Sunday, March 30, 2008
As many of you know, I recently left my position at Pittsburgh UNITED to become the League of Young Voters national political/field director. While I look forward to working with young activists, organizers and advocates for progressive issues all over the country, I am still fully committed to the goal of establishing Community Benefits Agreements (CBAs) here in Pittsburgh. In fact, I am convinced that CBAs will be a key tool in the transformation of Pittsburgh from a rustbelt milltown in decline, to a vibrant and diverse city that is competitive in the 21st century economy.
For far too long, development has focused solely on how to attract it. In order maximize the dollars we invest in development, we must consider issues such as development standards, social impacts and community benefits. Unfortunately, some have argued that these considerations are an impediment to much-needed economic growth. I argue that CBAs are in fact pro-development, pro-business and pro-community, through encouraging the redevelopment of urban areas and the creation of multiuse, equitable and sustainable growth areas.
The truth is, across the country development standards and community benefits have proven to be good for business. If we do not include them in the development process here, research shows that inequality is likely to grow. Regional inequity not only damages the quality of life of residents, it also hinders economic growth. CBAs ensure that development is equitable and raises the quality of life of all residents -- not just for developers. To quote a recent New York Times op-ed piece by economist and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, the best way to remedy economic downturns in weak market cities such as Pittsburgh is "to increase the wages of the bottom two-thirds of Americans."
Almost a year and a half ago, I was introduced to the concept of CBAs and have been true believer ever since. CBAs assemble powerful coalitions by building bridges between the community groups, people of faith, environmental advocates and organized labor. I am convinced that these coalitions are the foundation of a broad progressive movement that can transform our communities, cities, country and eventually the world.
I ask you join me in showing your support for the residents of the Hill District and citizens across this region who are concerned about how development is done in our region by signing this petition. Community benefits agreements are the only way to ensure that the entire region reaps the benefits of these huge investments. We can no longer trade growth and development for standards and benefits. This is not an either/or proposition; it is a both/and proposition, and the future of our region's economy is hanging in the balance.
It's been another crazy week in Diondegaland. Anyway it is time to check out this week's good, better and best...
Hillary's 3AM Call of Duty: "Because It Takes A Village...To Take A Village!"
(Bill Maher from Real Time is a fool for this one!)
A Beast: The Michael Beasley Highlight Reel. This 6'10'' freshman from the nation's capital averaged 26 points and 12 rebounds for Kansas State. This time next year he could have a multi-million dollar pro contract and a sweet sneaker deal.
Obama on the View: Must See TV!
He would not have been my pastor! Hillary in my hometown with tough words for Obama and Rev. Wright. Can you believe the newspaper she sat down with was at the forefront of the "vast right wing conspiracy" and ran this story. Funny how things change huh?
Have A Good Week...
Saturday, March 29, 2008
I've been telling anyone who will listen my boy Gavin from Cincy looks like Tyler Hansbrough's lost twin brother. Tyler Hansbrough is the star forward on the Univ. of North Carolina's men's basketball team.
Oh yeah, Gavin's not chopped liver either. He is the Ohio state director for the Center for Progressive Leadership. He was also voted person of the year by Cincinnati's City Beat in 2006.
Unfortunately, too many of you progressive political people (the folks I run in circles with) don't know a damn thing about basketball. So when I mention this odd irony all I get is blank looks.
Anyway Gavin is on the left, Tyler is on the right.
For those who don't know, here is video of Hansbrough dunking on a 7'7'' dude.
“I believe in my heart that there is one person who’s uniquely qualified to lead us in that new direction and that is Barack Obama.”
Yesterday, US Senator Bob Casey endorsed Barack Obama for President in my hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I'm thinking it is an interesting move for the only man or woman in PA history to get 3.3 million votes in a statewide election (Nov. '04) . No man or woman running for any office (President, Governor, etc.) in the state of PA has ever got that many votes before or since. Many thought Bobby, as we call him here in PA, would "fall back" and wait until the primary played out to weigh in.
Instead, he took a major swipe at Governor Ed Rendell, Philly Mayor Mike Nutter, Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato, Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and other leading PA democrats who have rallied around Hillary Clinton's campaign. I think the only way he could of made this move is if he thinks it is over. I mean it's getting pretty personal here in PA, people are getting real "grimy", as we say on the Northside of town. More importantly, this has to be the biggest endorsement in the state. Even though Ed Rendell got the most juice in PA, most would agree that Casey still is the best political "brand name". Bob Casey is integrity, credibility and humility personified, I can see the commercials and mailers now, I'm Bob Casey and I'm asking you to vote for Barack Obama. A Rendell endorsement is interpreted as political; A Casey endorsement is interpreted as principled. Usually endorsements don't mean much, this could be an exception.
By the way, here's an interesting piece on Pittsburgh featuring some of my good friends.
Friday, March 28, 2008
Today, Senator Barack Obama made his first major appearance in the Steel City as a presidential candidate. Over 2,500 Obama-starved Western Pennsylvanians packed the historic Soldiers and Sailors Hall on the campus of Pitt to hear Senator Obama's message of hope, unity and change.
In an interesting twist, Senator (and Super Delegate) Bob Casey who is the favorite son of Pennsylvania's first political family, was on hand to introduce and endorse Obama's candidacy for President. Another super delegate of note, Congressman Jason Altmire was in the house as well. I've heard that Hillary's negatives are above 50% in his suburban Pittsburgh district. So does that mean we should expect an Altmire endorsement soon?
Obama spoke for nearly an hour bringing the crowd to its' feet about 20 times, in an atmosphere more fitting of a Kanye West concert. A who's who of Western Pennsylvania was in house including Bill Goodrich, Bev Smith, City Council President Doug Shields, Greg Spencer, Kevin Joyce, City Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess and City Controller Michael Lamb to name a few. I was really impressed by the diversity and enthusiasm of the crowd, I've been to many political rallies and never seen so many "regular people" at a political event before.
It's funny, I've been following this campaign for over a year and thought I knew what Obama-mania was all about. I thought I knew all about it, I must say I didn't then but I do now. It was part rock concert, part mega church service, part sporting event and part self-help seminar. As someone who has spent the better part of this decade getting people involved in the political process, I was excited. To call it electric would be an understatement, it was much more than that. My question is, can that energy sustain itself over time? And I worry about the danger of one person being so associated with a movement. What happens to the movement if there is no Obama presidency?
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
The 2008-2009 Pittsburgh City Council is officially on fire! Allegations of threats from the Mayor, personal attacks on each other and unprecedented attempts to reopen the budget, have turned this once polite body into a Wu-Tang Clan video from the early 90's.
Excerpts from today's Post-Gazette:
A divided Pittsburgh City Council set its wallet on fire yesterday, and some members accused Mayor Luke Ravenstahl of supplying the match. By day's end, the flames of council-mayor discord threatened to spread throughout city government.
Councilman Bruce Kraus said Mr. Ravenstahl was behind the escalation in tensions, pointing to a "threat" he said occurred last week at a fund-raiser.
"[The mayor's] exact words were, 'We're coming after you. Try working on $60-plus-thousand dollars a year in your council salary budgets,'" Mr. Kraus said. "And I said, 'If you feel that best serves the interests of the city of Pittsburgh, to cripple City Council, have at it.'"
The blowup followed six weeks of spats over the permitting of billboards, the Urban Redevelopment Authority's budgeting practices and the 58 employees who can take home city cars. Council has sought codified practices, while the administration has argued for flexibility.
The take-home-car reduction passed 5-3, with Jim Motznik, Darlene Harris and Tonya Payne voting no. Dan Deasy abstained. Mr. Ravenstahl has 10 days to let it become law or veto it, and it takes six votes to override a veto. The mayor said he has made no decision.
Mr. Motznik, a mayoral ally, then proposed legislation to strip $150,000 from what he called council "slush funds" and steer it to public safety uses, plus cut council staff spending from $82,872 per district office to $65,000, with those savings going to police. "If we're going to live up to what [Act] 47 says, by the book, here's a good opportunity to do so," Mr. Motznik said. Most members spread their staff allocation among three or four aides. The allocation has dropped from $99,445 in 2004 but has never reached the $65,000 in the plan.
"It seems that my actions to take away the perks of the highest-paid people in the administration have now caused us to receive a firestorm of retaliation," said Mr. Burgess. "Mr. Motznik has become an instrument of brutality to this council and to this city." "It's not an attempt to punish anyone," Mr. Motznik countered. "Reality is that if you're going to live by the sword, you're probably going to have to deal with both sides of the sword."
"I don't think this solves any problem," Ms. Harris said during the debate on mileage reimbursement. "I think it's ridiculous. ... All this is is child's play, and I wish somehow, some way, we could get back to the business of this city."
Things are starting to get interesting on the 5th Floor...
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Sometimes the best leaders are right under our noses. Biko has been with the League since 2003. He came up through the ranks from Local Organizer to State Director to National Organizing Director and member of our executive team. Everyone is thrilled. We just wrapped up the best staff retreat we have had in our five years as an organization, and we were literally celebrating in the middle of it.
Biko is an incredible leader. He intimately understands every aspect of the League's work -- from the streets to the board rooms. He's a manager and a team builder; a moral leader who leads by example; he has a rare ability to build trust across divides. And he understands the numbers-driven science of organizing. In short, he's the whole package. It's already clear to me that Biko is going to be an amazing Executive Director. He's a natural. - Billy "Upski" Wimsatt
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Last Night, I had a great time celebrating my birthday. Friends near and far came out to show and spread love, I was deeply humbled and have much appreciation for all of you. Special shout of thanks goes out to all the well wishers who called me, sent text messages, emails, etc. I also have to say thanks to those who couldn't make it, I'm sure we'll cross paths somewhere out on the town sooner or later!
I think I speak for everyone when I say it was a blast! A diverse, dynamic group of people descended on the Young Bros. Bar in the Brightwood section of the city's Northside. In the house were my brother and his girlfriend Tiff, Dan Lavelle and his fiance' Rachel Riley (congrats), Janis Williams, Shea McKinney, author Steve J, Jen England, Big D, Taili Thompson, Rachel Canning, Tony Lodico, Gwen Moorer, Nathaniel Doyno, State Representative Chelsa Wagner, Bomani Howze, Angel Gober, Evans Moore, my lil' cousin Meka Reed, Rev. Eugene Blackwell, Barney Oursler, Rick Adams, Jeff Dzamko, State Representative Jake Wheatley and Yarone Zober. Thanks Jamie opening up your fine establishment!
Afterwards, many of us headed down to Charismatic Marketing's "Black Party" at Olive or Twist and DJ Nate the Phat did it again! Good people, good music and good venue, two thumbs up.
My Top 3 videos for the week:
America meet the next Miss Knowles: Casey Knowles, the young girl from Hillary Clinton's "3 a.m. Ad", endorses Obama in new commercial.
Cop Essay: An interesting foray into police/community relations.
The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers upset the Drake Bulldogs on this buzzer-beater shot in overtime in the first round of the 2008 NCAA Tournament.
The Tuby Awards: Youtube announced the winners of the 2007 "Tubys".
See a listing of the winners of the second annual You Tube Awards.
Next Week: A deeper analysis of the presidential election in Pennsylvania and more...
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Yup March 22nd has rolled around once again. I can't believe another year has went by. Anyways, I'm still doing it big! This year we're bringing it back around the way, Northside that is.
So tonight, catch me from 6pm to 10pm @ the Young Bros. Bar, 1441 Woods Run Ave. (corner of Woods Run & McClure Aves., Woods Run section of the Northside) Immediately afterwards we're off to Olive or Twist (Downtown Pittsburgh) for Nate the Phat Barber's Black Party!
Just got back from DC at the Take Back America Confab, it was real cool. I did several interviews and apparently a lot of my friends and family listen to the shows I was on. Have a listen to my appearance on Talk Radio News
So as I get ready for extended hours of partying, I'll leave you with something semi-reflective/contemplative/Northside cocky, but no matter what I'll never forget y'all!
Friday, March 21, 2008
Chris Wallace sticks up for Senator Obama too.
What more can you say?
From the Pew Research Center:
"Fox's vitality comes as a consequence of another significant change in the media landscape. Political polarization is increasingly reflected in the public's news viewing habits. Since 2000, the Fox News Channel's gains have been greatest among political conservatives and Republicans. More than half of regular Fox viewers describe themselves as politically conservative (52%), up from 40% four years ago. At the same time, CNN, Fox's principal rival, has a more Democrat-leaning audience than in the past."
Right now former Congressman, former Secretary of Energy and current Governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson is endorsing Senator Barack Obama for President. Governor Richardson, a long time Clintonista throws a huge curve ball in the game. This is the capper on a week that may have truly saved his candidacy, a week that started off worse than any Obama supporters could have imagined. First the speech of the century now Richardson's endorsement. The question people are asking is: Is this a preview of the democratic ticket in the fall?
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
No matter how you feel about the campaign, understand that today history was made...
Monday, March 17, 2008
My good friend and colleague Biko Baker once said, "Van Jones is the only person I've ever who truly made the green movement relevant to people in the 'hood." Last week he was in Pittsburgh dropping math and science at the Good Jobs Green Jobs Conference. My friend Nate Doyno said, "His head was about to explode", after building with Van on the movement to create 5 million green jobs for poor people and people of color. In about a 1/2 hour I will go hear him speak for the first time at Take Back America's Plenary Session. I will let you know how it goes...
In the meantime read up on this Super Jedi dude from the Bay Area!
"Dr. King didn't get famous giving a speech that said,"I have a complaint." It's time for us to start dreaming again and invite the country to dream with us. We don't have any "throw away" species, nations, or children. We must birth a global green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty."
Born in rural Tennessee, Jones graduated in 1990 from the University of Tennessee and, in 1993, from Yale Law School. At the age of 27, Jones convinced the California State Bar Association to allow him to begin a program that would provide lawyer referral services for police abuse victims. Jones, a civil-rights lawyer, is founder and executive director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, a nonprofit agency for justice, opportunities, and peace in urban America. Located in Oakland, California, the Center focuses on campaigning to reform California’s abusive and costly youth prison system, creating opportunities in the "green" economy for poor communities and communities of color, supporting victims and survivors of police abuse and their families, and uplifting young people and addressing Bay Area violence with a mix of activism and street culture.
Jones has lead many campaigns including Books Not Bars, an advocacy program for parents/grandparents of incarcerated youth in the United States. It has been credited with a 30% drop in the total number of youth incarcerated in California. Additionally Jones sits on numerous governing boards, and following Hurricane Katrina co-founded the largest online activist community addressing Black issues (ColorOfChange.org).
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Hey y'all this past week has been crazy as hell. I just started a new job last week and headed off for an orientation retreat. This week I will be at the Take Back America Conference in Washington, DC. I will be blogging live from the conference with highlights, insights and tidbits.
Ok, so while I was gone it appears that the flames have spread to epic proportions. Here's just a few examples:
- Eliot Spitzer: The Empire State's moral crusader got caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Looks like a once rising star in the Democratic Party is headed for eternal infamy. I mean how do you explain to your wife getting a hooker the night before Valentine's Day?
- Geraldine Ferraro: An case study is crazy talk. I guess I missed her memo that Black Men moved up to the top of "the privilege totem pole". The sad part is I was always down with "Gerrie", ever since she ran for VP in 2004. The Democratic Party is looking like less and less of "shoe in" for 2008. Note to HRC: A scorched earth strategy may not be the best move, when you need 90% of the Black Vote to win.
- Rev. Jeremiah Wright: I guess he didn't get Obama's memo to keep a low profile until the day after the first Tuesday in November. I wonder if he thought he was being helpful to the cause, when he said Hillary has never been called a "N-Word". Maybe it is just me but I think he was just a little off message.
On an even better note, it's about to be March Madness Time!
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Friday, March 7, 2008
“Nowhere in this country, from sea to sea, does nature comfort us with such assurance of plenty, such rich and tranquil beauty as in those unsung, unpainted hills of Pennsylvania.” Rebecca Harding Davis
For the next six weeks the political universe will focus on my home state and i'm giddy. I've been taking calls and emails from people all over the country about my thoughts, expectations and predictions. My local reporter friends now sit on conference calls with Andrea Mitchell; How cool is that? And in some strange twist of fate, my buddy Pat Clark has resurrected the THIRD ROUND. Be afraid, be very afraid. Maybe it has something to do with the writer's strike, the first show should air this coming Monday. No matter what PA is in play, and that is more than just a catchy rhyme, it is the truth.
Breaking news: Bill Clinton to meet with Philadelphia Democratic Committee. As a member of Pittsburgh's Democratic Committee, we better get some love too! Thanks Benny G!
Ok, on to the show...
As I was driving this morning I asked myself if I were the candidates what would be my theme song right now. So I wrote a blog about wanna read it here it go:
Hillary: The Catwoman of national politics, has proven to have nine lives and a mean fight game. All she needs is that bad-ass leather suit and she's set. If I were her, I'd be bumpin Lil' Kim's "Lighter's Up" in my ride. I know it aint quite PC, but HRC is gangsta, has had her run ins with John Q. Law and her significant other is one of the greatest to ever do it.
Barack: After a streak that rivaled Joe Dimaggio in 1941, the Hope Express blew a tire on the way to the nomination. If I was Mr. Obama, i'd juice up my I-Pod and put on Grateful Dead's "Touch of Grey", an appropriate jam for the moment. Nothing like a little Jerry to get a good progressive off the ropes and back into the middle of the ring. Just stay away from the mind altering stuff that is usually associated with the Grateful Dead, unless the DNC decides to seat Florida and Michigan.
Have a good weekend, if you are not doing anything Friday Night head over to the Shadow Lounge and check out this cool band from Cleveland (did I say that?) Mifune.
Wednesday, March 5, 2008
Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Sunday, March 2, 2008
It was a busy week, I started out in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and ended up in Columbus, Ohio. Don't worry readers I'm not falling off, just doing God's Work. So now we're gonna try Sunday's Good, Better & Best Volume #2.
Paul Ellis' letter to the Post-Gazette: He is a Pittsburgh-based attorney and the nephew of the late, great August Wilson, America's answer to William Shakespeare. This week he wrote a letter debunking the myths associated with the Hill District's struggle to secure a Community Benefits Agreement with the Pittsburgh Penguins ownership/developers of the new Hockey Arena.
Jack Nicholson endorses Hillary: One of America's iconic film stars drops a banging-ass video featuring clips from his movies mashed up into a quasi campaign commercial for Senator Clinton.
Is Will.I.Am Barack Obama's ghost media consultant? The Black Eye Pea's front man releases the follow up to "Yes We Can", in the form of "We are the Ones", a quote Obama has been using lately based on a Hopi Indian Prophecy. *Note: Milwaukee's Campaign Against Violence popularized the term in late 2004.
Kanye Handimation? I don't even have words for this, check it out.
Tit for Tat: Who do you want answering the phone in the White House at 3am?
50 Cent disses Fat Joe: I don't know about that one "Fi-tee", Fat Joe ain't no studio gangsta.
Michigan coach ON FIRE: Michigan Women's B-Ball Coach Kevin Borseth loses it during post-game press conference.
Music Video of the week: Knarls Barley's "Run"
RIP Myron Cope: NUFF SAID
Good Night, Good Luck and Have a Good Week!