Archive for October, 2007

Perils for Pedestrains on Pittsburgh

Perils for Pedestrians is a monthly tv show that airs on the DISH network, public access and (thankfully) the internet. This months episode is all about Pittsburgh.

–We talk with the head of Bike Pittsburgh;
–We learn about Friends of the Riverfront;
–Free Ride recycles abandoned bicycles;
–The Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission looks at transportation issues;
–A study at Carnegie Mellon University examines the history of pedestrian crashes.

I have watched part of this episode and I am eager to see the whole thing. I am thrilled to see anyone advocating for more pedestrian safety. Especially since Pittsburgh is #14 on on the Forbes list of most sedentary cities. This video is also great because it shows off some of the great things going on here in Pittsburgh.

Free Tacos Today

More cool stuff learned from the Metroblogging network. Thanks to Sean in Los Angeles for sharing this one. Someone stole a base in the world series and as a result Taco Bell is giving away free tacos to the whole country. Cool, because I still haven’t had lunch today.

Tuesday, October 30, 2-5pm
1 free crunchy beef taco
More Info Here

Trees for votes

I cannot help but agree with the first letter-writer in Saturday’s PG. Luke Ravenstahl may not have been my first choice for Mayor, but he’s doing a lot of things right in between the PR slip-ups, and overall, I’m still considering letting him have another two years. Or at least, I would be if his friends at the State Democratic Committee would leave me the [beep] alone. There were quite literally three straight days of pro-Ravenstahl/anti-DeSantis postcards yesterday. One card I can tolerate. Three in three days is an annoyance and a sign that someone in Harrisburg doesn’t particularly care about my time or about the number of trees killed in the name of Democratic victory.

Mr. Mayor: the people who Mark DeSantis is trying to peel away are generally the more progressive Democrats/Independents. Most of us are also at least vaguely environmentalist, and we dislike junk mail in all forms. Your State Committee colleagues are hurting your cause, not helping, and it’d be in your best interests to call them off.

Istanbul Metroblog & Washington Post & views of the US

One of the cool things about Metroblogs is that there are bloggers writing for different Metroblogs all around the world. I just wanted to highlight this post from the Istanbul Metroblog.

Washington Post, Starbucks & Bosphorus Breakfast

Istanbul blogger Idil was contacted by Amar Bakshi, a Washington Post reporter to interview some others on how they view the United States. It is interesting to me that even in Turkey people meet up in Starbucks. Where did we meet before Starbucks? Click here to check out the blog post on the Istanbul Metroblog and to see pictures of the Starbucks meeting.

Economic Development Musings

The Mayor’s “Propel Pittsburgh Commission” had our second meeting this week, this time smack in the middle of Lawrenceville’s Design Zone. Most of the meeting time was taken up with election of officers (not including your humble correspondent, I’m sorry to report, but we did get a good slate of people). The memorable thing, though, was when some representatives from the Lawrenceville Corporation took us on a brief tour of some of the Design Zone businesses. We saw three boutiques that have opened next to each other: one sells expensive clothes, one sells shoes to go with those clothes, and one sells furniture to sit on while wearing your expensive shoes and clothes. As we heard about these boutiques and the LC’s role in helping them, a young punk-looking person bicycled by and shouted at us to “Stop the gentrification of Lawrenceville!” (with a smattering of applause from a few other youths gathered nearby).

Whoever our bicyclist was, he had a point. The clientele of these shops, according to our tour guide, comes primarily from Sewickley and Fox Chapel, with the runner-up being the East End. Those are NOT people who are going to up and decide to buy a house in Lawrenceville. In the meantime, the folks who *do* live in Lawrenceville, both young and old, get to see neighborhood businesses fancy shops selling merchandise they have little use for and can’t afford. It’s not the bland sprawl of strip malls and Wal-Marts, but it’s still a process that has the potential to harm a neighborhood. Just as importantly, from the perspective of what the Mayor’s Commission is supposed to do, this kind of upscale business development may not help keep young people in Pittsburgh. First off, young people are usually not wealthy — it doesn’t help to create services that we can’t afford. Second, the prime issue (both per informal conversations with friends and the city’s own data) is jobs. High-end boutiques and artist lofts don’t create substantial numbers of jobs, and the jobs they *do* create are low-paying retail with minimal opportunities for career advancement.

Pittsburgh needs to grow our economy to survive. Maybe there’s more to this development that was shown in our brief visit, but the businesses we saw on that tour are unlikely to give us the kind of growth we need.

Have an extra pottery wheel or chain saw?

I think this is a great idea. The Union Project has a few items on their wish list that they need people to donate. If you happen to have an extra pottery wheel or chain saw you can donate it to the Union Project. In the past couple email updates from the Union Project they have included items from their “wish list.” I think this is a great idea, as you know that your extra items will be put to good use, by a great organization. To see other items on this wish list – click here.
Are there other organizations that have donation wish lists? Another place to give away your items to others who will put them to good use is the Free section of Craigslist. I just took a quick look and people are giving away everything from beds to piano and more.

The Best Endorsement To Never Get

We, the citizens of Pittsburgh, are expected to be all-a-tizzy that the police union endorsed Mark DeSantis over Mayor Ravenstahl. Now, many unions have done great things for America and American workers, but as far as the Pittsburgh municipal unions go… who exactly do these guys think they’re fooling? We’re talking about practically the same people who convinced Tom Murphy to bankrupt the city for a few hundred votes.

I have not always agreed with the Mayor’s decisions, and I think he’s made some PR mistakes in the recent past, but as far as I’m concerned, the lack of endorsement is a reason to vote *for* him. We need a Mayor who’s able to stand up to the special interests of Grant Street, even if it’s over something as small as a residency requirement. (I’m not sure I agree with him about the residency requirement, but it’s an interesting concept.) Congratulations to Mr. Ravenstahl for giving us some evidence that he’s got a spine.

The P-G wasn’t going to run a story, but they couldn’t say no to using the word “Scofflaw” in a headline

It is your last chance to make things right with your parking tickets, the P-G informs us:

After 30 days, warrants will be issued for those who fail to contact the court. In addition to possible incarceration, defendants may also be required to pay costs associated with serving the warrant, according to Mr. Billotte.

Holy crap, you say, I don’t want to go to jail. Can’t I just pay someone off?

Yes, of course you can. Make sure the check is made out to the city, not to the police officer who cited you. The first is called a “fine.” The second is called a “bribe,” which, while effective, is technically illegal. To see if there is a summary offense pending against you, go to the web site and search your name. If it appears, there is a telephone number to call.

I went, reassured myself that the government isn’t after me, and immediately left the site, never to return.

Of course I didn’t do that. I looked up local luminaries, to see who was scoffing at the law. I didn’t find many, but City Councilor Darlene Harris is in there. So is Lawrenceville anti-crime crusader Tony Ceoffe, who was no doubt too busy crusading against quality-of-life crimes to avoid committing them. Twanda Carlisle, despite her mounting troubles with the law, managed to avoid this specific legal thicket.

I recommend everyone use this resource to first make sure that they are not in danger of imprisonment, then to joyously embarrass friends, enemies, and people you see in the newspaper.

A difficult choice

Yes, that’s a Planned Parenthood logo, and no, I don’t mean that kind of choice.

The Post-Gazette reported yesterday that WDUQ, the only radio station I listen to, was pressured by their Catholic masters to refuse underwriting from Planned Parenthood of Western PA:

Duquesne ordered WDUQ (90.5) to stop airing a series of underwritten messages from the reproductive rights and health-care education group, saying that Planned Parenthood isn’t aligned with the university’s Catholic mission and that the station isn’t required to accept donations.

That is, of course, true. It is also true that I am not required to continue sending WDUQ the ten dollars a month I have been giving them for years.

Much of this is personal to me. Not in the sense that I have ever directly used Planned Parenthood’s services; I never have. They refuse no one help, but I have never needed it.

I was raised Catholic, and spent kindergarten through eighth grade in Catholic school. I was not in a position to do much thinking about what we were being told until second grade, but from then on it was a hell. I spent six years being told that it was sinful to believe the conclusions my mind reached and the directions of my conscience. It was self-evident to me that there was no God watching us, that prayer was a waste, and that the dogmatic positions of the church, especially on the sorts of things they argue with Planned Parenthood about, were idiotic. Saying this meant punishment, not saying it meant feeling cowardly: was it any surprise I trouble for my teachers?

In the midst of writing this it seems ironic that my greatest blow-out with the higher-ups at my school (I will not give the name, except to say that it was called the Carlow College Campus School, and sending your children there should be considered child abuse) put WDUQ more or less on my side.

When I was in eighth grade I heard on Morning Edition one day as I was getting ready for school that it was National Condom Week. This was the early nineties, when the public had finally started to catch on to AIDS, perhaps thanks to the HIV awareness episode of Mr. Belvedere several years prior. I went in to school and shared this information with everyone, as I was in eighth grade and thought that the idea of a week for condoms was pretty awesome.

This was the event that ultimately, after some escalation, led to my somewhat early exit from Catholic education. I thank WDUQ for that gift, and for years of great radio programming. I am even appearing on an already taped program on DUQ later this month.

However, I support the mission of Planned Parenthood, and they and I support similar ends in politics and in society. My friends support Planned Parenthood, and some have gotten help there that they could not have gotten anywhere else. I dislike the people who oppose Planned Parenthood, especially the most vocal of them, the psychopaths who picket their headquarters.

So, WDUQ, which has given me a great deal while asking for little in return, takes the side of the Catholic Church, which I have every reason to hate. Doing so, they run up against an organization that does a difficult and necessary job.

On my way to work yesterday I saw a group of people standing at the intersection of Washington Boulevard and Allegheny River Boulevard with giant signs featuring photos of fake dead babies, liberally spattered with blood and gore, and I was pushed off the fence. I am unable to support anyone who takes the side of those people.

I canceled my WDUQ membership this morning.

San Fransisco Looks At Parking Prices

San Fransisco, Is finally looking at more market based parking pricing.

“City officials hope by early next year to start a two-year pilot project that would radically change the way people park in San Francisco – marrying high-tech gadgetry and a free-market philosophy to better manage traffic congestion and to increase collections from meters.

“We’re looking at actually pricing a parking space like housing – let the market dictate the price,” said Sonali Bose, chief financial officer for the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

In the idea’s simplest application, people would have to pay more to park where demand for spaces is high.”

The amazing thing is just how radical any attempts to put anything close to market based principles to work seem to most people. It’s not an accident that America’s car culture developed in step with the growth of government. The irony is that so many of the world’s “free market” types live a lifestyle enabled by communist road and parking policies.

Needless, to say–the right first place to look for transit funds should be at on the street parking in the city.

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