Category Archives: Pittsburgh
Things that are “uniquely Yinz”
I blog about it every year at this time. It’s always the last weekend in April. But it is truly a phenomenon in our Pittsburgh neighborhood of Lawrenceville.
It was birthed 16 years ago when a handful of local residents and artists dreamed up an event that would show off urban, post-industrial community and prove that you could come here at night and not only live to tell the tale, but you’d also see some pretty cool art. They only had three rules… no fees (we ain’t in this to make money)… no juries (nobody judging the art)… and no censorship (anything goes). Anyone could submit one (and only one) piece of art. Those hardy urban pioneers half expected to just sit around by themselves drinking beer all night, but they had one hundred artists participate and several hundred people attend.
This weekend is Art All Night’s sweet sixteen party, which will be held at the same warehouse as last year, under the 40th Street bridge. More than 1,200 artists will submit and more than 12,000 people will be wandering around our neighborhood, looking for a place to park.
I love this event because it’s all volunteer. I love it because it is militantly non-commercial. I love it because of the way it juxtaposes artwork against a gritty urban backdrop. I love that the place will never be empty from Saturday afternoon to Sunday afternoon. (There are always people up for an art show at 4:30 a.m. Amazing!) And I love, love, love the people watching. If past years are any indication, there will be hipsters, yuppies, punks, and blue hairs. There will be pirates (arg!), transvestites, Latex man (don’t ask), and lots of buskers. You will see people that make you wonder, What do these people do with the rest of their time, because I never see them anywhere by here!?
Mrs. Bagger has been on the planning committee for several years now. It’s right in her wheelhouse. She loves it. Once again this year, we will be heading up the graveyard shift: midnight to 8 a.m. She has garnered quite a reputation for policing the shady elements that you get during those hours. She has fearlessly confronted drunk/high hippies and beer guzzling punk bands. (No outside alcohol is allowed in, so things don’t get out of control.) Two years ago, she rousted a group of kids who crashed in the middle of the event in their sleeping bags. Then, she protected them when a known pedophile showed up and began to bother the young lads. After escorting the creep out, the young waifs proclaimed her “Tiger Momma,” and the phrase has stuck. In many cases, if a guy tried to confront these situations, the offending parties would power up and the situation could get ugly. But, as an attractive but forceful woman in her fifties, Mrs. Bagger can confront people in a way that makes them back down and comply. It must be the former high school Spanish teacher in her. It’s pretty amazing. We men just stand behind her to let people know that we’ve got her back. And it works.
So, if you’re in Pittsburgh this weekend, you really need to stop by at some point. Bring the kids in the first few hours, when there will be lots of children’s art activities. Come late night to see Mrs. Bagger in all of her authoritative glory. (Just don’t sneak in beer, because she will take you down!) Or submit some art yourself — and have your kids submit art, for there is no age limit. My tip, come on Sunday morning when things are quiet — and there is plenty of parking — and take a leisurely stroll around, soaking up all of the inspiring and thoughtful art. See if it doesn’t inspire the artist in you.
It’s free. It’s unique. It’s all Pittsburgh. Here’s the Web site if you have any questions: www.artallnight.org.
Don’t know about you, but I’m enjoying a nice, boring week. No news alerts. Nothing blowing up. No constant buzzing of my phone with urgent headline updates. It’s only Wednesday. I know. There I go counting unhatched chickens.
Plus, it’s Coffee Week. Yeah, who cares? I know. But I’m a big fan of the beanie beverage. And because the best thing I learned in college was to drink coffee black (cheap and nasty Folger’s crystals), I don’t have to worry about fat content or empty calories in my vice of choice. Just the bad breath that comes with it.
The only place I’ve heard about Coffee Week is on NPR. Big surprise, huh? But here is what I’ve learned about my best friend.
- Coffee comes from Ethiopia, where it grows wild. But it wasn’t until the 1400s that some drowsy Ethiopian figured out that you could roast the seeds.
- By the 1500s, coffee consumption had spread across the Arab world. This affected society because coffeehouses became gathering spots where ideas where hatched and exchanged.
- By the 1600s, coffee was taking Europe by storm. Before this, alcohol was the drink of choice. People even enjoyed a beer soup for breakfast. Coffee is credited with helping all of Europe to sober up, spurring both business and art. Lloyd’s of London was an idea that came out of Lloyd’s coffee shop. Literature, newspapers and even the works of great composers like Bach and Beethoven were also spawned in coffeehouses.
- Coffee came with explorers to the New World. One tree was delivered to Martinique. It is said that all coffee plants in the Western Hemisphere come from this single plant.
- After the Boston Tea Party in 1773, true patriots switched from British tea to South American coffee. John Adams wrote that he would have to learn to embrace coffee instead of tea, because drinking tea had become unpatriotic. Indeed, both the French and American Revolutions were birthed out of coffee houses.
Of course, coffee has its dark side. (yuk, yuk, yuk)
- It has also had a bad rap. In 1511, the governor of Mecca banned coffee because his medical advisers warned it was bad for people’s health. In 1674, women in London were convinced that coffee made their husbands impotent.
- It has had legitimate PR problems, too. It has been harvested by slave labor, contributed to deforestation, and depleted needed nutrients from soil.
But perhaps no other industry has worked so hard to clean itself up. Today, many in the coffee industry are striving to ensure that their product is produced equitably for both the growers and the environment. It’s far from perfect and sometimes confusing. (After all, who can tell the difference between Fair Trade, Rain Forest Alliance Certified, Organic, C.A.F.E., and Smithsonian Bird Friendly?) But they’re working at it.
The only sad news I have to report is the imminent demise of my coffee vendor of choice: Caribou. I prefer Caribou’s nutty flavor to the more bitter tasting Starbucks. The staff at Caribou learned my drink and my name quickly. I also prefer the atmosphere in the Caribou shops, with their fireplaces, big comfy chairs, and large wooden table work spaces that invite you to sit down with a good book and stay for while. Starbucks shops seem to say, “we have uncomfortable furniture, so get your coffee and please leave.”
But Caribou will be folding up shop in most of the nation, to focus on only Minnesota, Colorado, and the Dakotas. I asked my Caribou coffee guy, Bob, about the rumor and he said it was no rumor. It’s happening. All Caribou stores located where there aren’t actual caribou will be closing by the end of this year. Many will become Peet’s Coffee & Tea, of which I am unfamiliar.
There are some good local shops, of course. I’ve never been a fan of the Cafe Mocha chain’s coffee, but they do have an outstanding iced tea. (Caribou’s iced tea tastes like garbage water.) Coffee Tree is also good, but there is not one nearby. In Lawrenceville, Espresso a Mano is outstanding, but it is also very popular. Thus, it’s generally hard to find an empty seat at one of their few tables.
So, great, first I lose Roger Ebert, my go-to movie reviewer, and now, my caffeine pusher of preference is going away.
Change. It’s the only constant. But Happy Coffee Week.
This week certainly is one we’d all like to forget, if only we didn’t have such horrendous and heartbreaking images seared into our brains. And as I type, it doesn’t seem to be anywhere near over. I would really like it if we could please have just a couple of days without anything blowing up or anyone losing life or limb just because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Is that too much to ask?
And to top it all off, it seems that the guy who sent the ricin letters to Washington works, or worked, as an Elvis impersonator. Really? If that isn’t the final straw. Okay, look, as one who may or may not have once donned the sequined jumpsuit myself from time to time, I am asking the public to refrain from lumping all Elvis impersonators into one basket. I’d hate to see vigilante justice rear its ugly head.
We They are a peace-loving people who only desire to spread the joy of the King.
So, in hopes of unplugging from the unpleasant realities that pervade the hourly newscast these days, I’m going to a baseball game tonight. Who wins and who loses really doesn’t seem to matter much at this point. Just to sit and watch a game with the beautiful tableau of the nighttime Pittsburgh skyline before me will be a treat.
On Sunday… well, why don’t we just take things one day at a time for now.
It may seem hard to get back to enjoying life when there are so many people grieving, recovering, and hiding in Boston, searching for the dead and missing in Texas, mopping up from floods in the Midwest, intercepting poisoned letters in D.C., and ignoring the will of the people in Congress, but at some point, we owe it to them to keep going tomorrow.
My suggestion: why not put The Avett Brothers’ “The Salvation Song” on the ol’ Spotify:
We came for salvation
We came for family
We came for all that’s good that’s how we’ll walk away
We came to break the bad
We came to cheer the sad
We came to leave behind the world a better way
Here’s to a better one next week. It really can only go up from here, right?
I’ve recently become cognizant of the fact that we are about 6 weeks away from the May 21 Pittsburgh mayoral primary (let’s face it, this is the election), and I have no idea what any of the candidates stand for, and therefore, I have no idea who I’m supporting. All I know is that every day, another candidate seems to be heading for the hills.
Most famously, it was current mayor Lukey “Snoop Lion” Ravenstahl who bowed out with the Feds knocking on doors throughout his administration. Then, it was State Senator Jim Ferlo who read the unfavorable tea leaves. Next, City Council President Darlene Harris stuck her toe in the water and thought better of it. Last week, city comptroller Michael Lamb backed out, calling the race “blurry and difficult.”
Like a late-season episode of Survivor or American Idol, that leaves us with four. And speaking of “blurry and difficult,” mayoral candidate and current school bus monitor (Really? School bus monitor?) A. J. Richardson is AWOL at two speeches this morning due to the fact that he is currently in the Allegheny County Jail after being found unresponsive and smelling of alcohol behind the wheel of his minivan on West End Circle at 3 o’clock this morning. If that’s not a cry for help (as in “Help! I don’t want to be mayor! I just monitor school buses, for cryin’ out loud!”), I don’t know what is. Come on, how else does a candidate for mayor end up drunk and asleep behind the wheel at 3 a.m.? That does not happen! And even without the DUI, I’m just not sure the yinzer voting block is ready for a mayor with face tattoos. I’m just sayin’.
And then there were three. (But really, just two.)
First is State Representative Jake Wheatley, who is barely registering in the three polls that have been conducted (4 percent).
Jack Wagner is right out of central casting if you were filming a movie that needed a mayor in it. He is the former State Auditor General, and he also served in the state senate and the Pittsburgh City Council. He ran for mayor in back in 1993 and was trounced (72-28) by Tom Murphy. Although he trails in the latest poll, he has picked up the endorsements of most of the labor unions, including the police and fire fighters. He also was endorsed by Michael Lamb when he dropped out of the race. Wagner strikes me as Mr. Fiscal Discipline. If Wagner wins, it will be because Pittsburghers are tired of the spoiled child in office and desperately want Dad to take over and get our financial house in order with a bit of austerity.
Pittsburgh City Councilman Bill Peduto strikes me as the visionary in the race. He wants to invest in the improvement of the city’s infrastructure and in a better public transit system. He wants to improve the efficiency of the city through better technology in order to save money.
Some guy named Josh Wander will run in November as a Republican. And I think that’s just adorable.
That’s it. That is the sum total of my knowledge on the race for mayor, and I’m not even sure if that is entirely accurate. In the latest polling (March 14-18), Peduto led the race with 30 percent to Wagner’s 21 percent. What’s unclear is whether Lamb’s 21 percent support will all go to Wagner along with Lamb’s endorsement. I imagine a good percentage will, which probably makes Wagner the new frontrunner. But then there are the 28 percent who, like me, are still undecided.
Thus, Pittsburgh, we “undecideds” — the proud 28 percent — have some homework to do in the next 6 weeks. Spring has arrived and it is time to start paying attention. Ultimately, we will decide this thing. And with Lukey-Luke out of the race, all bets (and patronage support) are off. A part of me strongly believes that either Peduto or Wagner would be a vast improvement over the administration we’ve been subjected to for the past seven years. But I’d still like make an educated selection on May 21. Something more than “Boy, I sure do like the artwork on those Peduto yard signs!”
So sue me, I do.
Today is like a national holiday for me. Opening Day. I love me some baseball. I don’t care if a Nor’easter is blowing flurries across the Allegheny River. Spring training is over and every team is tied for first place today. (Well, except for the Rangers, who lost last night.)
Thus, today is time for my annual Pirates prediction and preview. I wish I could say that I was as optimistic as the past two seasons, but the Bataan Death March (aka August and September) of the past two seasons, along with the pay-no-mind way the Pirates front office has been treating me, has left me a bit scarred and bitter. Wow. I feel like a real Pittsburgh Pirates fan now.
We started going to quite a few Pirates games in 2009. We were there when they sold off Sanchez and Bay and most of the team. We were there the night after Nyjer Morgan was traded to the Nationals for Joel Hanrahan and they decided to bring up a young Andrew McCutchen from the minors. We were there on nights when there were so few people in the park that the players could actually hear everything you yelled at them. The following winter, the Pirates noticed how many games I had attended. So, one snowy December evening, they invited us to come down for a tour of PNC Park. We saw everything but the locker room itself. (Only full season ticket holders get to see that.) We stood in the dugout, which was filled with about a foot of snow. They wooed us and we responded by purchasing a 10-game package on the spot. Not a lot of games, but it boils down to an average of a game every two weeks, and that’s about as much as we want to go.
In 2010, we watched the Pirates develop their kids like Cutch, Alvarez, and Walker. Then, in 2011 and 2012, we suffered through two Jekyll and Hyde seasons. In 2011, the Pirates were 54-52 going into August, before going 18-38 the rest of the way. Last year, they were an incredible 59-44 going into August, then went 20-39 in August and September. Each season had a disaster month. In 2011, it was an 8-22 August. Last year, it was a 7-21 September. Both years, a potential playoff team in July completely crapped the bed by September.
The fast starts of the past two seasons stirred enough interest that the Pirates no longer really need us 10-game package customers. The first year, we received a free set of club section seats with our tickets. Last year, we received opening day tickets. I assumed that would happen again this year. But when I received my tickets in March, our first game was April 19. By that time, opening day was already sold out. When nobody was going to games, the Pirates were attentive and caring. Now, they throw our lousy tickets at us and tell us to shut up. Look, I get it. They want us to upgrade to a 20-game package or half-season. It’s not personal; it’s just business. We just can’t go to that many games. We’re happy going twice a month. But now the team treats us like we’re just ordering water in a restaurant. They don’t write… they don’t call. The bloom is off the rose.
Well, that goes both ways. My expectations for the coming season have been lowered. While .500 is a possibility this season, I’m just not convinced that this team is going to be better than last year. But even that is hard to judge because I’m not sure which team to compare this year’s squad to… the April-July juggernaut, or the Keystone Cops of August and September? Part of me is just hoping that the by-polar team of the past two seasons is gone. If so, I’d say that they won’t be quite as good as the early season Pirates, but not a bad as the late season disaster. Last year, they finished 79-83. This year, I’m predicting 76-86. Why?
I’m not convinced that there’s enough talent around McCutchen. Will Walker and Jones improve? Will Alvarez, Snider, Barmes, and Sanchez hit more than .240? Will Starling Marte increase in average and power? All of that will need to happen. Sure, we’ve upgraded at catcher, but that’s not hard to do considering that Rod Barajas is not even on a roster today.
Pitching is a huge question mark. A. J. Burnett is now 36. The odds are high that his numbers will begin to slip each year at this stage of his career. Some guy named Jonathan Sanchez is our #4 starter, and his ERA last year was over 8.00. That’s 8 runs every 9 innings! Million-dollar babies Cole and Taillon may be an improvement, but I think the Pirates are going to be very cautious with them. We may see them for parts of this year, but that’s about it. And although the bullpen is pretty solid overall, it seems overly optimistic to assume that Grilli will be as effective a closer as Hanrahan was, right out of the gate.
I’m not hoping for bad things, I’m just being realistic. It would be just like the baseball gods for this to be the year the Buccos turn it around, finish above .500, and make the playoffs. I’m just not betting the house on it. And here’s the thing: even if they do come out of the gate like world beaters, it’s going to be hard to get excited about this team until they prove they can win once the “back to school” sales begin. Thus, it really doesn’t matter how they do during the first four months of the season because we don’t know if we can trust it.
We won’t have to wait long to find out if the Pirates have a hot start in them once again. They will face a brutal first month of the season, with series against NL teams like the Dodgers, Reds, Cardinals, Braves, Phillies, and Brewers. I wonder how this city will react if the Pirates’ first month looks more like August or September of the past two seasons. Well, if that does happen, maybe the Pirates’ sales staff will start thinking I’m pretty again. A girl can dream…
Either way, I’m excited that it’s Opening Day. A bad day of baseball is still better than a good day at work.
We’ve taken our carpetbags out of town this weekend. Yes, the Carpetbaggers are in the Velley of the Sun, Phoenix… well, Scottsdale, officially. Just a long weekend, but short enough to let the 3-hour time change really mess with us.
Today was Spring Training baseball. Not ever sure who played. I think it was the Diamondbacks and Athletics. But does it really matter? Plus, it ended in a tie. I’d kiss my sister, if I had one. The ninth inning closed out with the score 2-2 and both teams just said, “Yeah, we’re good. See ya, next time.”
Which begs the question: If a Spring Training baseball game ends in a tie and you are there to see it, did anything just happen? I’m pretty sure the answer is no. But it was great to sit out in 88 degree heat and watch baseball. Even meaningless baseball.
Sunsets are probably our favorite part of going to Arizona. Mrs. Carpetbagger would add sunrises, but homey don’t get up at 5:30 when he’s on vacation. Tonight’s was just another spectacular show on the Salt River Indian Rervation. If you don’t tell we tresspassed, I won’t tell.
All the while, we are wanding around the desert taking pictures of anything not moving like a couple of tourists.
But then, Jean’s new camera/phone takes way better photos than anything I have. And she knows it. And she’s rubbing it in. Here’s one of her shots.
Damn, that’s good.
Until, darkness took over… along with the coyotes and javalinas. And I had time for this last one.
Of course, it’s not a competition. (But if it had been, I would have won.) Okay, maybe not.
Goodnight all. I’m bushed. It’s like 1 AM Pittsburgh time.
This is Peggy Noonan. She is a conservative columnist with the Wall Street Journal. She is probably best known as one of Ronald Reagan’s chief speech writers. She wrote some of his best stuff. Her speech following the Challenger disaster made artful use of a poem by John Magee, which said that they “slipped the surly bonds of earth… and touched the face of God.” That speech is considered to be one of the top ten political speeches in U.S. history.
Later, she worked for George H. W. Bush, for whom she coined the phrases “a kinder, gentler nation” and “a thousand points of light.” Dana Carvey should be endorsing his SNL royalty checks over to her. But then she also wrote a speech for Bush with the memorable phrase “read my lips: no new taxes,” a moment that is credited for him becoming a one-term president. Today, besides her WSJ column, she mainly just appears on cable news programs to spout conservative attacks on Obama.
Well, Internet, last week, Ms. Noonan was in Pittsburgh for some reason, and, according to her column, she wasn’t impressed. Granted, it doesn’t seem as though she ever ventured beyond the airport hotel, but that was enough for Peggy to conclude that the Obama administration has made Pittsburgh sad.
I’m in Pittsburgh, making my way to the airport hotel. The people movers are broken and we pull our bags along the dingy carpet. There’s an increasing sense in America now that the facades are intact but the machinery inside is broken.
Now, apparently, it is Obama’s fault that the Pittsburgh Airport carpets are dingy. Can he get on that? Oh, and Lord Almighty, a people-mover was not working, meaning that Peggy Noonan had to walk her fat arse all the way to baggage claim with the great unwashed.
(**Sidebar: Peggy Noonan is not “fat.” But come on, about half of those things seem to be in operation at every airport in America, not to mention the finest Las Vegas hotel/casinos. Deal with it. Grab your roller and hoof it, like we all used to do during the Reagan years!**)
And besides, has she ever been to JFK Airport in her fair city? I have. That worn-out Petri dish of filth makes the Pittsburgh Airport look like the freakin’ Taj Mahal.
When she finally arrived at the Hyatt Regency, she seemed put out that there was…
…no information desk, no doorman, no bellman or concierge, just two harried-looking workers at a front desk on the second level.
Now, admittedly, I’m just a carpetbagger in this fair city. I’m wasn’t here for the glory days of the Reagan administration when the Pittsburgh airport hotel was bustling with eager young bellmen in their crisp uniforms, a helpful concierge who could get you into any club in the greater Moon area, or the regal doorman who stood dutifully between the airport and the hotel, ready with white-gloved hands to save you from having to sully your hands on the brass handled doors.
Ah, once you hit the breathtaking lobby, your feet would never hit the floor as they gently swept you to your room while singing several choruses of “Be Our Guest.” Or, there were the days when Andy Warhol and Andrew Carnegie could both be spotted in the hotel lobby, drinking cognac and smoking fine cigars with the fashionable crowd as they all waited for their American Eagle flight to Louisville. Ah, the salad days of Pittsburgh in the mind of an elite conservative.
How far Obama has let us fall. Dingy airport carpets. Broken moving sidewalks. No doorman or bellmen. For God’s sake, no concierge! Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Obama’s America.
But Peggy’s long, harried nightmare was nowhere near over.
The man who checked me in put his phones on hold when I asked for someone to accompany me upstairs. As we walked to the room I felt I should explain. I told him a trial attorney had told me a while back that there are more lawsuits involving hotels than is generally known, and more crime, so always try to have someone with you when you first go to your room. I thought the hotel clerk would pooh-pooh this. Instead he said, “That’s why we just put up mirrors at each end of the hall, so you can see if someone’s coming.”
A national treasure like Peggy Noonan has needs! There has to be 24/7 security because of all the, you know, crime happening at the airport Hyatt Regency. The roving gangs of Montour thugs have forced the hotel to put up crime mirrors, for God’s sake. Not to make the place look bigger. Not to reflect light down the hallways. Not to provide business travelers with a quick glance to make sure they are looking their best. No, it’s because of the stalking hoards of Hyatt Regency muggers, out to get Peggy Noonan.
What that hotel looked like is America without its muscle, its efficiency, its old confidence.
Well, I’d say that if our hotels need crime mirrors, we’re obviously not lacking for muscle. But I’m not sure that airport hotels have ever been America’s model of efficiency and confidence. I always thought them to be a place for weary business layovers, Amway conventions, drunken flight crew affairs, and readily available prostitution. Peggy remembers them as the Great Gatsby meets Monte Carlo. Tomato, tomahto.
She claims that Obama is the reason that the Pittsburgh Airport Hyatt Regency isn’t hiring all the hotel staff that would make Peggy’s stay more accommodating. Then, she says this….
Meanwhile, the president is stuck in his games and his history. He should have seen unemployment entering a crisis stage four years ago, and he did not. At that time I was certain he’d go for public-works projects, which could give training to the young and jobs to the experienced underemployed, would create jobs in the private sector and, in the end, yield up something needed—a bridge, a strengthened power grid. He instead gave his first term to health care. And now ObamaCare is being cited as a reason employers are laying people off and not hiring, according to a report from the Federal Reserve.
She is really disappointed that President Obama has not done some sort of government spending jobs program to get her the hotel attention she deserves. Big, mean ObamaCare is keeping all those bellmen, doormen, and concierges out of work. Stupid people who want to see doctors!
And! How about her admission that an Obama job training program would “create jobs in the private sector”!? Pundit say what?! Government? Creates jobs? Somewhere, Rush Limbaugh’s beeper just went off as William F. Buckley rolled over in his grave.
Okay, I’m not gonna say that this is just another limousine elite conservative with caviar tastes and both selective and creative memories of the past… wait, hell yeah, that’s what I’m saying. Hey, Peggy. I hope you enjoyed speaking at that Amway Convention. Next time, feel free to venture beyond the Robinson Mall and discover why Pittsburgh is doing just fine, thank you very much. And you might be surprised to find sympathetic ears for your proposed government jobs program. That sounds like a really good idea. We’ve got plenty of bridges and power grids. Let’s do it! Just don’t try peddling that stuff around Congress. They will put you on a people-mover right out of town.
Let me start by admitting that I am no expert on Pittsburgh politics. Whenever I try to delve into it, my eyes roll to the back of my head and I feel a strange need to bathe. If I’m looking for knowledgeable Pittsburgh political banter, I go to Bram, or Vannevar, or perhaps the City Paper.
However, in addition to getting stuck watching reality police car chase shows on basic cable, I’m also a sucker for indulging in a little political schadenfreude from time to time. It’s just so satisfying to view the slow, painful unraveling of a corrupt, once powerful political empire. Again, I’m a novice at yinzer-filled backroom power brokering — but I’m also from Illinois, where 4 of our last 7 governors have been both convicted and imprisoned. (And that’s just Springfield. It doesn’t even begin touching Chicago politics!) My spidey senses start to go off when questions like “What did you know and when did you know it?” are tossed about. I can tell when there’s blood in the water.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Grant Street edition of Shark Week.
Hold on to your hats, folks, because when the unraveling begins, it can take off pretty quickly. (Amendment: Ginny at That’s Church has a much better and more complete synopsis of events. What follows is what I’ve gleaned since I started paying attention last week!)
Previously on Shark Week… (2/13) when allegations of police department private side businesses began to emerge, Mayor Lukey came out in defense of his embattled police chief, Nate “the Skate” Harper. (Cue “Stand by Your Man”)
“I spoke with the chief as recently as today,” the mayor said during an afternoon press conference in front of the City-County Building. “He pledged to me that nothing was done improper or wrong. I’m taking him at his word….He has my confidence.”
But by Wednesday of this week, a few plot twists were tossed into the story. Being mayor, you can always use your “people” to misdirect local reporters or staff members of the City Council, but it’s a little different when the knock on the door comes from the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office. Now there were allegations of a secret police fund and union credit cards kept in a safe and off-the-book expenditures. After a two-hour sit-down with the Feds, first blood was drawn, with a rather wide-eyed Lukey singing a different tune:
“At this point, it gave me enough, and I learned enough to know that it was time to ask Chief Harper to resign.”
“…there were questions asked, yes. They didn’t present me with anything….I’m not going to jeopardize their investigation. It was pertaining to the investigation that is ongoing…”
Insert a slight crack in the voice…
“I’m not a target.”
This is the crucial stage of any political scandal: the involvement of the Feds. This is when people who once were intimidated into silence, grow a pair. People who may want to save their own skins begin to lawyer up and start taking singing lessons. Welcome to Double Jeopardy, where dollar values are doubled!
By yesterday (2/21), the pace picked up. First, the mayor admitted that his two police bodyguards had police union credit cards but “Anytime they used these cards they were on trips with me,” he said, stressing the expenditures were “legitimate.” He insisted that he had no knowledge of the unauthorized police account.
Later that same day (going faster… faster…), one of Lukey’s former bodyguards learned that confession is good for the soul:
“Luke knew firsthand that these cards were given to us and they were specifically given to us because you guys [the press] were doing the Right-to-Know [requests],” said Fred Crawford Jr. “You would never see the trail of the hotel bills and stuff like that from us….You can say the cards were given to us specifically because they wanted to avoid the media tracking what we did and where we went through the Right-to- Know [law]. We used cards for official business but it was used for unofficial business as well.“
And as for Chief Harper, the ex-bodyguard said,
“He was aware of it… Nate got caught up in the middle of some stuff. He’s just too nice. He should have just said no to some stuff. He’s never been that ‘no’ person and now they’ve thrown him under the bus to carry all the weight himself. Really, he was doing what he was told to do.”
For his part, Lukey says these allegations are “patently false, plain and simple.” The mayor’s people are claiming that the ex-bodyguard is a disgruntled employee, trying to throw investigators off the scent of his buddies.
That could be. But in my experience in these matters (see State of Illinois), the folks who come out of the woodwork with a story to tell may have ulterior motives but they rarely commit the crime of lying to Federal investigators.
Who knows where this will end up? All I know is that, IMHO, Ravenstahl has been a horrible leader for this city. He rose to power by fluke chances after being appointed head of the City Council and then taking office after the death of Bob O’Connor. And he has held on to his office through cronyism, back-room deals, and nepotism. He wins elections when multiple opponents face him and split the anti-Ravenstahl vote.
After his wife divorced him soon after the birth of their child (and even before that!), stories of his penchant for partying were abundant. Still are. Wasn’t he partying at 7 Springs when the city was hit by its biggest snowstorm in years? He loves to pose with celebrities and even snaked his way into the Batman movie that was filmed here. Rumors have it that he lets his staff run things and only shows up at City Hall when he has to. He constantly sides with big business interests over the financial needs of the city. He even proposed a 1% tax on college student tuition. And then there were those 250 garbage cans emblazoned with Lukey’s signature that cost the city a cool $252,000 in state grant money. (That’s $1000 per can! For that, they better have Wi-Fi!) There are other stories about no-bid contracts and such. He surrounds himself with handlers who are famous for their bullying tactics. Plus, he’s got RAVEN right there in his name, for God’s sake!
Individually, this is bush league political corruption. Small potatoes. My problem with Lukey is his lack of visionary leadership for a city that desperately needs it. He seems to be in the job for the perks and not the hard work of governing.
Now we’ll see how Teflon the man is. If he escapes this, he may come out stronger than ever. On the other hand, the way these things go, there could be a resignation as soon as next week.
Lukey should remember that when it comes to federal investigations: (A) you are never a target until you become a target, and (B) if you are a target, they don’t necessarily have to tell you up front.
Enjoy your weekend, Mr. Mayor. I hear Bon Jovi is in town.
I love this map, although it also has been called “the saddest map in America.” It is the result of a scholarly study (Psychology Today, people!) of Craigslist “missed connections.” That’s where some poor soul sees “the one” across a crowded room — or train, or supermarket, or Walmart deodorant aisle — only to see them slip away without a connection being made. Then, said person goes on Craigslist to pine for them. It’s the cyber equivalent of howling at the moon.
Does this ever work? It must, considering how many people are posting about them.
It’s just that I can’t see some girl rushing home and thinking, Hmm, that dude who works at the dry cleaners gave me a look. Could that have been love? Maybe he’ll write about it on Craigslist!
They look something like this…
Oh Train Girl. Kind of poetic but also pathetic in a poor-melancholy-hipster kind of way. These things used to provide grist for great songs. Now, they just lead to a lonely cyber posting.
Among other things, this study identified the places in each state most likely to be the venue for this lost opportunity. Check it…
We here in the Keystone State are one of only two states in the nation where you are most likely to see that lost love in the convenience store. So, when you’re in line to buy that moon pie or pepperoni roll, that person next to you with the Slim Jim and Mountain Dew might be a keeper! I can attest, when it comes to marriage, there’s nothing like having something in common to keep the home fires burning. The map is a little hard to read, but it looks like it’s us and Delaware that searches for love in the aisles of the Circle K.
There are a couple of other trends here….
♥ I’m kind of surprised that only three states see their lost loves in bars. (Of course, Wisconsin.) I blame this on the national takeover of Walmart. I’m thinking that a lot of those southern states go “bar” if they weren’t so busy shopping for pants with an elastic waistband under the big, yellow smiley face.
♥ Not surprised that Georgia is “the car.” That’s all because of Atlanta, believe me.
♥ Kudos to South Carolina on being the only “football game” state.
♥ And how about a blast from the past: Oklahomans may be the most awesome because they find love at the State Fair. “It may just be the funnel cakes and pickles on a stick talking, but would you make me the happiest cowboy in Muskogee County by saying you’ll spend the rest of your life dodging tornadoes with me ?” Awesome.
♥ Arizonians go to LA Fitness; Californians, not so much. And how about Virginia for jumping on the health club train?
♥ Indiana. “At home.” Really? You see love in your own home and they get away? First of all, shouldn’t that be Tennessee or Kentucky? And second, what do they do, run away? I’m confused.
♥ I thought Pennsylvania’s was depressing, but folks in Rhode Island see their lost loves in parking lots. They’re not charging you money for that love, are they?
♥ In Utah, I figure all those Mormons get married in college, so that makes sense.
♥ And Kansas… “McDonald’s”? Come on, you’re better than that.
Well, I’m probably a good twenty years beyond being in this group, but here’s a little advice. Try a church. That’s where I found my keeper. And I didn’t have to go home moaning about it on Craigslist.
Or just keep doing what you’re doing. It’s incredibly entertaining for the rest of us.