Thursday, November 30, 2006

Walgreens Plan Meets Approval

From today's Post-Gazette South section

The Mt. Lebanon Planning Board voted 4-0 on Tuesday, November 28, with member Alan London absent, to give the Walgreen's drugstore preliminary approval. It would mostly be in Scott, but a small portion would be in Mt. Lebanon.

Planning board members had said in their agenda meeting that because the use was allowed by zoning, there wasn't anything they could do to halt the project, despite some vehement opposition.

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Lebo's Retail Tax

An editorial in Wednesday's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review did not have anything nice to say about the proposed Washington Road Improvement District. At least 40 percent of the affected property owners must file written objections by Dec. 7 to terminate the plan. Otherwise, Mt. Lebanon commissioners could approve it.


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Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Lebo Deer Culling Prompts Revival of Giant Irish Deer

Un-culled deer in Mt. Lebanon to feast without fear, terrorize residents, re-evolve into currently extinct Giant Irish Deer.

(Sorry, Greg; I couldn't resist. But if our gardens are going to be eaten no matter what happens to the deer, why not harvest the vegetables and give them to the local food pantry?)

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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Deer Debate Continues

On a day when thousands of hunters donned orange and hoped to blast a buck in the woods, dozens of Mt. Lebanon residents fired comments at the municipal commission last night from both sides of the deer-culling issue.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Cable TV Competition

The cable television stakes have just been raised in western Pennsylvania with the announcement today that Verizon will be bringing its FiOS TV here in late 2007. As one of the first communities in the area with Verizon's fiber optic system, it will be interesting to see if Verizon will be able to negotiate with Mt. Lebanon's board of commissioners to bring it to town.

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Lebo Assessment Sensitivities

A few observations on the very long comment thread on the last post:

1. The number of anonymous comments is striking. Several commenters make direct or indirect reference to threats of retribution via increased assessments. Is there any evidence that Allegheny County assessments are manipulated to punish individuals for expressing their opinions? If there were, of course that would be a far more damning indictment of the real property tax system than the question of base years and market values.

2. Though the overall argument is a little muddied, people seem to be most upset about relative equity in the property tax system within the town, that is, about whether they are paying the same as their neighbors with comparable houses. The overall equity of Pennsylvania's property tax system, which allows wealthy communities to reward themselves with high quality public services and education, hasn't been put on the table. When I first moved to Mt. Lebanon, I was struck by the extent to which I could see my property taxes at work in the town. In California, that was rarely true; my property taxes went to the state capital, and from there they were to prison construction and highway rebuilding and, here and there, to public education. (Also, in California assessment differences between comparable properties were vastly greater than anything anyone has experienced in Mt. Lebanon, because of the effects of Proposition 13.) I wonder whether the visibility of Mt. Lebanon tax dollars at work has diminished, and whether that relative lack of visibility contributes to the sense that we aren't getting a proper return on our investment. Then again, I wonder what residents of some poorer Allegheny County communities would think of the complaining by Mt. Lebanon residents.

3. My property tax bill in Mt. Lebanon and Allegheny County is several times what my property tax bill was in California, on a house that is worth more or less what my California house was worth. However, my overall Pennsylvania tax burden (property plus income plus sales taxes) is much less than my overall California tax burden. For the anonymous commenters: how does your tax experience in Pennsylvania compare to your tax experience in other states?
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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Lebo: Commission and the School Board Do Talk

In response to this post about possible conflicts between the Mt. Lebanon School Board and the Mt. Lebanon Commission, I received private email suggesting that the members do talk and work together on projects for the town.

Assuming that's true (and if it's true, then great!), then the burden is on the members of both boards to share the good news with the community. A lot of the anonymous comments on this blog reflect little more than neighborhood gossip, some of which is well-founded, some of it not. But small towns like Mt. Lebanon are full of gossip, and the only way to get rid of the inaccurate material is to drive it out with the truth.
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On Second Thought

From today's Post-Gazette South section:

Mt. Lebanon commissioners are having second thoughts, and are considering raising taxes in the 2007 budget. The proposed property tax increase would raise millage to 4.97 from the current 4.79 mills. The draft budget had originally called for no increase in services and no tax increase.

Proposed changes include removing the $5.3 million aquatic center from a planned bond issue, replacing a pavilion at Williamsburg Park and adding a deer management plan, among other items.

Commissioners will hold a public hearing at 8:00 PM on Monday, November 27th in the municipal building.
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Monday, November 20, 2006

Lebo School Board and Commission

Reading the comments to the last several posts, it's clear that I've missed something big:

The (members of the) Mt. Lebanon School Board and the (members of the) Mt. Lebanon Commission aren't speaking to each other.


Why (not)?
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Lebo and Diversity

The following comment was posted yesterday to an older post at Pittsblog. The conversation, however, belongs here:
My partner and I are considering a move to Mt. Lebanon and are questioning the community attitude toward lesbians? We are planning to start a family and the schools are attractive. But we are unsure if there will be trouble for us from locals. I'd appreciate any thoughts on the subject from you (i.e. locals).
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Sunday, November 19, 2006

More on the Lebo School Board

From Joe Wertheim:
The Mt. Lebanon School Board meeting on Monday, November 20 has the potential to be very interesting. Dr. Pamela Pulkowski, the Associate Superintendent of the district will be officially informed by the board that when her contract is up at the end of July 2007, not only will her contract not be renewed, but she will not even be considered for the position. Is it possible that this action is retaliation by the District because of the lawsuits filed by Dr. Pulkowski? Dr. Pulkowski has requested to speak when public comments are heard by the board, prior to the items on the agenda.

UPDATE (11/22): "Mt. Lebanon board delays vote on opening post"
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Friday, November 17, 2006

Lebo Light Up Night

Joe Polk has been tearing up the Lebo blogosphere these last few weeks; I've been working and traveling and just not very inspired to post here. But here's a note, in partial atonement:

Last night, my daughter and I wandered up and down Washington Road during Mt. Lebanon's Light Up Night, and I'm glad that we braved the damp to do it. Thanks to the performers and the merchants and the neighbors and the crossing guards -- especially thanks to the crossing guards! -- who braved the weather and made the evening fun for all. I heard music at Planet Art (and I finally got to meet Linda in person!) and at Aldo's. Both shops were jammed with people. There was a chocolate fountain in one of the storefronts near Molly Brannigan's -- sorry, I forget which one. Uptown Coffee was full. The tree in Clearview Common looked festive, and it, too, was surrounded by people, and the Fire Department anchored the intersection (thanks to them, too! Joe, were you there?).

It still feels too early for Christmas (please -- if someone knows the programming director at 3WS radio, tell the station to hold off with the Christmas music until after Thanksgiving!), but last night was a great start to the local holiday season. Kudos to everyone.
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Thursday, November 16, 2006

Use Seen For Dispatch Center

Even though the South Hills Regional Dispatch Center in the Mt. Lebanon municipal building on Washington Road is slated to close next year, one Allegheny County official thinks keeping at least part of it operational might be a good idea for the whole county.

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Businesses Split Over Wash. Road Improvement District

Commercial property owners in Mt. Lebanon are feuding over a proposed business improvement district that some believe would impose the equivalent of an unfair new tax on certain businesses.

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Paying The Legal Fees

Also from today's Route 19 News Briefs

Commissioners unanimously agreed to pay $67,000 to the American Civil Liberties Union to cover legal fees incurred in a federal lawsuit. The ACLU, on behalf of the Service Employees International Union, sued Mt. Lebanon in 2004, claiming a municipal ordinance that required door-to-door canvassers and salespeople to get permits was unconstitutional. The federal court agreed that canvassing should not require permits but it allowed the town to continue to require permits for salespeople.

The town's ordinance recently was changed to reflect that ruling. Commissioner Keith Mulvihill said the ACLU had asked for a higher amount but that the figure to be paid was agreed upon during mediation in September.
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Save Our Shops Committee

From today's Route 19 News Briefs in the Post-Gazette

A group of people calling themselves the Save our Shops Committee is circulating petitions opposing the plan by Walgreens to demolish 11 of the existing 12 shops at Bower Hill Road and North Wren Drive to build a new drugstore. The group wants to convince town officials that most neighbors oppose the plan and are concerned about traffic and the loss of convenient neighborhood shopping.

The group also is asking interested people to attend a planning board meeting at 8 p.m. Nov. 28 and a zoning board session at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 30. Both meetings are in the municipal building. For more, call Walter Smith, 412- 531-3451, John Conti, 412-855-2165, or Barbara Driscoll, 412-344-3504.
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Park Plaza Construction To Begin In Spring

After 54 years of vacancy, a controversial patch of land in Mt. Lebanon is being readied for a long-awaited groundbreaking. Kossman Development, which owns the land, at the intersection of Mt. Lebanon and Castle Shannon boulevards, has closed construction bidding and plans to start building an office complex called Park Plaza by early spring.

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Saturday, November 11, 2006

Mt. Lebanon Holds Line On Taxes

For the first time in recent history, Mt. Lebanon's municipal manager has submitted to commissioners a budget that does not call for any increase in services, and as proposed, no tax increase for residents.

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Mt. Lebanon Approves Debt Policy

Commissioners in Mt. Lebanon have approved a policy for the municipality that seeks to establish a framework guiding debt management.

The policy puts in writing what the municipality has been doing, or supposed to be doing, all along. To strategically use the municipality's credit to fund projects to meet the community's highest priority capital needs, manage the credit to maintain the highest possible credit rating, and maintain balance between debt service and its impact on the operating budget.

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Mt. Lebanon May Start Culling Deer

From last Saturday's Tribune-Review:

Deer are so pervasive in Mt. Lebanon that resident Thomas M. Brown has taken to naming the ones he sees over and over, including "Limpy," the deer with the broken leg. While driving on three occasions, Brown also nearly hit a deer.

"I've had several close calls," said Brown, 57, who supports a proposed "controlled hunt" to reduce the number of deer.

If municipal commissioners agree, deer culling -- in which officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture use food to lure deer to a designated area and then shoot them -- could begin in January, Public Works Director Thomas G. Kelley said.

At the Nov. 27 municipal meeting, Mt. Lebanon leaders will discuss a final deer management report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services Division.

"There's a cost associated with it, no doubt," Kelley said about a deer culling program. The per-deer charge is anywhere from $91 to $310, paid for by taxpayers, he said.

Trib-Review Link:

Post-Gazette Link:
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Thursday, November 09, 2006

MTLHS Renovation Project Workshop

From a postcard received in the mail yesterday....

Mt. Lebanon High School Renovation Project Community Workshop

Tuesday, November 14, 2006
7:00 - 9:30 PM
Mt. Lebanon High School North Gym

Residents are encouraged to attend a second planning workshop for the high school renovation on November 14 at 7:00 PM in the North Gym. The workshop will provide individuals and small groups an opportunity to respond to a series of planning options. Educational facility planner Dr. William DeJong will facilitate the workshop. All information will be shared with the community at
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Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Being Mt. Lebanon

Pop City, a very cool web site devoted to all things Pittsburgh, published a great article today about Mt. Lebanon and why it's such a wonderful community. Here's the intro text from Pop City's home page about their article:
Distinctive architecture, walkability and a central business district are some of the reasons why Mt. Lebanon is more a community than suburb. With an abundance of shops, galleries and restaurants, and easy access to downtown, Mt. Lebo has much to offer.

Please take the time to check out the article. You'll be glad you did!

(A big thanks to Linda from Planet Art Gallery for letting me know about this article!)

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Smith, Murphy Win Elections

Election Day has come and gone, and Mt. Lebanon has gained one new state representative and kept its congressman. Matt Smith, the democratic candidate for the 42nd district beat Mark Harris to win the position formerly held by Tom Stevenson.

Tim Murphy, the incumbent US representative held onto his position after a race against his democratic challenger Chad Kluko.

Smith link: Surprises, close finishes highlight races for state House seats

Murphy link: Anti-GOP tide costs Rep. Hart a 4th term
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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Yoi-cation Is Everything

The Post-Gazette had a nice article today about Myron Cope, Frank Gustine Jr. and their homes in the Woodbridge commmunity in Mt. Lebanon.

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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Proposed Budget Doesn't Raise Taxes

People in Mt. Lebanon won't have a municipal tax increase next year if the manager's recommended budget passes muster with the commissioners in December. The $45.2 million spending plan keeps real estate taxes at 4.79 mills and the municipal earned income tax will remain at 0.8 percent of earned income.


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Donation Allows Endowment

It's been in the planning for the past five years and now the Mt. Lebanon Community Endowment has become a reality.

Mt. Lebanon Commissioner Dale Colby said a recent $10,000 donation from the Mt. Lebanon Soccer Foundation met the requirement to get the endowment started and to have it managed by the Pittsburgh Foundation.

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