Sometimes it is great to be from "the heights" and not where I live, also known as "the flats." A letter to the editor in today's Trib is used as a springboard to talking about 'why' and 'how' some approach problems and solutions. The outcomes I desire are different.
Flood control - Pittsburgh Tribune-Review As Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato acknowledged during his recent tour of Millvale, it is widely accepted that upstream development is a significant contributing factor to downstream flooding. We cannot undo the decades of building that has increased the magnitude and frequency of flooding. However, we can buck the trends that continue to make it worse.Bingo. Onorato frames the problem well.
The older communities and the river towns are getting stomped upon by the more suburban communities. Millvale got crushed. Carnegie, in the past, got crushed with water.
How that happens should be understood. And, why it has been allowed to happen also must come into focus. On these later questions, Onorato shows his folly and lack of insight.
Onorato understands 'what happened.' But, Onorato can't get a grip on 'why' and 'how' and even the more simple 'when' and 'where' issues.
Onorato says, "stop subsidizing development in flood-prone watersheds." The first three words are great. Yes, we should stop subsidizing development. Do not use government money to subsidize any development anywhere.
Onorato wants to put the brakes on the subsidization in "flood-prone watersheds." Yes, that is partly right. However that is exactly what Onorato has NOT done. Onorato and County Council pushed for a TIF in a flood-prone watershed, a wet-land, called "Deer Creek Crossing." They wanted to put in a new strip mall in a marsh. I said no. I went to County Council's meetings to fight the TIF. I said that project should be stopped. Onorato and the vast majority of those on County Council was in favor of the tax-payer give-away to the developer for putting buildings, road and parking lot in a marsh.
Thankfully, others protested too. The Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network took up the side I was on and sent messages to deny the TIF at Deek Creek Crossing too. Other voices joined in as well. Objections were raised, in public. This was a few years ago. Onorato was County Executive. Onorato didn't object.
We won that battle. Deer Creek Crossing did NOT proceed. I have a fleeting understanding that the protesting didn't matter much. Rather, the deal fell down because of finance issues with the developer, building matters and perhaps even some common sense marketplace wisdoms.
Onorato wants to put together a map of Allegheny County and identify flood-prone watersheds. Dan, maps don't look into the future. Dan might need some tea leaves to sprinkle about on top if the maps -- in a hard rainstorm.
People are needed for the reading of the maps with the wisdom to understand the potential for flooding. Wisdom is necessary.
But in Onorato's world, put a subsidized development on a greenfield on a hill would be okay for a few reasons.
1. The new development wouldn't flood. It is on a hill. The developer will install rain water run offs. The rain water run offs will be paid for by part of the subsidy.
2. The new development's environmental changes are seen as progress to Onorato. Progress is good. But, to Onorato, way better than "good progress" is new development that hinges upon the buy-in, err, buy-off of political cronies to insure that those deal gets done.
Onorato needs to be the czar of the Sim City Game. He wants to be the one who makes the map. He wants to be the pivot person. He wants to be able to bend the lines and rules to show the flexibility and progress as long as the campaign donations are in his favor.
Onorato wants to have appointment powers among cronies to give blessing for deals. Onorato wants to go to the groundbreaking with a hard hat and shovel as bad as Mayor Ravenstahl wants to play golf.
By the way, once Ravenstahl matures, he'll out grow golf. Look to Luke to turn to pursuits. His ambitions will swing him to become a "dirt-turning deal maker and kingpin" like his 'upstream boss.'3. Onorato can call for "routine inspections." Politicians hate doing the "routine" but love the "inspection" element. Making an invasion, in-your-face, notification of owners of record and dishing out fines, charges, extra taxes are turn-ons for tax men. To create jobs where slackers can hang, yet still have inspection powers makes them happy. Then, when a storm brews, they spring to action.
Many local "D-party" politicians choose to go one of two ways. It is as if they have two different watersheds that are clearly visible within the D-party politician personality map. They choose to go dance at the country clubs with golfing buddies who want to do big-time development deals. Or, they go to bingo halls and mingle with seniors, bringing ice cream and sheet cakes. With the seniors politicians promise whatever the seniors crave.
Presently, properties get flooded and the county's tax incomes go down the drain (pun intended). With new "rain water run off watershed mobilized tax inspectors" reporting to Onorato, Onorato will be able to penalize and punish in indiscriminate ways.
Wonder if the Angry Drunk Bureaucrat is already working on job descriptions or at least going through the Rolodex finding family members to fill those posts.
The letter to the editor:
Flood control Wednesday, August 22, 2007I stand for the elimination of all subsidization deals to developers.
As Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato acknowledged during his recent tour of Millvale, it is widely accepted that upstream development is a significant contributing factor to downstream flooding.
We cannot undo the decades of building that has increased the magnitude and frequency of flooding. However, we can buck the trends that continue to make it worse.
For example, stop subsidizing development in flood-prone watersheds. Identify and map flood-prone watersheds in the County Comprehensive Plan and deny public funding that facilitates development there.
Do routine inspections of water detention facilities to ensure that they are functioning as designed. If they are not, notify the owners of record to restore them to their original condition. Funding for the program could come from fees to the municipalities, developers and landowners in the interest of public safety.
Protect large woodland masses as part of a watershed land-use plan. When woodlands are replaced by an equal amount of asphalt, runoff volume can be up to 50 times greater.
A one-time investment in woodland and flood-plain protection can pay dividends for generations and eliminate recurring flood damage and repair costs. Allegheny Land Trust is currently mapping highly functional natural lands that absorb storm water.
These are a few ideas that can be part of a flood prevention strategy that addresses the problem at its source.
Roy Kraynyk, Moon
The writer is executive director of Allegheny Land Trust.
I favor building upon our urban density, not suburban sprawl.
The purpose of government is to govern, as in working to make sure that the electronic voting machines really work. We need people in government to worry about the basics, such as the constitution, not pie-in-the-sky strip malls.
Onorato, Rendell, and before them, Tom Murphy, stink at the creation of sustainable marketplace jobs and overall wealth creation for the citizens of the region. Their performances are not to be copied nor made into a model for others to copy.