Friday, March 27, 2009

Lamar vs Pittsburgh: The Next Round in the Billboard Battle

The illustration on the city's website doesn't show the partially completed LED billboard on the Grant Street Transportation Center.
The photo on the Neighbors in the Strip website does.

There's movement on two fronts in the pending court fight over the future of Lamar Advertising's electronic billboard downtown.

A quick aside, if you're new to the story:

As told here, A zoning board ruling was a big defeat for that huge, partially completed electronic billboard in downtown Pittsburgh; a ruling that appeared to kill the nearly seven-million dollar project.

See also:

Billboard Back Story: Brewing Controversies

Chessboards & Mushroom Clouds At City Hall

Now, the new developments:

The Ravenstahl administration recently informed City Council that instead of the city defending the Zoning Board's split vote ruling against the sign, it was hiring a private law firm to do the job instead.

Pittsburgh City Council approved that decision (including payment of legal fees up to $15,000) and announced its intention to hold a closed door executive session meeting with the private attorneys taking on the job. At last word, that meeting's yet to take place.

Meanwhile, Common Pleas Court Judge Joseph James on March 3rd issued an order for briefs to be filed 20 days from that date. Lamar filed its brief on March 23rd. The law firm hired by the city filed its appearance and brief one day later, on the 24th.

The judge had ordered briefs on two topics: "1. What is the standard of review when Zoning Board of Adjustment is split one-one and both members file separate opinions; 2. Should the record be expanded to include testimony of an employee of the City Planning Department".

The private attorneys hired by the city to defend the Zoning Board ruling are Blaine Lucas and Krista-Ann Staley of the firm Babst, Calland, Clements & Zomnir.

It the Lamar brief, attorney Sam Kamin argues that "this is not an appeal from the issuance or denial" of the sign permit", but instead ""the action requested of the zoning board was the revocation of Lamar's Sign Permit". The Lamar brief cites past court cases to argue that the zoning board's tie vote constitutes a refusal to revoke the sign permit, not a refusal to approve the electronic billboard. Lamar also argues that the split vote means the status quo should be maintained -- and it considers the status quo to be that the sign and its permit remain.

It also argues that Zoning Board Chair Watson's opinion (supporting Lamar) should be the controlling one for review by the court. That would mean Lamar doesn't have to provide more evidence to make its case. The advertising company argues that Zoning Board Member Mitinger's opinion and findings (against Lamar) "reject uncontradicted evidence regarding the City's 'past practice' of permitting 'swaps' of non-conforming advertising signs for LED signs". So, if Judge James accepts Mitinger's opinion, Lamar wants the chance to present evidence to him for a fresh review of the matter.

Private attorney Blaine Lucas wrote the brief on behalf of the city's ruling against Lamar's sign. (While it's dated March 23, the Court Records Department time stamp indicates it was filed March 24 at 9:19 AM. Lucas' brief notes that the record in this case consists of 802 pages of testimony and exhibits.

Like Lamar's Kamin, Lucas argues that a tie vote of a governmental body constitutes a negative decision and preserves the status quo. Where do they part company? They differ over what exactly the status quo is in this case. Implicitly, the city is arguing that the status quo is that there is no permit for the electronic billboard. It also argues that the Mitinger opinion (against Lamar) is the one that controls the court's review.

On behalf of the city, Lucas opposes Lamar's wish to reopen the record to include public statements by a senior planner with the city's Planning Department about earlier informal city agreements about replacing non-conforming signs. Lucas writes "the only thing that requiring the testimony of Mr. Sentz would open is the proverbial 'can of worms'. Mr. Sentz also stated at the public meeting in question that under principles of urban design, a large L.E.D> sign would not be appropriate at the end of a major government business street. A multitude of other witnesses offered their opinions on a variety of issues related to the signs in dispute here or on signage issues generally. Should the record also be reopened to allow all of this testimony?"



Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Peduto: Campaign Finance Reform by the Numbers

Click to enlarge

How does the Onorato-Ravenstahl proposal to limit political contributions compare to campaign finance reform in other cities?

Here's a chart offered by Councilman Bill Peduto during City Council's meeting on the topic. Click on the thumbnail image to get a better look. (I reformatted his chart to add color and to move the mayoral data to the first two columns.)

Some quick breakout points:

• Under the plan offered by Mayor Ravenstahl, someone running for mayor of Pittsburgh would be able to accept twice as much per person and per committee as President Obama did during a national political campaign.

• On this chart, only Salt Lake City ($7,500) and New York City ($4,900) are shown allowing more per person in mayor's race contributions than the proposal for Pittsburgh. In Philadelphia it's $2,500. Cleveland and Cincinnati cap it at $1,000.

• According to the chart, proposed limits on political action committee (PAC) contributions to a candidate for mayor of Pittsburgh ($10,000) would be double what's allowed in New York City ($4,950) and Philadelphia ($5,000).

• Los Angeles caps PAC contributions to candidates for mayor at $900,000 in the "maximum total aggregate". That could pay for almost all of a mayoral campaign in Pittsburgh.



Monday, March 23, 2009

Ravenstahl Response: Dubs Dowd "Desperate"

Here's the response from the Ravenstahl campaign and the mayor to the Dowd accusation of "pay-to-play" politics, covered in the previous post.

"Ravenstahl for Mayor Press Release: Desperate Dowd"

Statement from Mayor Ravenstahl:

"Pittsburgh needs leadership, not a desperate politician willing to do or say anything to get elected. That's why and how he's run for four political offices in the last 8 years with no accomplishments to show for it. While he's talking and done nothing, I have submitted campaign finance reform pending before Council and I am reforming Pittsburgh's decades old procurement practices. Politics as usual from Dowd. Try again, Pat."

Sent from my mobile device


Dowd Accuses Ravenstahl of Pay-to-Play Politics

I'm covering a court story today, but keeping tabs on the mayor's race.

Below is the latest news release from the Dowd campaign -- a reaction to the PG's story over the weekend that examined political contributions and no-bid government contracts. I've e-mailed the manager of the Ravenstahl campaign, asking for any statement from the mayor or his team in response to the Dowd news release listed below:

Quoting the Dowd release......

"Wake-Up Call: Dowd Speaks out Against Pay-to-Play Politics"


James Fogarty
Dowd For Mayor

"After handing out coffee this morning to workers downtown urging them to "Wake up and smell the coffee on pay-to-play politics," Patrick Dowd made the following statement:"

"I am here today because the bells, the whistles, the alarms are going off. We have to wake up and smell the coffee: this mayor's administration is for sale and the citizens of Pittsburgh are being hurt."

"Yesterday, the Post Gazette gave us another blow-by-blow account of how this Mayor has made it lucrative for his contributors to do business with the city. If you connect the dots the story is very simple. The mayor has a million dollar campaign "war chest" because he is willing to give no-bid contacts and sweet deals to campaign contributors. This administration is for sale."

"This sort of governance hurts us all. Think of the businesses. They look at the city and say, "No way. I don't want to do business with them. No way. I don't want to locate in a city that operates like
that." When city government is for sale, businesses leave."

"The real losers here are the taxpayers. No-bid contracts cost the taxpayers ever time. When the mayor doesn't bid out a trash can contract, the taxpayers spent $1,000 a trash can when they could have paid far less. When the mayor doesn't bid out a ventilation system, the taxpayers pay almost a $1 million when they could have paid far less. When the mayor doesn't bid out a bond deal politically connected folks made $19 million in fees and the ratepayers of the Water Authority are put at huge risk."

"These are tough economic times and we cannot afford this type of behavior. No-bid contracts serve the politicians and cost the people."

"The mayor will say that the timing of the contributions is a "coincidence." Who is he kidding? Look at the city government. Look at the URA. Look at the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority. Then look at his million-dollar campaign "war chest." Connect the dots. This is no coincidence. Luke's administration is for sale."

"We have to wake up, smell the coffee and realize that the incompetence or worse of this administration is costing the taxpayers every day."

"We can't wait. We can't afford this. We have got to change how we do things in the city if we want to attract good business with good jobs. We have to change the way we do business in the city if we want to keep taxpayers here. We need leadership now."

Sent from my mobile device


Friday, March 20, 2009

Wecht Argues Against A New Trial

Former Coroner Dr. Cyril Wecht spent his 78th birthday in court today, watching his defense team fight to keep prosecutors from putting him on trial again.

Wecht's first trial on public corruption and fraud charges ended in a hung jury. The defense is asking the new judge to toss out key evidence, an action that could gut the prosecution's case. Wecht's lawyers argue that the search warrants used to seize records from wecht's private business were invalid.

"In our view, if those search warrants are quashed, there is no case. Those started the whole investigation. they were the fuel of all of this", Defense Attorney Jerry McDevitt said after the hearing.

This was the second birthday Wecht has spent in court, fighting the charges against him.

"Can you imagine younger I would look, if that had not been the case, right?" Wecht joked with reporters afterward.

The government alleges Wecht used resources of his former public office to profit his private consulting business and that fraudulently billed his clients. Judge Sean McClaughlin ordered today's additional arguments from both sides.

If you're reading this on the blog's home page, you can click on the "Read More" link at the end of this post to see my notes on what happened in the courtroom today.

Wecht Case Hearing, Pittsburgh Federal Court

March 20, 2009

What you read below are my raw notes -- not a verbatim transcript. Fragments may contain direct quotes or keywords, but this does not include every aspect of every argument made or every question asked.

1:59 PM This hearing is being held via videoconference. Judge Sean McLaughlin is in his courtroom in Erie. The prosecution and defense are in a courtroom on the third floor of federal court here in Pittsburgh.

Dr. Cyril Wecht has just arrived, joining his defense attorneys Jerry McDevitt and Mark Rush at a table to the right of the courtroom. Prosecutors James Wilson and Leo Dillon are at a table to the left of the courtroom.

Judge: I would like to begin with the discussion of various suppression issues this afternoon.... with an examination of the boxes warrant. The warrant indicates boxes --approximately 20 -- containing private autopsy files.

Judge: Isn't the face of the warrant arguably problematic, In that at a private office there would be numerous files not related to the case? ...How was it meaningfully circumscribed?

Wilson: The number and the description. This warrant -- while arguably over-broad -- does not permit unfettered rummaging.


Judge: Doesn't that warrant on its face authorize the seizing of boxes for which there was no probable cause?

Wilson: It's problematic.


Judge: Do you agree to me that a general warrant cannot be saved by the good faith of officers at the scene?

Wilson: Agrees ... but says this is a case of the exception swallowing the rule whole.


Judge: Let's talk about the prism through which I should view this warrant. Through the eyes of the issuing magistrate judge, without reference to what the agents actually saw, once they got on the scene...?

Wilson: Are you asking me "does the 'four corners doctrine" apply'? ...Yes.

Judge: The numerical limitation is 20 boxes, the subject matter limitation is private autopsy files?

Wilson: Yes.

Judge: The problem with an over-broad warrant is that there is probable cause for only some of the items?

....Wilson discusses that what they were looking for was records of private work done by county employees on taxpayer time. He says the records in question were allegedly originally kept at the Allegheny County Coroner's Office and moved to Wecht's private office while the investigation was under way.

Judge: Didn't the face of the warrant permit the agents to rummage through the defendant's papers...?

Wilson: As it related to private autopsy files? Yes.


Wilson: ... Is this a general warrant simply because it suffers from an inability to be redacted? My answer would be no.

Judge: Let's talk about the limiting criteria in the affidavit of probable cause.


Judge: Is it accurate to say there was something in the vicinity of 60 to 70 boxes on the premises?

Wilson: Correct.

Judge: Any indication how many were searched?

Wilson: No numerical indication.... but 60 to 70 is the number they've been working with.

Judge: It's of at least passing interest that there were many, many more boxes there than approximately 20?

Wilson: Correct, your honor. The authorization was only for 20.

Judge: Should it give anyone pause that 29 boxes were seized?

Wilson: Absolutely not. There's nothing in the affidavit that says 20 and only 20. Wilson says there was always an attempt to narrow them to those recently removed from the coroner's office.

Judge: Is there, in your view, any material issue of fact on the record that is in dispute?

Wilson: I have yet to hear from the defendant of a single box-- that single box that has been taken in violation of the criteria. In every instance in which there was a discussion of the criteria for whether a box should be taken, it was to narrow the number.

Judge: Judge Schwab (the judge from the first trial) ruled that the warrant may have been over-broad, but it was solved by the way it was executed?

Wilson: Agrees.

Judge: Says he now wants to the discuss "the laptop warrants", which sought all data contained therein. You maintain that's not a general warrant. Why isn't this equivalent of issuing a warrant for a home and all its contents or a business and all of its files?

Wilson: Answers that some warrants of those sorts for homes or businesses may be perfectly sound. Gives an example of someone suspected of being part of an espionage ring and arms dealing. Says you could search that person's home with a warrant for computer data or microfiche... tearing the place apart, looking for the evidence.

Judge: Raises question of whether there could be data on the computer of an entirely personal nature. Wouldn't it have been possible to give the warrant a more specific particularization? Gives example of the type of data or a date range. Suggests they wouldn't be having this discussion if the affidavit had been attached to the warrant.

Wilson: Says the warrant is very specific. Says the affidavit is silent on any other use than work for Wecht Pathology.

Judge: Is the government's position is that there's something unique about a computer, as opposed to a house or a business, when it comes to a general warrant.

Wilson: The government needs to look for everything here. Look at cases involving computers, across the board. Once you can get into the computer, you can look at everything. Also says if it can show Eileen Young did little or no county government work on the computer, that (also) goes a long way towards making the prosecution's case. ...Says Young identified thousands of computer files involving private work on the laptop.

Wilson: This warrant is precisely specific; it says exactly what we want to seize.

2:54 Defense Attorney Jerry McDevitt's turn to answer the judge's questions.

McDevitt: Looking at the warrant itself ... If you were at home tonight and a federal agent showed up at your doorstep with a warrant for your computer... this says there would be no limitation to identifying any crime at all. These warrants were an authorization to look at everything on a computer, whether it was related to a crime or not.

McDevitt: They now concede you can't redact these warrants. If it's a facially defective warrant that lacks particularity, it cannot be saved.

Judge: I'm looking at United States vs. Rovitto (sp?)...2008. The circuit said that a warrant that is over-broad can be cured by an affidavit, even if it's not incorporated in the warrant.

McDevitt: Says Supreme Court precedence decided this. Says when you're looking at a facially defective warrant, you don't save that with good faith.

3:08 Judge says he's going to give the court reporter a break, then come back and they'll talk about mail and wire fraud.

3:20 Back in session.

McDevitt: (Back for now to a discussion of the boxes.) Says boxes had lids on them, and that an agent on the scene during the search was instructed by phone to open every box and take everything that had contents with Eileen Young's name on them. McDevitt recalls an agent testifying there numerous boxes containing private autopsy files. That agent called FBI Agent Orsini, who McDevitt says gave those directions by phone. It couldn't be clearer what they did: they opened every box, the rummaged through, and took every box that had something inside with Eileen Young's name on it.

Judge: You're saying the executed it as though it were a general warrant.

McDevitt: Yes. (McDevitt goes on to read at length from a transcript of statments by FBI Agent Welsh.)

Judge: On the subject of the computer warrant and its alleged generality: how could that have been solved, if it was flawed as you contend?

McDevitt: Specifying they were looking for evidence of doing private work on county time. It's a unlimited search, unrestrained by criminal law.
No warrant without specifications is a valid warrant.

3:35 PM. Judge calls on Mr. Dillon.

Judge: I'd like to spend a few minutes to discuss the counts of mail and wire fraud here. The government posited that payments were made only because of the fraud. My initial question to you is this. Isn't that the wrong approach here? Isn't the proper inquiry whether an objectively reasonable informed victim would have found it (important) to the decision making process. ...The mere fact of payment was made cannot address the materiality of the falsehood?

Dillon: Argues that the victims would not have paid the alleged overcharges if they knew about them.

Judge: Can you tell me the nature of the evidence that the nature of the overcharges were material?

Dillon: The falsity of the bills is in the nature and totality of the expense. They're false in their essence. In regard to the mileage charged to other counties, there was no mileage.

Judge: Asks questions about any amount so de minimis as to not be material. Calls McDevitt back to answer questions.

Judge: In a nutshell, what was it in your view about these two sets of charges --mail fraud and wire fraud -- that was missing?

McDevitt: Quotes a case in which a court ruled on the actual testimony of the people making the decisions. He says in this case they failed to give the jury adequate information to determine whether the actual person would find it (de minimis). It's just a morality play, that's all it is. They didn't prove that element of the crime.

Judge: Let's move on... I understand your position that aggregation should not be permitted. ...Doesn't it put out of the reach of prosecution a perpetual embezzler who is smart enough to avoid embezzling more than $4,999 a year?

McDevitt: Says Congress drew the line at $5,000. State law is there to deal with other other figures.

Judge: What in your view does the record show as to whether Dr. Wecht's employees did or did not complete their required county work over the course of the work day?

McDevitt: Says asked at trial: "Cut to the chase, did they get their county work done?" The answer was that they did.

McDevitt: If you believe Dr. Wecht did everything they accused him of, it's not as though there's not state laws to deal with it. They could have filed a state ethics complaint, a prosecution under the state ethics act. None of that ever happened.

3:59 PM

Dillon: There are separate bills for 30, $40 each, and none of the expenses were incurred. They were all part of the whole scheme to defraud.

Judge: The jury was only presented with discrete instances of fraudulent conduct. Is it your position they should have been able see it as part of a scheme?

Dillon: Says there was testimony of this taking place over a number of years.

Judge: What, if anything, does the record in this case show about whether the the employees were able to complete their county work on county time.

Dillon: Says they had little or no county work to do. Says in the case of the administrative assistants, they spent virtually all their time doing private work.

Judge: You are suggesting they were essentially sham employees of the county?

Dillon agrees.

Judge: Asks whether the annual pay of the administrative assistants meets the standard to trigger the federal law: a figure in excess of $5,000 in a year?

Dillon details information to support that position.

Judge: Asks about the "Wecht details" -- private, personal errands done by coroner deputies for Whect on county time.

4:11 Judge says he wants to check his notes. He'll be back in a bit and he says they may wrap up soon.

4:17 Judge McLauglin reappeared on the videoconference screen briefly to thank the attorneys and conclude the hearing. There's no indication of when he will issue a ruling.



New post coming

When I get home later tonight, I'll post an extensive update on what
was said today in the courtroom on the Wecht case.

Sent from my mobile device


This Date In Wecht Trial History

On the eve of today's hearing in the Wecht case, Channel 4 Action News reporter Shannon Perrine e-mailed to me a reminder that today is Doctor Cyril Wecht's 78th birthday.

Sure enough, here's my entry for this date a year ago, when the jury from the first Wecht trial was deliberating:

Wecht Trial Day 27 - March 20, 2008: Jury Watch Day 3

8:30 AM Today is Dr. Cyril Wecht's birthday. The defendant turned 77 today, as the jury entered its third day of deliberations in his federal trial on mail and wire fraud and theft of services charges.

10:00 AM We're halfway through the thirteenth hour of deliberations. So far today, there have been no questions from the jury for the judge.

1:00 PM The Wecht jury has now deliberated a total of 15 1/2 hours over the course of three days. If there is no verdict within the next 45 minutes, Judge Arthur Schwab will bring the jury into the courtroom to remind them of his instructions before they leave for the day at 2:00 PM.

While we're looking back, here's a link to my Busman's Holiday blog posts tracking the Wecht case... and a link to my blogging from the courtroom during the first trial for WTAE's The Pittsburgh Channel website.

The former Allegheny County Coroner is accused of fraud and using that public office to benefit his private consulting business. The first trial ended in a mistrial, with the jury deadlocked. This was the scene leading up to that announcement:

Wecht Trial Day 35 - April 8, 2008

8:29 AM The judge's bailiff just came from the direction of the jury room; she just locked the courtroom doors and is headed for the judge's office carrying a blue envelope and a sheet of paper. That doesn't necessarily mean there's a development... but there could be.

I estimate the jurors are in their 53rd hour of discussion on their eleventh day working day of deliberations. This is their fourth calendar week of deliberating, which they began on March 18.

This is the 35th working day of the trial and the 72nd calendar day since the trial began on Jan. 28.

8:40 AM As the bailiff just passed in the hallway, I asked her if there was anything new to look for on the court's electronic filing system ECF. Her answer was "no."

9 AM Judge Schwab's office just e-mailed the following notice to reporters:
"USA v. Wecht 06cr26 - - Time of Announcement of Verdict"

This afternoon, Erie federal court Judge Sean McLaughlin wants to hear still more arguments from both sides on defense motions to reconsider past rulings by the judge who presided over the first trial.

As I've noted before, this is significant because it suggests Judge McLaughlin is seriously considering the defense motions to toss out most or all of the government's case.

While the judge will be in Erie, the prosecution and defense will make their arguments via videoconference from a courtroom here in Pittsburgh. Judge McLaughlin has yet to rule on a prosecution motion to move any retrial from Pittsburgh to Erie.



Monday, March 16, 2009

Twittering for Mayor

Here's a snapshot of the Twitter accounts of the three candidates for mayor in Pittsburgh's Democratic primary.

First Tweets:

Attorney Carmen Robinson: 1:24 PM Dec 16th, 2008 from web

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl: 7:03 PM Mar 4th from web

Councilman Patrick Dowd: 7:55 PM Mar 5th from web

Most Personal Tweets:

"We just read "Yertle the Turtle" for the umteenth time. It's great story every time and you gotta love that plain little turtle named Mack"
about 21 hours ago from TwitterBerry

Trying to send my wonderful hard working husband on vacation by himself for a needful rest. But he won't hear of it. Suggestions? I can't go.
about 23 hours ago from web


Number of people each candidate is following on Twitter:
Robinson 291

Dowd 54

Ravenstahl 6

Number of Twitter users following each candidate:
Robinson 147

Dowd 54

Ravenstahl 48

Number of updates posted by each candidate:
Dowd 22

Robinson 21

Ravenstahl 10

Ravenstahl's ten tweets to date are primarily invitations to events, campaign contacts, and links:

• "Join us at the St Patrick's Day Parade..."

• "Make phone calls from home, call 412-xxx-xxxx to find out how."

• "Pittsburgh ranked third greenest city: [link]."

Dowd's 22 tweets convey more of what the candidate is doing or thinking at the time:

• "Waiting for my colleagues. It would be good if we started on time."

• "When you go door knocking you meet the best people and hear powerful stories. This certainly held true today."

• "Going to Pgh Water & Sewer Authority Board mgt & will introduce a resolution calling for a plain English analysis of the 2008 Bond SWAP deal."

Robinson's 21 updates include interaction with other tweeters:

• "@ChachiSays I'm not typical.I became a lawyer by attending school durring the day and fighting crime at night.proof is in my past."

• "@LPT365 Thanks for your compliment. You a PGH. voter? Spread the word."

• "@mojustice we are still in negotiations. The first one will be in the middle of the month of April."

I welcome reader comments comparing the Twitter accounts of the three candidates. Any observations about who's following who? You're welcome to respond in comments here on the blog or on Twitter @bobmayo .



Thursday, March 12, 2009

Twitter Ate My Tweets

My Twitter account "bobmayo" has disappeared. Twitter customer
service is working on it, but the form letter response cautions that a
solution can take a long time.

I have a lot of blog posts competing in my head right now, but haven't
had the opportunity to do them justice. This. blog update via e-mail
is a way to keep in touch in the meantime. There have been some great
posts on other blogs around town in the past week dealing with local
government and politics. They make me wish I was able to post more
often... and feel a bit discouraged about not keeping up.

Our carryout dinner order is ready, so I have to go. Here's hoping to
freshen up the blog soon. (Perhaps I'll fire off more short e-mail
posts like this, just to let you know I intend to be back with more.)

Bob M

Sent from my mobile device


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Whect Trial 2.0 : An Update

The judge in Wecht case wants to
hear *still more* arguments from
both sides on defense motion to
reconsider past rulings by the
previous judge who presided over
the first trial.

This is significant because it
suggests the judge is seriously
considering the defense motions
to toss out most or all of the
government's case.

There's no trip to Erie this time.
The judge is going to have them argue
by phone on March 20th at 2pm.

From the court:

v. ) 2:06-cr-26
AND NOW, to wit, this 9th day of
March, 2009, this Court having
previously held argument on the
Defendant's pending Motion [1008]
for Reconsideration of Denial of
Rule 29 Motions, Denial of Motion to
Dismiss Under 18 U.S.C. Section 666
and Denial of Suppression Motions,
and finding now that supplemental
argument would materially
assist the Court in the proper
disposition of said motion,
supplemental argument shall be
held telephonically on March 20,
2009 at 2:00 pm.. Counsel for the
Defendant is hereby instructed to
initiate the call by contacting
opposing counsel and then calling
the Court's conference line at
(xxx) xxx-xxxx.
s/ Sean J. McLaughlin
United States District Judge
cm: All counsel of record.

Sent from my mobile device


Sunday, March 8, 2009

Ravenstahl Promises Renaissance Blueprint

The following news release arrived tonight from Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's re-election campaign manager, Paul McKrell. The e-mailed media advisory promises a major announcement Monday at noon by the mayor. Readers interested in some background might want to check my post, "Renaissance Three? Four? Or Five?", from a couple of weeks back.

Here's the news release:

Media Advisory
for March 9, 2009

For Immediate Release

Mayor Ravenstahl to Announce his Blueprint for Renaissance III

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania – On Monday, March 9, 2009 at 12:00PM, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl will announce his blueprint for Renaissance III.

WHO: Mayor Luke Ravenstahl

WHAT: Remarks followed by Q & A

WHEN: 12:00PM on Monday, March 9, 2009

WHERE: Grant Street Portico, City County Building, Downtown, Pittsburgh



Friday, March 6, 2009

Twitchhiker heading through Pittsburgh

Watch The Twitchhiker mention Pittsburgh in this video

My wife called this to my attention. "The Twitchhiker" is planning to be in Pittsburgh by Sunday.

From POP CANDY today:

"Another sign Twitter is taking over the world: One guy has decided to use the service to help him travel across the globe. He calls himself the Twitchhiker.

On March 1, Paul A. Smith left his home in the UK. He hopes to make it to New Zealand "relying only on the goodwill of people using Twitter." (You can follow him at .)

Paul also started the project to raise money for charity. So far it seems to be working, and he flies to New York this week."

Quotes from his Twitter feed:

Quick recap: tomorrow > DC by bus, staying 1 night. Sunday > Pittsburgh by car - no idea what happens once I get there #twitchhiker
about 12 hours ago from web

And earlier:

@bandb_com Because I'm going to Pittsburgh with no contacts there. I'll be dropped on on Sunday... we'll see what happens! #twitchhiker
about 14 hours ago from web in reply to bandb_com

Here's a link to read the latest on his progress via Google News.


[Sent from my mobile device, and later reformatted]


Thursday, March 5, 2009

[Revised] Updating Mayoral Campaign Websites

Updating the Update: Maria at 2 Political Junkies has more details on our topic of mayoral campaign websites, including:

A link to Progress Pittsburgh, where "GrantStreetGossip" did some Twitter detective work and discovered that a North Carolina-based web designer was hired to create the new site for Mayor Ravenstahl campaign.

• A link to the web designer for the Robinson campaign's website.

When the Dowd campaign sent out a news release announcing its website, I did expect to see more content online there, though the site does promise more to come.

I'll close this update with one footnote: is the mayor's shoe untied in the photo on his website?

[We now rejoin our original blog post...]

Patrick Dowd's campaign sent out this update on its website, which initially was using Google's free Documents web-based software. The news release says, in part:

Dowd Campaign Launches Campaign Website, Hires Local Firm

"This week the Patrick Dowd mayoral campaign launched a website at The campaign hired local start-up Bearded Studio to develop the site design and functionality."

" 'Our web design team epitomizes a story we'd like to see repeated over and over again in this city. Two young people with an idea and some entrepreneurial spirit start and grow a business right here in Pittsburgh,' Dowd said. 'Our campaign is thrilled to find and engage great local talent." "

"Bearded Studio is a web development and graphic design studio founded by Matt Griffin and Michael Hellein in November 2008. Matt and Michael worked with other local companies before getting together to launch their own firm."

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's campaign website has put up a fresh splash page promising its own relaunch soon. The photo there appears to be the hands-on-the-hips image that was used by the mayor in his special election race two years ago and on the City of Pittsburgh's official website.

Carmen Robinson's website can lay claim to having the most content online the earliest in the 2009 mayoral race.

[Sent from my mobile device, and later reformatted.]