Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Like Dial Up, But Slower

I promise to get back to the city council and SOON, but since my internet connection at the Philadelphia Airport Shack (Hilton) is so slow I would have been better off sending my Grandmother walking down the turnpike for my Post-Gazette, research was out of the question.

In the mean time, I want to join all the other bloggers in Pittsburgh and briefly comment on Chris Briem's article in the Post-Gazette on Sunday on the migration away from Pittsburgh. I think Chris' point, that due to America's mobile work force all cities experience more migrations (both in and out) then in the past, is plain to see and fairly irrefutable. Consequently, instead of commenting on that I'll say that I think the reason that people lament over what sometimes seems to be a constant outward migration is not that we're losing total population or even prestige but that friends and loved ones who want to stay simply can't.

I graduated Penn State with a degree in Information Sciences in 2005 with several friends who also hailed from Pittsburgh. I'm back, but only because I begged both of my serious offering companies to let me stay in the Burgh, finally the one that wanted me to move to NYC (the other one wanted me in San Francisco) agreed to let me stay and I became a "Location-Neutral Migrant." We all wanted to come back, several of us (not myself) even accepted scholarships that were contingent on our staying in Pennsylvania or Allegheny County. Unfortunately, all those scholarships are being paid back now; I only have one other friend from college who was able to stay in the Burgh, he was so adamant he didn't even look for a job nationally, and now he's making little more then half of what the rest of us are with the same degree.

One thought that crossed my mind as a potential contributing factor is the fact that we all wanted to come back so badly, we all would have taken less money to return. Do you think there is any potential that this region loyalty drives salaries down (and consequently people out)?

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Profile: Darlene Harris

So in profiling the city council representatives I decided to simply go in order. That means District 1's Darlene Harris is up first. What an interesting lead off hitter she is too. I did a lot of scouring the Internet looking for stories about her that I could post that were factual. There's a lot of hate for her out there in the blogosphere, but I'll try to post only stories from reliable, unbalanced (or at least mostly unbalanced) sources.

Name: Darlene Harris
Current Position: Councilman from District 1, up for election this year.
Born: Couldn't Find This, she was 53 during the campaign last year
Education: Median School of Allied Health Careers (Graduate, not sure what degree)
Party Affiliation: Democrat
Religion: Couldn't Find Info
Non-political Career: I don't have a scientific layout of this, but she worked (apparently as an administrative assistant) for then State Senator Len Bodak Sr, she has apparently been active in community type work and her last job before becoming councilman was at the Summit Academy.
Political Career:
  • School Board Member: Late 90s to 2003
  • Won a special election to take Mayor Ravenstahl's spot on city council.


I realize she's a polarizing figure, and I hope if there is anything critical that I've missed (good or bad) that my readers will add it in comments.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Wednesday Sour Kraut

Sorry it took me so long to post again. I'm impressed by all the bloggers that blog at the same time everyday, I apologize that I lack their diligence. You remember that guy in college that was always doing his semester long projects on the last day of the term? That was me, and I'm bringing that attitude all the way from Penn State to the blogosphere. Anyway, my evening news check netted some perfect Sour Kraut to go with your Hot Dog:
  • There are three things the Steelers should NEVER have. First, cheerleaders. Second, a dome. Third, a mascot. Looks like somebody forgot to tell the Rooneys and one Mr. Steely McBeam about #3.
  • In case you've been hibernating in an air conditioned cave the last few weeks, Barry Bonds broke Hank Aarons career home run record*. The font doesn't get any bigger for that asterisk, I tried. In related news, the Pirates have decided to deflect some of PNC Park's boos from their current players by giving us a video opportunity to boo Barry.
  • I have my problems with pork barrel politics and with the federal government stepping on the states, but if the systems in place we might as well use it. With that thinking in mind, it's nice to see the West End get some money for crime prevention.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

The Plumbing of City Council

Warning: My advanced political readers, probably don't need this. However, since I'm hoping to be "breaking down the burgh" for anybody and everybody who wants to follow politics, I'm going to include it.

Before I continue to break down the politicians that run the Burgh I (and maybe you too?) need to try to figure out the whole city council thing.

What Does City Council Do?
When we were kids we all learned about what Congress did and what the President could do, but anybody remember the 10th grade class on city council? Me either. So here's a breakdown courtesy of Progress Pittsburgh:

City Council is the legislative branch of government. It carries out duties in accordance with the Home Rule Charter and the laws of the state, and is primarily responsible for making laws which govern the City of Pittsburgh. City Council proposes, debates, and votes on legislation governing and/or affecting the city. This body also approves appointments as provided by the Charter, regulates revenues and expenditures, incurs debt, and approves the final operating and capital budgets for the city. Council is responsible for the introduction of legislation generated by the Administrative Branch of city government. Council may also introduce legislation generated by individual Council Members or Council as a body.

Who's my Councilman?
In 1989, city councilman began being elected to represent regions, districts, of the city. Consequently, when council elections are held you get to vote for only one member of city council to represent you (as opposed to the whole city electing 8 officials). So, to figure out who your city council representative is you'll need this map.

How do Councilmen Get Elected?
City Councilmen are elected to two year terms. The odd number districts have elections in the odd numbered years and vice verse.

Alright I feel much better. Tomorrow, I'll profile councilman number 1 (District 1's Darlene Harris).

Pirates Fail to Acquire A-Rod and Jeter at Deadline

From the respectable, national news source, the Onion:

PITTSBURGH—Despite a series of phone calls to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman made right up to Tuesday's 4 p.m. trade deadline, Pirates GM Dave Littlefield was unable to secure the rights to surefire Hall of Famers Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter in exchange for those of rightfielder Xavier Nady. "I don't understand… This was a trade that could have benefited both teams," said Littlefield, frustrated by the Yankees' refusal to consider the trade even after Littlefield sweetened the deal by offering shortstop Jack Wilson for pitcher Mariano Rivera. "We would have gained sorely needed offense in the infield, while the Yankees had a chance to get a little younger and pare payroll at the same time. Plus, they could have bolstered their defense, as Xavier plays first base, too." Littlefield also confirmed that that the St. Louis Cardinals had pulled the plug on a potential Shawn Chacon-for-Albert Pujols deal at the last second.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Friday Sour Kraut

A few isolated stories, that I found interesting enough to pass along:
  • It appears that there are some 100% viable and extremely likely to get elected candidates that finally made up their mind and decided to jump in to various political races in Pittsburgh. I'm all for having fringe candidates in the election, if for no other reason then to spice up the debate and get new issues in. If Mark Rauterkus wins all of the elections for which he is running he can combine their powers and form Captain Planet!
  • A blogger in DC posted a nice blog post about "Why being from Pittsburgh is Like Being an Imigrant." It's always nice to see someone from outside Pittsburgh who recalls it so fondly. Wouldn't it be nice to have the kind of job pool that we could tell him to stop missing home and come back? Also, I can't claimed to have found this article it appears courtesy of Jim Russell, who made a nice shout out to my blog from his well established Burgh Diaspora.
  • Chris Briem had an interesting post on the latest transit audit. I was surprised to learn that a higher percentage of Pittsburgher's use mass transit then in many large cities. I would have expected that our large driving population would have made that not the case. Perhaps we have a larger driving population AND a larger mass transit population then most cities because so few people live close to work? I don't know, but one of these days I intend to do some research and have an informed opinion, in the meantime read Chris' post.

I'll be back to the profiles this afternoon with any luck. Up next, city council.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Profile: Mayor Luke Ravenstahl

Ok, so I've decided to jump in to the local political seen head first and I'm taking you with me. I think a prudent step would be to get to know the players. The logical place to start is with the Mayor. I'm going to take a view of the local newspapers, blogs, national news and his website and try to form up a profile. For this profile I'm going to attempt to be strictly factual, I'll save my opinions for later. Also, for now I'm just going to talk strictly about Mayor Ravenstahl, there will be plenty of time between now and November to discuss DeSantis and the race. I'm sure that my survey of Luke's political history is incomplete, my goal is simply to introduce him. If you think I omitted something crucial, leave a comment.

Name: Luke Ravenstahl
Current Position: Mayor till 1/2008 with elections in 11/2007
Born: 2/6/1980
Education: Mercyhurst (partial), Pitt (partial), W&J (degree)
Party Affiliation: Democrat
Religion: Practicing Catholic
Non-political Career: He was very briefly an account manager for a courier service.
Political Career:
  • District 1 City Councilman: 1/2004 to 9/2006
  • City Council President: 12/2005 to 9/2006
  • Mayor: 9/2006 to Present


  • The Pittsburgh Promise is a promise to city High School graduates from 2008 on that they will get any college help they need from a program backed by private funding. The clock's ticking on whether this program will be implemented successfully.
  • Works closely with Dan Onorato (who is a family acquaintance). Soon after Ravenstahl became Mayor the two agreed to a panel that would study the potential for combining county and city governments. Though this relationship may be on the fritz.
  • Youngest Mayor of any major metropolitan city in the US.
  • A wide variety of mini-scandals have hit in his time as mayor. He may have accepted an inappropriate gift by appearing in a golf tournament as a guest of UPMC, he has had to clean up a few city officials accused of wrong doing, though they date to his predecessors, he may or may not have been disorderly at a Steeler's game and he promoted three police officers with a history of domestic abuse. None of these seem to be too major (at least to me), but it does seem like quite a few things considering he hasn't been mayor a year yet.
  • Helped keep the Penguins in Pittsburgh (though how much of a role he played is debated).
  • Helped pass two difficult budgets one as city council president and one as mayor.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Welcome to the Blog of Burgher Jon

I have actually been blogging for a while, but have chosen to refocus my blogging efforts on the politics and economy of Pittsburgh. In order to facilitate my major shift in focus I brought this new blog in to existence. I will cease posting to Nittany Burgh Blog and focus on bringing the world (that's you) a view of the politics and economy of Pittsburgh through the eyes of a young professional. The reason I have chosen this focus comes from two realizations about my potential value to the blogosphere.
  1. I'm not as funny as PittGirl or Tunesmith and Anthony, this won't stop me from pointing out humor when I see it. I'm also not as knowledgeable about Pittsburgh's Sports as thePensBlog or MondesisHouse, which won't stop me from pointing out the occasional sports issue.
  2. I'm not as smart or as extensively educated as Mike Maddison, Jim Russell or Chris Briem. However, I do have the unique perspective of a concerned citizen of Pittsburgh who is not connected to an ivory tower or politics (beyond being an active voter). I have scoured the web for a blog about the economics and/or politics of Pittsburgh that is written from such a "layman" perspective and have found none. Consequently, I will attempt to fill that niche.

I hope that my posts can bring about a level of awareness and informed activity to other people who are concerned about Pittsburgh and its future.