Sunday, January 6, 2008

We Won't Repeat the Defeat!: Speaking Truth To and About Power

Greetings folks,

Three important announcements where we request your attendance/participation:

1. One Hill CBA Coalition meeting Monday, January 07, 2008, Hill House Kaufmann Auditorium, 1835 Centre Ave, 6:00pm

2. City Planning Commission Hearing, January 14, 2008, 200 Ross Street, Downtown Pittsburgh, 2:00pm – Come prepared to support and to speak on our behalf for three minutes!

3. Watch our speeches from the last Planning Commission Meeting on Dec. 11, 2007:

“We Won’t Repeat the Defeat!: Historic Hill vs. Big Business”

Part I: Don Carter, Planning Consultant, Pittsburgh Penguins

Part II: Carmen Pace, George Moses, Tim Stevens

Part III: Evan Frazier, Sheila Petite, Carl Redwood

Part IV: Terri Baltimore, Rev. Foster, Bomani Howze

Part V: Marimba Milliones and Kimberly Ellis

Part VI: Rev. Glenn Grayson, Rev. Thomas Smith, Eugene Taylor

Part VII: Brenda Tate and Minister Jasiri X

A Bit of History

As many of you may know, the Historic Hill District community is in the middle of a revolution for the 21st Century. The two major issues that have swung our neighborhood into action centered around the gaming applications for the State of Pennsylvania and the three gaming applicants for the City of Pittsburgh’s sole slots license---one of whom sought to place their casino right at our front door (and the only applicant seeking to place their casino in our neighborhood). This would not have occurred without the local nods that collaborated in thinking this would be a good idea. Due to the success of State Representative Jake Wheatley and the Hill District Gaming Task Force in informing the community and the Raise Your Hand! No Casino on the Hill Campaign (including the activist Hill ministers) in mobilizing the community to take a stand against the Isle of Capri Casino Company and the “Pittsburgh First” (Hill District Last) organization, we successfully defeated their plans on December 20, 2006, when the Category II slots license was granted to another competitor---Don Barden’s Majestic Star Casino, to be placed on the North Shore.

Today, our major point of contention is with some of the same group of persons who sought to place this casino at our front door but were granted huge public subsidy and public lands to build their new arena, also at our front door. A new arena, of course, is a totally different development from a casino, which could be much easily supported, however, the responsibility of a large, multimillion dollar corporation such as the Pittsburgh Penguins hockey team (with a billion dollar owner-Ron Burkle), coupled with gargantuan public subsidy demands that we insist on proper reinvestment to the low income, working-class community that must host this arena---the Historic Hill.

Thus, in 2006, the Hill District Gaming Task Force insisted on a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) in its Ten Point Key-Reinvestment Proposal given to each gaming applicant. In January 2007, a small group of individuals representing Hill residents, organizations and clergy stood in icy cold weather at the present Civic Arena to demand a seat at the table and prevent the Pittsburgh Pens from signing a lease with the City and County with little or no regard for Hill residents whose neighborhood hosts the arena. In April 2007, many of these same persons issued a term sheet with a list of demands for reinvestment (based on the points of the 2006 Hill District Gaming Task Force), followed by the creation of the One Hill CBA Coalition (with the support of City Councilor Tonya Payne), which started a community process to develop planks, asks and a “Blueprint for a Livable Hill” document that shaped negotiations for the CBA.

Unfortunately, because neither the City, County nor Pittsburgh Penguins had produced or signed a CBA or a plan of reinvestment with the Hill District community, we all had to come together at the City Planning Commission Hearing on December 11, 2007 to request that the Commission vote “No” on passing the Pens’ plan for the arena until they responded to further community concerns around planning and signed a legally binding contract for proper reinvestment.

The videos listed above capture that hearing and Part I of our testimony. We have yet to sign a CBA or gain proper reinvestment for our community, so we ask that you support our cause by writing letters, making phone calls, hitting the streets and coming to the January 14th meeting, in particular.

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