Thursday, November 01, 2007

Consultant begins study of city neighborhoods

This is folly.
Consultant begins study of city neighborhoods A Philadelphia-based consultant started a study of city of Pittsburgh neighborhoods yesterday, with the goal of providing detailed data and guidance on development investment.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl introduced The Reinvestment Fund at a news conference that announced the start of the $35,000 study funded by the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the Surdna Foundation.

'We have to ensure that we are investing our limited resources wisely,' said Mr. Ravenstahl. TRF's data will allow the city to rebuild 'using hard data, instead of politics' to steer limited funds.
The root understanding of what's going on here is a flaw. They are building on falsehood.

We don't need a $35,000 study.

We don't want the city -- as in city government, public funds, URA, Authority weenies -- to rebuild. Luke is right in that the city does have limited funds. The city has NO FUNDS. The city didn't have any money for the city-owned capital budget for a couple of years recently.

The city is bleeping broke. There is NOTHING to give away.

Furthermore, even if the city was flush with cash, I don't want the city to do the rebuilding. The city should govern.

If there is public building efforts, the public officials need to take care of public places -- like the city-owned still closed indoor ice rink within a closed park.

The city's private sector needs to be put in the drivers seat so as to rebuild Pittsburgh. Faith in the marketplace is needed.

As the city squirms and weasels around with its nickels (our money really) and the consultants it hires (with our money too), potential investors stay away.

The city's priorities are screwed up.

Mayor Ravenstahl and the URA, including the new director, Pat Ford, need to do the following:

1. Publish the inventory of city-owned properties.

2. Publish the inventory of city-owned properties with the tax liens that have been re-acquired.

3. Hold public hearings to discuss a way to liquidate the various properties.

4. Hold fire sales, of sorts, so as to transfer ownership from the government to home owners. These are going to be hand-to-hand selling, one-to-one, hard work.

4b. I'm not interested in big-time sales of large blocks of land to holding companies and speculators.

5. Promise to NOT get in the way of private ownership, investors, builders.

The reality is the city can't do it. The city can't get the job done. There is too much to do. The city's assets are spread too thin. Nothing can be given to special interests as we need everything we have for those who are here now.

Public ownership of land has to shrink.

Nonprofit ownership of land has to be stopped. I've called for a moratorium on all nonprofit land expansion.

The research that is going to happen on vacancies, abandonment, foreclosures and more needs to be done in an open source method. We all need to contribute to this mission. The framework can be established by leaders and standards can evolve. The data should be public data. Code should be public code. Content should be public content.

Finally, as controller, this venture can occur within the controller's office and controller's domain as part of the Citizens' Congress.

We already pay sixty people who work for the city within the controller's office who can do these tasks, along with the citizens and professionals in the private real estate sector.

This is the type of performance elements I'm talking about in this quest to run the Pittsburgh's controller's office.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

full article:

onsultant begins study of city neighborhoods
Thursday, November 01, 2007

A Philadelphia-based consultant started a study of city of Pittsburgh neighborhoods yesterday, with the goal of providing detailed data and guidance on development investment.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl introduced The Reinvestment Fund at a news conference that announced the start of the $35,000 study funded by the Urban Redevelopment Authority and the Surdna Foundation.

"We have to ensure that we are investing our limited resources wisely," said Mr. Ravenstahl. TRF's data will allow the city to rebuild "using hard data, instead of politics" to steer limited funds.

Ira Goldstein of TRF said his organization will drive through every neighborhood, talk with community advocates and comb data on housing, vacancies, abandonment, foreclosures and more.

The data will help local leaders answer questions about development, demolition and preservation, he said.

The work is expected to be complete in January.

Mark Rauterkus said...

E-democracy in Pittsburgh must come alive -- and it can do better work than that of out-of-town consultants.

E-democracy is the use of communication technologies to include citizens in the democratic process. Pittsburgh needs a citizen-based model to partner with a tech-centric Administration to create and facilitate an online public space in the heart of real civic life.

Local E-democracy works.

In the UK, a national project is funding a local issues forums with http://www.e-democracy.org/uk E-Democracy.Org.

This low-cost, citizen-based model works well once implemented. Efforts with e-democracy can be sustainable.

Forum success is contingent on finding a local Forum Managers and a few citizens to help recruit a critical mass of citizen participants, including local public officials and journalists. Without a true local base of participants and facilitation, all you have is a digital ghost town.

The Mayor of Minneapolis and other communities have many volunteers who have leveraged great interactions on the internet about local government issues.

E-democracy efforts are low cost and volunteer-based. Materials reside online and are free.

The city can provide training, assistance, and the essential forum facilitation framework through a local Forum Manager and citizen steering committee. The new open source GroupServer technology will help us bring together a critical mass of local citizens by combining the best features of e-mail lists with user-friendly web forums

Pittsburgh's future depends upon the informed and active participation of its citizens. Pittsburgh must turn the tide and change from its past as a city where closed door deals were struck. Pittsburgh's legacy of a "done-deal attitude" hinders our pathway to the best solutions. The city's leaders need to extend the citizen's right to know by giving adequate notice of proposed actions, holding open meetings and making public records accessible.

Jason said...

Here is an idea. Government entities outside of executive, national security and the military should not own property at all.

Governments need to lease and these leases should expire every 3 to 5 years depending on the use.

Then there should be a public debate following the budgeting process to acquire space "as needed" not fill up the space we have.

The physical tends to dictate the organizational. This is evident in the schools more than anywhere else...Is Schenely a building or a school?

Mark Rauterkus said...

Schenley is both a building and a school, today.

In the future it will be neither.

Interesting idea about not owning property. It is worth an audit.