Sunday, February 21, 2010

Braddock's Carpetbaggers: Onorato Is Obvious, But The Zappala Angle Is A Mystery

Allegheny County's Executive and District Attorney have advanced competing economic and community development proposals in the wake of UPMC's uncharitable (but exquisitely profitable and competitively ingenious) abandonment of Braddock.

Dan Onorato's UPMC-friendly proposal seems natural -- even predictable -- in form and substance; in form because economic and community development is an important part of the county executive's job description, in substance because Onorato is Jeff Romoff's faithful government affairs coordinator. (The Post-Gazette -- ignoring or, more likely, forgetting -- the tissue separating Onorato from UPMC in public, actually refers to Onorato's proposal as "the hospital plan.")

Steve Zappala's proposal (and participation) is more difficult to decipher, for at least two reasons. First, why would a district attorney conduct a press conference addressing a specific economic and community development project? Second, on whose behalf is Mr. Zappala advocating?

The district attorney's job is to enforce criminal laws. Regardless of how depraved one considers UPMC's treatment of Braddock, no one has responsibly alleged a crime. Zappala's role in the Braddock debate consequently is inexplicable, even if there were not myriad situations within Zappala's jurisdiction that have deserved (but not, apparently, received) the attention of a prosecutor. (In fairness, the district attorney conspicuously cleared one prominent case -- oops, sorry, that one must have slipped out of the 'none of his business, even if it was his brother' folder). (That's brother Greg, right)

That point shades into the second perplexing part of Zappala's involvement: On whose behalf is he proposing a project?

Cynics might wonder whether he is pushing a real estate deal or a public contract or perhaps a government license for one relative or another. The skeptical might speculate that his family members are undisclosed, but highly paid, mouthpieces for an interested entity. The jaded might wonder whether he could be attempting to divert attention from other circumstances, or competing for camera time in preparation for a statewide political campaign down the road.

The next time a district attorney calls for cameras concerning an economic development proposal for Braddock, or any other community, perhaps at least one reporter will consider asking why the county's chief law enforcement official is devoting time and energy during business hours to something other than investigating and prosecuting crimes.


Anonymous said...

Not everything here is always right but I will give you this, that you say some things to think about. I think maybe this is some one from the Post Gazette but some things you can't write about there so you do it here.....Am I right???

Bram Reichbaum said...

My take is two takes: he's aware the family name has taken on some dirt lately (as usual, or maybe a little more than usual) and it hasn't been washed / sprayed with air freshener for some time, AND he doesn't like what he sees going on in Braddock, and as an influential countywide politician is doing what he can to fix it because he wants to do so. I don't see the two as mutually exclusive.

I'd be surprised if he's politicking for a personal promotion. As to surreptitiously helping a family business partner: that always could be, but this just doesn't smell of that to me. What's written up above is already sufficient.

Infinonymous said...

Mr. Zappala is not "an influential countywide politician." He is the district attorney, a law enforcement officer. His qualifications in the area of economic and community development have not been disclosed. Among other problems associated with a district attorney dabbling in matters outside his jurisdiction, Mr. Zappala has probably disqualified his entire office from any investigation or prosecution involving UPMC, the Onorato administration, any developer involved with that property, and/or the municipality of Braddock with respect to this situation and perhaps beyond it.

Bram Reichbaum said...

Well that last point is interesting.

Infinonymous said...

Blending politics, private business interests and a prosecutor's office is bad even if it doesn't generate substantive problems, because it creates the appearance of impropriety.

That is part of the reason smart, ethical law enforcement personnel don't do it.

Some prosecutors won't let friends or neighbors pick up a lunch tab, or stop going to poker games with former classmates, or strongly discourage family members' involvement in controversial political or business issues.

Others wade hip-deep into family quicksand involving gambling, public contracts, political intrigue and who knows what else.

Plus, some prosecutors will tell you they have their hands full with law enforcement, and therefore avoid involvement in debates concerning big-dollar community development project.

Anonymous said...

All one has to do is read thoroughly all the important info in the links that connect the dots with the Zappala's family influence on town and state politics to clearly see that ethical issues are not the only ghosts in the closet. Corruption is written all over the wall. Let's call things by their names.

Another question why is he so interested in Braddock's development when the Mon-Fayette-which will split Braddock--is lingering in the air? He is not interested in "fixing" anything other than his personal interests. Remember what types of businesses thrive near highways. It's just a matter of buying dilapidated properties at the 5 & 10 prices we've seeing and let it rot and then speculate when the time comes.

Just wait and see...