Monday, May 31, 2004

about coverage of Pittsburgh's Parks Scene

Hello from CHINA --

Nice article on the closed parks and smaller offerings.

I'd love to see an article about the POSITION PAPER on Parks & Rec -- now online at:

Plus we'll hold another meeting on in mid-June. Would love to get some ink about that as well as to create a discussion so as to cover next year -- and SEPTEMBER 2004.

The Save Our Summer is but a band-aid on a band-aid. It is no fix at all when looking about the real care we give to kids, to voice, to public responsibilities, to engagement.

Thanks for advancing the coversation in real and meaningful ways.

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Visting with David G - a former Pgh guy in China

We had a fine visit with David G - a former Pittsburgh native in Chengdu today. I don't have time to type much now but I'll get a photo to his parents off line.

Seems that there are a few from Pittsburgh in the area. The foreign folks seem to bump into each other at places like Pizza Hut -- where we talked with 7 from Okl. State Univ. They were sorry about the Sweet 16 -- something that had slipped my mind.

I'm getting a lot of good photos for making into quizes in the future.

more opinions from friends -- not mine - but nods

My concern is the "little guy" --- the middle class is paying the price for the horrible Murphy Administration. If there is a time for outrage, I hope people show up in force. The outrage should also be thrown towards City Council as well. They have done nothing to thrwart the Administration. They could have been brave and bold, but they were not!

I would be inclined to shut down all non-essential city services before doing what they propose. Things that would remain:

1) Police
2) Fire
3) Garbage
4) Skelton staff for public works.

Re: Act 47

My hunch, we'll see a huge rush from the suburban locations to insert a 1.5 percent tax on their people too -- to follow suit -- so as to NOT get any money to Pittsburgh.

So, this move by the city is an anchor / weight that is going to pull down the rest of the region as well.

All in all, it seems to ad to the downward spiral.

snip of email to me:
They came out with 233 page report...does not look good (as I expected) and there will be outrage with the amount of tax increases including 120/ year occupation tax

City property taxes from 10.8 mills to 11.34 mills (a 5 percent increase)

wage taxes on city residents from 1 percent to 1.5 percent.

Commuters, who now pay no earned income tax to the city, would be charged 1.4 percent, although their home municipalities with a wage tax would take their tax share out before the city gets its share.

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Rec Center Coaches

Shows the Badminton and Volleyball Coaches at an open Rec Center. We played there and got to play in 2005 as well. The badminton coach, left, was on China's national team for a while years ago. He is an excellent coach. Posted by Picasa

[412] Tune in the TV Show -- read the positon paper -- offer feedback -- see ya on June 17

Dear Southwestern Pennsylvania Comrades,

Hello from China's south west. While I'm a foreigner, you don't need to miss me. You can still get a glimpse of me and some of the issues I hold dear -- on PCTV 21 -- the Pittsburgh Cable Access TV Station.

Our COMMUNITY FORUM about the closing of city parks PUBLIC pools and Recreation Centers (taped at the National Aviary) plays on cable at:

Tuesday, May 25 7 to 8 pm
Thursday, May 27 1 to 2 pm

Tuesday, June 1 5 to 6 pm

Thursday, June 3 1 to 2 pm

Sunday, June 6 4 to 5 pm

Tuesday, June 8 8 to 9 pm

Wednesday, June 16 7 to 8 pm

The show mentions elements of the released (to PUBLIC DOMAIN) POSITION PAPER:
Please check it out, offer comments, pass the world. John Craig, former PG boss and leader of the Riverlife Task Force has. With your help, future versions are sure to help the region.

As a side note, the Oversight Board's recent letter to our Mayor talked about his lack of COOPERATION. Months ago, an AP article and public statements from mentioned that the fiscal crisis is much less of a problem than the cooperation crisis. Now the rest are coming to see what many have know for a long time. At the public parks, pools, rec centers and playgrounds -- we teach our kids how to play well with others. Well, no need to rant from CHINA in this email. Understand real solutions are being put forth from these quarters -- and I'd love to have you help with the buzz.

At 6:30 pm, June 17 at South Vo Tech Library (yes, the only high school pending a closure -- sadly) we'll hold another forum and have a presentation from Penn State Univ. Extensions that shows resources for program leaders, parents, volunteers, coaches. Please download, print and pass along the one page PDF to invite your circle of contacts -- http://Play.CLOH.Org/hot/sos-june.pdf

Please save the date for a concert: This IS America. Expect a wonderful event slated for 6 pm on Friday, June 10 at the South Side's Club Cafe... http://S6.CLOH.Org.

Finally, the web log of this China trip is on-hold until either our return, or for next year's Cannes film festival. No sense in a making a distraction from watching the show with date and times above -- nor from reading version one of the position paper -- yet alone the third Harry Potter.

To make public remarks, email Parks-Positions-Noise at CLOH.Org

Thanks for your help.

Mark Rauterkus
china at Rauterkus.Com -----> best while on the road

Thursday, May 20, 2004

opening the other pools

Details on how to open the other pools are a part of the postion paper I released a few weeks ago.

I'd love to have you or someone in the PG staff look into this and REPORT upon it. http://DSL.CLOH.Org/v1/

Many items there would help advance the discussion.

For example, one staff of seven could open and operate 14 pools -- working at two pools per day. Five work, two are on days off. Each pool would only once per week. But, it would open and that would help.

The SOS crew know NOTHING about swim pools -- and they have said as much to me on many instances. But, yet they are tossing their weight around with demands.

These are PUBLIC swim pools and that first concept should not tossed away -- baby with the bathwater pun in there somewhere.

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Re: Got Political Fever?

Hi John,

Good to see you are going to do the event again. I won't be attending -- again. I'm in China.

However, I'd love to have you help with a few things I'm doing. I think your contacts would be very interested in these efforts.

#1. June 18 meeting at South Vo Tech High School -- on the last day of school -- about pools, rec centers, summertime efforts, parks -- and a position paper.
A PDF - one page - is linked there.

#2. The new position paper is out and being talked about some -- by John Craig - former publisher of the PG and Riverlife Task Force, etc.

#3. A concert is slated for 6 pm, July 9, Club Cafe -- theme: This IS America. Great for political types. To be on TV too. So, there is some studio time possible.


Let's do another vote effort and get my involvement. I think that there are some new avenues that need to be explored in a meeting that I could help lead / present.

Take care. Good luck.

Mark Rauterkus
china at -- while on the road.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2004

My digital camera is out of the shop -- thankfully. Weekend trip to Xian.

Good day today running all around the city with my boys. Got badmitton set -- played at a badmitton staduim. Went to swim lessons.

Catherine and the two Pitt Grad students really had a lot of hard work teaching today. China is getting their value out of them. The class with 13 -- all sharp as a whip -- often is filled with 20+ students.

Re: July 11 -- suggested service blurb

Thanks for taking care of the loose end on the service on July 11. It will be great. Mindy is a gas and very very talented.

China is something else. We are very happy to be here -- but a bit out of step with the ways that are all around us. But, we are flexible and trying.

The boys are both great and bad -- each day -- each in his own right. You know parenting. Man, if only they could get at bit more at ease with each other and stay that way. Now they are in a nap and doing well for 2 hours. But this AM -- Erik was under my skin. They it was Grant yesterday.

Catherine's class is going well. The students are smart as can be and very dedicated.

Our e-toys -- my digital camera, etc., are not doing that well. So, my web log is not where I expected it to be.

I'm not getting many high-level interactions -- yet -- but perhaps that is to be expected. I'm just with the boys and we feel more like tourists. I had hoped to interact more at the swim pool with the other coaches. Oh, well.

Each day is full of new eye - opening observations.

Got to go.

Thanks again. Full slide shows and details upon our return.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Re: have you had a chance to visit this position paper?

Hi Mr. Craig,

My replies to your email (below) follow:

The HELP CENTER is a "big tent concept." It can begin ASAP -- by July/August 2004. It gathers offices under one roof. Recreation departments, school athletics, WPIAL, volunteers, race coordinators, permit offices --- all under one roof. The HELP CENTER gives citizens a one-stop vantage point to volunteer / engage. The old ALCOA building (Regional Enterprise Tower) is a big-tent for the non-profit sector. We need this hub building for kids, recreation, play, sports, parks. So, let's craft a HELP CENTER.

In due time, the HELP CENTER evolves into a new, free-standing entity -- a new branch of government -- a Pittsburgh PARK DISTRICT.

So, the HELP CENTER is a catalist in early months. But, in later years, after referendums, the HELP CENTER is part of the mission and an on-going outcome for service to citizens, coaches, players, staffers and volunteer leaders.

The physical building that is the HELP CENTER is within part of South Vo Tech High School -- and perhaps expanding to more than the first floor in due time. The HELP CENTER could exist with the existing school in a phase out mode.

As the HELP CENTER as part of the PITTSBURGH PARK DISTRICT -- the final outcome -- think of a new governmental entity. Illinois has this model. PARK DISTRICTS are their own taxing bodies, with own elected leaders, with their own jurisdictions. The PITTSBURGH PARK District would start after a chain reaction of mergers and then a spin-out.

Various steps include:
Citiparks flows into the County Parks Dept.
Pgh Public Schools (for after-school and sports facility use) blends, plus CCAC facilities, Point State Park, Pgh Parks Conservancy, Riverlife Task Force (parts), some of the RAD Funds, and then the County Recreation Department all blend with the PITTSBURGH PARK DISTICT.

Accountability rests with the people -- as there are elected leaders and votes throughout. Democracy and self-determination is a HUGE part of this endeavor. Its constitution is something to talk about in future rounds of discussions.

On your #2 below.
No. We agree.
The County's major parks should be part of the same system with all the parks. I want to merge all park efforts and recreational efforts within the city and county. We will need stages and phases, perhaps.
So we agree. There would be a single office. But, I dare not call this an "authority" -- with appointed leaders. Rather a unit of government with elected leaders. But, this PITTSBURGH PARK DISTRICT would have the authority to manage, direct, own, etc.

I don't call for a total "ELMINATION of the RAD TAX." A total re-think, yes. And, the position paper calls for some of the RAD Districts responsibilities now serve a new master, i.e., the PITTSBURGH PARK DISTRICT. So, some RAD efforts, such as libraries, would still go to and flow via the RAD BOARD. Libraries are not parks. We still need RAD efforts to continue for NON-PARKs elements.

But, we'd need to unravel some of the RAD duties and incomes and re-tool it with the formation of the new entity.

Furthermore, with the PITTSBURGH PARK DISTRICT, the region gets a NEW TAXING GOVERMENT. We get an overlay that can assert taxes upon residents in a regional manner. So, your benefit of RAD -- the only regional entity -- is now expanded upon as we'd keep RAD (altered some) and insert a NEW regional entity. Our regional toolkit is greatly enhanced in the concepts within the Position Paper.

As to the other counties that are beyond Allegheny -- and the RAD and their right to self-determine their interplay or not -- this too becomes an issue -- in the long term views. I think that the PITTSBURGH PARK DISTRICT starts quickly and with four to six principal partners in the mergers. However, the scope of the Pittsburgh Park District would be able to expand to include other municipalities (i.e. Wilkinsburg) and other school districts (i.e., Quaker Valley and Sto Rocks). Then, as the quilt expands and is made more of a benefit -- sponsorships will help to drive this -- I see no reason why the Park District can't become an entity with multi-county jurisdictions.

Furthermore this vision is already in place in ILLINOIS. The Peoria Park District serves an area that expands beyond the home county. Some places are incorporated into the Park District -- and others choose to remain outside of it. So, the city of Washington might not want to be part of this entity -- but -- the rest of Washington County could opt in.

But, first we have to crawl, then walk and take it step by step. The kids in the city need to get this flowing more quickly.

Thanks for your comments and time.
I read your summary, which in itself is quite a piece of work, and can report the following:

1. I am not familiar with what you regularly refer to as "the fledgling help center"; What is it? That said, you seem to put a great many eggs it the center basket and it is difficult to assess the efficacy of the suggestions until I have a better understanding of the center, its makeup, its authority, its budget, to whom it is accountable, etc.

2. There is a second theme to what you write that I do not embrace, if I understand things properly: That is that Pittsburgh's major parks should be operated separately from major county parks. I think major parks (city and county) should be under a single authority and if possible other major parks outside Allegheny County should be included in what would be one regional system.

3. Far from getting rid of the RAD tax, which as a matter of law is required to support parks, I would assign it even more responsibility for regional assets like our major parks as well as the programs in those major parks. The RAD is the only regional tax we have and we would be out of our minds if we eliminated it. I do not have any problem with a slightly different method of putting people on the RAD board, most particularly people from outside the county, if their attractions are to get support. The problem is that when the enabling legislation for RAD was passed the contiguous counties did not vote to participate, which was their mistake. If they change their minds and embrace a truly regional approach to major park and recreation programs I would put them on the board


From: Mark Rauterkus [mailto:Mark at]
Sent: Sunday, May 16, 2004 9:59 AM
To: Craig, John
Subject: have you had a chance to visit this position paper?

Hi Mr. Craig,

I released a postion paper that deals with many issues including the formation of a new, democratic, PARK DISTRICT.

I'd love for you to read it and react.

I'm not too fond of the Riverlife Task Force, however. Sorry in advance.


Sunday, May 16, 2004

change for goodness sake -- not for change's sake

Hi Alison,

The change we need and crave in Pittsburgh is not how it seems in your recent PG article.

For starters, the real change is the move to tadpole status. Not so long ago, Pittsburgh was a major city, 4th largest in the USA. We are now a fraction of what we used to be. Those who have been forcing change are forcing the shrinkage. Those who are asking for a traditional view and legacy viewpoint are the one's who are most upset at our failures in the recent decades.

To stay a tadpole -- not quite. Naysayers know that not only are the days of being a tadpole here -- but -- the pond is shrinking too. The fast forward to the present was horrid and full of folly, shrinkage, management of decline, lost attitudes and missed priorities. The face of change in Pittsburgh has been full of robust acceleration to nothingness. The ones who are with pause are capable of really seeing the decline.

The tag of tadpole is the handiwork of the rulers. The power elite has starved the people and the real Pittsburgh.

The beginning of something new around here has always been more shrinkage. With changes for the worse, Pittsburgh's people grew and advanced elsewhere. Too many have left. Too many changed and chose pathways elsewhere. The precise stagnation we are now experiencing isn't a will against change. Rather it is a will against foolishness and hurtful changes.

The largest remaining primitive creature in our landscape is hype. The swamp is full of one-way thinkers. Back-patting won't fix Pittsburgh.

Encouraging changes, mergers and revisions in our budgets, our governments and our attitudes, may or may not be signs of dragging fiscal feet. Quicksand of our own making, to me, it seems, is to offer little but feel-good chatter.

Tonight was my birthday, and I enjoyed a meal with ethnic food never tasted. Yesterday I visited an art marketplace. Our recent walk along a riverfront park was next to the Fube River. So, I follow your logic, to a degree. I've told someone about something new and exciting in Pittsburgh. But, to get the ball rolling, as you say, it will take more than hype and conventioneers' talk. It would be great for our region if the PG really covered some new ideas and didn't scold for those who are NOT in the goose-step mode. To herald change, advance discussions and insist upon making changes for the better.

And, if interested in real changes --- I'd love to hear your feedback on the position paper I released at http://DSL.CLOH.Org/v1/ .

Oversight Board phone # as per Brian O'N's PG coverage.

Now you can call 412-288-3803
Ask them if they read the POSITION PAPER.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

Consolidation worries with Tom at the HELM

Mayor Tom Murphy's public support for consolidation is a joke. It has taken him 11 years in office to finally get 911 services to merge and make sense. There is little else more basic for people's welfare to pick up a phone in a time of dire emergency and call for help by dialing 911. That is a root service that needs attention. We can build stadiums and department stores in the Murphy Administration, but we can't fix roads, bridges and offer true public service.

The city's imminent budget problems, Murphy said, is the oversight board's job. The shame in that quote goes to how Murphy has given up on himself and his duty as Mayor. He MUST leave the office.

In an interview Thursday, Murphy said the Pittsburgh region would save the most money by focusing on dissolving school districts and police departments, rather than the city's government. WRONG. What Pittsburgh needs is a set of moves into the other direction from where Murphy would have us follow. I'd rather see MORE school districts with a horizontal split of Pgh Public Schools so as to make more, smaller, districts. Todays PPS District is too big and could be effective as a 9-12 district and a start-up of three to five smaller K-8 districts, each with their own elected boards.

James C. Roddey said that Pittsburgh won't solve the [consolidation] problems this year. So sad and so true. However, the biggest road block to progress is none other than Tom Murphy. We do need to start now, with discussions.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

[via China] Fw: lazarus is empty and its best use


I'm writting from Chengdu, western China, about the empty, subsidized Lazarus. The economy in China is overheating. One report credited China for 25% of the world's volume for economic transactions.

Rather than one store, (Walmart or Target), or even two, (Circuit City), let's convert the space into a home for 200 shops.

Chengdu's computer row has a number of larger buildings with seemingly countless vendors, dealers, reps, agents, and very brisk business. Hundreds of places sell digital cameras. Within blocks, computer desk makers, paper suppliers, printers, copy centers and more mp3 players than you can imagine.

The small business marketplace is Pittsburgh's weakness. More organic, diverse, cutting-ege, creative, companies with local owners are needed. I think all subsidized development is lame, but handouts to ONE corporate neighbor and not 200, is 200-times worse.


Mark Rauterkus
China at

Monday, May 10, 2004

[Parks] Fw: Sinking or Swimming?

From: rnbphoto7

From: Charles J McCollester
To: Gene Ricciardi ; Sala Udin

Dear Gene and Sala:
I'd appreciate it if you would share this with your colleagues. It was submitted to the P-G. It is in both text and attachment forms.
Charles McCollester

The issue of the pools, recreation and senior citizen centers is finally coming to a boil. The manifest unfairness and brutality of their closings last summer struck at the heart of the city's relationship to its resident workers and their neighborhoods. The very services that impact most directly the ability of the neighborhoods to
provide viable places to raise a new generation of Pittsburghers were not simply cut back proportionately, they were eradicated. This is a family survival issue.

Insult was then added to injury when duly elected officials were supplanted by not one, but two state-appointed commissions descending on Pittsburgh accompanied by the audible sharpening of knives as they informed the long-suffering residents that they need to tighten their belt and trim the fat. One of the commissions in a noble gesture of solidarity with the pain of our fair city will be reimbursed close to
a million dollars to tell us about our need to make further sacrifices. That million could fund all the pools for this summer. With governmental responsibility divided, the stage is set for a vigorous round of finger pointing instead of action while the Burgh sinks.

The central issue is how to adequately fund the city services of the City of Pittsburgh by developing funding streams that are not cut out of the hide of the resident and small to medium-sized local businessperson who presently bears the bulk of the burden. This can be done in three ways: extending the business privilege tax to the large presently-exempt corporations, banks and utilities; negotiating
reimbursement from the large ?non-profits? like hospitals and universities for services provided (while continuing exemption for churches and small non-profits); getting some fair sharing of the burden by the two-thirds of Pittsburgh's workers who live outside the city and pay very little for its wear and tear. Reform should neither be at the cost of our police and fire protection, nor decent union contracts for city workers who are nearly all residents. Reform should not be done on the backs of the children and elderly, nor should it undermine the health and safety of our citizens.

Much hope is being expended on the efforts of private generosity to mitigate the situation for the coming summer. The Elsie Hillman-Salah Udin initiative is one such worthy effort; the more apparently grassroots effort, Save Our Summer, is another. While these initiatives should be recognized and encouraged, they in no way should
be seen as a vehicle for the abrogation of either public input or responsibility. These pools, recreation centers, and senior centers are extremely valuable taxpayer-owned properties. They represent, with our great public parks, greenways and libraries, an important part of our historic legacy as Pittsburghers. There is a real danger that these building blocks of our common wealth as residents will be grabbed by private interests.

What is most distressing is the lack of public input. Unfortunately, this follows a longstanding Pittsburgh tradition that has ill-served us in the past. What we need is a public - private - community partnership to keep all the pools, recreation centers and senior centers open; every one of them for at least one year. We don't need another unelected group to make strategic decisions about what recreation the city of Pittsburgh is offering and where. Why ten pools? Why these ten? Who decided the winners and losers? The southern third of the city looks especially hard hit. What public process decided this? It is past time for City Council to exhibit some serious
interest in their responsibility as our elected representatives and fight for the preservation of these critical family and neighborhood assets.

We should invite all concerned citizens and neighborhood organizations interested in setting up Pool and Centers Committees to assist in the operation and promotion of the facilities in close coordination with city workers and their elected representatives. We need to honor union contracts as well as demonstrate respect for the knowledge and skill of city workers especially in the areas of safety, sanitation and maintenance.

In Philadelphia, when about twenty percent of the pools were deemed no longer viable, they were offered to neighborhood groups with assistance to take them over.

The critical failing of the former Pittsburgh pools system were the unreasonable barriers to access erected by a ridiculously bureaucratic and centralized system of passes and metal tokens. To operate efficiently each pool must control its own access and collect day fees from users - both resident and non-resident. Each pool must be allowed to retain the bulk of revenue it earns for its own maintenance and renovation. The pools should be understood as regional assets that can attract people from surrounding towns. We need maps to show people where the pools are and what parking or public transportation is available to access them.

Last summer's punishing of city families for the mismanagement of the city's affairs by the rich and the powerful was reprehensible. As the second summer approaches with our youth on the streets and old folks without a place to go, the whole mess is compounded by the proliferation of new imposed, unelected governmental structures that dilute both authority and responsibility. We need more participation,
democracy and accountability -- not less.

Pittsburghers unite! It is time to fight for our city.

Charles McCollester is a resident of Mt. Washington, professor of
employment relations and the director of the Labor Center at Indiana
University of Pennsylvania.

Sunday, May 09, 2004

[via China] We are all doing well

Hi Mom,

Happy Mothers Day....
We are doing well. I'm having a bit of trouble with the internet and the computer.... plus with the digital camera, but things are fine otherwise.

Upon our arrival Erik had a bunch of nose-bleeds. They have ended.

Yesterday I had a bit of an explosion in my digestive system --- but that was just messy in the bathroom.

If that is the worst of it -- we are doing well.

Catherine is now teaching her third class. Yesterday the size of the class rose from 13 to 21.

Of interest, since 2000, they have had a 7-day holiday starting May 1. Then on the 8th and 9th -- sat and sun -- they get right back to work. So, there wasn't a typical weekend. Sat and Sun were work days.

Beijing was nice.

Bikes are everywhere - no helmets.

Our boys are a bit of a eye opener for the locals. We get a lot of stares -- but not too much. Lots of people don't understand English.

This is a huge city. First day the sky was milky -- no clouds, nothing but a white blur above. Hardly able to see the shine of the sun behind the cover. Then the second day the real smog came and has been with us since. Hardly able to see the buildings 3 or 4 blocks away. There is a smell in the air of car fumes, gas/deisel.

Our apartment is nice. It is on the 5th floor of a complex with 5 larger (24 stories) buildings. Guards at the gate, small playground, more exclusive than most other places I'm sure.

We are taking a lot of urban hikes.

More homework for the boys. Today in the afternoon we'll drop by the American Consolate office just for good measure. Then tomorrow we hope to start our looking for violins. Saw some in Beijing's department store for $50 with case and bow.

Love to all.

Mark, Erik, Grant and Catherine