Archive for January, 2008

Failing Our Kids

Anyone who has seen the South Side Barf walk should be concerned about this issue. We fall behind again. Are we preared to do what it takes to attract kids to Pittsburgh?

Railroads And The Midwest Part 1

This has to be a quik post, but I have a few thoughts about rail in the future of the “rust belt”.

It’s interesting that Erie ends up as the location for a rust belt blogger summit , because Erie happens to be at the hub a potential boom in the manufacturing of railroad engines,;Pittsburgh is the home of one of the leading maker of rail brakes and I believe, that there is at least one major maker of freight rail equipment in the general region.

This is not a small business and GE, in fact will be hosting their sharholder’s meeting there to spotlight one of it’s fastest growing and most profitable divisions.

“This year, about 200 of these monsters, which contain 225,000 parts and cost up to $4m, will leave GE’s factory to see service in China. The sales prompt John Dineen, the president of the division, to joke that Erie is one of the few areas of the US to have a trade surplus with the world’s most populous country.”

Rail, and water is what made the midwest boom and perhaps it can again.

Where does a blog post go?

I write a lot of blog posts. It started with IheartPGH.com and then led to a job at Spreadshirt where I update Blog.Spreadshirt.com almost everyday. Over the past 2.5 years since I started blogging I have learned that a blog is a great tool for sharing lots of information with lots of other people. I am often asked to answer the question “why should I have a blog for my business/club/organization?” and the answer is simple, but not easy to explain.
I usually send people to this video about RSS feeds – RSS in Plain English.
It took me 5 months to understand RSS feeds, this video does an amazing job of explaining it in under 5 minutes.
Luckily the folks at Wired are on the case and have assembled an amazing graphic on this article – The Life Cycle of Blog Post, From Servers to Spiders to Suits — to You – that shows all of the places that a blog post goes. I think that this graphic does a great job of showing how a blog can help to share your information with many different audiences.

Rust Belt Blogger Summit On The Way

Thanks to the efforts of Jim Russell and I’m sure many others, Erie PA will be hosting the first “Rust Belt” blog summit which hopefully will provide an opportunity for ongoing linkages and collaborations in the future.

Hopefully the people behind great Pittsburgh blogs like:

The Pittsburgh Metroblog
Pittsburgh Dish
Iheart Pittsburgh
Burgh Diaspora
Pittsblog
Pittsburgh Comet
Tube City Almanac
Null Space
Walking Pittsburgh
Bike Pittsburgh Blog
Etc……

Will get to meet the folks behind blogs like

Fix Buffalo Today
The Detroit Metroblog
Defend Youngstown
Outside Erie
Cool Cleveland
Brewed Fresh Daily
Buffalo Rising
Buffalo Pundit
I Will Shout Youngstown
In The Yo
girl in the D
Absolute Michigan
International Metropolis
And new projects like GLUE

I also hope there’s room for the people behind concepts that are not strictly blogs like

POP City
Detroit Yes
Model D

It’s not till July so pass the word around.

(The blogs listed have not all agreed to be represented– It’s just a list of some potential participants)

Let’s Sell The School Books

The bizarre schemes of politician’s and their rent seeking pals don’t get much stranger than what’s going on in Atlanta, where serious proposals are out there to directly use school funding to subsidize economic development in a depressed area around a sports stadium. The idea that the stadium might itself be a major factor holding back the development of the area comes up.

“Redevelopment around a sports venue can be tricky. Stadiums attract large crowds on an infrequent basis who stay for short periods of time and cause traffic congestion. That kind of activity cannot support neighboring businesses, and it can make living near a stadium a hassle.

“Sports venues alone are just big black holes that have the ability to depress the neighborhoods in which they’re in,” Stanford University economics professor Roger Noll told the trade magazine Retail Traffic.

Noll, the co-author of “Sports, Jobs and Taxes: the Economic Impact of Sports Teams and Stadiums,” said in an interview that for redevelopment to succeed, traffic has to be managed through mass transit and by providing multiple ways in and out.”

One major problem is the opposing needs of the team ( like a huge supply of parking) and the requirements of the community for density and walkable streets. The result is that contruction subsidies for the stadium are not the end, but the begining of the spending since more and more money needs to be spent to mitigate the stadiums “black hole effect” on the community. Replacing over 40 acres surface lots with garages is going to cost a bit.

Thanks for using my economic development tips.

Professor Pausch = Captain Pausch

You might remember Randy Pausch, the computer science professor diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer whose inspirational final lecture has, well, inspired a lot of people.

Since I originally wrote about him, Randy has since been on Oprah, among other things. Though that particular milestone probably wasn’t on his famous list of things to accomplish, one of the other things became a little more attainable.

J.J. Abrams, director of the newest incarnation of Star Trek (a movie that co-stars Pittsburgh native Zachary Quinto), heard about Randy’s long-held wish and made him an offer:

So, I just wanted to put the invitation out there — that if you had any desire to be in the film (can’t promise you role as CAPTAIN, but… we could do SOMETHING!), it would be my honor and pleasure.

Like any good fan, Randy took J.J. up on the offer – you can read about his adventure on his blog (you’ll have to scroll down a bit for it).

Wage Tax Anniversary

Null Space marked the anniversary of the city’s wage tax, one of a series of government policies that seem designed to chase people out of town. This tax comes up in most polls as the number one reason people who live in the region give for not living within the city limits. The result is that in spite of hosting a major chunk of the region’s good jobs, the city is structurally insolvent.

“January 25th, marks the anniversary of Pittsburgh City Council passing the city’s first wage tax on residents in 1954. The wage tax had been pushed by the powers that be for years as a mechanism to keep the tax burden on local industry from increasing.1 That may have worked I suppose, but the consequences on residents are being felt more every year. Given how small the city of Pittsburgh is, even for those who prefer city living it is very easy to still live outside the city proper and escape some or all of the 3% combined city and school district income tax you get hit with just for living in City. I am sure there are people actually living in the city who maintain some other address outside of the city limits just to escape the tax.”

That’s Not What You Said Last Night

The Conversation found a pretty unique story out of Seattle, where the same Sonics who claimed to be essential to the cities economy and pride when they were seeking city money, now claim to be of little value and should be free to move on.

“The team made the argument in papers filed in U.S. District Court this week, seeking mediation or a speedy trial to allow the team to abandon city-owned KeyArena before 2010. In the documents, Sonics’ attorneys dispute the city’s contention that the team’s departure would have a broad and hard-to-quantify impact.

“The financial issue is simple, and the city’s analysts agree, there will be no net economic loss if the Sonics leave Seattle. Entertainment dollars not spent on the Sonics will be spent on Seattle’s many other sports and entertainment options. Seattleites will not reduce their entertainment budget simply because the Sonics leave,” the Sonics said in the court brief”.

These are of course, the same arguments made by many economic studies on the impact of major sports franchises on local economies.

The Fire Department on YouTube

I think I can say this is one of the most interesting uses of YouTube I have ever seen. The Tribune Review mentioned that the Sutterville fire department (located in Westmoreland County) has a video on YouTube of what they do each year. In the past 10 years, I have watched 2 different buildings burn from significant fire – check out pictures from Harris Grill Fire last summer here. Additionally, firemen and police officers are the ones that we count on to respond to some of the most horrific events, accidents and tragedies. I know there has been some frustration in Pittsburgh over the fire fighters contracts but I do have a level of respect for the people that are willing to help out with some of the worst situations that the rest of us never have to deal with.

So here is the video, well music video, of some of the things that the Sutterville Fire Department works on. I would love to hear more about how they decided to put together the video.

Root Shock

I have not yet read the book Root Shock which attempts to explore the damaging effects of urban renewal in communities like Pittsburgh’s Hill and Newark’s Central Ward.

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