Friday, September 30, 2005

Lebo: School Board Election Coming

Mt. Lebanon's School Board election is a little more than a month away, as Jo and her supporters know all too well. Some of the email lists formed in the wake of SableGate last year have awakened from their summer slumber, and in an initial flurry of messages I've seen the argument made that those who rent property in Mt. Lebanon have no business seeking to represent its citizens. I haven't seen it argued that renters shouldn't vote, either, but that point may not be far behind.

I hope that this "no renters permitted" sentiment is shared by only a tiny, tiny fraction of the local population. Anyone who lives here who is willing to stand for election and (if elected) to serve conscientiously on behalf of the citizenry, is entitled to do so. And should be encouraged to do so, and recognized for their courage. Mt. Lebanon should *want* people to move here, whether as home buyers or as renters. Mt. Lebanon should *want* its renting population to be involved in town affairs -- as volunteers, business owners, good neighbors, and so on.

The idea that "transients" form some kind of alien, suspect class is a relic of the old, parochial Pittsburgh, the town that regards non-natives with suspicion and thinks that ethnic food begins and ends with pierogies. We have to reject that way of thinking.

I *want* to have neighbors who grew up in New York, and Texas, and Florida, and Wisconsin (and, for that matter, in Melbourne, Tokyo, Cairo, and Nairobi). I *want* to have young families and grad students as neighbors. I *want* to have renters and middle-aged families and second-generation Lebonians in my neighborhood. I *want* to see white, and African-American, and Asian-American, and Latino faces nearby. I want to *abandon* the notion of home-grown, home-owning privilege that still seems to define much of Mt. Lebanon.

At the upcoming election, vote for the candidates you think will do the best job of representing the whole municipality on the School Board. Don't, however, make the mistake of rewarding or rejecting anyone based on mere status -- because he or she happens to own or rent a home, or because of where he or she was raised.
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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

"And the Blue Ribbon goes to..."

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Rob Whitfield has developed a Web site and blog in response to the recent inident involving Mt. Lebanon police and Frank Caruso, owner of Caruso's Pizza. The homepage reads:

"As a result of a high-profile taser incident and the resulting fear and anger created in the community, was created. is an exercise in grassroots democracy. The goal is to effect specific changes in the policies and procedures employed by the Mt Lebanon Police Department so that citizens are better served. With this effort we believe that both citizens and police officers will be safer."
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Friday, September 23, 2005

Lebo: New Content Coming!

I'm delighted to note that Naomi Blaushild, the current editor-in-chief of The Devil's Advocate (the MtL HS student newspaper), has agreed to post a story here from time to time about what's happening in town, and especially at the high school, from the students' point of view.

Welcome, Naomi!

Mike Madison
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Lebo: Commenting Changes

To deal with Comment spam (the cause of the comments that have been deleted), I've turned on Word Verification for comments.
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Failing to Make the Grade

The bad news: 47 Allegheny County schools failed to make "adequate yearly progress" this year, mirroring a trend that's happening statewide. Recent PSSA scores were used to determine these assessments.

The good news: Mt. Lebanon schools continue to rock, with all schools performing very well and Lincoln Elementary School being recognized as one of two schools statewide where all students scored proficient in third- and fifth-grade reading and math.

From the Tribune-Review article:

"Educators know what works at Mt. Lebanon's Lincoln Elementary School, one of two schools statewide where all students scored proficient in third- and fifth-grade reading and math. The only other school with that distinction was Laboratory Charter School in Philadelphia.

"It's a tribute to the curriculum, excellent teachers, parents and principals setting the climate in the building," Mt. Lebanon Superintendent George Wilson said. "But parents always have high expectations. That's a big reason why people move to Mt. Lebanon."
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Thursday, September 22, 2005

MTL / Cuba Connection

I'll be presenting "Quakers in Cuba" at Southminster Presbyterian Church's adult interest center on September 30 at 11:00. Lunch is served at noon for $6. I'll be talking about the 100+ year history of Quakers in Cuba, how all religious denominations have been effected since Castro came to power and will share information about my latest trip to Cuba. Please feel free to contact me for more information.

I'm in search of a laptop projector if there are any kind, local souls out there who might be able to lend me one next Friday. Thanks!
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Update on MtL Firefighters

I wonder if there is anything the Mount Lebanon community can do to help their families while their gone?
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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Apple Store Grand Opening at South Hills Village

10:00 a.m., Saturday, September 24

"Be one of the first 1000 people through the door at our grand opening, and you'll get a free Apple T-shirt. And that's just the beginning. From September 24 through October 24, when you come to the Apple Store, South Hills Village, enter to win a Digital Lifestyle Collection valued at $2350.* The collection includes a 17-inch iMac G5, a Canon digital camera and digital video camera, an Epson printer, and an iPod nano."
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Monday, September 19, 2005

Lebo: More Election News

John Daley, running for Commission in the Second Ward, has a website at
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Lebo: Election News

Jon Delano's most recent piece for the Pgh Business Times notes that Tom Stevenson has attracted two challengers, one Democratic and one Republican, in light on his support of the legislative pay raise.

In other election news, while I was out of town last week a flyer arrived in the mail from a candidate for the Mt. Lebanon Commission, Second Ward. My wife threw it away before I could capture the campaign URL. Arrrgh! (Today is Talk Like a Pirate Day!) If you know the address, please post in the comments and I'll put it in the links to the right. Thanks.
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Saturday, September 17, 2005

Lebo: Whad'Ya Know?

Congrats to Mt. Lebanon's own Laurie Mann, who braved a trek to Cleveland this (Saturday) morning and won the world's most difficult game show -- the Whad'Ya Know Quiz, on Michael Feldman's Whad'Ya Know?. I heard Laurie's performance on WDUQ as I was driving into town from Washington, D.C. With a sharp tongue and a quick wit, Laurie was a real crowd pleaser. Even Michael Feldman was impressed.

Whad'Ya Know, Laurie?
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Wednesday, September 14, 2005


One of my local correspondents sent me a copy of the flyer promoting attendance at Monday night's Commission meeting. Here it is:
Kossman flyer
The text may be a little hard to make out from the image (you can click on the image for a larger version). The flyer says:
Why was Kossman granted a unilateral six-month extension by our appointed City Manager effectively sabotaging prior Commission restrictions? Why did a stripped down Planning Board ignore residents’ pleas? Why did the Mt. Lebanon Traffic Engineer suddenly reverse allegiance and back a pro-Kossman set of calculations?

Why is Kossman building more office space in a glutted market when he has huge amounts of vacant space in his present buildings?

What should we tell our children when they ask why this lush acreage of green woods . . . this natural relief from man-made sprawl . . . will be destroyed forever? How can we ever again listen to the Commissioners pay phony lip-serve to green space?

What can we say to the 80+ year old seniors who have fought this for years and years and are now giving up?

Unlike The Sleepy Hollow sidewalk issue, public reaction against this is unanimous. Find out why Commissioners’ fear of law suits discourages the slightest illusion of empathizing and listening to the public that elected them.

Whatever happened to government of, by, and for the people?

Here and elsewhere, the opposition to Kossman relies on three allegations. My view is that none of them have merit. That's lawyer-ese for: Opposition isn't unanimous. I don't see any reason that the development shouldn't go forward. Here are the three allegations, and this is how I see them:

1. Mt. Lebanon commissioners and planning personnel are corrupt. Do we really want to go down this road? There's mud-slinging, and then there's hard evidence. Right now, all I see is mud. My bottom line: that's ridiculous.

2. The Kossman proposal will generate more traffic than the Castle Shannon Blvd./Mt. Lebanon Blvd. intersection can handle. (Variation: this is a quiet residential area not suited to office-oriented development.) My answer to the variation is: that's just not so. The traffic question is more important. "Too much traffic" is a standard move by the opposition in any development game. I've been through this before. Once in my Oakland, CA neighborhood, where Dreyer's Ice Cream wanted to build a large corporate headquarters; and once in my suburban California hometown, where the Catholic Church wanted to sell several hundred acres of open space, in the middle of town, to a luxury home developer. Both times, "traffic" and "it's not suited to a quiet residential neighborhood" were the rallying cries of the opposition. Both times, the opposition lost, and both times, the traffic failed to materialize. My bottom line: Is traffic going to be a problem? Maybe yes; maybe no. Experience teaches me to be skeptical of the traffic argument, and experience also teaches me that the argument isn't vehicular.

3. We shouldn't preserve remaining open space for the community. Kossman owns the property. If the community wants to save it for open space, then the community should put up the money to buy it. That might be the municipality (who's you willing to chip in via increased taxes?). That might be an environmental organization like The Nature Conservancy or the Trust for Public Land. That might be a neighborhood organization that puts together a bid. If the land is really that valuable as open space, then it shouldn't be too difficult to find the financing. Otherwise, there's no reason that Kossman (or any private landowner) should have to subsidize a public preference for parkland.

I've got more pro-Kossman arguments in hand, but my point is clear. Mt. Lebanon needs more high-value commercial development, not less. It needs to be more welcoming of real estate developers (though it needs to tax them fully), not less. And being more welcoming includes not nit-picking the proposal to death to satisfy the immediate neighbors. Developers know when to walk away, and they know when to run.

All of us who own residential real estate in Mt. Lebanon bear a crushing tax burden. One important way to ease that burden down the road is to increase tax revenues from commercial development. That doesn't mean that any old development is OK; the Kossman building doesn't belong in Bird Park. But the Castle Shannon/Mt. Lebanon Blvd. corridor has lots of other commercial development, and there's excellent public transportation right there. The Kossman building should go ahead.
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Anyone Interested in Forming Team Lebo for WorldQuest?

Join Vivisimo, The Circumnavigators, Art Institute (2 teams), Federated Investors, Post-Gazette, Point Park College, Alcoa Technical, Canada Connect, IBC Katz, PCIV and many more corporations, colleges and non-profits.

Master of Ceremonies WTAE News Anchor Sally Wiggin will help you test your international IQ in this team-based game and evening of fun.

Wednesday, October 5, 2005
5:30-8:00 p.m.
The Rivers Club, One Oxford Centre, Downtown Pittsburgh $20.00 per person (or) $120.00 for a team of up to 6 players

Form your own team of 4 to 6 players - or come on your own. Leave with a prize, lots of new knowledge, and connections.

Check out the recent coverage from the Tribune for more info.

Reservations by Friday, September 30 by calling Becky at (412-281-7972) or email (advance payment suggested).
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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Monday Nights in Mt. Lebanon

Apparently I'm not the only one in Mt. Lebanon who enjoys a good meeting. About 100 other folks do, too. Last night was standing room only at the Mt. Lebanon Commission Meeting. Rumor has it that due to the three public hearings, it ran until 2:00 AM. I was only able to get through about half of the Kossman Development hearing. The gist of the public beef is surrounding the traffic implications of the development. Because commission meetings aren't televised, I don't know how it turned out, so more on this later. I had hoped to make it through the Adult Business hearing as well as the zoning ordinance hearing, but I could tell that the Kossman hearing wasn't going to end before midnight.

Meanwhile, the MTL School Board met to approve a 5.1% annual increase on teacher salaries, discuss rejecting all bids on the completion of the punch list for Foster and the strategic plan implementation. There was a lengthy discussion re: the revision to the policy about selection of instructional materials - actually the only part of the meeting I've seen in whole on the cable access channel.

What I've seen of the strategic plan implementation presentation looks promising, though. More on this later...

MTL School Board Director Rodella managed to make both meetings. He asked the commission to reconsider the zoning ordinance that would prevent the District from building the natatorium higher than 14 feet in order to save the District additional expense incurred by Natatorium Plan C. More on this later, too...
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South Arts Looking for Board Members

One of my non-profit clients, South Arts, is looking for new board members. More information about this South Hills arts organization is available here. Please feel free to email me at jposti at southartspgh dot org for more information.
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Saturday, September 10, 2005

Hurricane Katrina Evacuees Come To Mt. Lebanon

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published an article today about a group of evacuees from Hurricane Katrina who will be residing in Mt. Lebanon at a family member's house. It's a good article and it's great to see our own residents opening up their home to those in need.
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Friday, September 09, 2005

MTLFD Responds Blog

The Mt. Lebanon Fire Department has recently published a blog which follows the progress of two of their firefighters who are providing assistance to the victims of Hurrican Katrina along the Gulf Coast.

The blog is called MTLFD Responds To Hurricane Katrina and it will be updated as members of the department make contact with their fellow firefighters. There are also links to donate to the American Red Cross and to "adopt a firehouse" that has been affected by the hurricane as well.
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Young Turk to Challenge Tom Stevenson

From today's P-G:

"Capitol pay raise prompts another challenge -- Stevenson to face primary opponent

HARRISBURG -- A second Western Pennsylvania lawmaker will face a primary challenge in May because of his support for the Legislature's recent 16 percent to 34 percent pay raises.

Rep. Tom Stevenson, R-Mt. Lebanon, will be opposed in the GOP primary by Mark Harris of Mt. Lebanon, who will graduate soon from George Washington University with a political science degree."

Read the rest here.
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Thursday, September 08, 2005

Lebo: Band Builders Flea Market Saturday

The Mt. Lebanon High School Marching Band // Band Builders is holding its annual Flea Market this coming Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., in the high school parking lot.

Details online at
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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Another Supermarket Gone

For those of you that don't know yet, the Sparkle Market on North Wren Drive in Scott Township has closed for good. Although it is in Scott Township, I mention it here in this blog because so many Mt. Lebanon residents have shopped there -- including myself -- because it is right on the border with Mt. Lebanon.

When I found out about it closing, I got upset because it was yet another neighborhood store that people could walk to and do their shopping. I didn't know why it was closing, but it reminded me of when I found out that the Shop N' Save on Cochran Road would be closed and torn down. I grew up in the "Willow Terrace" section of Mt. Lebanon (the area between Jefferson School and the tennis courts) and used to walk to the store as a child. It was only blocks away and was so easy to get to -- especially when there was a snowstorm and the only way you could really get there was by walking!

I later found out that the reason Shop N' Save was closed was to make room for a new Rite Aid to go in it's place. Word on the street was that Rite Aid wanted to be in town to serve the large senior citizen population (i.e. medications) and to sell alcohol in their store -- since it had been rumored that the PA State Legislature was considering changing the archaic laws we have regarding where beer could be sold.

The changes to the law never came about and the Rite Aid actually closed. Although I have never heard any comments contradicting this, I was told that Giant Eagle bought out the property. Why they haven't done anything with this now empty building is anybody's guess, but it really upset me to think that there was a vibrant supermarket in that same location just years ago and now nothing was going on at all.

I have recently found out from one of the other tenants of the same plaza that Sparkle was in that all of the tenants must be out within 2 years because Walgreen's had purchased the property and will be tearing down all of the stores to make room for yet another mega-pharmacy in its place. Beside the loss of another neighborhood supermarket, we will now lose a coffee shop, pizzeria, jewelry store, hair stylist, bank, vacuum repair store and a Chinese restaurant.

I really want to know why we have to have so many darn mega-pharmacies in this town (or near it) at the sacrifice of so many other businesses. The Eckerd on Bower Hill Road displaced 4 businesses and this new Walgreens will get rid of even more!

Is anyone else upset about this or are we all resigned to driving everywhere to do our shopping? I cannot walk to any supermarkets anymore and it infuriates me. One of the reasons that Mt. Lebanon has been considered to be so "charming" is that people can walk everywhere -- schools, parks, churches and stores. You can't walk to any supermarkets anymore and I think it really takes away from our town.
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Monday, September 05, 2005

Lebo: Common Culture?

From the editor's letter in the September Mt. Lebanon magazine, reflecting on a feature about current residents who are descendants of the families that helped to found the town:
How interesting it must be to think that the values, habits and traditions of their families and a handful of other early settlers formed the foundation of the common culture that characterizes Mt. Lebanon.

I paused when I read that sentence. Does Mt. Lebanon today really have a "common culture"? If it does, does that culture have a foundation in the founding families of a century ago?

Here's my Labor Day provocation: I think that -- to a growing extent -- the answers are no, and no.

The editor's letter doesn't really characterize the "common culture," but there are hints. Read the letter for yourself (hard-working, friendly, neighborly, community-oriented, involved, etc., etc., are the descriptors). I don't think that there is much there (or here) that you can't find in thousands of towns across the United States, particularly those with the high education and income levels that we have here. There's not much here that you can't find elsewhere.

A hundred years ago, this area was still largely agricultural -- except for the nearby mining communities. But little of the true agricultural ethos (stubborn, even obsessive, self-reliance, and an impressive -- but surface -- neighborliness) remains. I suspect that Mt. Lebanon's true modern roots are younger: Fifty years ago, even twenty years ago, Mt. Lebanon may have been so characterized by an elite, white, management-oriented social structure that its "common culture" was easily identified. Today, I think -- I hope -- that the range of colors, ethnicities, ages, professions, religions (or absence of religions), and family structures represented in Mt. Lebanon has grown by leaps and bounds, even if not all of that range is as visible in the community as it might be elsewhere. But that's changing, and in a good way. True, neighbors are genuinely friendly to one another (most of the time), and we all take a special interest in the safety and well-being of local kids. And those are great things. Beyond that, though, I like the subtle but growing cultural "diversity" that we find here. Mt. Lebanon ain't as quaint, you might say, as it used to be.

Have a great Labor Day.
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Lebo: Traffic Complaints

The September Mt. Lebanon magazine includes a brief report on one of my pet peeves: moving violations in residential neighborhoods.
[O]fficers set up in Mission Hills -- one of the neighborhoods with the most complaints -- and for one week conducted a "zero tolerance" campaign against traffic violators.
At the end of the week, during which drivers had been stopped for any infraction ranging from speeding to not stopping fully at a stop sign, police officers had written 37 citations. Thirty-two tickets went to residents of the area.

Is there a quick and painless way to put a neighborhood -- better, just an intersection -- on the police radar screen? To invite the department to post three units in one place for an afternoon, and just write tickets?

I'm sure that we all have our favorite, most-abused locations. Mine are two intersections near my house: the Woodhaven/Crescent intersection, and the Inglewood/Crescent intersection. During the school year, the Summer Place/Parkview intersection (near Jefferson School) is so badly treated that local residents take to standing in their front yards and photographing cars that don't stop at the Stop signs.

Post yours in the Comments.
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Saturday, September 03, 2005

Lebo Firefighters To Help Hurricane Victims

From today's Tribune-Review:

Two members of the Mt. Lebanon Fire Department -- platoon chief Chris Buttlar, 38, and company officer Loren Hughes, 35 -- set off for Atlanta last night, where they will be trained before heading to disaster zones with 2,000 firefighters mobilized by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

"There's been an awful lot of discussion in the media about the slowness of our government's response," said Mt. Lebanon Fire Chief Stephen Darcangelo. "But we were very impressed with how rapidly they managed to make this happen. I sent in the applications, and 12 hours later we received notification from FEMA."

You can read the whole article here.
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Got Gas?

It isn't often that the Mt. Lebanon School District can claim that it's saving money but Steve and I couldn't help but wonder how much the District is saving by not busing in light of the recent gas price increases. Not only will our son be using sneaker power to transport himself to Lincoln this fall, but I'm contemplating the possibility of walking my daughter to Beth El Nursery School, too. The only drawback is the lack of sidewalks along Cochran. Hhhmmm...maybe it's time to get the old bike tires repaired and find her helmet for the baby seat.

I haven't had time to do any research but it would be interesting to take a look at other school districts' transportation budgets to see how much they spend in busing vs. projected increases based on rising gas prices. The thought of it makes my old bike look so much more attractive.
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Mt. Lebanon Library: Unplugged

As if we needed another reason to love Mt. Lebanon Library, they've up and gone wireless! I blog to you now from the free wireless access that's recently gone live at the library. Pick up a brochure at the reference desk that offers easy-to-follow instructions for reconfiguring your proxy settings.
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Lebo: LunaMetrics

The P-G reports that Maya Viz and Maya Design veteran Robbin Steif is launching a Mt. Lebanon home-based Web consulting business, which we will see shortly at
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