Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hotel Mysteries Updated

The NS peanut gallery includes a bankruptcy lawyer no less who points out some missing items in today's story on the latest machinations (or tribulations I suppose) down at the Hilton Hotel.  Is the change in management a good thing?  Apparently the new management company, Prism, on its own  website, bills itself as one of the nation's fastest growing hotel  management and "hotel receivership" companies. Prism's website is also the host of the "Hotel Default Blog".  There is the long tail in action.

Reminds me that some time ago I wondered about the Great Pittsburgh Hotel mystery.  Some news from the PBT a little while back has the latest look.  Despite The Great Recession, as it is now called, hotel building has continued apace  in town.  No mean achievement.

Does not mean everything that was on the books is still making progress.  I guess I could ask, but I always wondered about the motivation behind the Hotel Indigo that was slated for East Liberty.  Seems to have been a non-starter, or at the very least a casualty of the financial crisis? Last I was by there, the actual "hotel indigo" sign that had been there had been tipped over with no sign of being righted.


Bedtime reading on the 'Burgh

Not much today.  So here is something for the reading list.  I keep saying, our friends to the north are awfully close.  Case in point is a relatively recent dissertation:

COMMUNITIES AND LEADERS AT WORK IN THE NEW ECONOMY: A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF AGENTS OF TRANSFORMATION IN PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA AND HAMILTON, ONTARIO, by Barbara Ann Fennessy. Department of Sociology and Equity Studies in Education. Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto. 2009

If you really need more... on my professional side some may have noticed our new Pittsburgh Urban Blog (the PUB) which will highlight our own work, but also take note of other's work relevant to all things urban Pittsburgh.  I have just put up over there a note on some new research out of Michigan State looking at how region's economic growth is impacted by connectivity... connectivity as measured by airport connections and passenger traffic.  You will see some specific mentions of Pittsburgh in it as well.  Someone tell Zap.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Robot Census?

I can't tell if this is for real.  The CMU Robot Census form

If it isn't, it probably should be.   Read the NextBigFuture.com on their Automation Census.  and if it isn't real, I wonder if those forms will show up in the mail nonetheless.


Set Sea River and Anchor Detail

Not quite the Hot Tub Time Machine, but still interesting to go back and read the first month's posts here. One of those very first posts mused on the possibility of bringing LST 325 here to Pittsburgh.  Well, it's happening soon (see the PG story today and the Trib story last week). The ship is underway and will be here soon.   I'll just add that the story of the LST's pf Pittsburgh is not just a story of the ships at war, but the men, and women who built them here.  If anything, I hope the ship's visit here highlights the role of the many Pittsburgh workers during the war, without whom the rest of the story would not have been possible.  And as we all await the blizzard babies of 2010, the LST's of Pittsburgh may have been responsible for a few LST-babies as well

But on LST's at war.  Many would not make it home.  At left is a picture of LST 750 which was built right here on Neville Island.  Not it's official name, but the ship was called by some to be the USS Allegheny County because it was built with money raised locally.  It would be built here in an amazing 2 months during April/May of 1944 and was launched on May 30.  It would be sunk by a kamikaze off the Philippines just 6 months later. I am not quite sure how it even got out to the Western Pacific that fast.  Talk about going in harm's way fast.


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Marcellus Musings

From the Cleveland Plain Dealer: Natural Gas Prices Lowest in 11 months. SeekingAlpha: Natural Gas Free Fall Continues, More Downside Remains.  Why do I keep mentioning this? All those new Marcellus leaseholders counting on future royalty payments should pay attention. Remember the industry won a court ruling recently that those payments are based on net, not gross revenue from the value of NatGas. So the movement of natural gas prices at market now has a direct income impact for a lot of local folks.

One more from the WSJ: The Boys of Summer: Oil and Gas

Not the end of the tunnel either. MarketWatch: Money managers bet nat gas prices will go lower. Longer run ever more natural gas may be coming to market.

For the "Hmm?" file.  Via BusinessWeek: Most Marcellus Shale drillers fail statutory reporting on their production

More energy news that may impact us via Platts: Russians want our coal.


Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Nuttings' neverending story

That or call it the Nuttings' neverending nightmare.  See the OpEd in the NYT today: Encouraging the Poor to Stay Poor. Yes, it's about the Pirates as well, not social mobility.

If you have not seen the new "Daily Link" I have up on the top right. If you dare click through right now, you will get this "cultural equation"... also about the Pirates.

So the Pirates finances have become the poster child for everything from the state of major league baseball to the national recession.  Is there a silver lining somewhere?  You would think the Marcellus Multiplier could apply to MLB somehow?  Maybe the SEA is negotiating drilling rights underneath PNC Park? 


Braddock Misunderstood

While interesting as pictorial: Good Magazine's portrait of Braddock, PA starts out with an entirely flawed and oft-repeated premise.  The very first sentence is:
 "The once-thriving Rust Belt city of Braddock, Pennsylvania, saw 90 percent of its population leave town as its steel industry collapsed. " (emphasis added). 
Let's consider when was the "once"?  The continuing mythos of Braddock has that history really really off.  Braddock has indeed seen a roughly 90 % population decline, from over 20K in  to likely (my guess) between 1,500 and 2,000 today.  But in no way did the collapse of the steel industry define the timing of that decline. In fact Braddock today is the home of one of the key pieces of the steel industry that the region has retained, the Edgar Thompson Plant.  What is always overlooked is that steelworkers were fleeing Braddock long long before the jobs left. I put a time series of Braddock's population in a post last fall and it's real clear that the vast majority of Braddock's population decline happened long before 1980. So even when the steel jobs were there, Braddock had already lost its appeal as a place to live. To find the past "thriving" you probably need to go back at least 50 years at this point, maybe 60.  Makes me wonder.. will we be talking about Braddock's demise and the impact of steel a century after its peak population. Probably.

I'm not sure where the Braddock neo-mythos is coming from, but I have ranted on how little it has meant to Braddock in reality today.  Misunderstanding the timing of Braddock's decline has confused the issues surrounding what to do to help the residents of Braddock today, few and fewer of which have any connection to the steel industry of the region.


Friday, August 27, 2010

In Pittsburgh, the Bucs Stop in April

From the Bleacher Report: In Pittsburgh, the Bucs Stop in April.

The best satire.... isn't.

also.. nothing really added, but the story that won't go away for the Nuttings. The NYT has a blog post: The Pittsburgh Pirates Economy.

and from Slate the metaphysical: The Pittsburgh Paradox, Should the Pirates spend money to win ballgames?


Dear Gnomes

So I was going to joke that Big Ed must read the blog here to get the table games revenue online so fast after I asked for it.  Maybe just the gnomes at the Gaming Control Board are readers? I would have meant it only as a joke, but if you read the state's press release on table game revenues you really get the feel that they rushed to put that out yesterday morning.

How big a deal was table games for the Rivers Casino?  For July the casino's gross revenues broke down thusly:

River Casino
   Table games = $3,052,531
   Slots = $22,478,593.48

So table games are 11% of total gross revenue for the casino.  Happy Days. Yes, table games were operating for just 24 days of the month, but there was also likely a opening day boost that will not be repeated.  If those balance each other out then I bet it's a semi-representative starting point. Not to say that it is a number to forecast the future from and I bet there was some added boost because it was all new.  Anyone want to bet August numbers are lower. They certainly are for slots.

From the new table games' revenue, the "local share assessment", which is the tax distributed locally was $61K.  If a monthly rate you get $720K annually.  Normally split between municipal and county government, the special deal for us diverted much of this to local libraries.  I am not sure a fraction of $720K is what the Carnegie Library was banking on was it?  There is a story in that alone I suspect.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

Afternoon musings

I'm going to label this the Pittsburgh Prescription... The NYT has a post on the future of Detroit:  Autos to Angioplasties in Detroit.  Sound familiar?


Not quite UFC, but a cagefight we are in the middle of in more ways than one:



Forbes covers the trifecta of Pittsburgh professional sports valuations:






Small news item on the Carnegie Library system needing more money from the Regional Asset District.  Remember that the tax revenues from new table games at the casino was diverted to local libraries.  The problem the Carnegie has is the same we all have in that we just don't know what $$ table games have brought in at the Rivers Casino... thus we don't know what tax it will potentially bring in.  Besides a small bit of news on what the aggregate statewide take is on table games, thus far no info on the per casino numbers.  Odd in that if the state has the aggregate revenue numbers, it must know what each individual casino contributed to the total right?? That or this one big check was delivered by stork from the casino association or something.  Not the way it worked I bet and someone knows the numbers. 

So what do we know then?  Below is the latest update on (slots only) revenues at the two local casinos.  Sure looks like the introduction of table games has had a big positive spinoff impact on slots revenues.  Not!  In fact, it looks like reveues at the Rivers Casino have mostly declined since table games started.  Total wagers for the last reported week of $59 million at Rivers is the lowest total slots revenue at the casino since...  have to scroll pretty far down.. the week ending February 14th of this year.  When was the blizzard?  Winter is coming again I hear. If they are not flush this time of year then???  Also the latest week has one of the biggest gaps in some time of Rivers below Meadows in slots revenues. What that means I dunno?

What gives?   Table games seem not have had any palpable positive impact on slots revenues thus far.  Whether table games revenues offset that loss is just not something we know yet.  Seems like someone ought to be asking.  Given the library situation it is already a matter of public policy and not just a biz issue for the greater ownership group down there.

I say it's time to start marketing directly to all those Marcellus Shale workers.  I see the advertising motif now.  Don't go home when on break, Pittsburgh has a casino vacation for you.  Maybe offer a discount for those who can prove they are frac'ers.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Talking about monetizing assets


Marcellus Watch

Just a dump of random stuff catching up on a lot of Marcellus news.   Starting with, the Indians are coming.  Note that India's Reliance Energy is making a big play for Marcellus Shale. Read carefully the NYT version: http://dealbook.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/05/reliances-big-bet-on-a-pricey-shale-deal/.

Some of the numbers in that piece are kind of interesting for a lot of reasons.  You have to wonder why anyone would sell their Marcellus holdings if they are as profitable as everyone is saying they are. Of course the economic answer is that everything has a price and the price must be good.  How good?  Looks like Reliance is paying over $6K per acre.  I wonder how much folks who have already signed leases received on their deals. A fraction of that for most I imagine.  I can't confirm, but a NS reader wrote saying some early leases are as low as a few dollars an acre.  Outliers I hope, but might be something for some intrepid investigative reporters to dig into. 

Why so valuable?  The Motley Fool has something worth reading carefully: Is There More to the Marcellus Than Meets the Eye?   That's not just another piece talking about how there are other layers of shale that may prove developable for additional gas... Think Jake Clampett. That would be interesting.

If you really want to parse the financials of the players in NatGas these days, try this from SeekingAlpha. Or if you are getting confused by all the different shale talk out there, here is a summary of all the shale plays in the US these days.  Tie it all together and here is the latest prognostication on how unconventional gas is taking out the bottom of different natural gas markets.

I was curious a bit on Katie Klaber's recent oped that ran in the Scranton Times: http://thetimes-tribune.com/opinion/editorials-columns/guest-columnists/marcellus-multiplier-could-spark-economic-revival-in-pennsylvania-1.928421

I won't ping per se on her neologism for the Marcellus Multiplier which is a PR, not an economic, construct.  I was more curious that she was writing this after they engaged Tom Ridge at 7 figures to do PR work for the Marcellus Shale Coalition.  I thought the whole point of that was to get his name out there for that type of PR. 

But the oped does raise an interesting question.   Others will be quantifying the economic impact, or potential economic impact of Marcellus shale in the state. I sure am not going to answer that here, but the starting point is that overall mining employment has indeed gone up a bit, but only a bit over the last few years.  It wouldn't even be fair to say that was all Marcellus given that coal and coke prices are themselves reaching new highs of late.

I'll stop there. More to follow. Some interesting things when you dig into the employment patterns in the state.


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What would have become of Warhola if not for the....


W news


PNC Bank Saves Print Media

Well, maybe not...  but I seem to be on a meta-news kick.  Note how PNC may become the owner of several Ohio newspapers.... likely the outcome of bankruptcy proceedings. Now if they chose to keep the publications and run them themselves, that would be interesting.  Probably not what they intend. Still worth watching as it evolves, being a datapoint portending the future of print media.

and I would call this a meta-news item of interest, though the topic is worth noting.  Clearly our transformation is complete.  Out of Chicago a web-publication (the meta-news angle) describes Pittsburgh as a place with exotic allure. Imagine trying to say that 20 years ago.  See: Pittsburgh, and the Magic of Failure in something called Gapers Block out of Chicago. So yet another hybrid neo-media publication not really replicated here.  It also is a pretty comprehensively hyperlinked article on us.


flying in, flying out

NS peanut gallery sent in a link to some of the latest stats on airport usage across the nation.  What is more interesting is if you dig into the data for Pennsylvania airports you get this:

Percentage Change in Seats on Departing Flights - Aug 09 - Aug 10
Clearly some small number effects there in the percentages.  The much maligned Murtha Airport in Johnstown had a +35% increase, which I presume means they went from 2 puddle jumpers to 3, but it still adds up to a capcity of 116 seats per day on average.  Nonetheless most PA airports had year over year changes in capacity far beyond the 0.3% growth for the US overall.  Sure seems to me that the cause is most likely the demand caused by the new Marcellus Shale workers we keep reading about.   So now go back and read the latest news coverage on usage trends at the airport here.  The short news item pointed out how traffic at the airport was up for a 2nd straight month without much digging into why.  Gotta be some reason for this mostly statewide trend.  

Why could the big Marcellus rush be impacting the airline industry?  With all the activity we know about going on in new Marcellus development, there is clearly a certain lack of local hiring. Those workers would have to be coming from somewhere.  In fact, the latest data on employment in the entire  "mining and logging" industries shows an actual tick downward over the previous month. To be fair, statewide employment in those industries continues to tick up and is now at its highest level since 1991.

Speaking of Marcellus.. if the hope was that we would become a major international exporter of natural gas, then some recent analysis from Europe puts those projections to task. Worth reading.


Monday, August 23, 2010

The Nuttings' Financial Balk

I didn't quite get the back story to the piece on Sunday about the Nuttings' having to explain the state of finances down at the Pittsburgh Pirates organization to the owners of MLB.  Turns out it stems from this fairly amazing article by local AP sports beat writer Alan Robinson.  Worth a read.  I have to admit I did not realize there was an active North American Association of Sports Economist mentioned in there.  Does make you wonder if the public will ever see the 'leaked' documents the AP story is based on. Just my reading of the tea leaves, but it seems the Nuttings are angling to own all of the organization by making it harder and harder, despite the profit, for the minority owners to remain with the team. Maybe Alan's next investigative piece will poke at that some?

That is all far more interesting than what I was going to mention.  While I haven't been watching the Pirates have bested Baltimore in the race to the bottom and only now have the worst record in all of MLB. A different PG headline says the March to 100 losses begins....  Yeah, I suppose.  Anyone want to put 110 on the table? Thus far they have won a third of their games played.  With 162 game season, losing two thirds by my simple math you get a potential 108 games lost. That and you can't say the trend has been supportive of them holding steady even at this point. If they trend worse?   1X0?

update:  I can't say whether these are the same documents that the AP is reporting on, but Deadspin aparently already has some of the Pirates' financial documents online.

Update2:  You know this story is going to have legs... now the Atlantic has this: How Baseball's Worst Team Explains the U.S. Economy

and the Sporting News: Leaked financial documents show lowly Pirates made millions

detailed parsing of the numbers comes from the Biz of Baseball.

update3:  and now the NYT is on the case: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/24/sports/baseball/24pirates.html?src=mv


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Yinz tweet?

So another meta-news kind of story that is not covered elsewhere... but who is the most digital savvy media celebrity in town?

The question came to mind because I just noticed that Jon "Digital" Delano now has over 2,000 followers on Twitter.  No wonder, he has over 8,600 individual 'tweets'.  Find me a non-bot twitterer that can beat that!  Maybe Jon is a bot?  Never thought of that. Hmmm.......


Saturday, August 21, 2010

G20 on my mind

I really feel the G20 is following me.  Is that self-centered?

Hard for me to tell if the denizens of greater Seoul make a big a deal out of this as we did:


Friday, August 20, 2010

the tree that falls in the forest

By my reading of the calendar, there should have been a meeting of the City of Pittsburgh Pension Board yesterday where those hordes in attendance would have learned the most recently quarterly numbers on the state of the city's pension fund.  Might be a little bit of interest to all those looking at the parking lease since the state of the pension fund will determine how much the parking asset monetization needs to raise to get the system to a notional 50% funded and thus abate the dreaded state takeover.  Basically, the less money in the pension fund, all that much more is needed to make the parking monetization worthwhile. 

So I either have the date wrong and the meeting didn't happen when I thought it did or nobody bothered to notice. I dunno.  Anyone know the answer?


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Who has read Player Piano?

apologies for the cheap self-reference in there I know... but still a good read:


and who remembers the Pittsburgh reference in Player Piano?  or Vonnegut's Pittsburgh connection? Probably not a coincidence in that somehow.


Most Underrated Cities


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

editorial note

If you are reading this post, then circumstances are that I am relatively untethered for the next week or so and posts may be sparse.  Not exactly off-grid, more like embedded on other grids.  Be back soon.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Marcellus Mapping and More

Don't take it from me, read what the AP has to say.


Monday, August 16, 2010


File under the more things change.....  Anyone notice the little story last week that says the municipality of Ross is opposed to disincorporating...  Not a big surprise in itself, but it does look at the issue in a very narrow way.  It's not just a question of Ross, or any single municipality, or even of municipalities in general. When you add it up, there are a lot of governments in Pennsylvania, and we pay for it one way or another.

Completely random historical footnote related to that... Looking for something else I recently came across this article from 1974:  Study Seeks to Cut Government Growth.  The article and the report it focused on had a section talking specifically about Whitehall. What really caught my eye was the he graphic that went with it:

The article and graphic refer back to an ACIR report that had the chart below.  I could update that chart today I guess, but why bother.  Would it have changed much?  The curious thing is the inclusion of the City of Pittsburgh in that table. 


Sunday, August 15, 2010


Anyone else ever ponder the fact that there isn't much journalism in town covering journalism?  Note the minimal snippet about the contract over at the PG.  There was even something of a labor protest just the other day that got more coverage. Curious.  Remember when it was reported to be a contentious negotiation. Maybe it was?  We just don't know.

At the other extreme... is it the same phenomenon that Pittsburgh remains a relative backwater when it comes to community journalism? I wonder.  Note how in Seattle they even just had a conference on not just one, but all of the community journalism projects ongoing out there (h/t Otis White for that one).  Yet Seattle's mostly grassroots and unfunded projects have propsered while ours have generally floundered.  Several local projects have attempted to create community journalism in some form or another.  Some have had external funding and some have been briefly ascendant, but that is about it.  For my journalism friends just interpret the 'in some form' liberally, it's not meant to incite the discussion of what constitutes journalism.  Listing some local 'new' journalism sites risks irking those omitted, but I think few would disagree that there are some local versions of community journalism that would rank with the best anywhere.....  unsung as they may be locally. 


Saturday, August 14, 2010

View from Chi-town


Friday, August 13, 2010

Occupations of Pittsburgh

Same as a link I posted before, but I doubt many looked.  Here is a graphic breaking down the jobs we work in by occupation.  Most of the info is in the interactive version. These are specific occupations and major occupation groups we all work in as of May 2009 data. Size of square represents number of workers in the Pittsburgh MSA.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Wheels to the Wind

You never know what fluff you will read in the paper these days:

It is a pretty amazing story and has some neat Pittsburgh history embedded in the story.  Not just his last ride, but Lenz had some amazing rides before that crossing the country by bike in the 19th century.  Puts a lot of rides today in perspective. No carbon fiber frames, wicking bike shorts or pavement for the most part. and that is a camera strapped to his back by the way. Not a one-touch digital type that fits in your palm. 

and I tried to figure a way to work an an even more esoteric bit of Yinzer history history.   Lenz, or at least Lenz's German-born mother lived at the time in Pittsburgh's Little Germany (that would be Bloomfield for those who are forgetting the history) and literally lived above what is now the Citizen's Bank as best I could tell from some references in the book. 


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Not good news

Not so good.  Pittsburgh has moved into the top 10 metros for initial claimants associated with extended mass layoff events as of the second quarter 2010 according to the BLS. That is even though the number of claimants dropped by over 36% over the previous year.  So it's more an issue of things going from really bad to just bad in a lot of other places.


economics of biking in the 'Burgh

Wired.com has an interesting look at the economics of biking specifically in the 'Burgh: 



Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Daily Ranking and then some

I'm too lazy to actually compute the ordinal ranking, but you would think this is news. See the Pittsburgh reference in the WSJ: Incomes Fall in Most Metro Areas.  They can't say "all metro areas" because??  To see their full list read: U.S. Incomes Tumbled in 2009.

Certainly more important than Bernardo (who mentioned him recently?), who will never be back anyway.  He seems to have a pretty regular concert schedule to break away and fly up here for anything as silly as an arraignment.

and for good measure.  From the Onion Sports Network: Pirates Mathematically Eliminated From Major League Baseball.  They think they are jesting.  Are they?  What is the Mendoza line for an entire team? Anyway, it's their second best Pirates headline after the infamous: PNC Park Threatens To Leave Pittsburgh Unless Better Team Is Built


Resistance to the Wired City

For no reason other than this amazes me. Something I came across researching something completely different. From the introductory paragraph of “Resistance to the Wired City” by Harold J. Barnett:
A major innovation in mass communications is in prospect for developed nations. This is the “wired city.” Many television programs plus hundred of voice and data services can be carried to homes on a wire. The cost of transmission is small. The variety of services is large. They include entertainment, education and other public services…….

But it is charged that the wired city is a dangerous innovation. Arguments are made that rural areas would lose their television service entirely and cities their free TV; that wire monopolies would inevitably arise, and that local governments and advertising excesses would reduce and corrupt television service...
The year that was published: 1972! Original monograph from 1970. Chapter 1 of Spatial, Regional and Population Economics. Essays in Honor of Edgar M. Hoover. Gordon and Breach, 1972.


Monday, August 09, 2010

Seeking Bernardo

Nothing new as best I can tell, but I did not realize that our friend Bernardo actually had a warrant for his arrest being circulated via Interpol.


Sunday, August 08, 2010

Inframan meets Steeler Nation

Note to self:  put easier things on the bucket list.

Points to anyone who actually saw, and remembers seeing, Inframan. I'm pretty sure I saw it at the Plaza Theater in Bloomfield some years ago.


Saturday, August 07, 2010

Atlantic City fights back

From the UK's Guardian is this on the state of gambling in Atlantic City which we know has not been doing do well of late.  Read: Boardwalk Empire: Atlantic City bets on its glamorous past to assure its future.  Subtitled: Atlantic City's decadent 1920s heyday inspired HBO's lavish TV series Boardwalk Empire, with a pilot directed by Martin Scorsese. But can it rescue the resort from a recession-hit present?

So most think Atlantic City is faring badly if not entirely due to the recession then because of all the new casinos opening up in nearby Pennsylvania.  Interesting since you get the feeling some folks just expect Atlantic City, or say the casinos in West Virginia, to just roll over and let Pennsylvania casinos continue taking market share away from them... if that is really the source of their revenue losses of late.  Methinks they are going to respond and compete that much more in the future and the impacts will inevitably be felt here.

and more following that story..  Who was commenting on low casino revenues of late?  See the Trib looking into it yesterday: Rivers Casino short of revenue projections.  and Toland has updated his Casino Journal with a headline: Rivers Casino, one year on .   I still think they are burning cash at the end of the day and the first peek at table game numbers from the state don't look to be game changers.  Pun intended I suppose.


Friday, August 06, 2010

Burghers Beyond the Burgh

Wired Magazine has a long profile of born-burgher, and incidentially Flikr founder, Caterina Fake: What You Want: Flickr Creator Spins Addictive New Web Service.

Mark Cuban didn't get the Rangers, but now some Dodgers' fans are looking for a savior: Mark Cuban is now free to buy Dodgers.  I won't say it.  But some incidental wonkopunditry on Pirates' ticket sales from out in the ether:  Ticket promotions offer little improvement for Pittsburgh Pirates' attendance. There is a certain irony that Pittsburghers are fighting to own a baseball team....  just not the one in Pittsburgh.

and ABC news has some interest in our famous garbage cans. OK, not about any ex-burgher there, but it popped up on my news filter.


Thursday, August 05, 2010

The NSC strikes back

A few days ago a report was out listing the North Shore Connector as one of the more wasteful stimulus projects.  Newsweek is just now pushing back on that list: How Wasteful Was Stimulus Spending, really? Their conclusion in general that is it was not such a bad idea.  More interesting is how it labeled the project in the article. According to Newsweek the NSC was merely the "North Shore Connector to Professional Sports Stadiums, Casino ".  I wonder if their description was meant to bolster the idea that the project was useful for some purpose.

Seems like even if the NSC wins this little battle it loses the war if that is its permanent moniker. Isn't CCAC over there? A city neighborhood or two? A few new corporate headquarters sprinkled in last I checked. For dreamers, the whole point of the route was the initial step in getting mass transit out to the airport.  All has been scaled back so far and muddled by the political process that nobody talks about it like that anymore, but that is where it really started long ago.  and if you ever really want to get mass transit to Cranberry, you have to get over one of those dreaded rivers one way or another. As it stands now, will the Port Authority even have money to use the tunnel once it opens?

Anyway, there is another NSC story in the news in the Trib:  North Shore Connector job effect difficult to detail.The article gets to a growing problem I call the demise of economic impact analysis.  The confusion over simple stuff in analysis is getting worse.  What constitutes 'job creation" and what the inputs are to our modesl used to meausre these things is degrading.  We try to be consistent and call job creation a metric of net new permanent job creation... so jobs that last.  Looks like the numbers associated with the NSC connector are "person years" or "person months" or who knows?  But job creation is not just a count of bodies associated with a project, especially if their work amounts to only a period of time. It is the exact same flaw in a lot of the discussion surrounding Marcellus Shale economic impacts.  Basically you never really want to count construction jobs as part of your long term job creation analysis.. and if you really feel a need to do that, you really need to label that as such.  The point it to figure out the investment the new construction will then induce and for the NSC there are lots of interesting questions.  With parking rates going up, will there be a new flux of parkers on the North Shore walking or biking into the Golden Triangle or biz looking for space now moving out of Downtown?  Those are the real questions someone needs to be looking at now.


Counting Cards

Is there something wrong with my math?  The news says the state took in $1.6 million in new tax revenues from table games in July.  The $1.6 mil comes from the state's 14% take on table game revenues.  So that means the new gross revenues at the casinos came to $11.4 mil.   Also according to the news, 2 of the casinos were open from July 8, so were operating for 3 weeks in July.  3 others started on July 13, so roughly 2 weeks of operation in July and 3 started July 18, so just under 2 weeks of operation.  Works out to roughly 18 "casino-weeks" of operation generating those revenues.  I get an average of $635 thousand per casino per week.  Lot to me, but not that much compared to what the casinos are bringing in for slots.  What was the big deal?  I am wondering about the number. Is the tax on the gross revenues to the casinos or net?  Table games are by all accounts much more labor intensive than slots.  Do they have to net out a big wage bill from that level of revenue before figuring what they added in profit.  Fester will suss this out better than I have time for, but it all seems odd. 

Also.. here is latest on trends from slots revenues at the two local casinos with the start of table games annotated for what it's worth.  Since the tax rate on table games is so much less than on slots, if slots continue to look like they are flat to decreasing since..  it could potentially be that overall tax revenue will be down since slots took over.


PA politics punditry

Stu Rothenberg in CQ Politics on: Pa. Will Be Key Steppingstone for GOP Majority


Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Energy musings and the maligned Pennsylvania business climate

Just reading the news about on how the big merger between FirstEnergy and Allegheny Energy, which is a really big deal for the region for a lot of reasons beyond the job count, nonetheless could potentially drop jobs in the region by up to 900.  Potentially losing 900 jobs goes an awfuly way to offest even the gains we are reading about elsewhere in energy related activity in the region.   I read also about how the planned expansion of Range Resources would increase their jobs count locally by a couple hundred jobs or so, from the 300+ they are at today to 5-700 according to the news stories.  If you are looking at energy related impact in the region, you need to look at the whole picture is all I am saying.  I kind of wonder how much Range Resources itself is responsible for what has been observed in the data thus far.

One of the big mysteries to me is how there is lots of talk about Pennsylvania as being such an anti-business state.  Yet consider how New York State has put a stop on almost all Marcelleus Shale development while the activity in Pennsylvania is going on about as fast as the firms involved can deploy resources.  A big issue in itself, but I really am just wondering at the moment about the perception or reality of Pennsylvania's business climate.   Are we better or wose than our New York neighbor which would be one of main competitiors for lots of investments just because of geography? Whatever your perspective, it's just night and day between the two states on how they are handling all things Marcellus.  Just curious is all 


Daily Ranking: Get Happy edition

Inky gives a roundup of how Pennsylvania colleges did in its annual rankings: Survey: Penn State drinks, Main Line thinks

and no joke... it has Pitt listed as having the 8th happiest students in the nation. Huh? I gotta tell the PR machine about that one.

On the big picture though, PA institutions can't do too bad.  By some measures the state consistently ranks #1 in terms of the net attraction of freshman matriculating into college.. and that is despite some tuition rates that are certainly not the lowest. Again by some measures they're often closer to the top if anything.



Assessment news has been slow here in Allegheny County for a bit.  I caught this from Indiana County a few weeks and forgot to post it.  But interesting: Indicators Show Assessment System Out of Balance.


Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Follow those stories

So the PG used both of these headlines for the same story about the same data: 

July table games revenues fall short of state's projection

State's a big winner in table games

Whatever... The longer version explains the taxing of table games as "Fourteen percent goes to the state's general fund, and the other 2 percent is split between the host municipality and county." Which is mostly true, but I thought for us some of the local share was siphoned off for the libraries before anyone gets it?   We'll see later today what the latest slots numbers look like, but thus far table games have not had a lot of boost to those numbers as yet.  Whether table games will wind up being a net gain for local tax revenues is still to be seen.


Monday, August 02, 2010

Random afternoon news

NYT has some casino musing from eastern Pennsylvania: Fighting for Gamblers, a Poconos Casino Is Updated.   What I still wonder is how our local casinso have been doing with revenues from table games.  It was certainly a lot of hype when table games got started, but as yet no reporting of hard numbers.  Am I the only one curious about that?

Unrelated to that obviously... more like the opposite of that.... From out east as well is this in the Morning Call: Nonprofits could lose tax-exempt status.  I just wonder if there is any local version of that story here.  We have a lot of nonprofits.  Maybe we just have more accountants to prevent any problems?

and to complete the random trifecta... We're halfway between the May primaries and the general election give or take.  Quick and without asking Mr. Google, can you yet name either of the candidates for Lt. Governor here in Pennsylvania.  John Baer of the Inky has a look: They're running for lieutenant governor


Sunday, August 01, 2010

"Been there and done that"

Notes on Downtown development from Buffalo: "A downtown history of empty promises", with a cameo quote from everyone's favorite former mayor.

The state of Downtown here is a complex question.  It really does seem to me that Downtown after hours is far more active than back in the day when it was like one of those post-armageddon computer games if you were ever down there after 7pm on a weeknight.  A lot of that seems to me, completely unscientifically mind you, to be students which I presume are PP and Duq students.   It will of course be one of the bigger stories to come from the dump of census data we will get in the spring that the resident population Downtown will be up significantly.  Percentage-wise it may be the neighborhood with the biggest percentage increase.  There is some wonkish caveats to the measurement of that peculiar to Downtown, but we'll save that for the future.

So I think it's a good thing that Downtown is not a no-mans land after dusk.  Nonetheless, a question worth pondering on that is something that has been pointed out to me.. though obvious when you think about it:  have any of the new residential units Downtown been built out without public subsidies. In some cases very significant subsidies and in some cases tax breaks on top of that.  Is there any sign that the public investment has sparked any current development that did not need subsidies?  Will there will ever be any residential development Downtown without a lot of public subsidization?  Worth asking in itself, and then pondering the question that follows about what other neighborhood residential development could have happned for the same scale of $$ we are talking about.


End of the world is nigh

I tried to leave a comment/reply on Sue's post, but I think it wouldn't let me unless I registered in yet another way...  I'm registered out so I'll just put this here.

It seems that Potter is sexy and I'm scary, or vice versa??

Either way...  it's time to stock up on duct tape.