Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Another First Friday Coming Up!

The Washington Road Business and Professional Association is holding another First Friday this coming Friday, September 2 from 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM.

First Fridays are an evening full of fun on Washington Road featuring great shopping, fabulous music, juried art exhibits, wine-tasting, architectural tours, farmers’ markets, street performers, children’s activities and in-store events!

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Lebo: New Stores Coming

Something I didn't know: Track 'n Trail, an upscale outdoorsy company, is coming to the Galleria this Fall.
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Sunday, August 28, 2005

Lebo Link: Class of '85 Reunion

Be there or be talked about.
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Saturday, August 27, 2005

Freelance Nation

We had friends over last weekend for dinner and of the five adults, three of us work out of our MTL homes. I own a business and Ken and Martin both work remotely for companies not located in Pittsburgh. Since most of my clients are not in Pittsburgh, I have no need for office space. I work with a designer and web developer who live in New York and Boston, thus creating a ripple effect in the SoHo pool (Small Office / Home Office).

As the three of us commiserated over our lonely work lives and compared notes on Mt. Lebanon's coffee shops, Ken wondered aloud why one of them doesn't offer free wireless access to customers, rather than offering service that customers pay to tap into via a service provider. We all agreed that we'd be spending a lot more time at and a lot less time in our houses if someone offered such a service.

Ken may be onto something. Mt. Lebanon has a relatively high number of workers who work from their homes. According to the 2000 US Census, we have 4.6% of our workforce working in their bathrobes, compared to Pittsburgh's 2.4%. We even beat out tech hotspots like Cupertino (4.1%) and Austin (3.4%), leaving Boston (2.4%) and Miami (2.1%) in the dust. Boulder (6.5%) beats us, as do other cities, I'm sure. But when Mt. Lebanon has the same percentage of SoHo's as Seattle, I think we're onto something here.

While wireless access is a tool that many of us use with regularity, what other community ammenities would be helpful? Come on SoHo's...we know you're out there.
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Lebo: Bird Park

Bird Park is named for a man, not for the wildlife. But you knew that, right?

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Lebo Links Updated

I updated and reorganized the list of Lebo links to the right, adding some congregations, some sports organizations, and some blogs. Let me know if I've missed any.
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Lebo: Mt. Lebanon 23, Baldwin 13

It was wet, wet, wet in the Mt. Lebanon Stadium last night, but enthusiasm was high even though attendance was down. The team looked good, the band sounded great . . . all in all, it was a great start to the season and a reminder of how much fun the tribal pageant that we call high school football really is.

I don't know the players . . . who is No. 40? He spent most of the first half getting his left knee evaluated on the sideline. The evaluation suggested a serious injury, but he was running (on the sideline) before the end of the half. I hope he's OK and able to play.
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Friday, August 26, 2005

Lebo Citizens Fire Academy

The Mt. Lebanon Fire Department offers a Citizens Fire Academy, beginning next month. Full information is available at the Fire Department website.

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Mt. Lebanon planners tackle parking, zoning

A report on Tuesday's planning board meeting.
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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Lebo Links: Amy's Army

New links on the right side:

Amy's Army, raising money to find a bone marrow donor to save Amy, who has leukemia; and

the Mt. Lebanon Baseball Association.
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Lebo: Multiple Hats Criticized

From today's Almanac, a long report of an encounter at the last School Board meeting between Joe Rodella, Board member, and Paula Bongiorno, unhappy resident. The P-G's earlier report was briefer.

The issue is whether Joe Rodella is violating the District's new ethics policy by serving as an officer of the Parents Athletic Council, which raises and distributes money to athletic organizations around Mt. Lebanon.

Joe R. apparently promised to ask the State Ethics Commission for input. I don't know the right outcome in his case. In the meantime, the situation raises an interesting general question: There are an awful lot of volunteer needs in this town, and a limited number of people willing to put in the time to help. So long as everyone involved is up front about their affiliations, should we have hard-and-fast rules that limit involvement in multiple organizations?
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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Lebo: The Auditor General Criticized

Jim Menegazzi writes in today's Post-Gazette:

If the taxpayers of Mt. Lebanon deserve an explanation about the buyout of Superintendent Margery Sable, per state Auditor General Jack Wagner's recent audit report ("State Urges Disclosure on Mt. Lebanon School Buyout," Aug. 9), then why isn't Mr. Wagner conducting a special investigation as he is empowered to do?

Do we know that fraud and/or criminal conspiracy have not been committed? Isn't he empowered to demand answers? Shouldn't these two parties, the Mt. Lebanon school board and Margery Sable, be taken to a judge's chambers and forced to explain their actions?

This was Jack Wagner's chance to show the people of Pennsylvania that he means business. Instead he has merely accepted their non-answers lying down. Mr. Wagner's Web site claims that he is "fighting to protect your family's tax dollars." Some fight. This is one very disappointed voter.

There are lots of disappointed voters in Mt. Lebanon, and many of them have expressed their disappointment where they should -- at the ballot box. Even better, the Superintendent's buyout energized the taxpayers of the municipality in a way that no other recent issue has -- meaning that everything the School Board does should get scrutiny like never before. But where's the evidence of fraud or criminal conspiracy? Those are serious charges, and before anyone launches a full-scale investigation, there should be some preliminary evidence to justify it. All I've seen is the ugly end of an employment contract. Nothing more.
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Monday, August 22, 2005

Lebo Link: Southminster

Lots and lots of congregations in Mt. Lebanon. How many have their own websites? Here's a biggie: Southminster Presbyterian, on Washington Road.
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Lebo: Municipal Government Calendar

Mt. Lebanon posts its municipal calendar online.
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Lebo: Upcoming School Board Meetings

There are four remaining regular monthly meetings of the Mt. Lebanon School Board for 2005:

Monday, September 19
Monday, October 17
Monday, November 21
Monday, December 19

The meetings are held at 7:30 p.m. in the library at the Mt. Lebanon High School.

The Board has other open meetings scheduled as follows:

Monday, September 12
Monday, October 10
Monday, November 14
Monday, December 5 (Reorganization Meeting)
Monday, December 12

These are also at 7:30 p.m. in the High School library.
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Lebo Link: Aqua Club

Serious swimmers in Mt. Lebanon are apt to be part of the Mt. Lebanon Aqua Club.
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Lebo Link: MoJoe Coffee

There's another cool coffeehouse in Mt. Lebanon: MoJoe, which is over near Howe School.
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Saturday, August 20, 2005

Lebo Links: Youth Sports

Over to the right, I've posted links to three youth sports organizations:

Mt. Lebanon Hockey
Mt. Lebanon Soccer
Mt. Lebanon Girls Softball
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Lebo Link: We're With the Band

The Mt. Lebanon High School Blue Devil Marching Band has its own website. Check out that drumline at a football game this Fall.
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Friday, August 19, 2005

Lebo: Nicknames

Over in McKeesport, Jason is doing a nice thing and driving a little blog traffic our way.

But do we really need to keep up the whole Caketown thing?
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Lebo: High School Renovation

Mt. Lebanon has the relative luxury of thinking creatively about a Rec Center -- if it chooses to do so. The high school renovation train seems to be leaving the station, however. Is it too late to have a constructive community conversation about what the renovated high school facility should include? We can't afford a "best of everything" renovation.
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Lebo: Everybody into the Pool

What's with the School District and the Zoning Board not being on the same page regarding high school pool renovations? (It's not really a renovation; it's a new pool.) Is this a right hand/left hand problem? Or something else?
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Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Recreating Recreation

I recently visited the Peter's Township Recreation Center and was impressed. Visitors can't help but be impressed by the brand-spanking new building, the amenities and the attention to detail. But this is not merely Peter's Envy. Although I realize that Mt. Lebanon's 30+ year old recreation center is adequate in many ways, seeing what Peter's did made me wonder: are we really planning and funding our recreation programs as well as we could?

Peter's rec center features multiple indoor basketball courts (almost all being used when I was there), games like fooseball, ping-pong, etc. as well as an upper level track that people can use to walk or run in the comfort of an air-conditioned, enclosed facility, year-round. There are also classrooms, like Mt. Lebanon, but with storage space for supplies, a laptop projector, good lighting and adequate furniture. The place was jumping. There were teens, kids and adults all using the center in the middle of the day. The skatepark in the back was also being used when I was there. The center offers a full schedule of classes appealing to every age and ability level.

The difference between Peter's and Mt. Lebanon is that I got the impression that Peter's assessed who their demographic was and how to meet their needs before building the rec center. This isn't to say that MTL didn't do the same thing 30 years ago when it built our rec center, but 30 years later, it's spending tremendous amounts of money repairing things that aren't being utilized to their potential. An example is the ice arena, a facility that loses money at a high rate every year. Most recreation programs don't make money but I use the ice rink as an example of one of the more expensive services to the community - a community nextdoor to Castle Shannon's Ice Castle. Now, I'm not here to argue the merits of having a municipal ice rink. I've used it a handful of times since I first moved here when I was 11, but I'm sure there are diehard skaters out there who use it regularly. I don't play tennis, either, but I think the tennis center is a much better investment of our recreation dollars. The courts are continually in use year-round and the maintenance cost is minimal compared to the upkeep of an ice rink.

So what am I suggesting? Well, since it's unlikely that we'll ever do anything that's actually useful with the ice rink, like make it into a methadone clinic or a W Hotel, I suppose we keep paying to have it resurfaced, pay for new Zambonis and continue to upgrade the AC and refrigeration when necessary. But why not think outside the box and discuss making it rather than a portion of Mt. Lebanon Park into a skate park. How about expanding the recreation center itself to the ice rink floor to allow them to offer better programming for the two populations that are actually growing in Mt. Lebanon: adults 25-44 and children under 5. Or how about taking a page out of Bethel Park's recreation book and make it into a Lifespan Center for older adults?

Adult recreation programming is currently limited to daytime classes with little variety. How about putting in a yoga studio that offers 6AM classes? Throw in a little wireless network while you're at it so I can finish some work while my kid's in ballet. The ice rink is the perfect size for an indoor track that would snake around the exterior. It'll never happen, but this is due to the fact that we've been in the recreation game longer than Peter's Township and have so much invested in our infrastructure that we can't imagine tearing anything down, even when they're duplications of services offered close by. Rather than taking a look around at all of the commercial and private ice rinks and swimming pools in the area, we continue to spend money on our own infrastructure for the simple reason "we were here first," rather than investing that money into new opportunities.

This isn't an observation unique to Mt. Lebanon. Change is scary, especially when you're trading in something known for something unknown.
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Lebo Link: Nature Conservancy

I've added the Mt. Lebanon Nature Conservancy to the list 'o links, working to preserve and protect green space in the municipality.
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Monday, August 15, 2005

Lebo Link: Pizza

Added to the list 'o Lebo Links: Bado's. Il Pizzaiolo is in a different category, with its brick oven. Otherwise, and with all due respect to fans of Caruso's, Mineo's, and other Mt. Lebanon pizza sources, my family sez: Bado's serves the best pie in town. And it delivers.
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Saturday, August 13, 2005

Voices Carry

Mark your calendars: Saturday, September 10 at 7:00 at the Mt. Lebanon High School Fine Arts Theatre. "Voices Carry" is a musical theatre fundraiser to benefit Pittsburgh Action Against Rape. Mt. Lebanon Resident / All-around Cool Chick Michele Wilson performs. Tickets are $10 at the door, $8 in advance by calling 412.805.1563. Michele says:
"It is a story about survival and hope that was written by a good friend
of mine, Christina Radzilowicz. We are performing to raise money for the Pittsburgh Action Against Rape, which provides outreach and support to victims of abuse. So in addition to a great show with incredible music you will also be supporting a great cause."

This production is not appropriate for children. Check out the September issue of Mt. Lebanon magazine for more information.
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My Turn

Steve's given you some information on who we are and what brought us back to Mt. Lebanon. On a good day, we're glad to be back. On a bad day, I miss Florida's diversity, being able to get Cuban coffee at the 24-hour cafeteria on the corner and the weather. Most days are good days and we do what we can to add some flavor to our "new old" home.

My blog, Mojitos in MTL, will give you some background on my activities in Cuba and will give you some information about my business.

As Steve mentioned, I'm one of the Democratic nominees for Mt. Lebanon School Board. I'd rather keep the details of my campaign here, but my basic reason for running is not due to a bet I lost over beers at Bado's, but rather a desire to help the district improve communication with the community and take greater care in fiscal responsibility. Since much of the reason we returned to Mt. Lebanon was the District, I suppose this is a way to put my money (or in this case, time) where my mouth is.

I'm not sure if the fact that I grew up here and left for 16 years will offer any interesting insight or make me just sound like some old lady whining, "Back in my day..." but thanks for asking me to join in, Mike.
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New Link: Sunnyhill

Added a link to Mt. Lebanon's Unitarian Universalist congregation, Sunnyhill. Sunnyhill also has a blog.

Thanks to Mark Rauterkus for the reminder.
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Friday, August 12, 2005

New Link: Aldo Coffee

Added a link to the right to Aldo Coffee, the newest Washington Road coffeehouse. Aldo's (the name comes from the family dog) features great online content and great live entertainment -- including some killer guitar work from Mt. Lebanon's own RJ Zimmerman.
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Lebo Links

If you are part of or know of an organization in Mt. Lebanon that has its own website, send the link to, and I'll post it on the right.
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New Link: Paper Street Press

In the list of Mt. Lebanon links to the right, I've added Paper Street Press, a local literary journal run by Arlan Hess, Mt. Lebanon HS Class of 1985.

Very cool.
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Diversity in Mt. Lebanon

I hope that Steve is right about the gradual trend toward diversity in Mt. Lebanon, and I certainly agree that the town is more diverse (economically, socially, and politically, especially) than it generally gets credit for. It's hard to escape Mt. Lebanon's "Caketown" past. I hope that one of the benefits of this blog will be exposure for some of that diversity.

On the racial and ethnic diversity front, Mt. Lebanon still has a very long way to go. It would be unwise, I think, for either the town or the residents to sit back and simply let the population "evolve" in a more diverse direction. It may not, or if it does, "natural" evolution of this sort may take an extraordinarily long time.

My suggestion: A formal public/private partnership involving the town, business leaders, real estate companies and agents, not-for-profits (especially local congregations), and interested individuals (call them "ambassadors"?) to reach out to prospective Pittsburgh residents -- of all colors, nationalities, and ethnicities -- and encourage them to consider locating in Mt. Lebanon. As a start: This town receives at least its fair share of relos (jargon for "relocating families"). We should target their employers.
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Beadling Road Trees

I hope everyone saw this note in yesterday's Post-Gazette:
When Duquesne Light Co. installed three poles on Beadling Road last year in a move that required the removal of trees from Bird Park, the utility company pierced the municipal storm sewer and must repair it.

Duquesne Light asked commissioners Monday night to extend its right of way five feet toward the park, but commissioners want to see if there would be another way to supply electricity without damaging more trees.

Commissioner Keith Mulvihill said he would rather see Duquesne Light move the sewer since it has to be repaired anyway.

Coming next: Duquesne Light asks for permission to build electrical substations in Bird Park.
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Thursday, August 11, 2005

Another introduction

Unlike Mike and Sean, I grew up in Lebo, as did my
wife. After 12 years of living in Florida, we
decided that it was time to move the family back to
Pittsburgh. We've been back now for two years.

In the past fourteen years, some things have changed in
Mt. Lebanon, and some things haven't. It's still a
wonderful community and the schools are still great.
Mike may not believe it, but it's a lot more diverse
than when I left in 1985, but there is always room for

Like any other community, Mt. Lebanon has it's share
of problems. Keeping the taxes affordable is one, and
there is a whole gamut of school issues to be worked
though. Since my wife Josephine (
is running for the school board, you'll probably see a
few posts from me and her on that issue.

Thanks to Mike for inviting me to participate, I'm
sure it'll be an interesting ride.
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Comcast is Coming to Town

On August 8th, the Mt Lebanon Commission passed Resolution R-21-05, which gives the municipality’s consent to the pending transfer of the nonexclusive franchise agreement with the now bankrupt Adelphia Communications Corp to the Comcast Corp. The Commission also voted to extend the current franchise agreement until June 30, 2006.

Adelphia is selling off control of its franchises all over the country to both Time Warner and Comcast for the sum of $12+ billion. In the case of Mt. Lebanon, Comcast will (sometime next year?) be the service provider de jour. Per the language of the resolution, Adelphia is not released from any obligations until the transfer is complete, and Comcast will be bound to the current terms of Mt. Lebanon’s agreement with Adelphia.

Where Comcast has taken over other cable franchises, they often promise no increased service fees, increased channel options, and faster/better service. I have had Comcast in the past, and they weren’t too bad…but that was in a multi-cable company market. In my opinion, any cable company, Adelphia or Comcast, that is allowed to operate with a nearly captive market for time periods of often 10+ years has little incentive to keep its word.

For more information on the nation-wide “gobbling up” of Adelphia, check out the FCC’s Office of General Counsel, Transaction Team site (it has a pretty cool automated timeline of the process).
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Mt. Lebanon Roundup in the 8/11 P-G

I've heard it said that the Post-Gazette has it in for Mt. Lebanon. Judge for yourself. Unfair bias, or just a lot going on in town?

-- Lebo 911 is between a budgetary rock and a hard place.

-- The school board was caught napping on user fees proposed by District staff.

-- The Commission is getting ready to approve a five-year wish list of capital improvement projects, including a new $5 million swim complex that might include a "lazy river," whatever that is. Doesn't Pittsburgh already have a few lazy rivers?

-- The Commission is taking a watch-and-wait approach to TaserGate (The Police Department has a video that allegedly backs up its officers -- but it won't release the video. Holding back the proof is straight out of the standard trial lawyer's playbook, but it's terrible PR.)

-- and the paper runs this curiously weak-kneed editorial praising the Auditor General's review of the School District. "Despite the scolding from Harrisburg, there is little chance that the Mt. Lebanon school board or the departed top administrator will suddenly detail why their costly parting occurred." Little chance, that is, unless a newspaper presses the illegality of the confidentiality stipulation in court.
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It's All About Me

Perhaps it is best that I introduce myself before we get this thing rolling. I am inclined to believe that you can’t easily evaluate a blogger’s text without a little context.

I come to the steep hills of Mt. Lebanon from the swampy suburbs of Washington, DC. As I trade in my Virginia driver’s license for one with a Mt. Lebanon zip code (anyone know where the DMV is?), I will lend to BlogLebo the perspective of a late twenty-something, recently married, non-native.

I chose Mt. Lebanon as the location of my first home in part because of its small-town-yet-close-to-the-city atmosphere, beautiful homes, wonderful (though not untroubled) schools, and…because I was sick of living with my in-laws in Beaver County!

Don’t think me naïve or a newbie to the blogosphere. I come from a region where the local MSM and blog coverage is as critical and insightful as its national counterparts (though in DC they are often one and the same). Yet I am no longer a Washingtonian, but rather a Lebonite, so stay tuned as I add my two cents on all things Mt. Lebanon.
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The Cochran Road Rite-Aid

Thanks to Matt in the Comments for wondering what's up with the Rite-Aid property on Cochran Road. My understanding is that Giant Eagle owns the parcel. Is that right?

I've always thought that this would be a great spot for a family-oriented drive-in. Someplace where kids could go after school and hang out at on Friday nights.
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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Kossman Development

The long-delayed commercial development of the parcel that sits at the junction of Mt. Lebanon Boulevard and Castle Shannon Boulevard is apparently on the verge of approval by the Mt. Lebanon Commissioners. Kossman is, I take it, the name of the developer. We'll get some large office buildings and a fair amount of new traffic. I know that residents and some merchants in that area of town have been frustrated in getting the Commission to pay attention to their concerns that the lot isn't big enough to handle the traffic, and that they're losing some valuable undeveloped space.

My view: So long as the property is taxed fairly -- always a relevant concern -- bring on the development. Mt. Lebanon has too little commercial development as it is, which is one reason why the tax burden here is so crushing.
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Welcome to BlogLebo

This is partly a continuation of my blogging at Pittsblog over the last year and a half. I've posted from time to time about les affaires de Mt. Lebanon, Pennsylvania, but I've always worried that the Lebo material skewed my focus on things-Pittsburgh and Western PA.

So I've decided to give Mt. Lebanon what it deserves: a blog of its very own, where rants and raves about this little town will get precisely whatever attention they need.
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