Sunday, July 26, 2009

Zober On Developers And Protests (Annotated)

The boy mayor's chief of staff, Yarone Zober, provided a 10-minute clinic on public speaking mistakes recently, recorded by and made available at The Comet (or in Infinonyvision, center column to the right).

Zober was fielding questions from reporters, with unprompted riffs on development policy, unions, community organizers, and other subjects included. A clock-keyed annotation:

"The main issue the mayor's concerned about is making sure Pittsburgh continues to grow . . . [after] decades and decades of decline . . . Pittsburgh is on an upswing."(:17)

Pittsburgh can not, by definition, continue to grow until it begins to grow. "The Pittsburgh region had the steepest population decline among cities outside areas hit by Hurricane Katrina from 2000 to 2006, according to Census Bureau estimates released today." Upswing? The city, insolvent, just signed up for another five-year receivership. The Ravensthal-Zober take on the city's bearing evokes two kids in the back of a station wagon, unaware that they are pointed in the wrong direction, furiously turning their toy steering wheels as they look out the back window, excited by how fast they are going.
"Our job is to create jobs." (:26)

Zober made this statement just as the final kegs were rolling out of Iron City Brewery, a business that withstood 148 years of Prohibition, plagues, World Wars, Industrial Revolution and (more recently) pathetic management -- but could not survive Ravensthal-Zober economic development measures.
"The goal is to create jobs, and to promote economic development so that we can generate taxes . . ." (2:30)

Except, of course, when the city ensures a development doesn't pay taxes.
"Certain hotel developments, for example, [that have been 'contemplated for several years'] are deciding not to come to Pittsburgh because of this type of {protest} activity"(2:35)

Projects that couldn't get off the ground in the go-go years are still going nowhere in a once-in-a-couple-of-generations national economic downturn, and the city administration naturally attributes this to . . . rabble-rousers.
(In response to a request for specific examples:) "You'd really have to talk to the URA about that."(2:40)

Great idea, because surely one might expect some familiarity with that topic from the chair of the URA -- Yarone S. Zober.
(Identifying relevant hotel projects:) "There's one on the South Side [Works] . . . one at the Pittsburgh Technology Center . . ." (3:52)

South Side Works? The project with more than 70% public funding? That's leading with your chin. Pittsburgh Technology Center? The $5 million TIF for a project worth less than $30 million?
"The bottom line is, some people will always want to stop progress." (3:54)

The old Tom Murphy "naysayer" angle. Of course, this point depends on one's definition of progress.
"Is it fair to have the North Side benefit from developments in the North Side?"(5:32)

Seems at least as fair as expecting the North Side to bear the brunt of parking, vandalism, public urination, and similar problems associated with venues developed on the North Side. Perhaps residents recall the manner in which the Heinz Field liquor license was ramrodded to issuance overriding standard Liquor Control Board practices, or the recurring sound issues, or have little faith in the assurances of a family whose appraisal of the situation included an apparently sober claim their fans do not become intoxicated at Steelers games.
(Asked about union objections:) "If you go to some of the people in the building trades -- they have said 'we don't support CBAs . . . because construction and development has to continue . . . you always have that divergence of opinion." (0:56, second video)

And what might explain the mayor's preference for one union agenda over another? If the city administration believes reducing impediments to and cost of development is an unalloyed good, why does it not pursue eradication of prevailing wage requirements? There must be a reason for such an incongruous set of approaches to particular unions' policy preferences. In any event, it would be fascinating to observe how a selfish blowhard such as Rich Stanizzo or a human job-killer such as Jack Shea would react were the Ravenstahl administration to aim its pro-development policy at cost-inflating prevailing wage laws.
"It would be the easiest thing in the world to say, 'OK, whatever you want,' and I'm sure there will be some people who will do that." (1:24)

A sentiment regarding which everyone can agree: Surely no one would advocate 'whatever you want' government decisions, lest we have government officials improperly dispensing no-bid contracts and engaging in legal gymnastics to provide similarly dubious and lucrative favors to campaign contributors and other politically connected characters.

I could continue ripping Mr. Zober a new one with his own words, but my sphincter-ripper is overheating, and I will need it to work on Tim Hickman and the other greedy liars at Iron City Brewery shortly, so I will cut to the core point made by Mr. Zober at the beginning of the second video: "We just don't share the same interest on their specific issue." Memo to Northside United: Forget protests and press releases, which will generate nothing other than chained doors and a cold shoulder. Instead, you should consider some other methods -- time-tested, proven methods -- designed to "align interests." You will marvel at how accommodating the city administration can be when it perceives shared interests.

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