E-mails between the Mayor's Chief of Staff, The President of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the President of City Council shed new light on the banners controversy.
Here's a link to video of my Channel 4 Action News report. The following is an expanded version of the TV story.
With Reebok logos written large, these are the 85 by 40 foot Penguins banners that would have been.
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl is again blaming council, saying opposition there is to blame for the plan falling through:
"Either it was something that they were going to approve or they weren't. To me it was that cut and dry, because of the time associated with it. And we couldn't build that consensus, so it wasn't submitted."
Doug Shields, Council President responds:
"Mr. Peduto and I gave them like three different ways that they would probably get passage of it and that we would support. We made that clear."
Channel 4 Action News artists show here, how the banners could have looked on Fifth Avenue Place, spanning seven stories.
E-mails obtained by Channel 4 Action News show city bureaucrats, not City Council raising red flags about the banners. The following messages were back of a lengthy exchange running from 2 PM to after 10:00 PM last Friday.
The Mayor's Zoning Administrator, Susan Tymoczko:
"Given the amount of advertising copy included, I cannot say that these are approvable".
The Mayor's Planning Director Noor Ismail:
"This has advertising on it and (new) advertising signs are prohibited downtown."
After that, Penguins President David Morehouse e-mailed the mayor's office:
"Just heard from Reebok and they said they are pulling out...
The substantial investment from them is not worth it without their copy."
Morehouse also wrote:
"This is a shame and I can't believe we can't make this work. I am very frustrated with this process."
"We give permits for all sorts of banners ... We can amend to allow for our sports teams."
Concerning City Council, the mayor's own Chief of Staff Yarone Zober e-mailed at 10 PM Friday:
"It's a go from Council Prez Shields He will confirm by email in the next ten minutes. Good work, everyone."".
Shields e-mailed back:
"To confirm, Mr. Zober. Yes, we will find a way."
At 9:13 AM Tuesday, after news media began asking questions, Zober e-mailed to Penguins:
"We're going to pull the plug on the banner efforts. Even talking to council has caused ... stories."
Zober then e-mailed Council:
"This could have been fun, but not worth it on a fast track with a sensitive issue."
Council Finance Chair Bill Peduto says:
"The Penguins found out that they didn't have Reebok's support in order to produce the banners. So blaming this on council is suspicious at best."