Friday, July 11, 2008

Sign of the times: Rolling Rocks -- a budding cancer

Bram has something on this topic too.

The city law department gets tangled in this story too. Face it: The city law department sucks. They are a serious drag on "moving forward." They should all be fired. The law department is a liability. Laws are not. But, the way they act and react are what is to blame. The blame is so deep, that they can't shake it.

If Mayor Ravenstahl was at a meeting -- or if he wasn't -- does not matter. There is no way one person should be 'above the law.' The mayor can be wrong. They can't work to protect the mayor while work to squander both honesty and accountability.

People do not want to live in a place where rules are irrelevant. People choose to avoid lawlessness. The stentch of corruption and being where rules matter little -- except for the connected -- drives people away. This is why the city is shrinking.

It is much easier for the citizens to pack up and depart, rather than to fight.

We want people to go through the process. Back in 2001, when I ran for mayor, I put a top priority on process. How things work and how they don't -- matters most. For Pittsburgh: the questions of who and what are less important than the question of how and why.

Another way to say the same thing is to concentrate on software, not hardware. This isn't about 'stadiums' as much as it is about how deals get hatched.

Software problems and process problems are much more demanding in terms of communications and philosophy. Plus, it is harder to see process, generally.

Joel from the sign company is quoted as saying that the company would sue the city if ordered to take down the sign. That is fear. That is uncertainty. That is doubt. All in all -- it is called FUD.

One firm flings FUD and the law department blinks, as expected.

The law department, the firm, this sign and even the mayor are but pawns in this bigger story. Here is another chapter, but the saga is about the city's approach to process. Is Pittsburgh still going to be a 'smokey city' where back-room deals drive the outcomes. Or, is Pittsburgh, as I would hope, turns the corner and heads to open ways.

By the way, the firm had a green light -- and jumped through some hoops. However, it didn't do enough. They fumbled at the goal line.

When is Mr. Ford going to have his pay checks terminated? Does that come before or after they terminate the head of law department goes?

On May 7, Historic Review Commission members agreed they would not have approved the sign had they been asked. They asked the Law Department to outline their options.

"The current owner is taking the position that, based upon the record, they have the right to continued approval, and we are researching that," city Solicitor George Specter said. An answer might come next week.


"[T]he city's public process serves to protect the public interest, and when it has been circumvented, or there is the appearance of such, we all have cause for serious concern."

Mr. Aaronson argued that the sign doesn't have "any real, substantial impact on the integrity of the neighborhood. ... People should say, 'Well, we'll be diligent next time.'"
Next time is a luxury that Pittsburgh does not own at present.

Next time works from time to time when an abundance of good will has been earned and is entrusted within the institutional ethos.

Pittsburgh is shattered. Trust is cracked. Now is the time for Pittsburgh to scatter further -- or instead, -- inject glue so as to begin to heal with the attaching of the pieces.

Luke Ravenstahl needs to reply upon the red tape for the fixing of things.

Meanwhile, I hate red tape, as a principle. But, you can't cheat it. By design, red tape can be eliminated. But, that isn't what Bob Ford and Luke Ravenstahl have been doing.

The city, could, get rid of the law department. Take that budget to $0 for the next six months.

The city could, on another front, put a question onto the ballot that asks the voters of the city if we should suspend all zoning rules for a five year period. We can get rid of the planning department, zoning and the URA. We can get rid of red tape -- by design -- so as to save money, increase freedoms and put some energy into the local marketplace. That's more of a radical fix. But, it is a deliberate. We can measure it with discussions and projections. Then we can vote upon its merit.


Char said...

The mayor is not a "pawn". The mayor is the chessmaster that orders the pawns around by way of his various bishops and knights (Zober, Ford, etc).

The least culpable in this whole mess is the 2nd sign company, Pgh Outdoor Signs. They bought the illegal sign spots from the Oregon guys thinking they were buying real, legitimate sign space. The Oregon guys had to know what was going on. Why pay Luke $25,000 for space that they could supposedly just pay a permit filing fee and get? Why pay $25,000 for something you supposedly want and then IMMEDIATELY turn around and sell it to a 3rd party? Why? Because they knew they were "buying" an illegal permit, that the shit would hit the fan sooner or later, so they wanted to make sure they got their profits sooner rather than never.

I genuinely feel sorry for Pgh Outdoor, but not enough to let them keep the sign. The sign needs to come down, Pgh Outdoor needs to sue, they will win because the city is totally and clearly the bunco artist in this case. This needs to be added to the growing list of ethical violations to be investigated. And maybe if we're lucky, Luke & Co will join the other 12 in Harrisburg.

Lastly, suspend all zoning for 5 years ...?!?!? Are you serious, Mark? We don't have to wonder what that would yield. We have an answer .... Its called Houston.

Mark Rauterkus said...

The mayor is but a pawn when contrasted with more serious matters -- such as truth, freedom, open ways. Mayor's come and go. Back room deals have yet to depart.

Big views are needed.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Houston has a lack of zoning forever -- not five years.

Pittsburgh has had zoning forever -- and it has been broken for a while.

A fix, a real fix, needs to be more than just moving about the chairs on the deck of a sinking ship. As push comes to shove -- zoning always breaks down.

Mark Rauterkus said...

BTW, what's the growth rate in Houston?

What's the growth rate in Pittsburgh?