Tuesday, October 16, 2007

So, What is the Problem with CBAs, the Neighborhood, One Hill and Pittsburgh United?

Good question and, really, there is just so much. That's why there's the need for the series. But in the meantime, the long and short of it is this:

1. The City of Pittsburgh (and many of its neighborhoods, particularly the Black and poor) is at a pivotal point in its history. We can all either sink or swim as a city and there are no guarantees.

2. While the City of Pittsburgh has been voted "the most livable city" (yet again), the fact of the matter is the City of Pittsburgh is actually "one of the worst cities to live in" for African Americans. According to the research of Dr. Ralph Bangs and Dr. John Wallace of the Center for the Study of Race and Social Problems at the University of Pittsburgh, African Americans living here are some of the most disadvantaged in the entire nation.

Yes, yes, it seems hard to believe but this is obvious to anyone who has traveled outside of this City and encounters other African Americans who are, let's say, a bit lighter on their feet, to say the least.

3. The Community Benefits Agreement Movement is a most worthy and just cause when, if implemented correctly, can change the quality of peoples' lives in a very real and tangible way, not just with "good jobs" but certainly inclusive of them. It has worked very well in Los Angeles, Detroit and New Haven with wondrous results.

So, what is the problem?

It's not working so well here in this City.

5. Pittsburgh UNITED is an acronym for "Unions and Neighborhoods Invested in Transforming Economic Development. Pittsburgh UNITED, whose funding structure was outlined as follows:

Pittsburgh UNITED was borne out of a three-year, $500,000 grant jointly funded by local foundations (Falk Foundation, Pittsburgh Foundation, The Heinz Endowments, POISE, and the Women and Girls Foundation), with a match from the
Ford Foundation (Violet Law, Pittsburgh City Paper)

6. Pittsburgh UNITED funds the One Hill CBA Coalition (the first project) and Northside United (the second project), the both of which are guinea pigs to see if this can work in our City.

7. One Hill's slogan is "One Hill, Many Voices" but many of us feel that our voices are not being heard within One Hill and will never be heard within the organization. We feel that One Hill is in need of radical reform.

8. Many of us also feel that Pittsburgh UNITED is not doing what it is supposed to be doing and is also in need of radical reform.

9. As radical reformists (and I am certainly one of them), we get lied upon, called names, silenced within the organization and also cast out (literally, we were kicked out of One Hill just last week).

10. Many people do not know that One Hill was formed against a large portion of Hill District leadership and representation. It was also done using the resources of Pittsburgh UNITED.

The question is why?

The short answer is that folks are trying to get away with the least amount of reinvestment and the rest of us are demanding more reinvestment, greater vision and greater leadership.

In addition, while we have been trying to explain why, it's important to understand the history and understand the issues. Ironically enough, the Hill District's divisions have been exacerbated and now the Northside's divisions have also been exacerbated. If Pittsburgh UNITED is at the center of these controversies, is this what the foundation community asked for when it funded this group? And is Pittsburgh UNITED helping our city become Pittsburgh DIVIDED?

Listen to this podcast. I actually don't agree with Fred Honsberger but just listen first.

So much to cover in so little time.

You should start here, with another blogger's report, to get a sense of what's been happening.

Is it old quarrels, as Bill Toland surmised in his article (which included many errors but we give him points for trying and deduct some for not doing more followup before going to press, although the impending public meeting at the Arena provided more pressure than he probably wanted).

And if it is old quarrels, should they be put in proper, present-day context, as this same blogger from above has done? Indeed, he says that it is largely Tonya Payne fomenting this divison. And many of us must agree.

All roads will eventually lead back to the Pittsburgh Penguins, who are only doing what corporations are known to do; but this would not work without the cooperation of certain selfish entities involved. In this scenario, all side roads lead back to Tonya Payne, who is supposed to be OUR representative, not the Pens'. She connected with Carl Redwood and possibly some others to enact her divisive plan.

I was with the group of representative persons who stood up on January 28, 2007, to tell the City, County and the Pens that there would be no signing of leases and just moving forward without us at the table. We were concerned about this give away of public lands, the public subsidy, no representation at the table (from elected officials or otherwise), the Don Barden factor (unless someone else had a $350 million dollar plan to spur development?), the non-responsiveness of the Pens during the gaming application fiasco (just months prior) and our need for a master plan, to not repeat the mistakes of the past and to usher our community into the 21st century with power and promise.

Our lives, literally, depend upon it.

What unfolded was "One Hill", Pittsburgh UNITED's role in One Hill and the manner in which we were treated by both groups.

So, here is some mandatory reading for you to understand. Most of these are the most recent articles in descending order. Please let me know if you have any questions:

Over the Hill: A history lesson for those who would rather forget (Revelations, Pittsburgh City Paper)

Split Decisions: Hill District advocates may be divided but they won't be conquered (Revelations, Pittsburgh City Paper)

Give Up the Ghost (of Sala Udin): Hill District activists are quite capable of thinking for themselves, thank you very much (Revelations, Pittsburgh City Paper)

One Hill or One Hot Mess? (Christian Morrow, New Pittsburgh Courier) - This article caused a huge uproar in One Hill and they blame me for this, even though I was the last one contacted and interviewed or whom even knew about the article.

Write on: No Half-Stepping in One Hill (LTE, New Pittsburgh Courier, My response to clarify my position and put my quote in context)

Write on: Implied Corruption Must be Addressed (LTE, New Pittsburgh Courier, Carl Redwood's response to the above, which actually reinforces my original claim)

Teeing Off: Rough questions on the Mayor's Golfing Excursions (Revelations, Pittsburgh City Paper)

Minority Report: Pittsburgh ignores the plight of its black citizens at its own peril (Revelations, Pittsburgh City Paper)

A Wider Arena: You're not the only victim of government negligence, Mario (Revelations, Pittsburgh City Paper)

These articles do not cover all of the intricate problems and issues within One Hill and Pittsburgh United because we were really trying not to embarrass anyone. But, at this point, we have been left with little choice in the matter.

We cannot wait and we cannot afford to lose this battle because it is much bigger than us, much bigger than any one person, organization or even CBA.

We live, work and play here; and it is ultimately our responsibility. Our silence would be complicity and we are not complicit. We stand firm, vocal and proud, calling for radical reform before it's too late.

Support the Whole Hill. Support the cause.


Bram Reichbaum said...

I think it is less-than-fair to characterize CBA movements for the hockey arena and for the casino as "guinea pigs." These are certainly big pieces of business that Pgh United would like to affect, although they are the first. It is not surprising that they will stumble upon the way as this movement is new to Pittsburgh, to to characterize the campaigns as experimental I think is to assign to them condescending motives they may not deserve.

I also think you need to explain why it is that the "radical reformists" were expelled from the voting membership. I keep hearing that you were being terribly disruptive at the meetings, and although I am skeptical, you would do well to address the reformists' behavior.

Also, of course, I object that my many blog posts on the subject do not qualify as "required reading." ;)

Dr. Goddess said...


I'm not so sure I am characterizing the CBA Movement, itself as "guinea pigs". I am talking about the way my community has been used *within* the CBA Movement in Pittsburgh, specifically by Pittsburgh UNITED. Big difference.

I also make allowances for stumbling and all of One Hill made those allowances. It didn't stop various parties from eventually being ticked off at Pittsburgh UNITED. And it didn't stop us reformers from being ticked off at One Hill leadership for their lack of any real leadership.

The "radical reformists" were kicked out, supposedly, because we violated our membership agreement not to negotiate outside of One Hill. That's just the surface issue, especially since there was no investigation, whatsoever. Had they investigated, they would have seen their errors, misjudgments and poor calculations but that would be asking too much of One Hill leadership.

Please ask those persons to give you details about my so-called terrible disruptions. I am going to stand firm and say it's a major mischaracterization of my behavior at meetings. I usually sit or stand and say, rather clearly, what I have to say. I am also usually interrupted within the course of 20 seconds and/or cut off before I finish making my statement. This used to happen to *anyone* from my group and the only reason why it doesn't happen anymore to them is because they, like so many others in One Hill, stopped coming to meetings. And I really can't blame them.

I find it interesting that no one from your multitude of sources has mentioned a small and boisterous crowd of Tonya Payne loyalists (no more than ten persons) who have and do engage in a constant pattern of shouting down anyone from "my group" *every single time* we speak. I have repeatedly called for order, as have others. They are largely responsible for the overall negative energy and feel of our meetings. And many of us leave angry and demoralized after every meeting.

Any attempt to paint me and my colleagues as ranting and raving lunatics at meetings is just purposeful mischaracterization on the part of the few, to hide the very anti-democratic nature of One Hill meetings.

There is no "pure participation" in One Hill unless you are following the party line, which includes "One Hill is not flawless but it's working pretty fine."

And we are saying, "um, no it is not---at all. We need change and we need change now precisely because this is a worthy cause."

Anonymous said...

How appropriate is it to cite yourself as a source? With an issue as complex as this, it would seem more transparent or less biased if you cited more outside sources. As it stands, it seems much more of a post about your opinions rather than any actual concrete fact about Pittsburgh United.

Dr. Goddess said...


Let me be perfectly clear with you:

I am NOT neutral or objective in this issue. I am deeply entrenched, so you can only take my opinion as opinion until proven to be fact or fiction.

I offer my first person accounts; but I have also included articles and opinions from other people who have much to say about this process and the persons and organizations involved.

I am not a reporter and don't want to be one.

This is my story, my reflections, my revelations; and when I find it appropriate, I include others'.

If you clicked on all of the links, however, you will find that I have included articles with those who hold opposing views and positions.

And, for the record, my blog name, "Revelations" mirrors my column, "Revelations" in the Pittsburgh City Paper, so please know that this is fully meant to be MY blog saying what I want it to say.


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