by Chris Potter
Story of the day: City council held a brutal extended session yesterday, one in which councilors haggled over pension deals in the past, and development deals in the future. Hanging over all of it was Bill Peduto's plan to announce his candidacy for mayor tonight. Just to give you an idea: Ricky Burgess likened Peduto to Mitt Romney -- more than once -- during a debate over whether to limit parking-enforcement hours. And then, a few hours later, voted in favor of a development plan -- with gated streets -- backed by those noted one-percenters, the Buncher Company. So, yeah. Anyway, council voted to delay, by one week, action on Peduto's effort to end enforcement of city parking meters by 6 p.m. Much of the debate turned on whether the city's Parking Authority will really pass along additional revenue generated from the hikes -- money that Peduto himself had previously voted to use in shoring up the pension fund. Meanwhile, a 5-4 majority gave preliminary approval to Buncher's controversial plan to remake a sea of Strip District parking lots into a mixed-use riverside development. The plan was tweaked slightly by Darlene Harris -- who got some trifling concessions on maximum building height and setbacks from the river. But Patrick Dowd, called the whole thing a victory for mediocrity. In theory, council may have some leverage on a future tax-subsidy Buncher is seeking, though at this point, it's hard to see why that debate would play out any other way.
In other imperiled-landmark news, what does fate have in store for a decaying century-old East Liberty church? Prospects are uncertain.
If you're disheartened by these developments, this story features a frustrated state Rep. Daryl Metcalfe, who just can't seem to get anyone interested in his bid to establish union-busting "right to work" laws here.
WTAE reports on the increasing threat from heroin, citing it as the leading cause in a record-setting 261 drug-overdose deaths in Allegheny County last year.
After hedging for weeks, Gov. Tom Corbett surprised precisely no one by announcing the state will not form its own "insurance exchange" for people to buy insurance. The exchange, part of President Obama's healthcare overhaul, will be created by the federal government instead. Strangely, conservatives are celebrating this move as a blow against federal overreach. As Keystone Politics points out ... Republicans could have seized the opportunity to create a half-assed state system. Instead, they are given the reins to that damned commie socialist in the White House! (Actually, all of this may be less important than the real question: Will Corbett expand Medicaid coverage, or not?)
Meanwhile, Democrats are taking the fight to Corbett on the exchange and other issues. State Treasurer Rob McCord -- a potential challenger to Corbett's re-election -- is raising questions about Corbett's plan to privatize the state lottery system. McCord is making noise that, if a firm does take over the operation, he may not be able to pay them. Tea Party tactics work both ways, fellas.