Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Countdown to a CBA and Proper Reinvestment

This was an old post that I did not get back to but here it is now, still relevant and clarifying.

The questions are:

Will the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team (as a corporate entity, we are not talking about the players and/or fans), which has been siphoning off of the Black Hill District community for decades and benefited from the government's benign neglect of the Hill, ever give anything substantial back to the community, especially now that the corporation has received millions of dollars of public subsidy (we pay taxes, too!)?

There are two groups of representatives bodies at the table seeking proper reinvestment and/or a Community Benefits Agreement:

1. The Hill District ministers, residents and stakeholder's group - a representative body of persons who stood in the freezing cold, in front of the arena on January 28, 2007, to demand Hill representation at the table, as news media and others reported the Pens were slated to sign their lease agreement with the Sports and Exhibition Authority (SEA) and the County in order to stay in the city. And, the group of persons who presented a "term sheet" of their own in April 2007, which included a demand for a CBA as well as other forms of reinvestment, such as 30% minority employment, first source hiring, a community development fund, appointment to boards, control of our land, etc.

2. The One Hill CBA Coalition, formed in June 2007, with relative ease, particularly after this first group secured an agreement to allow for six months to engage in a CBA process. This is a worthy cause, as CBAs are popping up all across the country. However, since this would be the first time such an agreement would occur within the state of Pennsylvania, let alone the city of Pittsburgh, it was imperative that the Hill District community issue its own agenda to ensure proper reinvestment. The One Hill CBA was empowered and funded by Pittsburgh UNITED (Unions and Neighborhoods Investing in Transforming Economic Development), which was funded by a number of foundations but mostly the Falk Fund and the Heinz Endowments.

In short, Pittsburgh UNITED was slated to be a new era of a Civil Rights Movement (or maybe even a Poor People's Campaign) that would provide institutional change and ensure that a CBA would be the standard for any large development with public subsidy.

Well, let's just say that the dream still eludes us; and for many reasons that I won't get into at this point in time. However, the strengths and weaknesses of all of these groups within the importance of this entire cause will be explored as I continue to outline the happenings in the final lapses of this here hockey ring.

As of this moment, the Pens have refused to provide any funds whatsoever for the Community Development fund and have not signed off on any other plank or concern. Neither has the City. Neither has the County.

Yet, the Pens must go before City Planning on December 11th and the general trajectory of a CBA campaign is that if there is no signed agreement, the community will ask that City Planning NOT approve the plan of the developer. If there is a signed agreement, the community agrees to support the developer.

Our City Council Representative, Tonya Payne, is in the unique position of also being a URA Board member and has a 'special' relationship with the Pens. And, yet, Payne stopped coming to One Hill meetings over a month ago and there is no agreement signed with One Hill, the group she used to try to isolate and eradicate those whom she believes are aligned with her rival and former incumbent challenger, Sala Udin. She won the election but one cannot tell based on her continued paranoia and negative, divisive behavior.

Now, Mayor Ravenstahl, who just won re-election with a 10-1 margin in Black communities over his competitor, Mark DeSantis (R), definitely owes. And it goes without saying that he has a 'special relationship' with the Pens, as he flew off into the sunset on Ron Burkle's jet months ago and more recently, was treated to a charity golf game to the tune of thousands of dollars. Fine. But Pens' fans were not your swing vote and you did not have a 10-1 margin over your competitor anywhere else.

Perhaps that's why he was still campaigning in the Historic Hill District on election day. I heard he came by the Madison elementary school (now closed, btw) twice.

(thanks, Agent Ska, great work!)

So, all that to say it'll be interesting when the Dec. 11th City Planning hearing arrives; and even more interesting during the January vote.