Monday, June 15, 2009

Imbecile, Moron, Or Idiot: You Be The Judge (Iron City Takes City For Millions Edition)

Even more spirited than the Stanley Cup finals has been the competition among almost everyone involved -- public officials, brewery representatives, labor leaders -- to make the most asinine and/or disingenuous statement concerning the disclosure that the city's million-dollar investment in Iron City was nothing more than part of a huge tragedy-comedy-fiction production culminating in the closure of a brewery that had survived nearly 150 years (but couldn't survive the current yahoos in charge of the brewery and the city it is abandoning).

I encourage everyone to classify each of the following statements as the work of 1) an idiot, 2) a moron or 3) an imbecile. (Here is a handy guide to the mental deficiency classification scale, defining the relevant terms with precision.)

Water and Sewer Authority Executive Director Michael P. Kenney
, referring to the authority's recent decision to relinquish a secured, million-dollar claim for unpaid water bills in exchange for . . . well, as it turns out, for nothing:
"I don't think that [city and authority officials] were played. I don't think that it was a bad decision at the time."

If this is the level of thought currently operating the city's water authority, I counsel everyone to start relying exclusively on bottled water (think Mexico) within city limits.
Iron City Brewing's Tim Hickman
"Exciting news" is how Iron City Brewing President Timothy Hickman described the decision to move production of Iron City and IC Light from Lawrenceville to an idled Latrobe brewery.

Yes, that is precisely the word people were searching for when informed of the closure of a brewery, the loss of jobs, the abandonment of the city, the millions of wasted public dollars, the crumbling of the brewery under current ownership. (Of course, Mr. Hickman, who has been plotting this chapter for years, had more time to think about it.)
3. Mr. Hickman again, exhibiting his brilliant grasp of the beer business:
"This is not a negative thing. We don't see that the sales will be impacted."

Surely I am not the only one who sees Mr. Hickman, on the strength of this statement alone, as a strong candidate for elected office in the City of Pittsburgh.
4. Tim Hickman yet again, this time in collaboration with union official Rich Malter:
"I feel let down by Tim Hickman, disappointed that me and my fellow co-workers are going to be out of a job," said Rich Malter, president of Local 144B at Iron City. Mr. Malter said Iron City's president told him two weeks ago he was scouring the country for a canning line.

Who's the bigger dope -- the guys who says something like that, or the guy who falls for it?
5. Onorato spokesman Kevin Evanto, exhibiting a conviction that the public consists entirely of idiots, morons and imbeciles:
"Allegheny County spokesman Kevin Evanto said Mr. Hickman met Monday with Shawn Fox, chief of staff for County Executive Dan Onorato. Mr. Hickman told Mr. Fox the brewery was looking at a number of options, including moving production to Latrobe, but said no decision had been made, Mr. Evanto said.
Your story, Mr. Evanto, is that Mr. Hickman requested a meeting with Dan Onorato a few days before the abandonment was announced, and that the meeting followed this course:
'Hi, thanks for seeing me.'
'Sure, Tim, the county executive always has time to hear how our economic development dollars are working hard for the county. So, what in particular brings you here today?'
'Well, I want to inform you that we haven't reached any decisions yet. And I obviously thought it was important to schedule this meeting so I could convey this lack of news to you in person.'
'Great, Tim. I'm glad it wasn't any bad news. For a moment there, I was apprehensive that you might be abandoning the city and fleecing the taxpayers for millions. But I guess no news is good news! Anyway, here's an Onorato 2010 button, and you might want to check out our new website. And thanks for stopping by. Feel free to come in to see us every time you have no news to report.'

You would have been better off denying the meeting occurred, Mr. Evanto.
6. Joe Kohuth, business agent for the bottlers' union:
Iron City workers believe the contract was approved so production of Iron City and IC Light can be moved to Latrobe. Joe Kohuth . . . said the Latrobe contract "has nothing to do with Iron City."

With insight like that at the leadership level, it's hard to believe that union is now unemployed.
7. Michael P. Kenney again:
The executive director of the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, which triggered the brewery's 2005 bankruptcy by seeking the payment of more than $2 million in unpaid bills, said it was protected should Iron City move production. Michael P. Kenney said he had heard that was an option, but has not heard anything official. PWSA agreed to forgive about $1.2 million of the $2.7 million it was owed if the new owners invested in a new kegging line and boiler for the Lawrenceville brewery by September of last year. Iron City refurbished the existing equipment instead of purchasing new equipment, and Mr. Kenney said that PWSA determined that complied with the spirit of the agreement.

I've seen this movie before, Mr. Kenney, but you apparently have not. In the original, your part belonged to Doyle Lonnegan.
8. Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl:
Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said through spokeswoman Joanna Doven that he was "disappointed" the brewery is leaving the city.

You can't be disappointed, Mr. Mayor, unless you actually expected Iron City to stay when you handed over millions of taxpayer and ratepayer dollars to the guy who has since been indicted for securities fraud. When you crowed about "saving the brewery and hundreds of jobs" a couple of years ago, I gave you the benefit of the doubt and figured you knew all along there was no chance you and Zober knew what you were doing.
9. Bob Hurley of the Allegheny County Department of Economic Development:
Hurley . . . does not sound worried about the county's $150,000 loan to Iron City, which was finalized Feb. 27. The loan was for "working capital and equipment," said Mr. Hurley, the department's deputy director, without specifying what sort of equipment has to be purchased. The "assumption was that equipment may be boilers," but it "may not be boilers." Also, there is "no particular time frame" in which Iron City has to act, he said. During a recent conversation with the brewery president, "it seemed that things were going pretty good."

Going pretty good? Please be sure to alert the media, Mr. Hurley, if you ever do come to the conclusion that a public investment isn't going well (so that citizens can evacuate the city, start sacrificing virgins and prepare for the Events Of Revelation).
10. Gov. Ed Rendell:
Among those receiving state assistance will be the new owners of Iron City Brewing Co., who took control of the troubled brewer last September in a bid to preserve the brand and save jobs. The state will kick in $750,000 to help the group of investors led by Connecticut businessman John N. Milne modernize the plant and continue to produce the venerable Iron City beer and two affiliated brands, IC Light and Augustiner.
The state aid will take the form of a $500,000 loan, a $200,000 grant and $50,000 in job training funds. It is expected to leverage more than $3 million in investment. Mr. Rendell said the money not only will help in "preserving a Pittsburgh tradition," but save 100 jobs. Mr. Hickman said the money would be used in part to buy a new keg system and a new gas boiler.

Please refrain from "preserving any more Pittsburgh traditions," Governor. We can't take much more of your help.

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