Anything from current events, campaign finance reform, sports (especially baseball), corporate/political/legal ethics, pop culture, confessions of a recovering comic book addict, and probably some overly indulgent discourses about my 3-year old daughter. E-Mail: sardonicviews -at-
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Friday, May 14, 2004

A New Innovation

I have to give credit for this, the "Demikinis" (via Jarvis).

What is it? A backless bikini that is secured by a sticking gel. The only drawback: the gel starts to lose its stickiness in water. Is that a bug or a feature?

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Pittsburgh Firefighters Union Update

It's been a while since there has been any real news on the story of how Pittsburgh Mayor Murphy may have explicitly bought the firefighters union vote a week before the primary a few years ago. It now seems the Allegheny County DA and the US Attorney in Pittsburgh are now officially working to together in the investigation, which they are continuing.

County and federal investigators have found sufficient grounds to continue an investigation of the election-eve dealings in 2001 of Mayor Tom Murphy and the president of the city firefighters union.

District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr. yesterday confirmed that union President Joseph King was questioned for 4 1/2 hours this week about statements he made in a letter to Murphy that was released publicly.

In the April 12 letter, King said that Murphy, on the eve of the 2001 Democratic primary, agreed to provide $10 million to $12 million in labor contract upgrades to the firefighters union.

Murphy subsequently got the endorsement of the 850-member union, which before the agreement had supported Murphy's opponent, then-council President Bob O'Connor.

The firefighters union is in trouble. The best thing would be to hunker down and be as invisible as possible in the public eye for a while, but it won't happen.

Reason 1: It's not in their nature. From the leadership down, they are brash, aggressive and willing to fight and brawl publicly over anything they feel threatens them.

Reason 2: They can't because Pittsburgh's new budget proposals for getting out of the red are coming out now, and big cuts for the fire bureau top the list.

AS for the budget plan just submitted by Murphy. It is something of a joke. It almost looks as if he thinks he can somehow survive all of this politically. The requirements by the state for this budget call for him to submit a balanced budget plan through 2008. Murphy, instead, submitted a budget that was incomplete and projected deficits -- apparently trying to force the oversight boards to make the really bad cuts.

Murphy said he left the fiscal plan unbalanced, as he has the city's last two budgets, because city taxpayers are overburdened by a tax system riddled with exemptions for businesses and nonprofits.

And who was resoponsible for a lot of the business tax exemptions?

To fill the gaps, the five-year plan lists seven new tax revenue options, including alcohol and payroll taxes, all of which would require state approval. The proposed taxes fall largely on commuters and others who currently pay little directly to the city.

Those new tax options all require state approval to be enacted -- something the act under which Murphy submitted the budget explicitly prohibits.

It's just going to get uglier.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Splitting The Baby

There are always things that have no easy answers. You can passionately defend something, but resolving a particular incidence without causing greater repercussions is something else.

Take the right to procreate. Say you have a man who has had 7 kids by 5 different women (it may even be more). He owes close to $40,000 in child support. He has a job, and can pay some of his support, but not nearly enough for all the kids and you can forget about collecting on the back support. On top of that, he has recently remarried and may or may not decide to have a kid.

He ends up before a judge over the unpaid support who could throw him in jail -- severely limiting his chance to have another kid for a while, but that would mean he wouldn't be working, adding to the bill and of course there would be the cost to the state for incarcerating him. Instead the judge gives him probation, and in the order states that the guy must "make all reasonable efforts" to avoid getting anyone pregnant. The judge doesn't define "reasonable efforts" in this case. Arguably, it seems like an admonishment to get some birth control and be responsible with a threat of contempt of court.

Well, now it comes before the Ohio Supreme Court. The Court, of course, must consider the broader issues of a court trying to order someone not to procreate, because he has had too many he already can't support. Even if it's an empty threat, there really can be no way they can allow the order to stand. Otherwise, the court would be sanctioning some sort of economic line for how many kids a person could have.

A similar thing in New York where a couple has 4 kids under the age of 5 -- all in foster care -- was ordered by a family court judge not to have any more kids.

There's part of the problem. When the parents can't be responsible for the financial and/or general welfare of the kids, the state safety net (with however many holes and problems) is engaged. You get an abuse of the commons economic problem. The kids and the system are abused/victimized by the irresponsibility of the parents. And, quite frankly, there is really nothing that can be done about it.

Tuesday, May 11, 2004


Just doesn't have the same feel. Maybe because it's the middle child in the Triple Crown. Maybe because, the Preakness drink is not my style.

Black-Eyed Susan

2 oz. Grand Mariner
1/2 oz. white creme de menthe
1/2 oz. brandy

Pour ingredients over crushed ice in shaker. Shake then strain into glass.

I'll probably watch, but it will be with a beer.

Monday, May 10, 2004

No Rush

Apparently the Plain Dealer Editorial Board (PDEB) doesn't like to rush on its editorials. Last Tuesday it reported on a "protest" on behalf of a former student who has been an active anti-war figure in the area (the reporting didn't note that he seemed to be the one to organize the protest on his own behalf). I noted it last week, Jerry took noticed, a Kent State editorial even commented a week earlier.

Today it got around to condemning the banning of the activist. Not that anything new has happened or reported. I guess they just had a backlog of more important editorials. Either that, or it was just a filler editorial when the well was a little dry.

Eastlake is Broke

And then some.

A few weeks ago, I noted that the Mayor of my little 'burb was resigning in the middle of his 3rd term. He cited health reasons -- his heart -- but his decision seemed more driven by learning that he qualified to receive a full-disability state pension. Who cares that he resigns as Eastlake is $3.2 million in the hole for the budget.

So, on the day of his resignation, the Cleveland Plain Dealer Editorial Board (PDEB) gave him a "cheer" in their Friday "Cheers and Jeers" quickies.

CHEERS . . . to Dan DiLiberto, who steps down today as Eastlake's mayor because of a heart ailment. Because of the capstone of his energetic career in public service - the formation of the Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council to give gas and electric utilities a run for consumers' money - his leadership has benefited people far beyond the Eastlake city limits.

As I noted before, NOPEC hasn't actually accomplished a thing in competition or prices. I was going to let it go, because it just pointed out how little they knew or cared about the northeastern suburbs. I found it amusing, though, that they failed to mention the ballpark that would truly be his legacy in Eastlake. Well, they noticed it today.

Eastlake finds itself in a pickle, now that $5.8 million in federal and state grants and at least $5 million in naming-rights proceeds for the city's minor league baseball stadium appear to have fallen through.

That might be a problem.

The money is needed to help the city pay off some of its $25.5 million debt on the facility, home of the phenomenally successful Lake County Captains.

The Captains had a very good first season in attendance, as would be expected, but I would hardly call one year "phenomenally successful."

Unfortunately, the city doesn't have enough money to make up the difference. With a $3.2 million budget deficit, it faces the grim possibility that a state-appointed committee might take over its finances.

Repeat this mantra a few times to the state and see what they will say, "we just have to hold on until the economic development the new ballpark is to provide kicks in."

Former Mayor Dan DiLiberto, who resigned recently because of health problems, said the money is simply delayed, not denied. All will be well in the end, he promised.

Remember Kevin Bacon at the end of Animal House? "Remain calm. All is well. Do not panic!"

But critics say the stadium's high-wire act proves their point: DiLiberto was so entranced with the idea of building the stadium and using it to revitalize Eastlake that he refused to look down and see that the numbers might not line up in his favor.

They may be right. Either way, DiLiberto's legacy will be determined, to a great extent, by this gamble on Eastlake's future.

In the time during the construction and to this point the following "development" has occurred in Eastlake: Wal-mart has expanded, a Staples store has closed, an adult bookstore/peepshow/crack-whore haven was shut down, a new bar/restaurant opened, a new coffee house opened, and a check-cashing center opened.

The PDEB was more than happy to support the ballpark and any tax in support of it, all in the dream of economic development around it. Funny how they don't see the connection or the fact that it hasn't worked -- again.

Sunday, May 09, 2004


I've been seeing a lot of ads during Cleveland Indians games and on ESPN for Cycle the Southern Alleghenies, which struck me as kind of surprising considering the area is at least 160 miles from Cleveland. But it is interesting to see all the interest in bike trails, and Pennsylvania trying to sell it, as rails-to-trails programs grow and the planned connection of bike trails that will go all the way from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC.

People are using the trails to go on extended tours, and others near the trail see business opportunities.

Count Harrold among a small but growing number of entrepreneurs in southwestern Pennsylvania who are taking a sizable risk in hopes of cashing in on the growing, but still slow, rails-to-trails movement. Some 140 or so miles of multiuse trails where trains once ran already stretch from Downtown Pittsburgh to Meyersdale and eventually will extend to Cumberland, Md., where they will link with the C&O Canal Towpath to provide an uninterrupted connection all the way to Washington, D.C.

For Confluence and many other long-suffering former industrial towns along the path, the trails offer a chance to inject new life into communities once driven by steel, coal, coke and railroad jobs. B&Bs, restaurants and shops that service bikes and skis might not "revolutionize the economy like a factory with 300 jobs, but when that tourist dollar rattles around in a community, things begin to feel better," said G. Henry Cook, an avid trail biker who also serves as chairman and chief executive of Somerset Trust Co.

They aren't waiting for the government agencies or a big company to offer the opportunity. They see the opening are feel it's worth a shot.

UPDATE: My friend, Lee, called me up last night to, in his words, "give me s**t" over this post. Lee lives in and around the area and has a lot more knowledge about some of the things happening in the Southern Alleghenies. I told him to leave the info in the comments, but it deserves to be in the post.

Living in the Southern Alleghenies as I do, I found your post fascinating... and unfortunately a little naive...

Cycle the Southern Alleghenies, or CSA, is hardly a grass roots movement raising up from a few old coal/rail towns. No, the Southern Alleghenies Planning and Development Commission (, a federally supported (through the Appalacian Regional Commission) local development district with a $10 million plus annual operating budget, both funds and runs CSA. A lot of your tax dollars go into CSA... not that that's entirely a bad thing. Personally, I've seen millions of tax dollars wasted on dumber stuff in Shusterland [Editor Note: that would be around Altoona].

So you're right that these communities weren't waiting around for a government agency to offer an economic opportunity. SAPDC beat down their door with cash in hand. I'm just surprised that SAPDC is spending that cash as far away as Cleveland. I wonder how many Ohioans will actually come


According to Forbes Magazin's rank of the Best Places for Business Survey (via George Nemeth)

Rank Cost of Bus. Job Growth Education Pop. (in thousands)
46 Pittsburgh, PA 99 95 80 2,347
125 Cleveland, OH 108 140 88 2,250

The ranking for each category is out of 150 (the lower the number, the better). Neither city is particularly high in the rankings for the 3 categories, but it apparently doesn't take much to rise in the rankings. The thing that should be most disturbing for both cities is how high their number is for the cost of doing business (labor, energy, office space, and taxes).

I always find the cost of business to be the most frustrating thing when I hear people talk about wanting businesses and getting jobs in the area. Especially when it's the politicians, because they don't like to admit or mention that the taxes (and this includes the permits, regulations and inspections) are a major disincentive for even small businesses to consider going into the downtown areas. They are so willing to offer abatements and tax incentives to large companies and any developer talking about new buildings (and can make sizeable campaign contributions); but that just puts more pressure on collecting all the other taxes they can from the businesses and smaller companies that aren't so prestigious, big, or offer the big bang press releases if they opt to operate within the city itself.

Nowadays, the disincentive to bother trying to work in the downtowns is even greater. Why go through all the hassles and costs of getting set-up in an office when you can do so much from home or even in the space available outside the city for so much cheaper. So many office parks have been set-up around the Cleveland area, that are filled with unused sections, the rents are ridiculously low (there are 5 different office parks of varying sizes within 5 miles of my house in Eastlake, and I don't think any are much more than half-filled). Technology makes it simple to go to the clients for a meeting and never be out of touch with the office.

If cities want to get people and small businesses to actually work in the downtown area or even in the city limits, they have to make it cost reasonable. Small businesses are not going to pay a premium to be downtown just for the easy access to restaurants that don't have national advertising campaigns and the ballpark.


(Copyright © 2002-2005 Chas Rich All rights Reserved.);
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