of a recession* is all the more curious.   What would the unemployment rate be here if folks like this were not moving here for jobs?  Forget all those foreign immigrants, it's these folks from Florida coming and taking 'our' jobs.  I wonder if this guy is going to settle in Cranberry.  At least Florida is not sending us their pythons.

Our new Pittsburgher is a darn Princetonian to boot and a boomeranger no less.  No diaspora report in some time??    Just saying. 

update:  This does not count as a diaspora report ok...  but PG+ picks up the story and has offered a beer to our new neighbor.  Good line that it all could be good fodder for the Onion in a counterfactual world.  Makes me think that what we need is a "Welcome to Pittsburgh" blog. I know some have things that come close to that, but.......

*  yeah, yeah I know... While they have not defined the recession end officially; when they do we may very well be out of it...


Friday, May 21, 2010

If Madison thumb typed

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of sp


jobs uber alles yinz

OK... the news headline is: Pa. adds 34,000 jobs; jobless rate flat at 9%

The actual state PR can be a bit booster-ish for me, but nontheless worth noting: PA Jobs Rise by 34,000; Largest One Month Job Gain Since 1996

Skipping a lot of caveats... seasonality, sampling error, the uber cold winter and anomalous recession impacts to start with, but looking as apples to apples as I can......  I think of that statewide +34K jobs, more than half (+17.8K is what I am seeing) is here in the Pittsburgh region.  Let's just put it this way, the Pittsburgh MSA is not half of the state by any measure.  (see comments)  Also, the data suggests that for the region the year over year job loss was shrunk to the smallest since the last months of 2008. So draw your own conclusions.   (that is still generally the case though...  NSA data that it is, but is fair enough for year over year comparisons)

More later... gotta run.


'll add this just becasue I am fascinated by the near-symmetry of the rebound.  World is usually a lot chunkier than that.  This is the time series for year over year employment change in the Pittsburgh MSA per the non-seasonally adjusted count of nonfarm wage and salary emloyment to be precise.  But check it out:

I'll look more into this later, but just as the state press release touts how far back you have to go to find such a big month over month job increase. Month over month is awfully variable, let alone seasonal, but I don't see a month over month jobs increase bigger than what the region is showing going back more like 30 years at least. But don't take that to the bank. Need to confirm that with data still to come. So we will see.


Not votes for Snoopy

Has anyone noticed this?  There was a bipartisan battle for the write-in nomination in the Democratic priamry for the 40th Pennsylvania State Senate District.  Jane Orie was unopposed and there had not been any Democrat who filed petitions since it seemed like such a lock for Orie.  News accounts say her recent travails first prompted a write-in campaign by Dan Demarco I think ... which then prompted her to run a write in campaign to become the nominee on both Republican and Democratic sides which happens.  You need to get past the minimum number of write-in ballots AND you have to have more than anyone else obviously.

Looks like there were 4,758 write in ballots on the Democratic side of the primary.  Which I am pretty sure is enough to get your name on the ballot.   But who won is actually the question. Whomever won that is a remarkable number of write in votes expecially since the incumbent Orie on the Republican side, and with her name on the ballot obviously, garnered 14,661 votes.  I will parse that more later. 

FYI, what I have posted before.  But here is what Senate district 40 looks like:

View Larger Map


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Burning Cash in Harrisburg

NY Times has new story on the festering fiscal miasma in Harrisburg (little h) and the ever growing talk of bankruptcy for the municpality.  For those who like to point out that municipal bankruptcy can't happen I'll point out again that Westfall Township in Pike County did indeed just recently go through Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy.  So there is no "can't".  Also talk of the options there to sell or lease parking garages.  Who is thinking of doing that?  Aren't those bids supposed to come in soon which will set off a minor national news cycle for us, it will be one of the bigger public infrastructure monetizations this year.  Just think the sales pitch to potential investors......  gotta be a better investment than the stock market.  That and with interest rates dropping ever lower, the financial cost of a deal like this is getting cheaper and cheaper to the firms that are likely to engage.  It just has to be a highly leveraged investment.  Whether any of those cheaper interest rates are capitialized into the price the city gets I doubt, though you would think it would be the case. 

So in a particular sense, the miasma in the stock market and other problems pushing interest rates down could be helping out this potential deal.  Not all good news of course... with stock market being whacked, anyone know how the city's pension fund has been faring of late?  Of course you don't. 

I keep meaning to look this up... but following up on the story today of a proposed hike in parking ticket costs..  How do parking tickets work in Chicago and their privatized meters?  Who is the ticketing authority?  How are appeals handled?  Who gets the fines?  or what happens when a local DJ or someone reduces a ticketed fine?


Sic Semper Publius

Just watching the news about the state attorney general going after some insidious and psuedononymous twitterers…. Like this is anything new. I think we are going to be living with this type of thing into the future. Some locally famous and publicly anonymous internet voices who have annoyed some of the powers that be and that have gone to ground include:
So don’t get slighted Infi, I am excluding all those still known to be extant. And Pittgirl has a hybrid spot having been pseudonymous, but now widely known. And again, I was just thinking up those who operate(d) behind the veil. If you were to ask me what single blogger has had the single biggest political impact in town, my answer is still Ms. Sirk. But she was not hiding anything for sure.  Seriously TMI there.

Speaking of pseudonymity...  O can correct my latin.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

the picture

No time for more, but here is something quick and interesting in itself.  Senate results in a map.  Governor maps don't come out very interesting since DO does pretty well across the board.  But here is something that is not quite what I expected, but maybe I should have. 

As always with primaries... the results come across a bit skewed because the density of voters across the county is very different by party. Nonetheless.  I really didn't mean the colors to be as value laden as they obviously are this way, but this is just about the only time a map like this would have that color pattern.  Does make you wonder what the margin in the senate race would have been if Williams had not entered the race for governor.


Some knitting: the future of cities

Financial Times today has a whole section on The Future of Cities.  Some content behind the paywall unfortunately, but not all.  One story of note: Can trams and trains bring express reliefSubtitled: 'Robert Wright on the links between better transport connections and urban renewal'.


darn data delayed?

It's strange, but for some reason the county still has not posted the detailed election returns. They usually have the detailed elections returns data posted by midnight at least, but still nothing in the AM?? No data = no maps, sorry.

So some odds and ends while we're waiting.......

Lost a bit behind the other headlines.  In the Lt. governor races plurality rules: Looks to me like Saidel lost to H. Scott Conklin on the Democratic side, but the Inky says the margin requires a recount, and Jim Cawley won on the Republican side.  I have no idea who either are for the record.  Metcalfe won the Republican primary within Allegheny county with over 29%.

What does a recount mean for an electronic voting machine btw?

Saidel got nearly 70% of the vote in Philadelphia the news reports say.  But just didn't show up out here.  He got just about a third (in a 3 way race) here in Allegheny County which is the 2nd biggest pot of Democratic voters.  You would think the endorsement would impact a race like that somehow?  Must be a statistical test to see if that result is meaningfully different from folks just voting randomly among the 3 candidates..  I thought he would do well here; kind of strange he didn't do better at least within Allegheny County.  Wonk vote goes down in flames it seems, but I don't think he had much organization out here. I  might even have put up a sign.

I guess this list isn't getting any longer. See the compilation rating all of Arlen Specter's opponents over the years.  Long list.

Potter pointed out there was a nascent write in campaign for Dok Harris in the 4th congressional district.  Looks like over a thousand write-in votes (within the Allegheny County returns alone) in that race, or just about 4.5% which actually is a pretty high % as these things go.  Now whether the write in votes were for Harris or Snoopy we don't know.

Speaking of strange results. Hoeffel got all of 3.9% within Allegheny county??  I think any name on the ballot would get at more than that. I'm serious, see if there is a candidate with their name on the ballot in any race that did worse.  That may come in below the fat fingers minimum. I will be curious if the data can give any explanation for how Sestak was able to garner votes within the county that didn't buy anything at all for Hoeffel. But with numbers that low...  effectively zero..... there isn't going to be much to correlate the results against. In fact that is a smaller % than the write in % against Altmire which as Potter explains mostly came from a day old write-in campaign.  

Anyone spot anything else of note in the minutia?


on the undercard

While we wait for the detailed data to be posted, this surprises me.  In the race for the state Democratic Committee, this is the result for the 38th Senate District (state committeepersons are elected by state senate district) for all districts reporting in Allegheny County.

Mike Turpin. . . . . . . . . . 11,328        16.63%
Pamela Macklin. . . . . . . . . 12,662    18.59%
Cynthia M. Maleski . . . . . . . 10,682    15.68%
Daniel Jimenez. . . . . . . . . 9,845       14.45%
Brenda L. Frazier. . . . . . . . 13,376     19.63%
Matthew A. Arena . . . . . . . . 9,848    14.46%

The 38th Senate District includes some small pieces of a few other counties, to this isn't the final result.  But 5 of these 6 candidates will win. 

update:  I may not be correct on how multi-county state senate committee seats are elected... anyone?

Several things of note.  It looks like Daniel Jimenez came in last even though he was one of the 5 candidates endorsed by the county committee. Jimenez came to note during the tuition tax debates as the graduate student leader at Pitt.  I thought he had a lock on this low key race in that he was not only endorsed, but had a prominant place on the slate card as the vice chair of the Allegheny County Democratic Primary Campaign Commitee.  He also was clearly the most tech savvy of the candidates with active campaign twitter and facebook accounts. 

The only unendorsed candidate in this race was former county councilwoman Brenda Frazier, who looks to have come actually in first.  Jiminez came in just 3 points less than Matthew Arena. Like I said, I dont see the multi-county results yet which may work out differently... 3 points is not exactly a big margin which J.

Not a good night for the Allegheny County Democratic Primary Campaign Commitee it seems.  Jiminez as vice chair, but Arlen Specter was listed as the groups secretary.  Pro-forma I am sure, but still.  Sure can't say that the ACDC endorsement guarantees you an election victory.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

tick tock:

Get your own:


yet another election day

It's a good thing they keep having these elections.   Otherwise there might not be anything to blog about.  That or I might be forced to blog about Justin Bieber or something.*

John Micek passes on the final Q....   (I can't spell common nouns, I sure am not going to try to spell the name of that school up in Connecticut) poll and it has Sestak up by a meaningless 1 % point and Dan way ahead of the pack.  So the Sestak/Specter race is about as even as it gets, in line the last Muhlenberg poll which showed a literal tie which is pretty amazing in itself.   Why they have the election I suppose.

For Gov on the D side the persistent curiosity is the amazingly high undecided going into the final day.  According to Q 30% are still undecided despite a bunch of choices... maybe its so many choices that is keeping folks from commiting to one name or the other?  I'd love to see the cross-tab between the undecided voters for governor and senate polling with its much lower undecided count.  Who are the D's undecided for Gov, but decided for senate? There must be a fair number of folks like that.  It's curious. 

On the D senate race... if the polls really are showing a tie I suspect it bodes well for Sestak.  I get a strong sense that the clear support of the greater D establishment could be impacting the pre-election polling.  Sort of like bias that is debated over the role of race in polling.  Some races see polls showing greater support for minority candidates than actually show up in the final election returns.  Similarly I suspect there are some number of folks who feel pressured to support, or at least show support, for Sen. Specter, but who will not vote for him behind the curtain.  I'm not saying it's going to be a big effect, but if the race is showing a tie and if there was a potential stealth Sestak support of just a few percent then this race swings.  and I just can't think of a counterveiling reason why folks might be saying they are voting for Sestak, but really vote for Specter in the end.   I suspect there could be more Specter support than is showing up in the polls just from sheer name recognition built up over decades.   How it all balances out I have no idea.  But with the last polling near even, it makes for a good natural experiment to study polling bias after the fact like the uber-statisticians are wont to do. So at least there will be something to blog about in perpetuity.
* I honestly have no idea who Justin Bieber is.  I mean...  he was on SNL earlier in the year so I can place a face with the name, but I have no idea if he sings, dances, tells jokes or solves differential equations for a living.  I am deliberately not asking Mr. Wikipedia just to see how long I can go without knowing.


Monday, May 17, 2010

real world data fusion

Speaking of maps.. and for no local reason.  All the news from the Gulf of Mexico has me checking in with what is one of the more amazing real world, and real time data sites out there. This site has the real time positions of all the ships at sea, including many of those oil rigs... at least those that don't mind folks knowing where they are.

So of course the IT center of the universe could do the same thing with buses.... or snow plows?

I guess we can obsess on all things political for the time being.  I don't have much until the election returns show up.  The election is tomorrow isn't it.   For a moment I thought it was a week from tomorrow. 


"Like a Pittsburgh Wikipedia"

For the record I think the city's new website focused on neighborhoods is a good idea and looks well implemented.  Certainly a big media rollout with news coverage in both PG and the Trib.  The Trib piece has a quote of note.  Someone says the new site is: "It's like a Pittsburgh Wikipedia,".   You know... if you seach for "Pittsburgh Neighborhoods" on the web the first result you probably get is the literal Wikipedia entry for Pittsburgh Neighborhoods with an interactive map pointing you toward a wiki page for each neighborhood. Some are sparse, but some neighborhoods have pretty extensive writeups. Might be an interesting academic paper to compare and contrast what information is on the two sites. 

For the advanced cartophiles who want to drill down into neighborhood maps we allow partial access to the general public of our Pittsburgh Neighborhood and Community Information System. Zoom right down to your house for the neat stuff. One of the stories above mentions a survey of residents by neighborhood.  For contrast for where we were 30 years ago, I really think the last comprehensive neighborhood level survey done of city residents is this survey from 1980 completed by the late Roger Ahlbrandt whom I have mentioned before. (we'd love to do that survey again btw...  unfortunately it's not cheap to have a survey large enough to get reportable results for each neighborhood in the city).   He wrote a lot about neighborhoods and community development here in Pittsburgh and if you want to understand how we got from there to here (define 'there' and 'here' as you wish) I would start with some of his writings.  Also, my colleagues all just got back from a conference of the National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership at the Urban Institute.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Is this a story here?

I have missed this issue just as many other have according to the WashPO:  IRS tightens control of smallest nonprofits.

We have a lot of nonprofits here.


Bike all day

Pedal Pittsburgh is today.

Started in 1994. 


Saturday, May 15, 2010

non-foodie Burgh

If I was a magazine:

The uber graphic on how regions spend their money on food:   That gives me lots of ideas.  That graphic template should be a ManyEyes visualization type.

If I understand it (and I may not for the record), we are off the chart on the bottom and their Pittsburgh Food quotient is here. We are there, just below Houston. Low, but not off the chart.

No wonder we are zagat-less. Still no Zagats; what was the G20 good for? 



Far (really far!) Southeastern Pittsburgh

So maybe it's not a Cleveburgh level of symbiosis, but how much can Pittsburgh fuse with the (greater greater) Washington, DC area.

This may be for Jim Russell, and his indefatigable look at the role of talent migration here and everywhere, as much as anyone.  We have bantered in the past on the evolution of Pittsburgh-Washington, DC geography.   It will never be a Cleveburgh level of intergration of course, there is this little problem mother nature put in the way, but I occassionally muse on what the interconnections are already there, and those thatare going to grow in the future.  Worth thinking about more.

Which all leads up to explaining why I am fascinated with a thread on Northern Virginia livability on The mere fact anyone mentions Pittsburgh in that discourse is fascinating in and of itself.  

It's not as silly as you may think to think about the symbiosis that exists between Pittsburgh and DC.  There clearly is a lot of migration between the two regions, always has been and likely always will be... in both directions mind you.  That old link I put from here mentioned some telecomuting going on with folks who live here, but technically work in DC.  How much of that is going on?

It all really harks back to Border Guard Bob...   When Border Guard Bob* was being proposed I would suggest that if somone really had money to spend a far far cheaper and more effective campaign would be to just place some billboards along I-70 between Pittsburgh and DC.   Make it like the Burma Shave ads I would say.  An early one would be counterintuitive and show what a specific occupation made in Pgh and compare it to DC.  Might not be a great comparison.  But then in the following billboard compare the housing prices... for comparable houses that is.   I bet it would have gotten a few people thinking at least and I bet that route has lots of folks going back and forth for work or visiting relatives. Nobody took that too seriously, and when BGB was cancelled the strategy morphed into Project 84**.  I actually rooted for that a bit.  I figured someone might have been brought up on kidnapping charges if it had been implemented. Rationality did eventually settle in there as well however.

* Speaking of Border Guard Bob.   An interminable lurker here suggested to me recently I actually like bringing up BGB.  I'm not sure about liking; Bob may have gone to ground, but he sure isn't gone.  The philosophy of Bob pops up all the time in ways both subtle and obvious.  When Bob retires for sure, I'll stop mentioning him.

** Note that story says folks would have learned Pittsburgh was their destination several weeks before coming..  Let me assure you that was not the original intent which was to tell folks they had 'won' a trip to Pittsburgh once they had arrived.


iPhone meets iBurgh (travel edition)

Sunday travel section of the Washington Post comes to Pittsburgh to test the travel apps in the iPhone.

Only a moderate success it seems.  Note where it says the phone pointed the user to a now closed Starbucks... curious in that we had virtually no Starbucks close when they culled their establishments a few years ago.  The only one to close I thought was the one at Station Square, which is probably where he was. Some other funny snippets of technology meets Yinzerworld in there.  Worth a quick scan, but I agree with the author and will still need my Lonely Planet.


Friday, May 14, 2010

the final countdown

a) wow.

but to balance that out.  Wandering through the web, via Blargh29, is this snippet buried in the internet archives compiling all of Arlen Specter's primary opponents over the years.  Not quite sure how to attribute that, but it's a long list.  So even if one recent poll now holds Sestak up by 9, it isn't over until it's over. More than a few of those folks probably thought they were going to win.


We have the capability to build the world's first....... pigeon ranking?

Pittgirl is disappointed that she couldn't find a ranking of Pittsburgh and pigeons...   I don't know of one either.

However, you can look up all sorts of bird counts in the Audubon Society's Christmas Bird Count.  They have a specific datapoint for local counts in lots of places for the number of Rock Pigeons among many other species. You just need to manually select a state, then a specific place and voila: a beakful of bird counts.

Can we crowdsource this somehow?   Feel free to post pigeon counts for specific cities in the comments.    I'm just confused though.  I thought we poisoned most of the pigeons Downtown some years ago?  Certainly seems like there are a lot fewer than there used to be.

Speaking of lists.. we are the 18th craziest city. Why? Just like it works out with so many other aggregate metrics like this, we don't seem to stand out in any specific component, but consistent mediocrity across the board pushes up into the elite regions.  Now if they added list-crazy to the criteria.....


Thursday, May 13, 2010

Giving Tom a run for his money on the lecture circuit

Some know how much Doug will talk when he isn't even supposed to; can you imagine how much he will talk when he is the invited speaker.  $/word they will get their money's worth.

Harvard Club in Manhattan no less.... nice place, not that I'd be caught dead inside.


Penguin Bloopers

Oh.  Wrong penguins.  But obligatory penguins post.  See: History of Hockey in Pittsburgh.

With obligatory historical musing. I learn from that a) Pittsburgh's only loss of a professional sports team came in 1929 when the Pittsburgh Pirates moved the franchise across the state to become the Philadelphia Quakers, and b) they used to play professional hockey inside Duranti's.

And the demolition of the Lower Hill District began on May 31, 1956 to make way for the Civic Arena.  I suppose they can't possibly have demolition permits in place yet, but it would be some irony if they started demoltion on the same date.  And what are we going to call it all in posterity.  It was the Civic Arena for the vast majority of its existance.  Will we call it the Mellon Arena even after it is gone? or reused I suppose.  Mellon as a stand alone moniker is gone right?  We never thought of calling it the BoNY/Mellon Arena.


Lt. Governor wanna-be's, wonk quotient and more

Confession time...  the other day I pointed out that few know who the candidates are for Lt. Governor.   Turns out I didn't have much clue who was running either. I doubt I am alone. With the latest polling showing the undecided vote for governor near 60%, the undecided vote for Lt. Gov must be nearly unanimous. Real scary part is that it will probably be undecided for Lt Gov as most voters enter, and even when they exit, the polling station.

Anyway, I was shocked when I looked at the official list of candidates.  There are NINE relatively unknown folks running on the Republican side and a slightly saner 3 folks on the Democratic side..  Not that any of them have much to speak of when it comes to statewide profiles; not much time to build one now that we are just days before the election. 

Republicans first.  Seriously, is there polling out there in the public domain to see how any of the nine are doing?  Would it matter?  I see the ads have started on tv.  One fellow is claming to be Corbett's running mate which ought to be worth a lot, though I can't remember which one it was.  Of course Metcalfe has clearly won the earned media game of late which all has to boost his numbers. Russ Diamond was the guy behind a lot of the Harrisburg pay raise backlash and owns a big inflatable pig, the swiss army knife MOAB* of campaign tchotchke. Then there is one dude named "John Kennedy" running; gotta be worth a few votes in the name alone. I remember some guy running for office in town named Richard Caliguiri, after the late mayor had passed away.  It's all just silly isn't it?  With so many candidates in one election, let alone one with such little coverage, is the result anything more than just Gaussian noise? It all sounds quaint and democratic, but when you have such a split field I suspect the vote is impacted mostly by the position your name gets on the ballot.  In fact candidate Kennedy has a video where at the end he points out specifically he is the "7th name on the ballot".. that's actually pretty useful information since it reminds you not to get distracted and pick one of the first 6 names you read if you want to support him.  I'd rather be the last name listed, being buried in the middle must be the worst.

On the Democratic side there are at least only 3 candidates on the ballot, but I have seen virtually no coverage of the race, nor any ads yet.... If there have been ads running they have not registered with me and I am probably a shade above average in terms of political awareness. They should all demand refunds from their marketing gurus if they have actually made any significant media buys as yet, but I don't think they have.  I just don't know much about 2 of the candidates, but if there is a wonk vote I would say former Philly controller Jonathan Saidal would get it.  So call that a pseodo-endorsement fwiw.  While he was controller some good stuff came out of the controller's office there pushing government transparency among other things. Worth scaling up I would say, but he would be an ideal candidate for auditor general someday if it didn't pan out.  

On a side note... our past little wiki-wars were always pretty childish compared to some of the big wiki wars you hear about.  I have no idea what lead to this but was just checking and it looks like Saidal's wikipedia page is completely locked down by the wiki gnomes with virtually no content. Wonder what lead to that? Which means that the 16-year Philly controller and now Lt. Gov candidate has a far shorter wikipedia page than say Kevin Acklin, briefly a one-time independent mayoral candidate in 2nd Class City of Pittsburgh. Looks like it needs to be updated btw. Actually, looks like Pittsburgh's uber Wikipedia editor Blargh29 has nominated the Acklin entry for deletion to whomever decides such things. I still may create a Les Ludwig page.

* The swiss army knife of campaign tchotchke in Pennsylvania would of course be the bingo dauber.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

awash in natural gas

No, not us.  New report out says Canada is awash in Natural Gas.

I guess the marcellus stuff will have to find markets elsewhere.


Perpetual Money Machines

Haven't checked in on casino revenues in a bit. Looks like the take is pretty solidly in an ever-narrower range. In fact the revenues look to be about as stable as they have been since the grand opening, but is it enough to actually make money?  Something Fester is on the case of... in fact Fester is the one who pointed out to me things may be more dire down at the casino than I was thinking.  Given their current revenue levels, is the casino burning cash, and if so how much? 

So if recent weeks represent a potential steady state, this is what I think the numbers add up to.

Weekly Gross Terminal Revenues: $4.7mil
After taxes:  $2.1mil  = $109mil annually.

Just to start, what must be coming out of that $109mil annually?
  • Bond payments:  $55mil
  • Payment to SEA for arena bonds: $7mil
  • Property taxes (which they are appealing):  $6mil
  • Adjustment to make up for $10mil guaranteed to City annually:  $5mil
That right there adds up to $73 million annually netting $36mil all of which is before you account for the little things like the payroll for 1,100 employees which are advertised to all be with benefits.  Seems like that gets you down to even right there or even below??  Then there are are utility costs, marketing, and other operating expenses, let alone investment and maintenance to keep up the property... I just don't see how they are not burning cash, but I would love to hear any refinements on the math above. I think they are on public record saying they were buring down their interest reserve accounts pretty quickly in the fall when their revenues were even lower, so there can't be a big cushion there.

Long run everyone is counting on table games I know... but there is also Ohio's looming entry into the whole gaming world which will counter that. Then there supposed to be a Lawrence County casino that is in limbo, but you would think would have to eat into the revenues of nearby venues. Even WV is going to try and adapt if it sees itself losing market share in the future. Finally, there is the recurring thought of legalizing video poke games which is awfully problematically given the casino licenses... but mark my words with the state budget forecast so dire it will be talked about again, possibly pretty soon. Actually, it's never not talked about...  just talked about more quietly sometimes.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Oil Spills R Us

Found it.  From 1989:  Economic and Policy Implications of the January 1988 Ashland Oil Tank Collapse in Allegheny County Pennsylvania. (big file).  Scary things buried in my office.  I have not even gotten around to scanning most of the appendices to that.
I didn't realize this, but the 1988 Ashland oil spill here was said to be the largest inland oil spill in US history.  The stats I see say it was just 'half' the size of the Exxon Valdez spill, but is that a half full or half empty kind of comparison?  The Exxon Valdez spill was epochal.  Half-epochal is pretty bad in context.  Despite a big response, most reports I see say they only ever recovered 20% of the spilt fuel.  So we are living with the other 80%.  That and a few hundred other communities downstream of us of course.

What Mr. Google finds for me:  This looks like just the beginning of some longer video, but on youtube is an intro to the spill.    A longer case study is here. Contemporaneous coverage was in Time Magazine and Potter waxed on the history of it all more recently.

I'm just wondering... with all the news about emergency response during snowpocalypse...  the best time to do emergency planning is when there isn't an emergency, or so they tell me. Sure might be a good idea for some of our Fourth Estate friends to poke into how prepared we are these days for something like this if it were to happen again.  One of the problems discovered during the snow storms was that we seem to have forgotten pretty quickly the snow storms of the not too distant past. and Snow Happens.  If we forgot about snow, what do we remember about oil?


all energy, all the time

(I'm not sure folks appreciate the music post... sometimes I may be too subtle for my own good.  That and it is quite a good new piece and well performed no less.  If only BK would have stuck to the knitting.)

Just some energy things that have been piling up:

FT energysource blog has a bunch of stuff at the nexus of coal/natgas/electricity/environment and more.. all of which impact us (small us and big US) these days.  See: Coal die-off, nat gas boom are already reducing US emissions

at the center of the world of course is Marcellus Shale these days.. some interesting legal issues down in Texas concerning offers made for Barnett Shale leases.  Lots of similar offers going on around here over the last year.  WSJ's latest offering to the Marcellus mania: How Shale Gas is Going to Change the World.

and random energy link.  Lifehacker passes on links that show graphically what all the different things a kilowatt hour of energy produces.

Everyone now knows who BP is given all the news in the Gulf of Mexico yes?  Well, they now know about us.

Speaking of oil spills.  My memory tells me we have a second more interesting report looking at the actual response to the Ashland Oil Spill here... but I did dig up a related survey that has some of the history of note:  Evaluation of the Public's Perceptions of the Health and Environemntal Risks Associated with the January 2, 1988 Ashland Oil Spill.

and if you are really smart and sense there is a bubble in prices, what do you do?  You try to sell at the peak if you can.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Thank you for the music

The NS music desk presents some new music from the southern hemisphere.


The neverending road bike trail

Feel free to skip this but fyi.  A little chilly over the weekend, but I think we can only now be sure the snow isn't coming back (actually I think it did dip to 31 over the weekend, there could have been snow)... which would mean there is no longer an excuse to not get on your bike.   I have finally written up a trip report from late last summer's bike trip to DC.  I'm leaving a link there under the section there on the right as well.   

It's not your run of the mill trip report is all I will say.  Might be a bit entertaining to non-bikers as well.


Sunday, May 09, 2010

Quick.. name your pick for Lt. governor

Senate race polling continues to surprise, but it gets me thinking.....  Is there anyone polling the respective Lt. governors' races??   I guess if people are not paying much attention to the race for governor which is what the polling suggests (36% undecided a week out?!), they sure are not paying attention at all to who might become Lt. Governor. Must be some pathologically high undecided count there I bet.  Worse than some of the statewide row office races it seems to me.  But a couple folks are going to win their respective primaries.   I wonder what percentage of people can even name a single candidate on either side?

Of course, I bet only a fightfully small number of Pennsylvanians could name who the Lt. Governor is right now.. 
and on the Senate race...  Conservative commentator Andrew Breitbart has an interesting perspective looking at military folks who have entered politics.


(Burgh) Demographics is still (Burgh) Destiny

NYTimes talks about a new Brookings report talking about demographic changes going on in our cities. 

Some points that jump out.  Pittsburgh is citied as having a precipitous drop in the number of married couples with children.  That ought not to be surprising for us. Just add in the two facts we know well, that we have a a disproportionate elderly population here and the growing student population.  Both of those are not going to be adding much to the number of married coupled households with children. So when you net them out, the potential married couple with children number is going to be that much smaller.  Which is why the whole issue of increasing population in the city in particular is a lot more difficult for us than many assume.   I've been pointing out that the number of households in the city proper has dropped faster than the overall population trends would suggest. 

I thought I compiled the underlying household numbers back to 1970 for the city to come up with the city debt metrics here, but it just has the derived debt per household time series.  I may dig up the underlying household trends which is a big metric impacting all public finance for the city. Most everything to do with the city's past future come down to those household numbers.  Not just their population in themsleves, but those are the folks most likely paying the largest part of city taxes, and their kids compound their impact on the population metrics themselves.... but it goes back to BGB to worry about whether the kinds themselves stay in the long run.  I wonder how much of the US population as a whole lives in the city or municipality they grew up in.  (said looking around incredulously.... who would do that?).

Also cited in the article and report is a general trend that international immigrant arrivals are no longer as concentrated in cities as they once were.  I talked about that point specifically for us some years ago on page 4 here fyi.   Where are recent foreign immigrants settling here in the region you might ask?  I don't have any one answer, but if you want to look at page 23 of this, you will see some factoids of note.. one is that Scott Townwhip is capturing (I guess that is a bad verb to use in context) a lot of recent international immigrants.  Something that the PG dug into a little more later on. 

Speaking of immigration.. didn't catch this the other day, but Joe again has the ultimate historical stat for Pittsburgh, far better than that one 1910 page I have.


Saturday, May 08, 2010

10 days

Hard to believe it's just 10 days until the primary with a lot of big elections..  for governor, senate and at least some legislative races of note.  Yet it is a universal obersvation that interest in this political cycle is abysmally low.   The Harrisburg Patriot-News is almost pleading with voters over Why we should care about the race for governor. You can read about the general apathy in this week's CP, of just check out their cover art which pretty much says it all:

Speaking of CP, I just noticed they have a full digital version online which is interesting.


Not a Goldilocks town

Interesting and ongoing comment thread in Forbes on their 'Most Livable' ranking this year.  Love us or hate us seems to be the theme without much middle ground. Probably as true for folks who are current residents as it is for comments from afar.  Can an entire region be bipolar?


Friday, May 07, 2010

Iron Man II movie review

From the NS Arts and Entertainment desk:

I want the kinetic art that is on Pepper Potts' desk.  Anyone know where to find it?


fast track or off track?

I can't resist this one...  Trib story says the idea of getting an Allegheny Valley Railroad project up and running is on a 'fast track'.   The AVRR has been on a fast track for some time it seems.


why they hold the election

With full disclosure that I was part of a panel with Sestak in town last month...   nonetheless this amazes me

At lots of levels it is suprising.  Folks may not realize just how much the Dem political establishment has fallen behind Arlen from top to bottom.  May not be with enthusiasm, but with support across the board. Given Sestak started with minimal name recognition except in his home district and no real organization at all, just getting close would be an accomplishment. 


Thursday, May 06, 2010

As goes NJ.......

Inky covers the evolving fortunes of gaming in NJ as PA gaming grows.  Seems to be an industry wide problem.  Not so great everywhere in PA it seems... there are layoffs at the casino in Bethlehem. If they have not had layoffs yet at the casino in Mt. Airy, PA they are probably going to be considering some soon given their results last month

Is NJ's loss PA's gain?  If PA is stealing market share from NJ, what will happen when Ohio gaming gets underway. and even if PA is gaining off of NJ's woes, the overall revenue PA has been collecting has not lived up to promises.  It's not just Ohio, but NJ will adapt and even Delaware has new ideas to expand its gambling competitiveness.   But Delaware's appeal to have an expanded sports book was denied by the Supreme court recently.  I sometimes hear a musing that Pennsylvania is on a path leading to sports books at the casinos here someday, but as the Delaware case reaffirms... Federal law is going to preclude pretty much any (legal that is) sports betting here.  So table games may be the end of the line in our gaming innovation. 

 That PG article points out that even though there has been some rebound from the lowest levels of revenue at the Rivers Casino here... it still is at a level that someone is finally asking the question as to whether the casino is sustainable at current revenue levels.  If not, the repurcussions are everywhere.   Yes table games are coming, but note that table games in themselves will not have the same payoff to the county budget because a) taxes on table games are lower and b) some has already been earmarked away.  Whether table games even net a gain to slots play remains to be seen.

What else?  Don Barden's casino (mini) empire has some new troubles in Gary, Indiana.

and remember all the recent consternation over the sale of the Steelers amongst the Rooney brothers...  the newly non-football branch of the Rooney family may not have lost out in any sense.  The Rooney owned Yonkers Raceway Racino is doing gangbusters of late.  Better PR than the Steelers have had of late as well...  I guess your average horse can't get in as much trouble as a wayward professional quarterback can off-season.


wonkodreaming: transit edition

NYTimes has a story on the wealth of transit data the MTA there puts online. Locally we are about as far the opposite as is feasible for a large transit agency to be.  I would normally temper that type of criticism by pointing out that the MTA in NY is a monstrous agency that by sheer scale has more resources available for things like that.  Yet we are supposedly the center of the universe when it comes to information technology.  It's just that we are not even a fraction of the way toward where the MTA and some agencies are... not even a small percentage. 

Don't get me wrong... Routeshout is great.. but due to limitations in what data the Port Authority really has out there it's far more conceptual than operational.  So it's not just what that data means to me, but imagine what Nathan and Co. could come up with if even some of it were available here. 



Without further comment...   An honorary doctorate for blogging... Seriously.  Commencement speaker no less.

I am strenuously resisting the straight line that offers up on so many levels.....

Well, seriously, seriously.  Whispers in the Loggia really is a fascinating application of blogging where you might least expect it and has acquired a unique data gathering capacity unto itself.  Worth reading the above linked story on Whispers no matter your religiosity.  No doubt Ann R. at the PG has been a reader.   The blog often covers the Pittsburgh Catholic world, in some ways better than the eponymous publication of the same name (and the region's second largest publication itself so says Wikipedia... must be correct right).  The blog even unknowingly covers the diasporia, having once documented the large number of ex-Pittsburghers now serving as bishops around the nation. 

Which all has a corollary... and may be my sole toe dipped into this world of blogging on religion (hey, the guy got a degree from a seminary for blogging...  must be ok)...  With the rash of Bishops departing the Pittsburgh Catholic diocese there is a question hanging out there.  Not long ago there were at least 3 active Catholic bishops in town, yet there is only one right now.  Anyone on the short list?  Is there a short list? No hyper-local version of Rocco out there to my knowledge.

In the end it is another demography is destiny story and maybe no other bishop is coming.  In the Catholic hierarchy there are Archdioceses and dioceses. The Pittsburgh Catholic diocese once peaked as the 2nd largest in the country after WWII.  But ongoing population decline and other change probably kept it from ever getting 'promoted' to archdiocese.  Same story, just in a different context.

and finally... it all is just a good excuse to repost what is one of the more amazing maps showing the spatial pattern of religion across the nation.  It's not a static image, but a full interactive dataset down to the county level.


Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Smallest Cinco de Mayo celebrations in the nation

So I felt obliged to actually look up some specific immigration stats for Pennsylvania's 12th legislative district... whose current incumbent is in some related news of late.

From the 2000 Census:

Total population: 61,117 
Total foreign born: 1,182 or 1.9% of the total population.
Total foreign born who arrived in the most recent decade: 397 or 0.65% of the total population
Of those who are not currently citizens: 330 or 0.54% of the total population
Total Hispanic of Latino population: 534
of them, total population who speak English "not well" or "not at all" (that was a census question a decade ago):  7

But it is a diverse district in a sense.  Many many more foreigners than African Americans reside in the district.