Around the Town in Oakmont PA

My thoughts and musings on life, technology and living in my adopted home town.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A golden missed oppertunity

I had a doctors appointment today and while out in the car I was listening to AM radio.  When the local news came on I was surprised to hear that Pittsburgh's new Mayor working in conjunction with City Council was in the process of creating an "open data" bill for the city.

It turns out that Mayor Peduto's definition of  "open data" and mine are far enough apart that not only could Steelers  play a game in an area big that but Mike Tomlin would never have to fear stepping onto the playing field in order to watch the jumbo tron.

I was immediately impressed with the fact that the new mayor was going to embrace the idea of Government 2.0 which I think all governments city, county, state and federal should be implementing as soon as they can.  The key feature to this type of program would be the transparency needed to allow citizens to make informed choices when it comes time to elect the officials that create the laws and rules that most affect their day to day lives.

I was especially anxious to see all of the city budget data placed on line so that taxpayers could see exactly how their hard earned dollars are being spent.  This type of transparency has the potential to go a long way toward getting the average citizen to speak up about restraining government spending.  Imagine if every department in city government had to publish every penny they spent on a web site right down to the box of paper clips they bought.  This has been tried in other states and it does work.

What Mayor Peduto has proposed is to allow the public to see what streets have been plowed when it snows, which ones are scheduled to be plowed and when it is expected to happen.  It would allow residents to report pot holes and monitor any follow up action on their requests.

It would also provide information on scheduled maintenance of city property and applications for building permits among other things.  All of these are admirable goals and should have been put in place years ago.  The effort however, falls far short of what it could accomplish if it were truly an "open data" system that would make the operations of government available to not only the press but the citizens as well.  Please follow the link below to read the entire story in the Pittsburgh Press.

Pittsburgh councilwoman Rudiak introduces open data bill


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

I want to wish everyone who takes the time to read my musings here in the electronic sphere a very Blessed Christmas to you, your family and friends.

As the day draws near I hope that each of you will keep the true meaning of our celebration in your hearts.  
As we look around at the changes taking place in our country and society it is easy to feel that we are loosing all that is good and that has brought us peace and prosperity in the past.

All of these things pale in comparison to the gift that was given us so long ago and that we celebrate each year at this time to give thanks to God for taking away the burden of sin that we all suffer.

So celebrate with family and friends.  Give gifts to loved ones and hopefully to strangers that we have never met.  Most of all let your hearts be filled with the joy at the birth of one who brings a gift that only God can give.

Merry Christmas!

From our family to yours.


Sunday, November 17, 2013

Where were you?

I was in Mr. Ulig's health class in room eight of Wilkinsburg Jr. High School and the teacher had left the room leading to the usual talking and horse play among the students.  When the cat is away the mice will play as they say.  It was near the end of the day, my last period,  and no one was really interested in doing any work as it was.  Upon the door opening every returned to their normal routine with noses in books and trying to make it look like we were doing something.  It was at this point that Mr. Ulig told us that he had just come from the teacher's lounge where a radio report said that someone had taken a shot at President Kennedy.  I can't remember his exact words but he had disparaging words for anyone who would commit such a dastardly act. You could tell that he was completely disgusted by the report though he seldom showed emotion in any of his classes.  In addition to health class I also had him as a science instructor.

The period ended and so did the school day.  Retrieving my books and personal belongings from my locker I headed for the door.  There was a rumbling undercurrent in the halls about the news that was spreading but no one was saying much at that point.  Looking back I think we may have all been a little afraid of what we were hearing might be true and chose not to talk about it until we had more information.

Henry and Darryl were two friends that I walked to school with just about every day.  We met up on North Avenue behind the Jr. High and proceeded to follow our normal path homeward.  We would walk down the long hill that was North Avenue to Swissvale Avenue and then up the hill to the top where I lived and then Henry and Darryl who were neighbors would go up Pearl Street on to their houses on Sherman Street.

When we reached the bottom of North Avenue there was a traffic signal at the intersection.  There were about three cars backed up at the light and the three of us stepped of the curb to get closer to an open passenger window of the first car and there we heard the awful news.  That President John Kennedy had died of an assassins bullet in Dallas Texas that afternoon.  I don't think we spoke much the rest of the way home not really knowing what to say.  None of us had ever experienced an event that effected the entire country and the world such as this.  We were too young to have experienced the shock of Pearl Harbor.  All of the major events of age so far were only something that we read about in history books or watched as news reel footage or specials on television.

This was real in the sense that we felt the loss that the rest of the country and the world did.  Had I been of age to vote I would have voted for  John Kennedy.  I also felt his enthusiasm for the nation and believed that indeed that torch had been passed to a new generation.  It almost seemed like hope had been taken from us.

Little did I know at my tender age that this would be only the first of several events that would be forever indelibly burned into my memory.  The assassination of Robert Kennedy, then of Martin Luther King, the Challenger Disaster and undoubtedly that event that has had the most direct effect the lives of myself and my family, the attacks of September 11th 2001.

So if you are old enough, do you remember where you were that fateful day 50 years ago?  Do you often wonder what our world would be like today had an assassins bullet had not found it's mark on November 22nd 1963?   I have wondered about these things many times.  Much as I would love to try I don't think that even it we develop the technology to move through time I don't know that we could or should try to change history.

As a final thought I have to bring up the subject of Lee Harvey Oswald.  I have never been one to follow much less believe in conspiracy theories.  There is no way with the current evidence at hand that I could believe that Lee Harvey Oswald was the loan gunman and assassin of John Kennedy.  I consider the Warren Report at best a compilation of half truths and propaganda designed to quite that masses looking for honest answers to the events of that day.  I only hope that generations from now that some of my family will finally learn the truth.  Perhaps when I get to heaven I will have the knowledge but I think at that time it will no longer be a matter of concern.

So all I ask at this time is that you remember, be informed, pray for our republic which I feel is in great danger at this time.


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Lots of things happening in Oakmont and in particular with the Hulton Bridge

Well I have to admit there hasn't been this much to blog about in some time now in my adopted home town.  Much to my dismay I have had some rather serious health problems nagging me for a while now that have kept me away from the keyboard and from voicing my opinion of the local goings on.

So here is a quick update with some brief thoughts on the current state of our fair shire.  All opinions are my own and I claim no inside knowledge of the dealings at hand.

First, you would have to be blind now to have seen the progress of the build up on the property formerly occupied by Edgewater Steel.  Homes have grown where a foundry once stood and have given the entire area a new look.  I haven't actually inquired but my understanding is that occupying one of those new spaces will place a substantial strain on your wallet and I don't think I need to tell you about the taxes that will come with that parcel of land.  Let me also predict that the next traffic light in Oakmont will be at the intersection of Collage Avenue and Allegheny River Boulevard.

Now the the other end of town.  I have been hearing since I started dating my lovely wife many decades ago that Oakmont was going to get a brand new bridge to replace the aging span from Oakmont to Harmarville across the Allegheny River.

I remember when the bridge was stripped of it's deck and a substantial amount of work was done on the underside rebuilding and strengthening the various members followed by pouring a new road surface and sidewalk.  This was followed by a spiffy new pant job that earned the bridge the nick name "Lavender Link".  PENDOT had decided that all bridges would be painted with pastel colors that would make inspection easier and allow any serious problems with the super structure to be seen by passing river traffic.

So now here we are in the year 2013 and it looks like it is actually going to happen.  Oakmont is getting a new more modern bridge.  This one will be four lanes wide and will to some extent alleviate the choke point on the Harmarville side where traffic waiting to turn left onto old Rt. 28 backs up traffic wanting to go north on the same highway.

I attended a meeting with PENDOT and the engineering firm that is doing the design and construction on the bridge.  There I asked the question that seems to be everyone's lips after announcement of the new bridge namely "Why doesn't it connect to the Allegheny Valley Expressway as well as old Rt. 28?".  The simple answer and the one I expected was that it was a matter of money.  Connecting the bridge to the expressway would have roughly doubled the cost of the project.

Now back on the Oakmont side of the bridge we have another interesting sub plot brewing involving this project.  The former site of the Liebrath Dodge dealership was abandoned but I have the feeling that it had nothing to do with the construction of the new bridge.  If that were the case the property would have been used in the bridge project and it was not.  This leaves me to believe that the property was slated for a new tenant who would generate much more revenue for the owner than the car dealership.

This brings us to the possibility of a new Speedway gasoline station at that location.  The plan as proposed would be a station with eighteen pump bays and over 30 parking spaces along with a convenience store that would operate twenty four hours a day seven days a week.

Now I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer but it doesn't take a genius to reason that if you are putting up a four lane bridge to alleviate traffic congestion putting in a facility of the size proposed for the Speedway station will do little to advance the effort.  Especially during morning and evening rush hours not to mention the foot traffic it will generate from students from the high school located directly across the street.

When this project was announced there was an immediate outcry from residents especially those that have to live near the entrance to the bridge and thus the large new filling station.  I  would imagine that a large volume of truck traffic will be generated just with delivery vehicles restocking the stores shelves and tank trucks bringing in fuel for the underground tanks.  This alone would create a lot of traffic in the area.

Even those who do not live in the immediate area made their feelings known with a hue and cry not only about the traffic situation but also the affect on the aesthetics of the new bridge which has had a lot of engineering to make it not only practical but providing a pleasant view of those entering or leaving Oakmont.

When the initial objections were raised counsel quickly bowed to the demands of the citizens and denied the use of the land for the Speedway Gas Station.  Everyone seemed satisfied that the matter had been put to rest and we could move on with the bridge project.

Then news stories started to emerge that counsel was "reconsidering" the plans submitted by the developer of the Speedway project.  Once again there was a hue and cry about the plans but this time there seemed to be a reluctance to make a definite up or down decision.  Instead there needed to be further review of the plans which lead to additional demands made by the counsel if the project would be approved.

Among these were the first six months of operation the convenience store would not operate on a twenty four hour basis.  The project planners would do a traffic study on the effects of the project and that a traffic signal would be installed at Third Street to help with the control of traffic.

Lets look at these one at a time.  I would be willing to bet dollars to doughnuts if the project is approved that after six months to store will immediately revert to twenty four hour a day operation.  This of course assumes that once started the owners and contractors don't go to court and get all of the above restrictions lifted before the first brick is laid.  I spoke with the PenDot engineers at one of their meetings and according to them private contractors do not have the authority to install new traffic signals on their own.  They would have to work with PenDot especially on a system as complex as we have here in Oakmont with signals that are coordinated not only with traffic flow but also with the railroad that passes through town.  He said that they had done a traffic study as part of the bridge project and it was deemed that there was no signal necessary at junction of Third Street and Hulton Road.

When the meetings was held to reconsider the Speedway station it was met with a large amount of resistance at which point counsel took the meeting behind closed doors much to the consternation of the attending public and with complaints from reporters in the room that by doing so the, counsel, were violating the state sunshine laws.  For this reason I make my prediction that the next traffic signal in Oakmont will be at the crossing at Collage Avenue and Allegheny River Boulevard.

I'm beginning to smell the fragrance that I remember wafting my direction when the City of Pittsburgh and the county put fourth the plans for two  new sports stadiums on the North Shore and the residents of both the city and the county made a resounding statement that there should be no more public money poured into supporting the local sports teams.  At that time there were a number of very good alternatives for financing the new facilities that the Steelers and the Pirates were lusting after as they were making veiled threats of leaving town if they didn't get what they wanted.

Despite all of the talk and in some cases outrage that was show to keep it from happening Mayor Tom Murphy thumbed his nose at those that had elected him and made it known that the two new stadiums were going up whether we wanted them or not.

I understand not wanting the Hulton road property to lay fallow not producing any tax revenue for the borough.  I do however think that we can find a better suited use for this parcel of land if we take out time and put a little effort into the search.  What do you think?

Please see the following related links :

Oakmont counsel set conditions for Hulton Road gas station.

Oakmont counsel takes meeting behind closed doors

Oakmont Plum Patch

Monday, November 07, 2011

Elections in Allegheny County tomorrow

For those of you reading this that live in Allegheny County tomorrow is election day. I encourage all of you that are eligible to go to the polls and vote. If you do vote one of the more important decisions you will make tomorrow will be the election of a new chief executive. The two candidates Rich Fitzgerald and D. Raja have both minimized the issues at hand buy running very negative campaigns attacking each other personally. Something that I think has discouraged a lot of voters and may keep them away from the voting booth tomorrow. With the large disparity in party registration in Allegheny County I think the scales are already tipped in Fitzgerald's direction and if the election turnout is small as predicted that may determine the outcome of the race.

I plan to voting tomorrow and I will cast my vote for D. Raja. I am also encouraging my family and friends to do the same. While Rich Fitzgerald is a very likable person and seems to have an entrepreneurial spirit he has continued to be "part of the problem" when it comes to making essential changes in government that need to come about in order to change the direction of the city, county, state and ultimately the country. As much as I am disappointed with the type of campaign being conducted by both candidates, especially in the media, I feel that someone not submersed in the body politic at the county level who would view the county executive's position more as running a business than holding a political office would be best for the citizens of the county.

Please take the time to look over what the candidates are offering to attempt to do if elected to the office and choose the one you feel best suited for the job. My hope is that we will not wake up Wednesday morning open our news papers, turn on our radios and televisions or log into our favorite web sites only to find that we have a new county executive in office based enough members of special interest groups who knew only what they were told by their bosses and voted the party line.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

We as citizens of Allegheny County have an important decision to make

When Allegheny County government was restructured and the position of County Executive was created I thought it was a real move forward for our area and I was optimistic.

The first two candidates for the position were Cyril Wecht and James Roddy. My wife was quite upset when I went to the basement and made up a FOR SALE by OWNER sign and announced my intentions to place it in the front yard if Wecht won the election. To this day she doesn't know exactly how serious I was about moving out of the county had that been the case.

I think Jim Roddy got us off to a good start with the plans and policies that he implemented while in office. Given the voter registration in this county and the attitude of a large number of the people who live here I thought it was too much to hope for that we would elect a Republican to that office two times in a row. I was not wrong and Dan Onorato has occupied the office since Roddy's departure. I consider Onorato a moderate in the Democratic party and while not doing any serious damage I don't think he is the answer to get our economy going again and stop the hemorrhaging of our population leaving the county that has reduced our tax base to the point that we are in a self fulfilling downward spiral of growth.

So once again we are at a crossroads that will determine the direction of our economy, growth and standard of living. It is my opinion that what Allegheny County and thus Oakmont needs is a good business man running the county with strong entrepreneurial skills that will do what is best for the county not what is best for a given political party or what will get him or her reelected in the next election cycle. I think D. Raja is that man. While I like his opponent's attitude on some issues I think he is far to embedded in the political scene to do the things necessary to promote growth in our county.

This decision will be critical to all of the counties citizens and will have tremendous effect on their livelihood in the coming years. Sooner or latter we are going to dig our way out of the mess that the inside the beltway Washington DC crowd had placed us in and when that happens those that have followed a sound fiscal path are going to be in a position to grow, profit and raise our standard of living. This in turn will create a place where our children can prosper and give our grandchildren a better life. Please take a moment and visit the "Join Raja" web site and learn what his plan is to make Allegheny County a better place for families where good jobs are available and growth is possible.

Thank you for taking the time to read my thoughts and please educate yourself and become part of the process.


Monday, September 05, 2011

This says it better than I could with far fewer words.

Please watch the video and then consider what it means. Really think about your children and your grand children. Thank you.