Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Scores speak out on Roosevelt's plan to close 20 city schools

P-G coverage on the Rodgers plan for middle school for CAPA to Mt. Washington.
Scores speak out on Roosevelt's plan to close 20 city schoolsSpeakers also urged school officials not to move the middle school program for the creative and performing arts from the Rogers building in Garfield to the former Baxter Building in Homewood, now occupied by the district's alternative education programs. Some favored moving the program instead to Prospect Middle School on Mount Washington, which is on the closing list.

My wife, Ph.D., gets ink in P-G: Protecting young musicians' hearing is goal of partnership between UPMC, city schools

Wellness works wonders. Way to go musicians and scientists and clinicians and parents and teachers and open-minded, quality based performers in life!
Protecting young musicians' hearing is goal of partnership between UPMC, city schools Protecting young musicians' hearing is goal of partnership between UPMC, city schools
The quieter sound of music

In high school, kids who play football wear helmets, mouthguards and pads as protection against injury.

Langley High School senior Cherish Marshall, 17, wears her special earplugs during band class last week.

To learn more about the UPMC Musicians' Hearing Center earplugs program, call 412-647-2030. The center offers education and earplugs as outreach to other schools, as well, at the lowest cost affordable.

To learn about the Etymotic non-custom earplugs, which sell for $12 a pair, visit The company's home page is at

Kids in chemistry class wear goggles.

Kids in band class . . . well, they often don't wear any protection for their ears. But they should.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Tinker: Major suggestions from citizen, Henry C. Schmitt, about Rogers

Good Afternoon Mr. Roosevelt and Members of the Board -
Two weeks ago I came before you to let you know that I support the Right-Sizing Plan for the Pittsburgh Public Schools. I still do. Although as Mr. Roosevelt said in the media "it needs some tweaking." With that in mind, I'd like to bring the following issue to your attention.

The current plan has the Rogers CAPA program moving to the Baxter building, and the Letsche Education Center moving to the Washington building. Initially seems like a good idea, but on closer examination there are some problems. This would necessitate the moving of two student populations, over 500 students, and the capital improvement of two buildings.

This move seems to give the Rogers CAPA program room to expand, but I believe it does not. The numbers I found for the 2002-3 school year, the final year the CAPA High program was in Baxter, showed an enrollment of 330 students, about 45% of the building's capacity. However, an article in the June 12, 2003 Tribune Review quotes a CAPA student, Jessica Burch, as saying "...she will miss taking singing lessons in a janitor's closet" and "Our Spanish room is also the dance studio...we have to move the desks out...every day." This does not indicate a building with excess capacity; it indicates a building bursting at the seams.

Some of the parents and faculty of Rogers would like to propose the following alternative: Instead of moving both the Rogers CAPA program and the Alternative Education program, leave the Alternative Education program where it is, and move the Rogers CAPA program to the Prospect building in Mt. Washington.

We have gathered the data to show how this new proposal would be better for the CAPA program and the district as a whole. I have prepared a chart based on the 10 criteria you used for the original proposal that compares the two moves. In all cases, the move to Prospect is equal to or better than the move to Baxter.

I will provide you all with copies of the chart, but let me mention the highlights: only the 300 students at Rogers would need to be moved, only one building would need capital improvements. The central location of Prospect near downtown would reduce transportation costs and increase ties to organizations in the Cultural District. The location of Baxter in the far east end would have the opposite effect.
I think that if you look at the data, you will see that this proposal deserves careful consideration. Thank you for your time.

Henry C. Schmitt

Students that go to Rogers might one day work for Disney.

Next, to figure out how to put the plan, a table, on this blog. Humm... Okay, I've got 10 points in the comments section of this blog posting. Each shows the baseline reason, what the present plan has for its strength, then in bold, the new idea's reasoning / strength. Keep reading.

Plus, I've inserted two bonus points after the first 10 to cover some extras I just pulled out of the sky.

November 29, 2005
Mr. Roosevelt & Members of the Board:

As you are aware, both my husband and I are very active in our children’s education and are willing to work to make it the best it can be. We are also strong supporters of public education. We also, like you, believe on making our decisions based on data. Although we first thought moving Rogers to Baxter was a good idea, after reviewing the data, it now seems clear that such a move would be detrimental to the CAPA middle school program, and have a negative impact on the district as a whole. Much of the data we looked at was readily available on the PPS web site, but information about the Baxter building was hard to come by. We received information about Baxter from the Parent-Teacher organizations at Rogers. Working within your proposed plan, the Parent-Teacher group raised an alternative location – the Prospect building.

To better understand the merits of both plans, we looked to the criteria for right-sizing as listed on the PPS website, gathered what data we could, and compared each plan to the criteria. The following table clearly shows why we now believe moving to Baxter is not in the best interest of the CAPA program or district, as well as why Prospect should be considered as a viable alternative.

We look forward to working with you to bring about positive change to the Pittsburgh Public Schools

Katherine Schmitt
Henry Schmitt
Parents of students at Minadeo and Rogers CAPA

Philly article: Packing heat - and political punch via blog and more

Here is a character with a few great quotes.
Philadelphia Inquirer | 11/29/2005 | Packing heat - and political punchWhile in Manhattan, Bruce helped launch Open Source Media at, a consortium of 70 diverse blogs on topics from politics and true crime to designer shoes and holistic pet care. She's on OSM's advisory board and blogs at

Bruce calls the blogging collective 'the first fundamental assault on the mainstream media's control of information distribution.'

She says because blog journalism - 'the technological handmaiden of the new American revolution' - is constantly self-correcting and invites anyone to chime in, it will deal a deathblow to old media, including newspapers.

'The power no longer resides with the elites. The power belongs to whoever wants to take it,' says Tammy Bruce with utmost confidence, sounding for all the world like a Sixties lefty at the barricades and signifying that in the fractured and shifting terrain of American political culture, labels have lost all meaning.

Tinker talk with the plan before Pgh Public Schools

I presented my points to a public hearing held at the Pgh Public Schools today. The plan was mentioned on this blog last week.
Mark Rauterkus statement about PPS Plan: "Statement about Schools -- from Mark Rauterkus --"

I released my comments on the plan at Rev. Johnny Monroe's church. I've got lots of good feedback from these ideas, in public, and online.

BTW, his church, Grace Memorial, does not have Tinker Bell on its steeple.

Good to see pending board member Thomas Sumpter at the board table to listen to all the testimony. He gets sworn into office in January and will need to make a vote the next month.

One decent tinker idea: Move the CAPA Middle School to the closing Roosevelt Middle School. That makes the location more central to the city and closer to the cultural district and the CAPA High.

I talked as I was departing with a guy, Bob S., who was just arriving. He had two identical concerns of mine. First, he wants to see all the calls to the help desk made public and visible. That's what I've been calling the 'Robust job ticketing system.'

Furthermore, he was upset at the email from A+ Schools about how everyone was to walk lockstep with the plan. I mentioned that the A+ Schools Director spoke before I did, by two slots. I was sorry I didn't wear my boots as it was getting rather deep in there.

Speaking to PPS public hearing about single gender schools

Election Results from 2005 to 2001

In 2005:
href="">Election Results Bob O'Connor (Dem) 40,226 67.1%
Joseph Weinroth (Rep) 16,321 27.2%
Titus North (Gre) 2,392 4.0%
David Tessitor (Abo) 625 1.0%
Jay M Ressler (Soc) 397 0.7%
Totals 59,961
In 2001:
Tom Murphy (Dem) 39,257 -- 74.3%
James Carmine (Rep) 12,175 -- 23.0%
Chaston Roston (I) 964 -- 1.8%
Francis Forrestal (S) 443 -- 0.8%

To Bob's credit, he got more votes than Murphy got in 2001. I knew it would be close. Murphy did have a higher percentage.

When I ran for PA Senate, I got more than 7-percent of the vote. That vote percentage is greater than the total percentage of all non Ds and non Rs. But the swelling ranks from 2001 to 2005 of non-Ds and non-Rs was from 2.6 percent to 5.7 percent.

As another point to ponder, G.W. Bush, (R) in his second term, had 37,000 votes in the city.

Riverside Cubs -- a story on Silent Touchdowns

California School for the Deaf, with Coach Keith Adams, from 0 and 10, in his first season to playoff team last year and Ten-and-oh, 52-to-nill, in the final game, this season.

The football team is deaf. The cheerleaders are deaf too! But they know how to communicate, beat the drum and tackle!

An interview with a dad, "Are you proud of him?"

"Every day," says the father.

Great story that ran at 1 am on ABC's Nightline.

Just as a reminder, our book, "Time Out! I Didn't Hear You" -- is available as a free download in PDF.

Mayor Murphy: 'Best Job In America' -- hardly. I've got a job that is much, much better.

I've got two jobs that are better than his. And, I ran for his job, no less. I ran for mayor. I wanted to end Mayor Mruphy's tenure at two terms. We needed a new mayor more than I needed to be the mayor. But, it is safe to say I pondered the job and the duties of the job and the office.

I'm a swim coach. That job is way better than being mayor. And, the clincher job -- being a stay at home dad. That job is a million times better than being mayor. The best job in America is true if you over look the two jobs I have.

But, I do think being mayor is better than being a volunteer blogger.
KDKA: "Mayor Murphy: 'Best Job In America'

(KDKA) PITTSBURGH Tom Murphy welcomed us into an office that�s seen a lot of history. Now years of memories are being sorted and boxed for the archives.

"It's a remarkable story of how it evolved from just trying to save the Pirates to building a ballpark to building everything that we did," Murphy said.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Ballot Access News & Pitt Law Libertarians -- content swells in our favor

Ballot Access News Libertarians Won 19 Partisan Elections on Nov. 8
November 23rd, 2005

The Libertarian Party won 19 partisan elections in Pennsylvania on November 8, 2005, not one, as reported earlier. They include 7 township auditors, one constable, on township supervisor, one planning commissioner, and 9 precinct elections officials.

Pitt Law LibertariansPITT LAW LIBERTARIANS have a blog with plenty of entries.

Who knows Father James McCaskill?

Spero News | Priest Idol - week 2 round up Father James McCaskill, a fresh-faced 32 year old cleric from the leafy suburbs of Pittsburgh, USA, is the subject of Priest Idol. ...
Does he vote on the South Side? Where did he go to seminary?

Speaking of TV, why do they show Rudolph The Red Nose Raindeer on network TV at 8 pm. The kids who would want to watch the show should be tucked away dreaming of sugar plums.

Bob O'Connor -- exclusive 1-on-1 intervew on Fox TV, 10 pm -- opposite MNF

Are you ready for some football????

Meanwhile at 10 pm tonight, the local Fox TV news holds an exclusive interview with the next mayor, Bob O'Connor.

That's a tough time slot, opposite the Steelers. Some people have all the luck.

Founder of popular Craiglist Web site assisting with news venture

Founder of popular Craiglist Web site assisting with news venture: "engineer who created the popular Craigslist Web site, Craig Newmark, said the new media venture he has been working on could launch within three months.

Mr. Newmark, whose site gets more than a million classified ads and 1 million postings each month, told The Associated Press in May that he wants to develop a pool of 'talented amateurs' who could investigate scandals, cover politics and promote the most important and credible stories. The journalists' articles would be published on Internet sites ranging from Craigslist to individual Web logs, or blogs."

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Put a fork in em! A History of... What? Success? How so?

Great recap from fellow blogger.
AntiRust: The Allegheny Conference and Pittsburgh's Birthday: A History of... What? Success? How so?... Society would be better served, first, with a $14 million movie about the failed promise of absurd urban redevelopment schemes. Add up the money squandered in Pittsburgh alone. God, it's depressing.

Next, I think it's time for someone to stand up and say, 'Look, let's forget about the city's damn image. The area built an image as an industrial place by making steel, not producing movies about making steel. And it will build an image as a vital place by becoming a vital place, not by making movies about Indians and French guys in the 1760s.' Seems obvious, maybe, but it looks like it still needs said.
I say it is great that the Allegheny Conference is going to fiddle while Rome burns. It is great that the Allegheny Conference is going to try to turn the clock back for a birthday party. Great. That is what we really need -- and I'm serious.

I want The Allegheny Conference to run a birthday party. That's what they should do, celebrations, parties -- and NOTHING ELSE. Get them out of the way.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

ABA Hoops returned to winning ways in Pittsburgh

When I was in 6th grade, I think, I went to a Condors game. This was a bit like that.

The home team, the Black & Gold colored, Pittsburgh Explosion, took a huge first quarter lead. And, the roof at Pitt's Peterson Event Center wasn't leaking, as best I could tell. The team plays four games at Pitt's venue and the rest at the Civic Arena, also known as the Mellon Arena. The Kernals are from Kentucky and have a former Kansas player. Two ex-NBA players are with the Explosion.

The dance team is called the 'bomb squad.'

Huddle with the coach.

The digital camera wasn't so good at "action photos."


Campaign committee still has a few openings.

Care to partner and saddle up? Just call me, 412 298 3432. Or telegram is okey-doe-kay too -- Mark--at-Rauterkus--dot--com.

Friday, November 25, 2005

We were part of history tonight! We went to the first-ever home victory for the ABA's Pittsburgh Explosion!

My boys and I attended our first ABA game, at Pitt's Peterson Event Center. Great time.

The music is too loud for Erik. He's the hyper protective one. My other guy, Grant, could not get this one question out of his head. And, I'm at a loss for an answer too.

The Pgh Explosion played the Kentucky Colonels. Why in the heck do you say COLONELS when there isn't an "R" in there???? Can someone help us out on that one?
Nevermind: The modern usage of the word colonel began in the late sixteenth century, when companies were first formed into larger regiments or columns (colonne in Italian) under the leadership of a colonnello. (In modern English, the word is pronounced similarly to kernel as a result of having entered the language from Middle French in two competing forms, coronel and colonel. The more etymological colonel was favored in literary works and eventually became the standard spelling despite losing the pronunciation war to the dissimilated coronel.)
We won in overtime. Good game. Fine play and players too. Spelling -- that is a different matter.

Photos to come later.

SA 50 and Stem Cell Ethics: SciAm Observations

As Paul Harvey say, "And now for the rest of the story....
SA 50 and Stem Cell Ethics: SciAm Observations Needless to say, this news disturbed us at Scientific American, and not just because of the somewhat awkward p.r. headache. We take the ethics of scientific conduct seriously, not only as a moral issue but because unacceptable practices can torpedo an entire research enterprise. That is particularly true for embryonic stem cell research, which at least in the U.S. is among the hottest of political hot potatoes.
Another one bites the dust.

The whistle blower -- from Pittsburgh -- was right.

Tinker! When a picture says a 1,000 words.

(Click images for larger view.)
Tinker Bell at on a weather vein.

Town is filled with talk about "tinkering" concerning the plans put forth by Mark Roosevelt, Pgh Public School's superintendent.

Tinker with this. Tinker with that. See which way the wind blows.

Frankly, I've had it to here with this tinkering mentality, so might say outgoing school board member, Alex Mathews. He does not want the board to "tinker with" the plan. Give it a stright up or down vote.

Humm. The wind generally does not blow straight UP or DOWN. It blows all around.

I sorta like the idea that of a straight up or down vote by the school board. I like the idea as there should NOT be any small-minded tinkering at the board table. However, the tinkering needs to occur elsewhere.

Like this tinkerbell topping -- the tinkering needs to be clearly visible for all to see. There is why she sits at the top of the building.

The tinkering should occur in online too. The school district can set up a help-desk with a job-ticketing system. This is nothing but a bug tracking program and/or versioning software.

Otherwise, we are left with a lot of hot air and no way to gather -- but only scatter.

Tinker Bell has a magic wand. Roosevelt might need such a stick if he proceeds as he's been going. The data isn't visible. The tinkering and changes are not evolving in public. The communications is still top down -- and only top down. I'd suggest a radical change -- a magic flashlight instead of a wand. Put the dealings and documentation out in the open. Put the content online. Open the source code. Make a visible change log.

Warning: If the change log documentation does not become visible, -- Superintendent Roosevelt might need more than a magic wand. He'll need Star Wars Light Sabers and a team of Jedi Masters to reinforce the PR firm. The PR spin won't cut it in the long haul.
Pay attention!

This image is the one that should have gone out on campaign materials -- from Weinroth.

Training wheels....

This is what Joe Weinroth needed to explain in his campaign for mayor.

The mayor of Pittsburgh is like the big wheel in the middle. The training wheels, to both the left and right, represent the overloards. We've got the Act 47 Coordinators on one side and the ICA (Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority) on the other side. Our mayor, at this time, can't tip the city and fall, thanks for these training wheels. But, you don't want training wheels when you have drivers (leaders) who are decent. The training wheels can save you from yourself if you have not mastered the act of balance.

I tried to explain this to concept to Joe Weinroth too. I even challenged him to a set of debates that should have been slated for July and August. He didn't reply. He didn't engage.

Pittsburgh has "training wheels" now. Pittsburgh does not need "kick stands."

We have to keep moving.

Bob O'Connor is going to be like that back wheel, between oversight boards for the duration of his first term, like it or not. Bob can be the 'driver' with that back wheel giving motion to the city. Of course, training wheels are poorly suited as sources of new momentum. There is only an energy drag with training wheels, never more acceleration from them, as we've seen.

Now, the next mighty question for the next weeks to come -- who gets to represent the front wheel? Sure there will be city managers, a new police chief and some professionalized czar or something, hired into the new Grant Street Administration. And, sure there might be queens and dukes appointed to new authority board roles. But, who and what is going to shape the real direciton of the city?

The front wheel of the bike is where the directions are established. We need smart, clever, creative drivers with excellent perspectives to navigate the city for the next term.

This is where I enter the 'story.'

City council needs to steer itself into relevance. That body has been marginalized by its own actions in the past.

We need to mount up and help to steer the city to that 'right track' and into a realm where prosperity can be an option again.

I want to be elected to city council so as to play a significant role in guiding the city and steering the agenda.
Mount up.
Bob can pedal. Oversight boards (overlords) can balance. I'll help in gripping the issues. We've got a basket of issues to resolve.

Fun reunion on the pool deck.

This is one of my favorite times. I love it -- LOVE IT -- when I'm on the deck of a swim pool and am graced by the presence of a swimmer I had the opportunity to coach. Meet Karin Painter -- or at least that was her name. Karin coaches with the Greensburg Y and is mom to twins. She was a HS All American on Relays the two years I got to coach her at Plum High School. I think she split a 53 in a relay at WPIALs (and the 400 free relay got first place, twice). Karin then went to Bowling Green, with some scholarship aid, and captained that team. She was a teacher until recently.

Meeting swimmers later in life is such a gas.

Here is another reunion I had with a former swimmer back in July, 2004. I went to a session of the Illinois Swimming Long Course Age Group Championships. I had coached in that meet and our team got 2nd! This guy was on those teams.

Derrik Ammerman, a guy I coached when he was 10, 11 and 12. Now he is a coach at Dunlap, Illinois.

Getting Cut Hurts

The FCASD Varsity Team, a squad I coached two years ago, cut eight girl swimmers this season. They were not allowed to be on the varsity swim team. That's sad.

The swimmers were good swimmers, so I hear. They would be great for nearly every other high school in the WPIAL. I'm going to guess that those eight swimmers who are cut from the Foxes might, if they had some good coaching throughout the season, be able to win the city-league title. If not first, they'd be able to finish in the top three.

When I was there, we worked very, very hard to not cut anyone.

I'd love to see more "JV Swimming Teams" in the area. That might need to get a few special rules by the PIAA and WPIAL so that the JV meets do NOT count as Varsity meets.

When I coached in Illinois at New Trier, the team had 100 girls on the HS Varsity Squad. One hundred. We took everyone onto the team. We had multiple practices. We didn't cut anyone. And, the team won its seventh straight state title too.

The streak was broken a couple of years after I departed. But it is safe to say New Trier is still a high school swimming powerhouse. I saw two high-school aged swimmers from New Trier at USA Swimming's National Championships in Clovis, Calif. this summer.

Speaking of New Trier... Al Ledgin, swim coach of the stars, coached in Champaign / Urbana when I was in Peoria. Later he coached at New Trier Swim Club. Last I knew, Al had moved to Michigan.

Russ Diamond - founder of PA Clean Sweep -- on the South Side

Russ Diamond, presenter at a South Side meeting, talked about PA Clean Sweep and more.

I have most of his presentation on tape. If you'd like to get a copy of the MP3, email me.

Music for the season!

Nanna, Grandma, Pop Pop, Grant and Erik -- following a violin concert. The boys are my sons. My mom and dad are on the left and right and my mother-in-law is in the middle.

We were all together at Thanksgiving, except for one sister, Geri Ann. Her family called in to the feast as they were at the swim pool all day in Florida, just north of Orlando. It was 77-degrees there. Meanwhile, we passed about a half-dozen accidents on 279 headed north in mid-day ice.

Drivers need to give the wind and cold more respect. Slow down a bit. The bridges and overpasses freeze first and worst.

Barbara, my mother-in-law, lives just across the street from us. She made five great pies!

All is well with us. Hope you have the same good fortunes too.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Talking about the legislature. Brutal. Search The recent record of the Legislature suggests it is far too timid to tackle a challenge as large as bringing sanity and affordability to health care in the commonwealth. This is most unfortunate, inasmuch as Washington shows the same lack of interest.

Pa. lawmakers eyeing spending limits on state budget

Pa. lawmakers eyeing spending limits on state budget a spending cap that would make it harder for officials to enact a new state budget that exceeds the annual rate of inflation. ...
Another way to cut state spending is to elect a few Libertarians.

Turkey Trot - Mindy A - OU Band

Mindy A., a swimmer I coached in the early 1990s while she was at Plum High School, teaches in Richmond, Va. She is home for Thanksgiving and ran in the YMCA's Turkey Trot!

I went to the Blvd of Allies to cheer on the runners and those who trot!

The winning of the Y's Turkey Trot, a gentleman from Spain, was interviewed on KDKA with his girl friend, a local from Carnegie. I know the family now as we talked at the race due to my swim coaching connections. She put in a great dig. "One day we hope to have him come back to Pittsburgh and win the PITTSBURGH MARATHON.

The Ohio University Band got some national tv coverage with Matt L on The Today show (NBC). Go Bobcats. They looked great at the head of the parade and "getting down."

Have a great weekend!

Mayor O'Connor has his work cut out for him

Mayor O'Connor has his work cut out for him - 2005-11-14... O'Connor said his No. 1 priority was attacking the city's financial problems. Without detailing exactly what he would do, O'Connor says the city has been mismanaged and that he will hire professionals to clean up the mess.
Gov. Rendell, already saw to it that Pittsburgh hired some professionals to give financial oversight to the city's budget. We have two oversight boards. They are 'hired.'

We don't need "hired guns" -- we need "elected leadership."

Bob should hire professional managers. He is going to need them. The city needs to get on the right track. The city is a mess. The mayor can turn to plenty of sources for advice, consultants and bond agents in getting new lines of credit.

We also need to make sure great, new, creative perspectives are part of Grant Street and city council in the years to come. Hence, this is why I want to be elected to city council in 2006.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

West End Pedestrian Bridge Competition

The West End Pedestrian Bridge Competition The West End Bridge is a gateway to the city, framing Pittsburgh's great skyline. It crosses the Ohio River approximately one mile below Point State Park, which marks the union of the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers. From the downtown approach, the West End Bridge serves as the portal to the Ohio River, the Gateway to the West.

Beaver County Times - Why wait?

Beaver County Times Allegheny TimesThirty days hath November, and Pittsburgh's budget for 2006 is still but a dream.

Last week, the state-appointed fiscal overseer rejected Mayor Tom Murphy's spending plan - for a second time.

Murphy has set up the city for state sanctions, which might hold up an expected $3.5 million reimbursement.

Why not wait a little longer, Murphy and friends? After all, the city has only two eyes that can be blackened. They're both starting to look pretty darn dark.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

World's Smallest Political Quiz

Give it a whirl.

World's Smallest Political Quiz

Pennsylvania Ballot Access Coalition -- our state reps and state senators are AWOL on this!

Pennsylvania Ballot Access Coalition Where do your state legislators stand on free and equal elections?

Guys, Gal, and Babes of the future -- where do you stand on the PA Ballot Coalition?

Chat with PPS boss -- retro technology and unsound logic

In the wake of yesterday's comments in my open letter -- here are a few points form the chat with the new Superintendent of Pgh Public Schools.
pittparent: I work in the technology industry here in Pittsburgh and have worked across the county in the field. I commend your use of data and the data-driven decisions. However, I do wonder how accurate the data is PPS. Without a CTO, how do plan to address data integrity and the technology infrastructure?

mark_roosevelt> I think that the data capacity here is amazing. With Rand's help it enabled us to use rich. deep student achievement data to drive our right-sizing decisions. No one has brought any inaccuracies to my attention as of this time.

The data is closed. The lack of inaccuracies is because the data has not been put into the open. The deep student achievement data needs to be put out into the open, as in an open-source software model.

This is not a good answer. Thw lack of a CTO is sticking out like a sore thumb. RAND is not well suited to be a CTO for the district.
sethmad: What are PPS's plans for closed school buildings? Will they be sold? Razed?

mark_roosevelt> We must be much more aggressive about dealing with the closed facilities. Sold to a tax-paying entity will be the priority....
Wait again. Think again. A sell off of the buildings to a tax-paying entity is hardly a sound-bite. A sell-off where the rich get richer and the poor get poorer is NOT an option that is going to work for me and our communities.

One of my six questions got put up to the chat board. By the way, the Post-Gazette chat is so retro. I saw better chat applications with 1985 vintage.
Mark_Rauterkus: I think it might make great sense to turn Peabody and Westinghouse High Schools into SINGLE GENDER Schools. Then we'd have public school alternatives to Central Catholic and Oakland Catholic.

mark_roosevelt> We will be looking at high school reform next. Consideration of single-gender schools at various grade levels is on our list of inquiries as well.

Classes, new devices can help -

Classes, new devices can help - "Classes, new devices can help

Have you heard?

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Center for Audiology and Hearing Aid Services offers a free, three-part class for people with concerns about hearing loss. Sessions cover how the ear works and why hearing declines; various types of hearing aids and where to find professionals to help you choose; telephone usage, including cell phones (which often don't work well with hearing aids); and alerting devices such as alarm clocks, smoke alarms and sound detectors for people with impaired hearing.

The next set of classes will be held 12:30-3:30 p.m. Thursday at Eye & Ear Institute, Oakland. To register, call 412-647-2030.For online information about hearing loss and UPMC's audiology center, check

The center also offers a free hearing screening test over the telephone; call 412-647-2400.

The inability to communicate can be frustrating for people who are deaf, and for their loved ones. Even those who suffer from partial hearing loss may find communication to be a formidable challenge.

One mission of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Center for Audiology and Hearing Aid Services is to educate the public on ways to cope with hearing loss. In addition to private counseling sessions, the center offers a three-part class that focuses on how hearing loss occurs, and on advances in hearing aids and other technology.

'We offer the course to educate people, and they can go from there,' said Dr. Catherine Palmer, the center's director. 'A lot of people don't understand how hearing loss occurs. As for consumers, people feel very confused.'

At some point, most people will experience some degree of hearing loss, she said.

'The funny thing about hearing loss in adults is it's a gradual process. So often you lose quite a bit of hearing before you realize (you're having) communication problems.'

The center's monthly educational sessions are free. The classes explain how the ear works and how hearing can decline. Participants learn about the various types of hearing aids and where they can find professionals to assist with their purchase. And speakers address telephone usage -- especially cell phones, which don't work well with some hearing aids.

The classes also explain alerting systems that use visual cues to indicate when the doorbell rings, a baby cries or a smoke detector sounds. The discussion even covers alarm clocks that shake the bed or use lights instead of sound.

'The reality is, to be an independent person, you have to be able to use an alarm clock,' Palmer said.

In addition to classes, the center offers a free hearing screening test over the telephone. People who call 412-647-2400 are asked to listen for a series of faint tones designed to check their hearing.

'It's just a screening,' Palmer explained. 'If you can't hear all four tones, there may be a problem.'

The next educational session on hearing loss and hearing aids will be held 12:30-3:30 p.m. Thursday at Eye & Ear Institute, Oakland. To register for the free class, call 412-647-2030.For online information about hearing loss and UPMC's audiology center, check

independent solutions -- new political blog from Steve Karas, D candidate

These are Steve's words, independent solutions I believe government can be a positive and unifying force in the lives of people.

Good luck. Idealist are fun. But, I'd say something else.

I think government has been a negative and dividing force in the lives of people of Pittsburgh. Government could be turned into a positive force, rather than negative, if we NUKE much of it, including the greed. But, to NUKE big chunks and attitudes in our public realm isn't going to happen with one trigger point.

I think the best way to get to a place where the people obtain their wishes -- "wish to live" -- is for self-reliant people to be self-reliant. Hence, government needs to get out of the way. That's the right track, in the real world of Pittsburgh today.

What happens when we don't have "educated constituents" -- nor "educated politicians?"

We need to be concerned with our schools. We need to make sure those we elect have the capacity to make intelligent decisions.

Good to see the blog. Let's talk....

Monday, November 21, 2005

Statement about Schools -- from Mark Rauterkus -- delivered to meeting hosted by B-PEP

From: Mark Rauterkus,
Candidate for Pittsburgh City Council, District 3
cell = 412 298 3432

To: Fellow Citizens of Pittsburgh

November 21, 2005

I care greatly and want to make positive impacts!
I have a number of concerns about our city and our schools. I care a great deal about our schools and their interaction among our communities. I hope to serve the residents of the city as a dynamic leader on City Council who is known to put kids at the top of the priority list. My two sons go to public schools. I coach and have been in many school settings.

RAND and PPS must build trust by publishing all the data and formulas for all to see.
Trust is suspect with reports. But trust and confidence can soar, after the data is published. Peer review is powerful. Open source ways are invincible. The data on schools and the logic in the formulas need to be published on the web.

A robusts and visible job-ticketing system should document all comments from citizens. This would lead to a valid change log to display tinkering from administrators.
All requests for features and changes should be automated by the district. One citizens' comments should be documented for all to see. If a job-ticket process was deployed, then the district would be able to make replies to all issues. Outstanding issues and suggestions would be visible.
Versions and evolutions of the major plan need to be made.
A problem for one might be a feature for another. Statements from the administration should be charted on each matter. A change log is needed to clearly document the 'tinkering' with the plan by the administrators. Perhaps some changes are needed for next year.

Closed School Buildings have serious implications for our neighborhoods. We must think again about those interactions.
Schools in neighborhoods that are in transition or are in great decline need to be given the highest priorities for re-use. The overall approach to the liquidation of the various buildings must be put into a holistic plan for the good of all the city and region. We run the risk of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer if the wrong course is charted in the months and years to come.
The building and land opportunities at some places, such as Schenley High School, South Vo Tech and even (perhaps) Connelly Tech are prime. A quick sell off of those assets might saturate the market and then other, more complicated, more deserving projects won't ever have a hope of getting completed. Beltzhoover, Arlington, Hazelwood and other areas of the city need new investments and new energy to enter more than a place such as the South Side.
The school district and the city need to invest a lot of attention to these details and establish a reasoned philosophy. Jobs, community needs and the stability of neighborhoods have to be factored into the discussions. I would love to play a leadership role in these efforts, and as a city council representative, I'd embrace this challenge.

Peabody and Westinghouse could be turned into single gender High Schools.
Central Catholic and Oakland Catholic are private, single-gender schools that do well in academics. The trend to single-gender schools shows great promise. Getting families more choices for their students, such as single-gender public-school, might make fantastic sense. Girls and boys from throughout the city who desire single-gender schools could attend, while those who want a co-ed setting could still attend the other schools.

Teams within the city need to migrate to the WPIAL.
After school activities, recreation, community use of our public buildings and the interscholastic elements within our schools in the city need a major overhaul. Our kids are not getting the same chances to excel as their suburban counterparts. Boosters, coaching, schedules and sportsmanship need increased attention. Volunteers are kept at arms-length in the city as well. Much more can be done. The best way to advance the sports system is to have the city kids play, day-in and day-out, against the suburban schools by being within the WPIAL.

The Pgh budget, not PPS, should pay for Crossing Guards, as the policy had been before Murphy's crisis.
School resources needs to focus on reading, math and history, not sidewalk patrols in neighborhoods.

Pitt lecture: “The Ethics of Dissent in National Security”

University of Pittsburgh: News From Pitt Pitt's Johnson Institute Sponsors Dec. 1 Lecture.

The individual rights of free speech and the freedom to dissent are sacrosanct elements of American democracy, but what happens when these rights clash with issues of national security? That is the conundrum that Pitt professor of international affairs Janne Nolan will tackle during a free lecture, “The Ethics of Dissent in National Security,” sponsored by the Johnson Institute for Responsible Leadership in the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Dec. 1 in the Bigelow Room of the Pittsburgh Athletic Association, 4215 Fifth Ave., Oakland. The event, which is cosponsored by Pitt's School of Information Sciences, is open to the public, but reservations are required by Nov. 28 at

Recyle the cycle in the West End by Citiparks

This is not another photo from China!

The event was on Sunday morning. I unloaded about five bikes there.

If I'm on City Council and I'm chair of the Committee on Recreation and Youth -- we're going to hold the Recycle the Cycle program two times a year. It has been held seven times in the past 14 years.

So, is it safe to say that I'll be four times as good as what they've been doing?

The program relies upon volunteers too. A staffer or two help. But the project run with donations and good working people.
A tiny bike donation being cleaned by a big-time volunteer. That bike model is GREAT for kids. Both Erik and Grant loved it. I loved the handle, like a 'tail' that keeps us flowing around the city's less than smooth sidewalks.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Barnestormin hits upon a FAQ & A

Barnestormin How many lobbyists does it take to pass a gambling law?

Single gender high schools for Peabody and Westinghouse

Go there and click a vote on the poll. But, see if you can or not??? I can't figure out if you can even register a vote with the poll. Weirdness. Perhaps the poll was shut? Perhaps the button is locked to me as poll author? Thanks for giving it a whirl and reporting back. :: View topic - Single gender high schools for Peabody and Westinghouse Should Pgh Public Schools consider the options of making single-gender high schools?

Recycle a cycle. I'm going to drop off a bike or two at the event on Sunday at the West End. They are seeking bikes for gifts.

Where is the "Tiger Team?" asked Dave E?

Tiger team...

David Eckart, a CMU Computer Professor and fellow board member of the Allegheny County Libertarian Party, spoke up at the recent public hearing hosted in the Gold Room with Allegheny County Council concerning the purchase of new voting machines.

ICA Board Rejects Murphy's Latest Budget

What's the old expression? Dam the torpedos? Darn them torpedos? Damn the torpedos?
KDKA - Pittsburgh's Source for Breaking News, Weather and Sports: ICA Board Rejects Murphy's Latest Budget The Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority's decision raises the possibility of state sanctions and suggests city council may begin budget deliberations November 30th with a torpedoed spending plan.
How about this new expression for the history books, "Murphy torpedoed Pittsburgh, once again." May this time be the last. Incomming.....

Alternative capition: "All hands on deck! Photo taken at the Mark Rauterkus Cookie Cruise."

Really. Grant and I at People's Park in Chengdu, China.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Ready to view Concept Maps?

Try this on for size. I'm diving into the Don't go there yet. Just wait a few more weeks. Should be G-R-E-A-T!

Click for larger size to see what's what in the Concept Map.

Transportation: PAT won't strike

Transportation: PAT won't strike See my other blog for details, via Glenn.

Our places do not look like this....

Would you perform in front of this audience?

Up at 5 am. Warm-ups by 7:30, after scribbles on your hand and arm. Home by 2:30. Birthday party bowling by 3.

Grant snagged a trophy for one of his events.

I'm developming a "Why KNOT" program / presentation. Our Ys in Pittsburgh don't generally look like this.

Friday, November 18, 2005

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

The Community Environmental Legal Defense FundParticipate In The Third -- Guiding the Conductors -- A Democracy School Training Institute. The Four Day Institute at Wilson College in Historic Chambersburg, Pennsylvania runs from Thursday, January 12th to Sunday, January 15th, 2006.

Richard Grossman and Thomas Linzey, Directors The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, Host

This Event is open only to persons creating and teaching Democracy Schools across the United States, who wish to become certified lecturers for the Schools. Due to the intensive nature of the four day Institute, attendance is limited to fifteen lecturers-in-training. For the training, attendees will be divided into three groups of five, with each group being facilitated by individual instructors. Presentations by each lecturer-in-training will be delivered both to the individual groups as well as to the entire class.

If you plan to attend, you must RSVP by Thursday, December 1st...

21st Century Pamphleteer - How could you stay in a party that behaves like that?

21st Century Pamphleteer No Primaries? Follow-up

Two interesting posts from the blog linked to above deal with leaders in the "D" party and the unwillingness of letting voters decide who should be our elected leaders. Calling them Soviets is too nice.

How can you stay a Democrat when you hear messages such as those?

If 10,000 Ds in PA bolted the D party and showed up as Indies and with other third-party tags --- people would notice.

Then we'll push for the Voters Choice Act to allow candidates access the ballot within reason. Then -- who needs a D primary? We can run in the general elections and take the message straight to 'we the people.' It worked as we tossed out Nigro with the Retention Vote. His $85 bottles of wine caught up to him.

Every dog has its day in the sun. The sun is setting on two-party cronies.

Holiday Bike Build-A-Thon!

Republicans are needed for this event! Right Mike?
The Free Ride Recycle-A-Bike Program is in Need of Volunteers to help clean and fix up children's bikes for the holiday season. Some of these bikes will be donated to the South Hills Interfaith Ministries who work with and will then distribute directly to the Prospect Park neighborhood that is currently housing refugees from such places as Sudan, Afghanistan, Burma, Iraq, and Turkey, among other places. Another organization that will receive bikes is the Tree of Hope, a Hill District based non-profit that works with families whose lives have been torn by violence.

Sunday, November 20, 1 PM to 7 PM

Sunday, December 4, 1 PM to 7 PM

Please show up during any of these times and we'll put you to work. Although having mechanic experience helps, it is not necessary. If you don't have mechanic skills, we will still have a job for you. Snacks will be provided. Also, if you have a truck and are willing to help transport the bikes, please contact us at
I'm picking on Mike, a frequent blog reader here, because he is into bike riding and has been turned off by some of the very left leaning bikers he's encountered. So, if a few more conservatives would show up -- that might help so the bikes don't all lean too far to the one side, an at. :)

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - Chat

To bad the P-G's chat room is so lame.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - Chat Join Pittsburgh schools Superintendent Mark Roosevelt in a live online discussion on education issues, including his plan to realign Pittsburgh schools, from 2-3 p.m. on Nov. 22.

7 out of 10 measures passed in PA

The Pennsylvania Land Trust Association reports that these conservation measures were approved by voters on election day, November 2005:

* Pike County -- $10 million open space bond passed 68 percent to 32 percent;

* Bedminster Township, Bucks County -- Increase in earned income tax, generating $10.27 million in conservation funds passed 51 percent to 49 percent;

* Bushkill Township, Bucks County -- Increase in earned income tax, generating nine million dollars in conservation funds passed 66 percent to 34 percent;

* Plumstead Township, Bucks County -- Eight million dollar open space bond passed 77 percent to 23 percent;

* Solebury Township, Bucks County -- $18 million open space, farmland and recreation bond passed 88 percent to 12 percent;

* Upper Makefield Township, Bucks County -- $10 million open space and farmland preservation bond passed 80 percent to 20 percent;

* Honey Brook Township, Chester County -- Increase in earned income tax generating $10 million for open space and farmland passed 51 percent to 49 percent.

Similar measures in three other townships in Chester and Cumberland Counties were defeated. The majority of citizens voted yes when asked to float bonds or raise taxes to pay for the open space protection.

Oppose the "Crescent of Embrace" Proposal for the Flight 93 Memorial Petition

Oppose the "Crescent of Embrace" Proposal for the Flight 93 Memorial Petition The US Park Service is currently going forward with a proposed monument for the Flight 93 Memorial that is called the 'Crescent of Embrace' which is a large crescent of red maple trees that closely resembles the Islamic Red Crescent that is the very symbol of the radical Islamics who attempted to hijack the aircraft.
What about this?

Pitsburgh Xplosion of ABA Basketball -- interesting PR outreach to real Heroes.

Hoops for Heroes

Pittsburgh Xplosion,, offers free tickets to Police Officers, Firefighters, EMS and Military.

The Pittsburgh Xplosion is the city's new American Basketball Association team. It honors local heroes by making free tickets available all season to police officers, firefighters, EMS personnel and active members of the U.S. Armed Forces.

The special offer is good for all of the team's home games at Mellon Arena and Pitt's Peterson Events Center. The free tickets, generally $12.50 each, are distributed on a first come, first served basis at the Box Office on the day of the game.

To receive a free ticket, fans must present ID that confirms their current status in the police, fire service, EMS or military.

The team has former NBA players, Armon Gilliam and Myron Brown, and a blend of talented players with college and professional experience.

The Hoops for Heroes ticket offer is our way of saying thanks to these outstanding men and women.

There is a limit of one free ticket per eligible person for each of the team's 17 remaining home games. Fans eligible for this offer will also have the option of receiving a $12.50 discount off the price of other Xplosion home game tickets, which range from $25 to $55. This offer is good only at the Box Office; it does not apply to tickets purchased in advance or through Ticketmaster.

Schedule snapshot:

Fri, Nov 25 @ Petersen Event Center, 7:00 pm

Wed, Nov 30 @ Mellon Arena, 7:00 pm

Promotion for Nov 30: Salvation Army's Treasures for Children - Bring a new toy to the Mellon Arena gate and receive $5.00 off admission!

Fri, Dec 2 @ Mellon Arena, 7:00 pm

Wed, Dec 7 @ Petersen, 7:00 pm

Mon, Dec 12 @ Mellon Arena at 7:00 pm

Thur, Dec 15 @ Mellon Arena at 7:00 pm

Tue, Dec 20 @ Mellon Arena, 7:00 pm

Mon, Dec 26 @ Petersen, 7:00 pm

Mark Roosevelt with Urban League radio show

The Development and External Relations Department at the Urban League produces a live, call in radio show hosted by the Urban League of Pittsburghs President and CEO, Esther Bush. The show is called Urban Reality and airs every other Saturday from 7:00-8:00 a.m. on WAMO, AM 860. The show's guests discussing issues of importance to the African American community.

Superintendent Mark Roosevelt will be the featured guest on Saturday November 19, 2005.

Call with questions and hear what other parents are saying.

Getting into the ear of the leader of the free world -- while in China

President Bush is in China.
Fear not, I'll spare you from photos of our three recent trips to China and instead share this scoop.
This image is a recent photo of the leader of the free world while in China. President Bush is inserting a hearing plug into his ear used for translation purposes. The hearing device was made by a company in Chicago -- while we were there last week visiting.

He uses an Etymotic earphone. President Bush got turned onto Etymotic's products for use with his iPod. At the lab they sent along three sets and moved the volume control to a lower on the chord for easier adjustments without being as noticed. He'll need ot listen to the transaltors with foreign leaders.

Communication is critical! Often communication elements become very technical. And, for communication efforts to play to the widest audiences, it has be of the highest quality.

BlogShares - Rauterkus

The value of my shares are climbing -- like the cost of home heating oil. Who woulda thunk... :)
BlogShares - Rauterkus:
13:16 08 Nov 2005 B$8.97
21:10 06 Nov 2005 B$6.84
08:06 05 Nov 2005 B$5.47
00:51 04 Nov 2005 B$4.31
06:19 03 Nov 2005 B$3.35
17:13 19 Aug 2005 B$3.35
11:44 07 Feb 2005 B$2.69

Associate sites

The eVote blog.

The site.

The eVote Blog, one of my other blogs. It covers more technical voting elements.

eVote Blog Memo to Allegheny County Council and Board of Election at Public Comment Hearing: Allegheny County Voting Machine Selection Process (HAVA)

Thursday, November 17, 2005 keeping in touch from across the ocean

THE PAY-JACKERS REPENT: But it's not enough -

THE PAY-JACKERS REPENT: But it's not enough -

As expected, the Pennsylvania Senate followed the lead of the state House and Wednesday repealed its self-dealt and wholly unconstitutional summer pay raises. But the wound is not healed.

Folks like Majority Leader Chip Brightbill slobbered all over themselves yesterday trying to pick up the Oscar for Best Speech of Contrition in a Lead Pay-Jacking Role. 'We are here to correct a mistake,' the Lebanon County Republican said. 'As one of the people who exercised poor judgment, I would like to apologize.'
We hope there are some real and good Republicans out there who are ready to plug that 'poor judgment' line into campaign commercials and send the Chip Brightbills, Bob Jubelirers, Sam Smiths, John Perzels, Bill DeWeeses, Mike Veons and the rest of their ilk packing in the 2006 elections.

Republicans and Democrats, those who voted for the no-debate, middle-of-the-night pay-jacking -- and those who didn't but who then accepted the ill-gotten gains -- violated the public trust. No apology and no repeal can 'fix' things. All must go.
All must be driven from the positions of authority they abused.

The rejection of Supreme Court Justice Russell Nigro and the pay-raise repeal are just the first of many, many battle victories in what will be a yearlong revolution to reclaim a Pennsylvania government that is of, by and for the people.

The fight is right. The fight is on. And the people will prevail.

Speaking with others about the voting machines

Thursday, November 17, 2005 5:00 PM, Gold Room

To afford interested parties an opportunity to express their views on the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) and its effect on Allegheny County’s voting machine modernization.
1. Shea McKinney, Private Citizen

2. Joan W. Stein, President & CEO – Accessibility Development Associates, Inc.

3. Dr. Robert Harper, Professor, Computer Science Department – Carnegie Mellon University

4. Tim Stevens, Chairman – Black Political Empowerment Project

5. Paul O’Hanlon, Esq., Disabilities Law Project

6. Audrey N. Glickman, Private Citizen

7. Suzanne Broughton, President, League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh

8. Colleen Willison, Private Citizen

9. Richard King, Private Citizen

10. Dr. David Jefferson, Chair, California Secretary of State’s Voting Systems Technical Assessment and Advisory Board

11. Danny Sleator, Professor, Computer Science Department – Carnegie Mellon University

12. Mark Brentley, Sr., Member, Pittsburgh School Board; Host, Voter Education Program

13. Marybeth Kuznik Executive Director, Vote PA

14. Deborah Gouge, Private Citizen

15. Eugene Barton, President, PA Council of the Blind

16. Mark Rauterkus, Libertarian Party

17. Kathleen Paul, Private Citizen

18. Eugene Mariani, Private Citizen

19. Adrian Perrig, Private Citizen

20. Sam Gibson, Private Citizen

21. Gary S. Schermer, Private Citizen

22. Angela Yocham Private Citizen

23. Antoine Pearson, Private Citizen

24. Dan Taylor, Private Citizen
Break a leg folks.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Questioning our pay-jackers - - Letter to editor

Questioning our pay-jackers - Questioning our pay-jackers

For those who are temporarily outraged at our state legislators for increasing their salaries, here are some facts for your consideration that should, if you give it some thought, cause you to question some basic assumptions about state government:

The New Hampshire Legislature is the only one in the U.S. larger than Pennsylvania's, with 400 representatives and 24 senators. However, the representatives and senators receive only $200 per year plus mileage reimbursement. There are no career politicians in New Hampshire.

The Georgia Legislature, the oldest in the United States, convenes on the second Monday in January and runs for 40 businesses days, adjourning in mid- to late March. These are not full-time jobs.

Please think about it. Then register and vote Libertarian. It's a matter of who owns your body and who spends your money.
Nick Kyriazi, Deutchtown

PoliticsPA -- PAY Grab goes poof! A second state-wide win in as many weeks!

The repeal of the pay raise has come. Now, we've got to be certain that is is all paid back. And, then we need to get that clean sweep in high gear.
PoliticsPA Pay Raise Repealed Gov. Ed Rendell has signed the pay-raise repeal, ending a the legislature's four-month ordeal at the hands of outraged Pennsylvania voters. Earlier this afternoon, the state Senate voted 50-0, agreeing with the House to roll back the massively unpopular raises enacted in July for for lawmakers, judges and top state officials.

Subjected to intense public pressure to repeal the raises, which were enacted in the wee hours of July 7 without public hearings, the House and Senate had wrestled for more than a week over how to take back raises granted to state judges, who received them right away. The state Constitution bars cutting the salary of judges without cutting the pay “of all salaried officers of the commonwealth,” a provision designed to protect judicial independence.
Brightbill apology
Senate quotes
Representative Metcalfe spin
Scranton spin
Logan Spin


The original attribution: Ilya Somin, assistant professor at the George Mason School
of Law.
"Most debate about Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito has focused on his propensity to vote to overrule Roe v. Wade and the similarity between him and conservative Justice Antonin Scalia. But despite the superficial parallels between the two conservative, Italian-American Catholic jurists, it is important to recognize that Alito has a substantial libertarian dimension to his jurisprudence as well as a conservative one. In several key fields of law, he is more likely than Scalia and other conservatives to be skeptical of assertions of government power. More important, there is much in his record that should appeal to libertarians...

"While judges should not simply vote for whatever outcomes because they prefer them on policy grounds, a libertarian orientation helps sensitize jurists to the fact that the Constitution is meant to constrain government, not just empower electoral majorities, as some conservatives claim. Here Alito's libertarian streak and his differences with Scalia may have an impact.

"...Obviously, Alito is far from being an across-the-board libertarian. But there is much for libertarians to like in his record, more than in the case of Scalia. Liberals understandably have less reason to support Alito than libertarians do. But they should think seriously about whether they would rather have a conservative with a significant libertarian streak like Alito or a pro-government conservative who will be just as likely to overturn Roe, but less likely to vote to restrict government power over religious freedom, free speech, or immigration."

Reactions welcomed, of course.

Panel sets stage for debate over lieutenant governor's selection

It isn't right to be "un-democratic" and to be so "anti-women." Lt. Gov Catherine Baker Knoll, a local, is getting public praise from her boss, Ed Rendell, but is often viewed in a different light when it comes to the unspoken comments. What about honesty? And, if the story of praise is sincere, then there is nothing else to say.

I agree with the last line in the article. I too trust the people more than I trust the politicians. NewsFlash - Panel sets stage for debate over lieutenant governor's selection Panel sets stage for debate over lieutenant governor's selection

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) A Senate panel Tuesday endorsed a bill that would allow gubernatorial candidates to pick their running mates rather than being paired with the choice of Republican and Democratic voters in the primary election.

The bill, forwarded 6-5 by the State Government Committee, could if approved change the political landscape in next year's gubernatorial election and focus new attention on gaffes by Lt. Gov. Catherine Baker Knoll.

Teacher contract -- a four year deal gets signed

I turned to the Fox Chapel web site today after hearing yesterday's budget presentation from Pittsburgh's outgoing mayor. He mentioned Fox Chapel at the microphone. The mayor is talking about Fox Chapel to make the point that the next breed of leaders for the city need to think in a regional way. We can't think Fox Chapel as a competitor -- but we have to think of the entire region.

I coached the boys and girls varsity swim teams at Fox Chapel a couple of years ago in a "transitional season." The old coach has split to a new job out-of-state. He was a young guy (sound familiar) and his wife was able to land a job there too. But, all the coaches on the staff left at the same time. The varsity team needed a coach and I stepped up.

I have a lot to say about those concepts of regionalism raised by the mayor and how we should NOT compete with Fox Chapel-- but for now, check out the news there. The Fox Chapel Teachers got a new deal signed. See the notes of the blog or their home page for some of the details.

I'm sure that the Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers are looking long and hard at the plans and vision of the new superintendent of schools, PPS's Mark Roosevelt. The teachers are going to see their ranks shrink. Some 250 jobs are going to be cut. Plus, there is sure to be a lot of shifting of jobs among schools as so many schools are getting a make-over or else closing.

One cornerstone of the new plan for next year is a longer school day for the "accelerated learning academy" settings. Those kids need to be put into overdrive to catch-up.

The Fox Chapel plan calls for more working days in the school year, but the work day is kept to eight hours.

Presently, I can only wonder what's going to happen with the union and the reaction of the plans for the district. Should be interesting.

Legislator's lonely....

In Beaver Falls, not everyone is angered by their legislator's lonely vote for a pay raise

'He's one of the main reasons that I'm no longer a Democrat,' said Rep. Mike Diven, R-Brookline, who served four years as a House Democrat and then switched to the Republican Party this year.

'He's what's wrong with Harrisburg. The mentality he carries -- he's disconnected from people. It's his way or the highway on issues.'
Okay Republican Diven, then what's to say you won't switch back to being a D, if and when the state house leader, the Beaver Falls D, Veon, departs Harrisburg???

Will you campaign for a Dem challenger to Veon in the Dem's primary in Beaver Falls? Will you offer ideas and money to that challenger?

Would you campaign for a Republican challenger to Veon should Veon win the D's primary?

Mike left the D's party. Mike became a Republican because he was pushed out or pushed away by the Dems. You can go from point A to point B by driving in reverse or driving in forward. Sure, you're allowed to peek in the rear-view mirror. Perhaps that's all that is being offered in this quote. I wonder, as do others, if Mike join the Republicans because he valued the Republican approach. And, now that Mike is in the GOP Camp, is he still a (self-described) "back bencher?"

What's the upside to being in the 'majority party' now?

Opponents speak against Pittsburgh-area racetrack proposals

AP Wire | 11/15/2005 | Opponents speak against Pittsburgh-area racetrack proposals
'This site is so patently inappropriate for a variety of reasons that to approve this racetrack would be to destroy South Versailles Township,' said Joel Aaronson, an attorney hired by residents who don't want to see the Oak Park racetrack built near their homes.

To be clear, I don't want to destroy South Versailles Township. Nor Baldwin, and other areas just over the edge of the city. We do need to think like a region, more and more. The race track is at the edge of the city and would hurt those over the border more than most of the people in the city.

But, the sky isn't falling either. Destroy?

The plan is bad. Very bad. It should not occur for many reasons. But, let's keep our wits and not go overboard and say that the sky is going to fall.
If the good people of South Versailles want to meet with me and my camera -- we'll be able to do that. I'd love to hear and see how bad it would become.

Hay's hilltop (artist friend).

Yesterday's meeting was on my agenda, but I didn't attend as I picked up the boys at school and went to swim practice. I've been on the record as a vocal opponent to the Hays race track in the past.

Let's get in shape!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Gene Ricciardi -- stepping down as City Council President

My council-person, Gene Ricciardi, is about to step down as the President of Pittsburgh's City Council. His time there is about to end by the end of the year (2005). So, he can step down and help with the transition to a new council leader.

But, Gene can NOT step down until there are enough votes (five are needed) among the councilmembers (9 are on council) for the next President. Right now, the five necessary votes for president have not been found for any one individual. So, Gene stays on in the position.

Gene get's a vote in the new leader if he steps down now. If he waits until the end of his term -- the new council president is picked without his influence.

Council president gets to make a few assignments among the members of council for chairs of various duties, i.e., public works, budget, Citiparks.

Being Council President isn't a big deal, generally. It is a feather in one's cap however. That is why there has been some talk about Sala Udin getting the nod to be council president. Sala is being retired from city council due to his loss at the polls in the May 2005 primary. Council could give Sala the title as a resume builder for his entry into the private sector.

I wrote to Sala last night asking him if he would like to get my help in setting up a blog for himself. I think that might help him more, showing he's stayed within the modern era of communications.

Sala would NOT be the first black man to be Pittsburgh's City Council President. That historical feat has been accomplished years ago.

But why stop Sala at the level of Council President?

Sala Udin could be named City Council President as a first step. Then, Mayor Murphy resigns as the second step. Then comes the third step: Sala Udin moved to the mayor's office and Pittsburgh would have the city's first black mayor. The big deal about being city council president is the the migration of roles to mayor should there be an emerengy opening.

What would that do to their pensions?

Bob O'Connor could still go around town calling himself the next mayor.

City officials and VIPs have been playing musical chairs around here for some time now. I should turn this into a contest, play-by-play of the musical chairs among people and spaces.

We've got Valerie McDonald (in the next post) who moved from office to office, just as Lt. Gov, KBN, has done. But there are plenty of others.

Mario went from hockey player to team owner and would-be casino operator.

Neighborhood groups have become builders and developers with their housing projects. Developers then become politicians building department stores (Lazarus).

Land owners (speculators) have become toll road builders for the Mon Valley and big-time political donors.

Casino operators have become political donors and hockey arena builders.

Librarians make expresso. Expresso makers maintain wireless network hubs. Library Board Members move books from historic structures to leases above laundry mats.

You get the point. And there are a lot of better one's yet to be made.

I'm a musical chair kinda guy as well. I've been a journalist, coach, publisher, small businessman, coach, computer guy, dad, community activist, party-jumper, candidate, coach, blogger.

PA VERIFIED VOTING -- looks like optical scanning is best short term solution.

PA VERIFIED VOTING HOME PAGE What are Voter-Verified Paper Ballots (V-VPBs)?
Voter-verified paper ballots safeguard the integrity of elections. V-VPBs prevent inaccuracies and covert computer fraud while providing the secure basis for audits and recounts. Voters inspect and verify that the ballot accurately reflects their intention to vote, this is called 'verification'. Voters then place the paper ballots in the ballot box for counting. Audits of V-VPBs provide the best measure of accuracy for electronic voting in elections. In America, voting always occurs in privacy to prevent the historical problems of coercion and bribery in elections. Because we vote in the privacy of the voting booth, only the voter can verify that the official ballot is accurate. Because inaccuracies due to error or fraud in computer voting are covert, voter-verification of a permanent publicly observable official record (the paper ballot) is the essence of the intended safeguard of V-VPBs.
Long term, the real solution is an OPEN SOURCE Software Solution.

A primer for a grass-roots campaign -- they end if you run for judge

A primer for a grass-roots campaign Kathryn Hens-Greco is not a candidate for the Pennsylvania Legislature, but she seems like many people I've encountered who are considering a run. A week ago, she received roughly 129,500 votes for the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, more than enough to become a judge.

Ms. Hens-Greco hadn't been hand-picked by her party. She won a nomination through the Democratic primary without getting the party committee endorsement.
KHG ran in 2001 too. That was overlooked in the story, perhaps. They didn't start two years ago. They started six years ago, I imagine.
Next, comes this line from Sam: Running for office is hard work, but Sam Hens-Greco says, "The great thing about political campaigns is that they end."

The campaign season for state-reps never ends, really. State Reps are elected to 2 year terms. The judge is generally 8 years. Some are for 10 and others get life appointments. So, Sam is right about the end in the campaign cycle for the bench positions. But, the end is never near in other races.

Penny-ante disagreement may hold up budget

Let's pick fights on the penny-ante parts of the budget. This isn't what Pittsburgh really needs. Then call names.
Penny-ante disagreement may hold up budget Tom Murphy deferred to the authority on other disputed budgetary issues. The authority wants 'to be the small dictators of this kingdom,' he said."
This is a weird set of names to call as well. He mixes a "kingdom" mention with a "dictator" mention. I wonder who is going to own up to the facts that, we the people, want a democracy.
The "overlords" (my frequently used term) are hardly "dictators." But, in a one-party town, the mayor used to act as if he was a "dictator." And, that's what got him in trouble. So the state sent in the overlords to curb the dictator. Who has the uppper hand --- well --- I'm sure the advantage isn't with the people.

New Voting Machines: Just say "Open Source Software"

A bunch of "tire kicking" is expected in the next few days as we "kiss our levers goodbye." The old voting machines that still work well are going to go away, sadly. New machines are expected and these raise a lot of doubts and questions.
The one message everyone needs to raise and repeat. We want an OPEN SOURCE Software Solution.

PA S.B. 881 to combat eminent domain abuse -- Sending Support!

The Institute for Justice, a nonprofit group that has been fighting the good fight to curb eminent domain abuse, put out a call about legislation headed to the PA Senate.

I have a longer statement against eminent domain that I provided to a state-hearing held in Pittsburgh on this bill a few months ago. I hate eminent domain and think it needs to be stopped at all instances in Western Pennsylvania in the years to come. Their call is reposted below, with slight edits.

The Pennsylvania state senate will vote soon, probably Mon., Nov. 21, on an eminent domain reform bill that could be a model for the nation. It's a good bill - an identical one already has passed the House - and needs all the support it can get. Now is the time to contact your state senator to express your support. Below is information on the bill. Of particular note, there currently are efforts afoot to exempt Philadelphia from the provisions in this bill, so contacting senators in that region is particularly important.


Senate Bill 881 is in the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

Opponents (such as Rep. Dan Frankle, D.) continue to try to defeat or weaken the bill.

This bill will not pass without your support. This legislation is the best chance Pennsylvanians have for real and significant eminent domain reform. If you want to protect your home or small business from eminent domain abuse, you must CALL OR EMAIL YOUR SENATORS TODAY and urge them to pass S.B. 881 without amendments that weaken its protections by creating loopholes that allow the abuse of eminent domain for private development to go unchecked.

An identical bill passed the PA House, H.B. 2054.

Members of the Pennsylvania Senate with email addresses

Phone numbers and contact information of those in the PA Senate.

Statement of the Institute for Justice in Support of Legislation To Protect Pennsylvania Home and Small Business Owners

The Institute for Justice is the nation’s leading advocate for home and business owners who are affected by the abuse of eminent domain for private development, and it represented Susette Kelo in the now infamous Supreme Court case Kelo v. City of New London. The Institute supports S.B. 881 and H.B. 2054 as written and opposes any amendments that will eliminate or weaken any of the protections they provide to home and small business owners.

In Kelo, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Constitution allows governments to take homes and businesses for potentially more profitable, higher-tax uses. In the aftermath of that decision, the defenders of eminent domain abuse in Pennsylvania have already begun desperate attempts to keep the power to take homes and businesses and turn them over to private developers. The beneficiaries of the virtually unrestricted use of eminent domain-local governments, developers, and planners-are frantically lobbying to prevent any attempt to diminish their power and have taken aim at SB 881 and HB 2054, two balanced bills that strike at the heart of eminent domain abuse.

The Bills Are a Thoughtful Response

Pennsylvania legislators have been holding hearings across the state regarding the abuse of eminent domain over the past several months. They’ve heard from people on both sides of the issue and the legislative responses are the result of these well-attended meetings. There’s a genuine consensus among many lawmakers -- that’s why so many have sponsored the bills.

The Bills Are Balanced and Appropriate

The bills are not radical -- they make certain that home and small business owners in this state know that they can keep what they’ve worked so hard to own.

Eminent domain will still be allowed for traditional public uses like roads, schools and post offices. Utilities and other public services will still be built. Urban communities remain able to clean up areas full of abandoned and dangerous properties, but under these bills blight designations are reserved for only those situations where there are real threats to public health and safety.

Economic Blight Amendments Must Be Defeated

Any attempt to include a concept of “economic blight” in the bills must be defeated. This will ultimately lead, as it does already, to the transfer of homes and businesses to developers who promise increased tax revenue and jobs. Communities would no longer be razed because some consultant considers them “economically undesirable.”

Economic blight cannot be a justification for eminent domain because that means no one’s home or business is safe -- any home can make more money as a luxury condominium and any small business can make more money as a big-box store. Under the bills, governments will no longer be able to take properties from private individuals and hand them over to wealthy, well-connected developers.

Pennsylvania Has a Horrible History of Eminent Domain Abuse

Between 1998 and 2002, the Institute for Justice found more than 10,000 abuses of eminent domain around the country and many of these were in Pennsylvania. Some continue, and new ones seem to be added every day:

Ardmore - City officials are trying to strip the historic downtown district of its unique character, in order to replace it with cookie-cutter mixed-use development. A charming, Main Line suburb along the old Pennsylvania Railroad, Ardmore’s quaint downtown business district is home to many locally owned small businesses passed through generation for over a century. A half-block of successful small businesses is slated to be demolished and replaced with mall stores, upscale apartments, and a large garage.

Pittsburgh - There are several horrible situations worth noting, but two stand out: H.J. Heinz used the Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority to bully the Kumer family and Pittsburgh Wool Company from its location, though three years later Heinz sold the property to a Cleveland developer for upscale apartments. Mayor Tom Murphy sought to take 64 buildings and 125 businesses for a movie theater and Nordstrom for his failed Fifth and Forbes project. In the end, all the project created was considerable disinvestment.

Coatesville - Dick and Nancy Saha waged a six-year battle to keep their family farm from becoming a golf course. Spending the bulk of their retirement savings on legal fees, the couple were finally successful when the city council agreed to drop the eminent domain taking in exchange for the right to purchase five acres of property that the Sahas had offered the city for free at the beginning of the dispute.

Washington - "The Crossroads" development calls for a new office building, hotel, retail, and residential space where popular local businesses like World West Galleries and Fine Art Printers, Shorty’s Lunch, and Jerry’s Shoe Repair currently exist and thrive.

Eminent Domain Is Not Necessary for Economic Development

City officials often claim that without the power of eminent domain, they will be unable to do worthwhile projects and their cities will fall into decline. They are wrong. There are many ways to encourage economic growth without taking someone else’s property. These include, for example, economic development districts, tax incentives, bonding, tax increment financing, Main Street programs, infrastructure improvements, relaxed or expedited permitting, and small grants and loans for fa├žade improvements.

Development happens every day, all across the country, without the use of eminent domain. Defenders of eminent domain for private development present a false choice between protecting people’s rights and economic development. In fact, we can have both.

Eminent Domain Is Not a “Last Resort”

In most cases, the threat of eminent domain plays an important role from the very beginning of negotiations. Cities know that most home and business owners will be unable to afford to fight; this fact gives cities a strong incentive to threaten property owners with condemnation at the very start.

Procedural Changes Will Not Stop Eminent Domain Abuse

More process and public input and better planning are not the answer. These measures will do absolutely nothing to protect the rights of home and business owners. Despite overwhelming public opposition by citizens and Ardmore’s invited consultant, the Urban Land Institute, the Board of Commissioners still voted to destroy a third-generation office supply company, a popular Chinese restaurant and the local American Legion and VFW posts. Local legislators typically know the outcome they want and then follow the procedures necessary to get it. Indeed, all of the examples of abuse occurring here in Pennsylvania and across the country proceeded according to the current procedures, evidence alone that changes are necessary.

Better planning is also no solution and will do nothing to protect home and business owners from losing their property to private developers. Planners call for even more of the kind of planning that, if implemented, necessitates forcing some people out of their homes and businesses to make way for other, supposedly better-planned uses occupied by more economically desirable people. While all of this additional planning will no doubt bring lots of money to planners, it will not prevent the use of eminent domain for private commercial development and in practice will probably encourage more abuse.

In crafting these bills, everyone’s concerns have been considered and compromises have been made. The result of this thoughtful approach is that these bills stand as models for the rest of the country. We urge passage of these bills and oppose any attempt to weaken them. We also hope Governor Rendell will sign these necessary reforms into law. Pennsylvania deserves it.

So, contact your and other senators.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Great moment: with humor: Wife of state rep takes exception to the clean sweep philosophy

A wonderful presentation unfolded on the South Side tonight as Russ Diamond, founder and leader of Operation Clean Sweep,, talked for more than 90 minutes to the South Side Forum. A group of nearly 30 people, from all parts of the county, got the "sermon" and were treated to a wonderful community moment.

A short series of questions came from Mrs. Readshaw, wife of current PA State Rep, Harry Readshaw, D. Readshaw is a popular guy in these part. I know I would not run against him. But, I do understand the logic and philosophy behind the 'clean sweep' efforts for reform in Pennsylvania.

Sadly, Mrs. Readshaw doesn't.

A very pleasant exchange was in clear view for all to see. I've got it on tape, I think. So, I'll save you all from the details. Plus, it's too late to rehash.

Safe to say -- it was worth a good chuckle and a timeless moment, worth the price of admission.

Erik, top center, needs to get into "rest position." You too Phillip.

Grant awarded for Schenley Plaza work

Jeepers. Is it any wonder why have the housing for the poor that we do? In our area, we get a green space grant. Don't get me wrong. I love park. However, this project is but bad joke.
Grant awarded for Schenley Plaza work The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development is providing a $248,000 grant for the development of Schenley Plaza in Oakland.

A parking lot off Forbes Avenue is being transformed into a three-acre lawn serving as an entrance for Schenley Park. The project will be completed in the spring.

The federal government gave the grant to the Allegheny County Redevelopment Authority, county Chief Executive Dan Onorato announced last week.

The Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy is spearheading the $10.15 million project."

PA Amber Alert -- OFF -- solved in IN

-- Indiana State Police say they have captured the 18-year-old man wanted in Pennsylvania double homicide; 14-year-old girl with him is unharmed. (as of 12:30 pm on Monday) -- orginal posting below was 6:20 pm Sunday, Nov. 13.

I'll nuke this from the logs in a day or two.

The Pennsylvania State Police has issued an Amber Child Abduction Alert For the Warwick Township Police Department , Lancaster County.

The Warwick Township Police Department is searching for Kara Beth Borden, white female age 14, 5'1", 100lbs., brown hair with blonde highlights. She was last seen wearing a black sweat shirt with "Pillar" across the front , blue jeans and black sneakers. She was last seen at 8:00 Am on Sunday, 11/13/05 at 15 Royal Drive, Warwick Township, Lancaster County. She was reported abducted at gun point, after the murder of her parents, by David G. Ludwig, white male, age 18, brown hair and eyes.

Last seen operating a red Volkswagen Jetta bearing Pennsylvania registration EHH0994. Anyone with information about this abduction should immediately contact the police by calling 911.

This has been an Amber Child Abduction Alert for the Warwick Township Police Department, Lancaster County.

Affected Counties: Lancaster, Lebanon, Dauphin, Perry, Juniata, York, Cumberland, Adams, Huntington, Mifflin, Snyder, Northumberland, Franklin, Berks, Chester.

eWell Being Awards 2005

The Pittsburgh version of this award could be given at the annual Youth Technology Summit -- a vision of mine.
eWell Being Awards 2005 SustainIT's eWell-Being Awards are the UK's only national Awards that identify and promote social, economic and environmental benefits of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).

Valerie is ready to play in the major leagues

Look who is ready for the big-leagues. Valerie, daughter of a big-time Democratic-party leader, former school board member (PPS is being reinvented), former city council member (with $0 as a capital budget and two oversight boards), and present Allegheny County row-office holder (with the Recorder of Deed's office slated for closure due to Row Office Reform vote).

But, Valerie will be up against Catherine Baker Knoll.

I do like the notion of calling to the ghosts of the past -- as in 1933 -- when the Grays were hot.

See her campaign lift-off speech in the comment section.

She really didn't have a decent reply on the election night coverage on PCNC TV. She was on with Bill Green, James Roddey and a TV host. They all jumped her about her defense that the Pittsburgh financial crisis can't be pinned upon the Democratic party.

This is the same party that had a lock on Grant Street since 1933. "Oh, but they are not the only ones to blame."