Thursday, March 23, 2006

Visited the SEA today -- Sports and Exibition Authority

I went to the Authority Board Meeting today, 9 am, in room 333 in the Convention Center. And, I spoke to them at the end of the meeting. This was the first meeting for both Wayne Fontana, D, PA Senator (and possible foe again in the Nov 2006 election) and Luke Ravenstalh, D, City Council President. The new guys have just been appointed to the board.

We've got a new direction in town now. And, the new faces on the Authority Board did nothing to show us that they are with any new idea nor new blood.

The entire process was nothing but a 'rubber stamp' for the status quo. And the status quo around here stinks.

Has anyone noticed????

The SEA Authority is paying for research into the new convention center hotel -- by giving a contract to Oxford Development. There is rich getting richer and cronie contracts.

Next, the SEA Authority is giving more room to a United Parcel Service store. There had been three spaces, now it will all be lumped into one space. That's a move that is bad for small business and diversity. We need to build up small operators, diversity of businesses. Putting in three shops is way better than one. This is retail space for goodness sake.

Then the SEA Authority board could not make a decision on parking rates that need to be put into place on April 1. In another parking decision, the SEA had a contract let with the Pirates so they get 150 new parking spaces. Details on dollars were missing. We already have a Parking Authority. I just hate to see the SEA get into the Parking Authority game. Then the Parking Authority gets into housing. The wires are all twisted and crossed. And, it was never stated as to how much the Pirates are going to pay for the parking spaces. I think that they might be FREE.

Next, we are getting some new art. More bricks and mortar if you ask me. The problem isn't a hardware problem. Our city's need is about programming.

The cost of insurance for the Convention Center went down a bit. That's good news. But, insurance is a big cost -- one of the largest -- especially because of all the owned art.

Free speech around the convention center is still only a pipe dream.

These guys are clueless as to how the city needs to operate in the future. We've got to cut the ties to the old ways of doing things -- because we're broke. We need to stop doing the wasteful, big-ticket spending. We need to lay the shovel down -- and then we need to cut our losses.

The Steelers got the green light to build the 700 new seats at Heinz Field. I don't think the Steelers should have to come to the SEA to get permission to build new features at Heinz Field -- because I think the Steelers should OWN Heinz Field. I'd draw up papers and make the Steelers an offer it can't refuse. Sell Heinz Field to the Steelers and be done with it.

Rather, public money is going to be inveseted into the seats and club lounge at Heinz Field -- so the Steelers can make more money. Sure, a tiny bit of the money comes to the city in terms of new taxes (amusement taxes). And, public money only has to pay for about a third of the costs of the new expansion within Heinz Field. But -- sell off Heinz Field to the Steelers and let all of those upgrades be a private concern -- and not something to worry upon GOVERNMENT's back.

The Senator and City Councilman have no business running a stadium, nor a stadium expansion project. Govern .... and don't wave be content to wave pom-poms.

Worse than rubber stamps -- hoodwinked Rubber stamps.

What about the Civic Arena's turn-the-lights-off hockey game? The SEA has an annual contract with a firm (another no-bid, professional services contract for cronies) to review the facility as paid for by RAD (Regional Asset District) taxes. The facility is in good shape -- but the lights go out so the Pens fans get to chant about a new hockey arena. Who is in the dark, board members?

The public sits blind-folded -- and another round of 'pin the tail on the donkey' unfolds. The donkey, still, seems to be the Authority. After today, LUKE R and Wayne F have their skin in the game. And both are quick to do-nothing but rubber stamp.

Gosh, we need leaders who are okay at setting a new agenda. We got leaders who are more willing to give credit to the pricks and sit in the leader's chair -- without really leading.

The convention center is, by-and-large, a huge waste. It is costly and under-utilized. It has no hope of reaching its potential as it was built in a time of Murphy leadership and un-founded economics. The convention marketplace is saturated -- and the City of Pittsburgh, as well as Allegheny County, is holding onto a lot of debt and a lot of heft -- without real benefits. The authority board needs to wake up and take stock and measure in what it got and what it costs to maintain.

Furthermore, many of the conventions that might come to Pittsburgh in the future are sure to go elsewhere after the casino arrives. The gambling town attration is a sure turn-off for a bulk of the convention marketplace. So, the casino is going to make the existing convention center a bigger anchor on the backs of the authority and taxpayers.

Meanwhile, another multi-million dollar facility is needed in the city -- a new casino. We should sell the existing Convention Center so it can become the home for the new casino -- even if it was for a five-year period.

We could open the new casino within the Convention Center -- selling the public debt to the casino operators. They'll get a big, beautiful building with parking and all sorts of nice space.

Then the casino operator can also host conventions too. They'll be able to manage the facilities and events as best they can to maximize the opportunity. Perhaps for the two weeks of the Home Show, the casino shrinks to 1/5th its size because there is a demand for exhibit space. Fine. They can handle all of those issues -- because they are NOT government issues.
New Heinz Field club seating approved The Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority board this morning approved a 700-seat addition to Heinz Field in time for next season.

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