Analysis | BLOGH: City Paper's Blog |
Friday, May 4, 2018

Posted By on Fri, May 4, 2018 at 4:33 PM

click to enlarge Pat Toomey - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
CP photo by Ryan Deto
Pat Toomey
Tweets are gauged by how far they spread and what reactions they receive. A good tweet is typically retweeted far and wide, and also receives thousands of likes, or faves. A bad tweet is one that receives more replies than likes. This phenomenon is called being "ratioed" and it has become generally accepted on Twitter that being ratioed means the tweet is a poor take on an issue.

“The lengthier the [Twitter] conversation, the surer it is that someone royally messed up,” wrote Luke O’Neil on Esquire Magainze’s website in April 2017.

And new data from progressive analytics firm Data For Progress shows that the U.S. Senator with the worst ratio and highest percentage of ratioed tweets is none other than Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Lehigh). Data for Progress calculated every U.S. senator’s Twitter ratio by dividing all senators’ tweets by the number of replies they received from Dec. 25, 2016 to April 18, 2018.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Posted By on Thu, Mar 15, 2018 at 5:49 PM

click to enlarge Conor Lamb - PHOTO COURTESY OF SEBASTIAN FOLTZ
Photo courtesy of Sebastian Foltz
Conor Lamb
U.S. congressional candidate Conor Lamb (D-Mount Lebanon) apparently secured a narrow victory in the March 13 special election for Pennsylvania’s 18th U.S. Congressional District by outperforming former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton just about everywhere. In fact, Lamb won 172 district precincts in PA-18 that voted for President Donald Trump in 2016. With all votes in, except for a few hundred provisional ballots, Lamb holds a 647 vote lead over Pennsylvania state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth). The New York Times has called the election for Lamb, but an official declaration has not been made.

According to campaign insiders and strategists, two of the most important towns for Lamb’s victory were Bethel Park and Upper St. Clair. These towns traditionally support Republicans. Trump won Bethel Park by a 8.4-point margin and won Upper St. Clair by a 3.4-point margin in 2016. Lamb won Bethel Park by 9.9-point margin and won Upper St. Clair by a 10.2-point margin.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Posted By on Tue, Feb 6, 2018 at 5:02 PM

Everyone knows the most iconic Pittsburgh foods are pierogies and sandwiches with fries stuffed inside. If people are visiting the Steel City, they need to try some church pierogies and a Primanti’s sandwich; they’re Pittsburgh rights of passage.

But Pittsburgers don’t eat these famous foods the most often compared to other popular foods. According to new data released by Google News Lab, Pittsburgh is like most Rust Belt cities in its most-frequented restaurant choices: We like pizza and we like burgers.

According to the data, which was aggregated from information taken from people who have enabled Location History, Pittsburgh is fifth in the U.S. in terms of burger-restaurant visits and seventh in the U.S. in terms of pizza-restaurant visits. Other cities with top 10 rankings in both pizza- and burger-restaurant visits were Baltimore, Boston, Detroit and Minneapolis. (Also of note, is Pittsburgh’s top 15 ranking in coffee-shop visits among a list that is dominated by West Coast cities.)

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Posted By on Thu, Jan 18, 2018 at 12:51 PM

click to enlarge A screen shot of the Ending Spending Inc. TV ad supporting Rick Saccone - IMAGE COURTESY OF YOUTUBE
Image courtesy of YouTube
A screen shot of the Ending Spending Inc. TV ad supporting Rick Saccone
During his 15 years as a U.S. congressman, former Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Upper St. Clair) held strict socially conservative views, but supported enough liberal economic views that some considered him a moderate. Murphy resigned amidst scandal last year, and a special election for his seat will be held March 13.

Pennsylvania state Rep. Rick Saccone (R-Elizabeth) was nominated by Republicans to compete in the election against former U.S. Assistant Attorney Conor Lamb (D-Mount Lebanon). And recent support from conservative and libertarian political-advocacy organizations suggest Saccone is more economically conservative than Murphy.

Saccone has been endorsed by economically conservative political-advocacy groups FreedomWorks for America and the Club for Growth, groups that have opposed Murphy in the past. And even though Saccone will speak at an event in North Fayette with President Donald Trump on Jan. 18, Saccone's support also suggests that he has different economic policy priorities than Trump, who won the district handily in 2016 thanks, in part, to populist, protectionist economic policies like criticizing free trade.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Posted By on Thu, Jan 11, 2018 at 10:55 AM

click to enlarge The LGBTQ Pride Flag
The LGBTQ Pride Flag
The Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest pro-LGBTQ organization, released its 2017 annual report detailing every state's legislative efforts to provide, or inhibit, equality for LGBTQ Americans. The Pennsylvania state government, again, left much to be desired for those advocating for LGBTQ rights.

The HRC gives four general scores to states, with “working toward innovative equality” being the best and “high priority to achieve basic equality” being the worst. Pennsylvania ranked “high priority to achieve basic equality” in 2017. (The state also received this distinction in 2016, 2015 and 2014.) Pennsylvania is also the only state in the Northeast U.S. to be given the bottom score for LGBTQ equality. It should be noted that some Pennsylvania cities, like Pittsburgh, have been given high-marks by the HRC, despite the low grades on the state level.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Posted By on Thu, Dec 21, 2017 at 3:05 PM

click to enlarge Corey O'Connor discussing the affordable-housing fund at a December Pittsburgh City Council meeting - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
CP photo by Ryan Deto
Corey O'Connor discussing the affordable-housing fund at a December Pittsburgh City Council meeting
In early 2015, Pittsburgh City Council knew it needed to investigate and address the city’s affordable- housing problems. Back then, there was a reported shortage of more than 18,000 subsidized affordable units in the city, and since then that figure has only marginally decreased. In January 2015, City Councilor Daniel Lavelle (D-Hill District) introduced legislation to create an Affordable Housing Task Force, and the task force was created in February 2015.

Then that summer, more than 200 residents of the Penn Plaza apartment complex in East Liberty were given eviction notices, and Pittsburgh’s affordable-housing crisis took center stage. Much has happened since then, including continuing disputes around the Penn Plaza site and more legislative activity at city council.

This month, on Dec. 19, city council passed a bill that would fund its $10-million-a-year affordable-housing trust fund called the Housing Opportunity fund. The bill passed by a vote of 7-2 with councilors Natalia Rudiak (D-Carrick) and Darlene Harris (D-North Side) voting against the bill. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto has indicated support for the bill.

The fund will be filled by raising the city’s realty-transfer tax up .5 percent for 2018 and 2019, and then up to 1 percent in 2020. This means closing costs on home purchases in the city will go up slightly; those costs are typically split between the buyer and seller. The $10 million Housing Opportunity Fund will be used to provide gap funds on new affordable-housing projects, as well as help low-income home-buyers with home purchases and rehab costs.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Posted By on Tue, Nov 21, 2017 at 5:36 PM

click to enlarge STOCK IMAGE
Stock image
The Republicans in the U.S. House and Pennsylvania House appear to have a similar goal: Raise taxes on low- and middle-income individuals, so that wealthy people and corporations avoid paying more in taxes.

The U.S. House recently passed a tax-reform plan with only Republican votes, including U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus (R-Sewickley), U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Butler) and all other Republican representatives from Pennsylvania. The bill would offer a tax reprieve to low- and middle-income individuals initially, but those cuts would expire; by 2027, some low- and middle-income individuals would eventually be paying more in taxes, according to the Congressional Budget Office. The ultra-wealthy (those making $5 million and up) and corporations, however, would be paying significantly less indefinitely. Politicians like Rothfus justify this bill saying expanded economic growth from tax cuts will lead to better wages for workers.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Posted By on Thu, Nov 9, 2017 at 4:16 PM

click to enlarge Protesters gather outside of Republican U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus' office in Ross Township in July. - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
CP photo by Ryan Deto
Protesters gather outside of Republican U.S. Rep. Keith Rothfus' office in Ross Township in July.
The 2017 general elections saw some remarkable wins for local Democrats and progressives. In Allegheny County, the Pittsburgh chapter of Democratic Socialists of America saw both of its endorsed candidates, Anita Prizio for county council and Mik Pappas for magisterial judge, pull off victories. In Philadelphia, a Black Lives Matter ally, Larry Krasner, won the race for the city’s district attorney. And Tyler Titus was elected to the Erie school board, making him Pennsylvania’s first openly trans person to be elected to public office.

In statewide races, Republicans won some victories, too. For one, surprisingly, given upstart progressive wins elsewhere, Republican Sallie Mundy won a full term as state Supreme Court justice, and did so by winning in some unexpected places. For example, both Erie and Lackawanna counties sided with Mundy, despite historically leaning Democratic. And in Commonwealth Court, Republicans split the four open seats with Democrats.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, September 8, 2017

Posted By on Fri, Sep 8, 2017 at 12:26 PM

click to enlarge Downtown Pittsburgh - CP PHOTO BY JAKE MYSLIWCZYK
CP photo by Jake Mysliwczyk
Downtown Pittsburgh
With the announcement that tech giant Amazon is searching for a second headquarters, and the promise of more than 50,000 high-paying jobs, Pittsburgh started to salivate. Several media personalities, politicians and ordinary PIttsburghers took to social media and practically begged Amazon to consider the Steel City. Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto announced that his staff was working with Allegheny County’s economic-development team on an application. Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald told TribLive that pitching Amazon is “right in our sweet spot.”

But economic factors and development realities in Pittsburgh indicate the region is far from Amazon’s sweet spot. Amazon’s list of preferences is intimidating. The tech company is first looking for a 500,000-square foot existing building that is close to a population center of more than 1 million people and near major highways. This will already be hard to find in Pittsburgh, as the city’s biggest building, the U.S. Steel Tower, only currently has about 300,000 square feet available.

With Amazon’s most preferred option most likely off the list, the second option would be a 100-acre pad-ready development site. Pittsburgh is filled with brownfields, old industrial sites the require clean up, and pad-ready sites are hard to come by. Especially ones that are “close to major arterial roads to provide optimal access,” as Amazon is demanding. Some have indicated the old Civic Arena site as a possibility, but that site is only 28 acres.

Additionally, the 500,000-square-foot site would just be the first part of Amazon’s development. Eventually, the company is looking to build a headquarters similar to its 8-million-square-foot Seattle headquarters.

The larger Almono site in Hazelwood has also been floated around as an option, but this site, while already in redevelopment, comes up short in Amazon’s requirement of having “direct access to rail, train, subway/metro, bus routes.” Currently, the Almono site does not connect to light-rail or even to one of the city’s three busways. Only three buses serve part or all of Almono — the 56, 57 and 58 — and they only arrive about every 20-30 minutes; hardly a vibrant public-transit hub. Not to mention the vision of Almono site is to house multiple companies, not one large one.

Chris Briem, an economist at University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Social and Urban Research, says this is out of scope for the Pittsburgh area. “Is there is site for them?” asks Briem. “Eight million square feet, I mean, that is like three U.S. Steel Towers. … Space has always been a terrible challenge for Pittsburgh.”

Besides the lack space available, Amazon is also looking for an extensive incentive package of tax-breaks, relocation grants, fee reductions and site preparation. Pittsburgh and Allegheny County can only offer limited incentives, like Tax Increment Financing and Local Economic Revitalization Tax Act District distinction, which provide city and county tax breaks for a few years.

However, most regions can offer these, so Briem says further incentives will have to come from the state. Briem adds it will be difficult to convince the state to allocate money for incentives when it is currently struggling to pass a budget. Also, Briem points out that Pennsylvania has a history of offering large state subsidies to companies and getting burned.

Pennsylvania gave $70 million in incentives to Volkswagen to build a plant in Westmoreland County. It opened in 1978 and by 1988, it was closed. But, Pittsburgh does have advantages other places can’t offer. The region has some of the lowest housing costs in the country, and Pittsburgh is emerging as a world leader in robotics and artificial-intelligent technologies.

However, Pittsburgh probably doesn't have a large enough workforce, filled with highly-educated workers, to satisfy Amazon. The company is requesting filling an estimated 50,000 positions. Bloomberg columnist Conor Sen paints grim prospects for Pittsburgh. “Consider a place like Pittsburgh,” Sen wrote in a Sept. 7 Bloomberg article. “Its metro area is 2.35 million people, and its labor force is 1.2 million. But the size of its labor force hasn't grown in 25 years. Even with the talent [Pittsburgh’s] well-respected universities produce, [why] is Amazon, a company that thinks of growth in terms of decades, going to locate a headquarters in a place where it might have to hire over 4 percent of the metro area's labor force with uncertainty over whether that labor force will ever grow?”

And, unfortunately, the final nail in Pittsburgh’s Amazon coffin might be the Pittsburgh International Airport. The airport still lacks the international access that a hub like Atlanta, Chicago and even Philadelphia can offer. It also lacks a direct flight to Seattle, home of Amazon.

Well-known urban planning expert Richard Florida corresponded with Pittsburgh City Paper via Twitter about Pittsburgh's chances at getting Amazon. Florida, a former Carnegie Mellon University professor and Pittsburgh fanboy, indicated our airport may not be up to task.

“I adore Pittsburgh, but I put it more of a sleeper category along with, say, Nashville,” wrote Florida in a tweet to CP. “Great assets but lacking in global airport access.”

Politicians like Peduto and Fitzgerald shouldn’t be faulted for trying, as Amazon moving to Pittsburgh would be a game-changer and would potentially turn around Pittsburgh’s shrinking population problem. And Florida hinted in a tweet that Amazon should consider cities that might struggle to offer incentives like Pittsburgh or Detroit, because of the good the company could do.

“On the Amazon HQII decision: they should take the highroad, turn down any form of incentives & create a model of inclusive prosperity,” tweeted Florida on Sept. 7.

But in a world where large companies like Amazon control so much influence, Florida indicated that those companies are likely to pass over Pittsburgh for cities that makes more sense economically, and those tend to be regions that are already thriving.

“Exactly right. [Amazon] will go to established places that are already talent magnets,” tweeted Florida on Sept. 7. “The world is getting spikier.”

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, August 4, 2017

Posted By on Fri, Aug 4, 2017 at 4:05 PM

click to enlarge December 2016 groundbreaking of new loft-style condos in Bloomfield - CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO
CP photo by Ryan Deto
December 2016 groundbreaking of new loft-style condos in Bloomfield
From 2010-2015 the Pittsburgh region’s economy started to take off. Not in the same way as booming cities like Denver and San Jose, but for a Rust Belt city with decades of decline in its wake, not too shabby. According to data compiled by Apartment List, the region had a positive change in total employment of about 30,000 jobs from 2010-2015. Allegheny County led the way during this span with 18,000 jobs.

And when regions start to see some positive job growth, new housing construction tends to follow. But when new housing doesn’t keep up, problems can arise. In cities like San Jose, this is a problem because the California Bay Area city isn’t building enough houses to keep up with demand, and housing prices are skyrocketing (San Jose is seeing housing prices rise faster than any other U.S. city).

But according to data from Apartment List, the Pittsburgh region is on a good track. From 2010-2015, the Pittsburgh metro area saw 20,000 new units of housing construction. This gives the region a jobs-housing ratio of 1.5.

Tags: , , , , , ,

  • METALCON 2019

    @ David L. Lawrence Convention Center

    Thu., Oct. 17, 12-6 p.m. and Fri., Oct. 18, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.