Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Kraus Moves To Hold Sign Resolution For One Week

“My own goal for bringing this resolution forward was to make sure the people and process are protected. I believe in principles before personalities.”

The resolution Kraus spoke of in his above statement was one whereby Council would ask the Mayor to direct City Zoning to rescind the permit they issued to Lamar Advertising for a 1200 sq ft LED sign on the new Transportation Center. The Kraus resolution additionally asked that the Exec Director of the Pittsburgh Parking Authority rescind the lease agreement between that body and Lamar.

After issuing his opening statement, Bruce Kraus said he would be willing to hold the resolution for one week, giving Lamar Advertising time to voluntarily pull the permits they were issued. Kraus and the majority of council believe the permits were issued in error because due process was entirely ignored.

As usual, Jim Motznik and Tonya Payne were the two members who clearly voiced their support of the administration, whatever the administration does, and therefore their displeasure with the resolution before them. As usual, Motznik and Payne put forth a host of arguments. And as usual, none of them were germane to the issue at hand. The Pist-Gazette believes this is a calculating, oft-used tactic Motznik purposefully employs to muddy the waters, hoping to pull victory out of mayhem. We believe Payne, on the other hand, comes by her confusion honestly. She never seems to grasp the meat of the point in front of her.

Motznik argued that Lamar was a “good neighbor” and only followed “a process they were given.” He handed out pictures of many unsightly billboards Lamar had “voluntarily” removed and had replaced with the more visually-pleasing LED variety. Payne kept harping on the fact that Neighbors in the Strip, a citizens' group in her district, was in favor of the large LED.

Bruce Kraus, Ricky Burgess and Bill Peduto all had to once again remind Motznik and Payne that the issue before council was not one of judging the merits of the sign, or lack thereof.

Kraus: “The decision here is not about merits of the sign. My sole concern is the voice of the people in this process.”

Burgess: “My concern is not about the merits of the sign. That’s a discussion for another day.”

Peduto: “My issue today is not about the billboard. My issue is whether we have the same set of rules for everyone. It’s about fair and equal application of the law for everyone. We have a responsibility to not only write the law, but to also make sure it is carried out.”

Once again, Patrick Dowd took an oddly impassioned stance in favor of doing nothing one way or another. "At the present time." So impassioned was his non-committal, Patrick admitted he had heated words with Peduto prior to the start of Council’s session.

“I’m still not clear that it’s appropriate for us to be speaking on this matter. I have questions as to our role on Council. As individuals, we can certainly speak as to how we feel on this matter. But as a body, there is a different point. I’m not sure of the point where our authority begins and where it ends. For now, I’m not going to voice my opinion on the sign or the process. I will at the appropriate moment, but we’re not there yet.”

It was a point in time, however, for Payne to again became unclear as to what day it was, what planet she was on, or what she had just heard. “I hear the majority of you in favor of this resolution say that the process was flawed. Since we are all so worried about process (her fingers motioning quotes around the word process), maybe we should just change the process.”

Using the most patient, kindly voice he could muster considering Council had just recently endured a 6-hr session on whether or not a sign was in fact a sign….. And speaking as slowly as he could choosing small, simple words so that Payne would be certain to understand ….. Kraus leaned over and said, “The process is not flawed. The process was not followed.”

Doug Shields had the last word: “URA Executive Director Pat Ford said in our 6-hour session the other day that ‘We must agree to disagree.’” Well, that cannot be the outcome. There must be a resolution. I believe the code is clear. But at the end of the day it is a simple matter. A judge will wind up making a finding of fact. And that is how it should be.”


Jason said...

Just another reason to keep academics out of elected office:

“I’m still not clear that it’s appropriate for us to be speaking on this matter. I have questions as to our role on Council. As individuals, we can certainly speak as to how we feel on this matter. But as a body, there is a different point. I’m not sure of the point where our authority begins and where it ends. For now, I’m not going to voice my opinion on the sign or the process. I will at the appropriate moment, but we’re not there yet.”

Bram Reichbaum said...

Thank you, Char!!!!!

I would understand Dowd's hesitation only in a universe where people played by rules. But even he says it's "reprehensible" that the law department hasn't issued an opinion yet.

It's obvious the administration is stalling on that opinion in order to run out the clock, and thereby establish further precedents. Furthermore, whatever opinion ultimately gets issued will be so tortured and misleading as to be worse than useless.

It was a non binding resolution. Why not just say, "Please back up and resubmit to the people, so we can avoid further confrontations?" I don't get it, maybe we will be enlightened.

Chad said...

Typically great work, Char.

Thanks for the recap.

Char said...

The following was emailed to me from Councilman Patrick Dowd:

I don't have a google account, but if I did, I would write the following comment on your entry:

I respect Councilman Kraus for his concern for process. We certainly share that. However, the resolution has its own procedural issues. Essentially, through the resolution the city's legislative body would request that the city's chief executive command a regulator to take a specific action. There is no place in the Home Rule Charter granting council the right to take such action and I would not want to assume that the silence of the Home Rule Charter automatically grants council that authority. A remedy of another sort is necessary here.

Thanks for your post and attention to these issues.


Patrick Dowd
Member of Council, City of Pittsburgh

Char said...

But set me straight on this, Patrick...... Like many city councils across the country, Pittsburgh's council passes many "resolutions" pertaining to areas they may not have authority. In fact, they take the resolution route because they have no official authority but they do feel strongly about an issue. Because a resolution is a just a request, it does not hold the force of law.

Take the war in Iraq, for instance. Pgh council may have passed a resolution stating their desire for a speedy withdrawal. If not Pgh, then many other cities across the country have resolved exactly that.

So why the war in Iraq and not this issue?

Smitty said...

Dowd's uncertainty as to what his role as a city council member is pathetic."Is it appropriate for us to be speaking on this matter." If not you Patrick,then who?? "I have questions as to our role..."It's to make the hard calls Patrick.

Patrick says he will voice his opinion at the appropriate moment.How are you going to know when that is Patrick, your so unsure of everything??Might it be when George Specter tells you what to think??

EdHeath said...

Yeah, I have to say that it is clear this administration needs oversight. They have moved from making moral faux pas' to ignoring procedures because it suits them. Pat Dowd needs to recognize this. The residents of Pittsburgh expect city council to step up, in a public way, when the Mayor or his administration violate procedure.

Even if Pat Ford believes the LED sign and the process by which it was offered to the city falls outside exact written policy, he should have felt *more* obliged to take the sign through the written policy and process, to make sure to establish a precedent so that future signs would not fall through the cracks. Just like Enron would not have happened if responsible people had insisted on tighter accounting standards, so too this city needs to set a higher standard, not a lower one. It is fine to work really hard, to take documents by hand, to insist on early but public hearings, to make sure people are doing their jobs. It is *not* fine to “streamline” the process by being the only decision maker, or twisting the meaning of city code to say that if an item falls outside existing parameters, fewer people should have input into the process.

Mark Rauterkus said...

To be sure, the 'non-action' was from Kraus, not Dowd. Kraus introduced a measure that was then in the next breath put into limbo with a 'hold.'

Kraus put in a measure that asks the one in the private marketplace to shoot oneself in the foot and fix an ill caused by the city. The city needs to get its act in order -- first.

The solution from Kraus is a joke -- without a punch line -- as it is on 'hold.'

Meanwhile, Patrick is being prudent as he might need to sit as 'judge' in a zoning case. That is a role of city council. So, if he puts his cards on the table -- he would disqualify himself from the looming role.

Regardless, there are dozens of ethical complaints that should be filed on this. It is way too long for the legal advice to appear, for starters.

Char said...


The resolution addressed a complete disregard for lawful process. There was a legal process in place and the resolution was about the fact that the process was not followed.

The resolution had nothing to do with the merits of the sign, or whether or not the sign should have zoning approval. The councilman who would be disqualified from ruling on its zoning would be the councilman who gave an opinion on that matter prior to the zoning hearing. Speaking about, giving an opinion on, or rendering a vote about whether or not proper process had been followed is not disqualifying speech.

Shields, Peduto, Burgess, Kraus, Motznik & Payne all voiced plenty of opinions regarding the process or lack thereof. Does that mean they will all be recused if council "judges" on the zoning issue?

In fact, Motznik & Payne BOTH went one step further in my opinion. They had pictures and said they thought the signs were good things. Payne even told the world that she intended to support the SIGN for zoning approval (not the process) because some of her constituents wanted it. Are both of them now disqualified from participating in zoning court?

Anonymous said...

total waste of time to discuss anything involving Bruce Kraus legislation. Saber rattling and solves NOTHING.

BTW: CANNOT BELIEVE COUNCIL WASTED SO MUCH TIME ON THIS. Don't we have more important things to legislate?

Bram Reichbaum said...

Lawbreaking + Don't we have more important things to legislate? = further and further "precedents."

More administrative precedents and control + less public input and oversight = exactly what a few well-heeled interests are trying to engineer.

Equals, exactly what the Republican party stands for, right? I'm just saying. Didn't mean to get all October of 2007 on everybody.

Anonymous said...

the remedy, in the case there is no quorum available to conduct the Council's conditional use hearing due to bias, would likley go to the court of common pleas. All conditional uses can be appealed to that court. The case would be heard de novo.

Anonymous said...

If I were luke i would be shitttttin myself about right now.
His hairbrained advisors have concocted the most looney legal rational on zoning I have ever heard in my life.

Thank the gods we have some "Bram-A-GranStanders" in Council who can read the law an'at. They most likely fed this bull to Luke and, the moronic Mayor, not knowing much of anything, "well it sounded pretty smart to me - actually kinda like the UPMC deal before that went south."

Sadly, during Luke's brief stint on Council he was not notable for any desire to become familiar with the city code. (he was more widely known for his penchant for golfing regularly during the week with his best bud Motznik). But wait! This just in from the Mayor's office.


FROM:Luke,the mAYOR
TO: Self.

I better start reading that zoning code stuff. I think my best buds just put my ass into one gigantic mess. I better start to think twice before buying into the snake oil salesman's pitch from that big shot "expert", Pat Ford. Those rats on Council tore him a new asshole.

Lately, Zober has been running around here looking like some lawyer who is about to get disbarred or something. I should ask him what's up but he's really begining to creep me out with that nervous tic in his eye and the hives.

Geeze oh man! I wonder what notes that jag off Ford has of our meetings? What kind of nutbag writes all that sh_t down? At my next meeting with him be sure to tie his hands to the chair.

cc: Dan Onorato
Tiger Woods

P.S. Hide city cars somewhere and tell Burgess someone must have stolen them.

P.P.S Find out what a "Civil Union" is. Still waiting on that damn Specter for legal opinion on that! Geeez o man!

Anonymous said...

That was probably the memo. Excellent. Yinzeronics!

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