Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Carbolic Smoke Ball Strikes Again

For the second time in one week, the Carbolic Smoke Ball has used Mt. Lebanon as the location for one of their fictitious news stories. This one, however, has a Halloween theme to it.

Link: carbolicsmokeblog.blogspot.com/2006/10/halloween-decorating-gets-competitive.html
Bookmark and Share

Sunday, October 29, 2006

911: Local or County Dispatch?

The proposed Manager's Recommended Budget for 2007 will be released on November 1. One of the items that will potentially be in the budget is funding for the South Hills Regional Dispatch Center, our local 911 dispatch center.

Funding for the center was in question last year, but was eventually approved by the commission as part of the overall budget.

There is a small blurb in the November 2006 Mt. Lebanon Magazine regarding the 911 center, but unfortunately, it is not online yet for me to reference in this blog entry. If you have a copy of the magazine at home, please take the time to read it in the "Around Town" section.

Once you've read it, I'd be interested to hear what you think about this issue. Should we continue to maintain our own center? Or should we switch over to the Allegheny County 911 center instead?
Bookmark and Share

Friday, October 27, 2006

Lebo Makes The Carbolic Smoke Ball

It was a matter of time before this happened and it finally did. Mt. Lebanon was mentioned in a fake article posted today on the Carbolic Smoke Ball web site. The Carbolic Smoke Ball is a Pittsburgh-based satirical web site that features fake news in a blog format.

As you'll see, Mt. Lebanon's mention has to do with the previous controversy over the use of music by ice cream trucks as they drive through our town.

Link: carbolicsmokeblog.blogspot.com/2006/10/editorial-mount-lebanon-correct-to.html
Bookmark and Share

Thursday, October 26, 2006

One Candidate Podcasts, The Other Wears Out Shoes

The Post-Gazette featured an article today regarding the highly contested race for the State Representative, 42nd District between Matt Smith and Mark Harris.

Link: www.postgazette.com/pg/06299/732901-55.stm
Bookmark and Share

Official's Suit Over Evaluation, Raise Dismissed

A Common Pleas judge has thrown out the lawsuit filed in May against the Mt. Lebanon school board by Associate Superintendent Pamela Pulkowski over what she said was an unfair job evaluation that led to the denial of a raise last year.

Link: www.postgazette.com/pg/06299/732989-55.stm
Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Should We Have Our Own Banners?

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us
I'd like to throw this idea out to our blogging audience for your opinion. Recently while driving through Boswell (Somerset County), I saw banners like this down the main street through their town.

I have also seen banners like this around Dormont, Castle Shannon and Greentree that have the initials KO and the golden eagle mascot for the Keystone Oaks School District. These banners are normally attached to telephone poles or light poles and either have town names (like the Boswell one) or some sporting-related message. The City of Pittsburgh has used these types of banners all the time for various events held throughout the city.

So...should we have banners like this in our town? If so, what would be on them? Our town name and logo? Should we put the school district logo and a blue devil on it instead?

Maybe a message like "Welcome To Blue Devil Country" -- as seen on a sign found in front of the new Sky Bank on Cochran Road. And where would we put them? One street like Washington Road or multiple locations? And if you don't think we should have them, please tell us why. I'm very interested to hear everyone's opinions on this -- so start those comments!
Bookmark and Share

Friday, October 20, 2006

Bado's Goes Smoke Free

I was sent an email this morning by someone that thought this would be a good topic for discussion on the blog. This person informed me that Bado's Pizza Grill and Ale House has gone "smoke free". Their web site itself says as much and I was able to find out that they've been a smoke-free establishment since October 1 by calling them directly.

I think it's interesting to note this fact because it's the first (that I am personally aware of) restaurant in our town that has decided to draw the line on this issue -- and risk the business of smokers as a result. As we're all aware, this issue has been a hot button issue at the county and state level.

As a non-smoker, I personally applaud this decision because I don't like to be subjected to smoke at restaurants or bars -- but I can only imagine what others think of this issue. So, Blog-Lebo readers...what do you think about Bado's decision? Will it come back to bite them? Or will it generate more business?

I'm going to check with them in a few months and see if they'll tell me if their business has been affected at all by this decision.
Bookmark and Share

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Lebo Resident Asks School Board To Drop Appeals

In January, William Witte and a handful of other Mt. Lebanon homeowners appealed to Mt. Lebanon commissioners to drop their attempts to appeal the assessment of recently purchased homes in the municipality.

Two months later the commissioners decided in the residents' favor, saying they would no longer appeal those assessments or participate in any pending or future appeals in 2006.

Now, Mr. Witte is trying to convince the Mt. Lebanon school board to do the same.

Link: www.postgazette.com/pg/06292/731034-55.stm
Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Lebo: The TIF and the School Board

When a TIF was proposed for the Galleria, the Mt. Lebanon School Board shot it down. Is the Board going to be receptive to an anti-TIF argument again, in connection with the Zamagias proposal? Here's the text of a letter that Bill Matthews recently sent to Board president Joe Rodella, with copies to the rest of the Board, and to the Commission:
Dear Joe:
In classic logical fallacy , October’s Mt. Lebanon Magazine is courting community support for “The TIF.” My first reaction was “Oh my goodness!”
My second was to put pen to paper – but I am not sure where to begin. The $100,000 heated sidewalk? Or the now $95,000 parking spaces (each)? Or the other “infrastructure” improvements which might be standard fare for any development of $500,000 condominiums and retail shops?
After reading the Magazine, I am unsure what evaluating a hotel or apartment building has to do with whether or not the Zamagias Properties development warrants a substantial public subsidy? Besides, those ideas were off the table 18 months ago.
I also question how can we take incremental credit for EIT to be generated by residents of Washington Park, if a considerable portion of potential residents may already reside in Mt. Lebanon? My mom now lives in Woodridge, as do bunches of other long-term Mt. Lebanon residents. I assume Main Line residents have similar roots. Why will Washington Park be different? A more meaningful analysis would identify the projected “net new” EIT.
The Municipality’s supporting information for this column projects an average household (EIT) income of $161,234 for Washington Park. This might be accurate, but if the “net new” is what matters, using the median household (EIT) income for all of Mt. Lebanon would be more instructive. This number is likely in the $85,000 – $95,000 range.
Then there are these questions and answers from the supporting information on the web site:
Q. Why are we “subsidizing” Zamagias with Tax Increment Financing? A. We are not
Q. Why are we “giving away” tax revenues to Zamagias? A. We are not
Oh yes we are – on both counts – if the Municipality is victorious with this tax diversion.
Another huge point of contention is the TIF/NID discussion . The continued use of TIF and NID in the same context demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of these economic development tools. But for giggles, say NDC developed the site and established a NID – which effectively is an assessment on their residents and their residents only. We could still have all the purported economic benefits of Washington Park and an additional $3,000,000+ in real estate taxes (present value), to boot.
It may be simplistic, but I still see this TIF as unnecessarily supporting a project where a portion of the mortgage is paid with taxes, while the rest of the community pays our mortgage and our taxes.
Justice Louis D. Brandeis offers some insight into the TIF dialogue:
"Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the Government's purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding."
I do not comprehend the zeal in the Municipality.
I do appreciate the School Board’s thoughtful and purposeful consideration of the issue.

William R. Matthews
Bookmark and Share

Lebo: The Trib Can't Let Go

From today's Tribune-Review:

Pittsburgh Tuesday takes
Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Public propaganda: What's really outrageous about "official" Mt. Lebanon pushing for an equally outrageous tax-increment financing, or TIF, package for a tony condominium project is that it's using taxpayer dollars to do so. There's a one-side shilling in the official community magazine. And there's even a Web site that falsely states a TIF is not a public subsidy. Residents should take great offense that their "leaders" think them such pushovers for such an obvious con game.

Link: http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/opinion/archive/s_475307.html

(Oh, and what's the website that the paper is referring to?)

Update: Bill Matthews thinks that the Trib is referring to this financial model presentation at the Mt. Lebanon website [pdf file], and specifically to pages 6 and 7.
Bookmark and Share

Monday, October 16, 2006

Mt. Lebanon and the Mets

Yes...I know this post mentions the New York Mets, but there's a reason for it! The Mets and St. Louis Cardinals are duking it out to represent the National League in the World Series -- and the Mets have a Lebo grad to thank for their good fortune.

Rick Peterson, a MLHS Class of 1972 grad, used to play for the Pittsburgh Pirates, coached for them and then eventually ended up becoming the current pitching coach for the New York Mets. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette interviewed him and published the article today.

Link: www.post-gazette.com/pg/06289/730357-63.stm
Bookmark and Share

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Lebo: More on Community Relations

Over at Pittsblog, Dennis Roddy left a great comment on the "Plus ca change" post. An excerpt:
In short, what we see in Mt. Lebanon, I think, is the failure of the region to include African Americans in its economic growth. When the region boomed, obviously, the exclusion was based on race. Now, with the region declining economically in an era in which racism is considered immoral by some or at least declasse by others, we are seeing the effects of indifference and cluelessness. In short, as much as "affirmative action" is decried as either unworkable or 'reverse discrimination" we cannot reverse the effects of discrimination without actively trying to reverse it. In short, political and civic leaders have to develop a strategy that will end the economic isolation of the black community. When this is done, we'll see more African Americans in Mt. Lebanon.

Read the whole thing.
Bookmark and Share

Lebo and 40-under-40

"PITTSBURGH magazine and Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Project (PUMP) have announced the 2006 '40 Under 40' honorees.

'40 Under 40' recognizes 40 talented individuals under the age of 40 who are making a positive impact on the region’s development.

Developed in 1999, '40 Under 40' helps highlight Pittsburgh and southwestern Pennsylvania as a place where young people can make a difference. Now in its eighth year, the awards are more popular than ever."

Congrats to Josephine Posti, a member of the Mt. Lebanon School Board, to Jamie Rohm, owner of Zipper Blues on Washington Road, and to Diane Snyder, Executive Director, Outreach Teen and Family Services, for being recognized on the list.

[If there are others on the list with Mt. Lebanon connections, please let me know and I'll update this post! Thanks.]

The press release containing the list is online at
Bookmark and Share

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Lebo: More Trib on the TIF

Back during the Margery Sable debacle, a former member of the School Board said to me that he thinks that Tribune-Review just has it in for Mt. Lebanon, regardless of what happens out here. Maybe so, maybe not, but sometimes the criticism is deserved.

These days, the Trib certainly thinks it has a tiger by the tail in its coverage of the Zamagias TIF application. Last Friday's teaser, though, may have been a little unfair:

Pittsburgh Laurels & Lances
Friday, October 13, 2006

On the "Watch List": Mt. Lebanon magazine. The house organ of the South Hills community has been pushing hard for a tax-increment-financing package to help the developer of a tony condominium project. But will it publish a dissenting point of view? Jake Haulk, president of the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, has penned such a dissent, dated Oct. 5. Will the magazine publish it? We'll be very surprised if it does.

Link: http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/opinion/archive/s_474723.html

Truth be told, no one ever confused Mt. Lebanon magazine with a forum for serious conversations about public policy. That's not the mission of the magazine. Laurels & Lances shouldn't be about bullying. The Trib should pick on someone that has the tools to fight back -- say, the Mt. Lebanon Commission, or the Post-Gazette.

What's more, it's not so difficult to get a dissenting voice heard in Mt. Lebanon. Why doesn't the Trib print the piece itself? Or I'll print it here. Jake, feel free to send it on.
Bookmark and Share

Friday, October 13, 2006

Mt. Lebanon Recreation Director To Retire

After working for Mt. Lebanon for nearly 34 years, Recreation Director Bill Moore is retiring on Halloween. Marcia Taylor, municipal assistant manager, will accept resumes until Oct. 30. While he did not rule out promoting from within the department, municipal Manager Stephen Feller said, Mt. Lebanon is conducting a national search.

Link: www.postgazette.com/pg/06285/729150-55.stm
Bookmark and Share

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Plus ca change: Mt. Lebanon community board not going to remedy effects of township's racist history

From this morning's Post-Gazette South section:
"For decades, it was an unwritten rule that many minorities, including African Americans and Jews, could not buy houses in certain neighborhoods, according to Ruth Reidbord, one of the first community relations board members in Mt. Lebanon. Even real estate brokers said that, if they showed homes to minorities, they were threatened, said Elaine Wittlin, who believes she was one of the first to ignore such threats."

"So, in 1966, town convened a Community Relations Board to promote a feeling of openness.

'Community groups and residents can work together to reduce the barriers that sometimes separate population groups,' Mt. Lebanon Manager Stephen Feller said.

Has it worked?"


"[i]n the municipality of 33,017 people, 31,766 are listed as Caucasians, 202 as black, 767 as Asians and 263 people are of Hispanic or Latino background, according to the 2000 census."
Check my math, but I think that means that fewer than 1% of the town's population is African-American. Just over 2% is Asian, and it looks like that figure includes both south Asian and east Asian populations. The Hispanic/Latino figure is consistent with Pittsburgh's small overall Hispanic/Latino population, but its size relative to the African-American community is striking.

"[A]at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the municipal building, 710 Washington Road, at a forum titled "Where Are We Going? Where Have We Been?" Five people will address quality of life issues for mixed-race families, people with disabilities, lesbians and gays, teens and people who practice less common religions."

Still to be appointed: A community-based board of people charged with reaching out to members of under-represented communities who don't live in Mt. Lebanon, but whose addition to the community would make it a more accepting and much more truly diverse place.

Link: http://www.post-gazette.com/pg/06285/729149-55.stm

And more relevant background, also from the Post-Gazette:

Link: http://www.post-gazette.com/neigh_south/20010221sali3.asp

[Cross-posted at Pittsblog]
Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Lebo: The Trib Hammers The Township

From the Tribune-Review:
Pittsburgh Tuesday takes
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Subsidy shilling: It's simply astounding how "official" Mt. Lebanon keeps shilling for a massive tax subsidy in promotion of a developer's tony condo complex. The July/August issue of Mt. Lebanon magazine, the South Hills community house organ, ran a one-sided explanation of tax-increment financing. Now, in its October issue, Commissioner David Humphreys offers an even longer defense. Mr. Humphreys even claims such "a development will not require a penny of taxpayers' money." Truth in government this is not.

Link: http://www.pittsburghlive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/opinion/archive/s_474197.html
Bookmark and Share

Lebo: High School Planning Starts

Yesterday (October 10) was the first planning workshop for the future of Mt. Lebanon High School.

If you attended all or part of the workshop, please share your impressions in the comments. Thanks!
Bookmark and Share

Monday, October 09, 2006

Want To Talk Politics?

I got an email today from Violet Law, a writer from the Pittsburgh City Paper. She is looking for people that are willing to talk to her about the 42nd District State Representative race and the issues being discussed by each candidate.

So...if you've been paying attention to the race and are willing to be intereviewed about it, please contact Violet!
Bookmark and Share

Lebo: Blogs Busting Out All Over!

Via the Mt. Lebanon magazine, I learned about the new Mt. Lebanon Library blog, at http://www.mtleblibrarystories.blogspot.com/

Also, Blog-Lebo is now an "external link" in the Wikipedia entry on Mt. Lebanon!
Bookmark and Share

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Lebo: Creating a Retail Buzz

Nope, Linda, I've never bought a piece of art. Nothing against art, or Planet Art Gallery, or galleries; that's just me. But in the hopes of moving this conversation forward (great comments everyone!), let me ask a different question:

What kind of business district does Mt. Lebanon want to be? What kind of business district does it want to have? I look at businesses like Aldo Coffee and Uptown Coffee, and Il Pizzoiolo, and, yes, Planet Art (just for starters), and I think: Mt. Lebanon has the makings of a cool, even hip, retail stretch -- sort of a South Hills version of Butler Street in Larryville, which I think is an incredible success story. Larryville has some of the best neighborhood buzz in Pittsburgh these days, just about all of it generated by hip and happening galleries, restaurants, and coffee houses -- not to mention some modestly-priced real estate. Butler Street is worth wandering up and down, just to see what's going on in the stores and storefronts. I don't need a specific reason to go.

Washington Road in Mt. Lebanon isn't there yet. For every cool shop (pick your own -- how about Empire Music?), there's a physician's storefront. The density of "interesting retail" is too low to make Washington Road really engaging. I go if I have a specific reason to go; I go to wander on First Fridays (thanks for the music!), but not otherwise.

Is Mt. Lebanon ready to change that? Is Mt. Lebanon ready to complement PA Gallery and Aldo's and Empire and (pick your own -- how about Anne Gregory? My wife and I have fun critiquing the dresses in the window) with more local restaurants, more galleries, more hip, cool retail? I may not be a PA Gallery kind of shopper, but I'm much more likely to browse through the store if PA sits in the middle of a couple of blocks worth of similar shops. I write "Is Mt. Lebanon ready" because this isn't just a question for those of us who live here and vote with our wallets; it's a question for the township and local landlords and the merchants association. How about lowering rents, easing out some long-time tenants, and bringing in edgier, more speculative businesses -- like art galleries that handle local artists?

There's a downside to that, of course: Moving older businesses and services businesses out of the district alienates a meaningful part of the population. People need services. People need the day-to-day stuff they can get at Rollier's, or at the tailors.

Obviously, in some sense, the town needs a balance. Has Mt. Lebanon reached a point where that balance has shifted (or should shift) away from some of the traditional stuff, and toward more "happening" stuff? Is the balance "just right" now? Or how about this: Has the balance already shifted *too far* in the direction of hip and cool?

Bookmark and Share

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Lebo: Comparative Demographics

Linda Mitchell, who runs the very cool Planet Art Gallery on Washington Road, tracked down a very old Pittsblog post of mine and commented, in effect, that Mt. Lebanon residents aren't doing as much as USC and Peters residents to keep her local business in, well, business.

A surprise? Not really. Mt. Lebanon can't plead poverty, but those folks in USC and Peters are clearly and significantly better off, on the whole.

From the 2000 census:

Mt. Lebanon -- median household income: $60,783. Median family income: $79,744.
Upper St. Clair -- median household income: $87,581. Median family income: $95,257.
Peters Township -- median household income: $77,442. Median family income: $86,661.

For comparison at the other end of the spectrum: Dormont -- median household income: $38,958. Median family income: $51,826.
Bookmark and Share

Lebo: Defending the TIF

In this month's Mt. Lebanon magazine, commissioner David Humphreys defends the TIF proposed for the Zamagias project at the corner of Washington and Bower Hill Roads.

This line caught my eye:

One of the reasons a condominium project is desirable is that the residents would pay a large earned income tax annually.

Only if the residents have large earned incomes, though, right? Is there any reason to assume that 70 super-priced condo units will go to high income folks who work for a living? The municipality could try to impose an earned income threshold on potential condo buyers, but that would be both a bad idea -- and illegal.

As others have stated repeatedly, if the project is a profitable to the developer even without a TIF, then Mt. Lebanon could collect all of these high EITs without giving away real estate tax revenue.
Bookmark and Share

Monday, October 02, 2006

Lebo: Things I Learn While Blogging

Allowing anonymous comments produces interesting consequences:

First -- Anonymity unleashes hurt feelings. I hope that the School Board and the School District are aware of the resentment that still lurks in town following L'Affaire de Margery Sable. Not everyone is unhappy that Dr. Wilson is retiring, but I doubt that the unhappiness would be so pointed if Dr. Sable's departure had been handled differently. Check out the comments here.

Second -- Anonymity has its costs. If you want to use the blog to prompt a personal response -- from anyone -- you will have to leave your name! Here's a comment from earlier today:

Well, personally, I don't, but even if I did, who would I call?
Bookmark and Share

Candidates for State Representative Debate

Meet the candidates for State Representative of the 42nd District, Matt Smith (D) and Mark Harris (R), at 7:30 P.M. this Thursday, October 5, 2006 at the Jefferson Middle School auditorium (located at the intersection of Moffett St. and Bower Hill Road in Mt. Lebanon)

Candidates will answer both prepared questions and questions from the audience. The forum will be moderated by the League of Women Voters of Greater Pittsburgh.
Bookmark and Share