Open Government Amendment text now online
he full text of the Open Government Amendment is now online. It is fairly long and is designed to guarantee City citizens open knowledge, oversight, and involvement with their government. Your help is essential if this effort is to become a successful reality. We have between now and August 4th to collect approximately 10,000 signatures. Please get involved. (read more below)
Pgh Open Gov't Amendment
aced with corporate and government corruption seemingly everywhere, it's easy for individual citizens to feel overwhelmed and helpless. No matter how many groups may champion the public cause, they are on the outside while the special interests, with their hands in our pockets, are on the inside. We are steadily losing ground and we will continue to do so until the door is unlocked and our government is forced to deal equitably and openly with all members of the public.
Fortunately, we can harness the new Internet technologies, and, by reaching back a few years, we can borrow from the model of southwestern Pennsylvania's three year experiment with proactive public participation (it was so effective, officials pulled the plug when it began to hold them accountable). As a first step, the Pittsburgh Area New Direction Alternative is proposing an Open Government Amendment to the Pittsburgh City Charter. An Initiative and Referendum effort is organizing for the circulation of petitions, which began June 17th. Your help is needed!
"But I don't live in the City of Pittsburgh."
Whether or not you live in the City, you can still help. There are a number things to be done. To circulate referendum petitions for the City you must be registered to vote in the City, but we need to hand out literature door to door and at busy locations to educate the public about the proposed Open Government Amendment. We also people to help when we set up a petitioning table with a laptop computer to check people's registration and record when they sign (we have the voter database on CD).
"Why should people outside the City want to help?"
Because as the largest municipality in the region, it is the tail that wags the dog. What happens in the city affects the region. The problems in southwestern Pennsylvania are in large part a result of ineffectual, incompetent, and corrupt policies in the City of Pittsburgh. By helping the citizens of the City establish a more open government with pro-active public participation, everybody inside and outside the city will benefit. If the current proposal is successfully implemented, it could even prove to be a dramatic redefinition of democratic involvement and serve as a model for elsewhere.
Pgh Dept of Neighborhoods proposed
ANDA is also advocating a second City of Pittsburgh referendum issue which would amend the City Charter to establish a new Department of Neighborhoods. Other cities across the country have similar departmental structures which coordinate and administer city services with a neighborhood focus. Two years ago, the Neighborhoods USA national convention was held in Pittsburgh and presentations were made explaining how the establishment of this new focus changed and improved city living at the neighborhood level.
By drawing upon the experience and innovations of other cities, the City of Pittsburgh can implement a better administrative structure here. At the moment, the plan is to have a Charter Amendment drafted and ready in time to circulate petitions alongside those for the Open Government Amendment. Early discussions have found both to be highly popular ideas and each issue should help the other attract signers when presented together.
Update on old issues
he photos below first appeared with the inaugeration of the PANDA Page four years ago. The Imperial Grasslands and the historic Greater Pittsburgh Airport terminal building have long since been destroyed and are now merely memories. Nonetheless, they stand as important examples of the corrupt public actions which are taking place in this region, robbing its citizens of their irreplaceable public assets. It is important that we understand what we have lost and how it happened. Look here for more on these issues in the coming months.
Young owl chick in its nest at the Imperial Grasslands.
Environmental devastation: The Imperial Grasslands, breeding grounds of a Pennsylvania endangered species (the short eared owl) and the habitat of over 205 other species (many rare or unusual), was considered the best bird habitat in western PA. A major attraction for bird watching tourists and local nature lovers, it was closed to public access by the owner when concerns were raised about the environmental impacts as the Turnpike proceeds with plans to build an unnecessary toll road and interchange. The owner then put cattle into the grasslands to destroy the habitat and the nests of the birds.
The Environmental Impact Statement for the highway project disclosed that it will not add one more car to the airport than if it were not built at all. The sole purpose of the project is to stimulate real estate speculation around it. Costing hundreds of millions of public dollars, the land owner expects to make a killing after the highway is built. This is a prime example of how subsidized real estate speculaton underlies the process of modern suburban sprawl, even while the region's population is declining.
The Veterans Memorial Fountain at the Greater Pittsburgh Airport.
History destroyed: The historic Greater Pittsburgh Airport terminal building, the world's largest for nearly 2 decades, was also one of the grandest anywhere until its scandalous demolition. It was almost saved when demolition was stopped April 22, 1999 by a stay from the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals. A few days later, a politically connected law firm (the County is one of their major clients) signed a million dollar employment contract with one of the judges, who then quickly reversed the ruling with a highly questionable court order. MORE
Two weeks later, the matter was appealed to Supreme Court Justice David Souter, the Circuit Justice for our district. The County submitted an affidavit saying the rotunda was unstable and had to be taken down immediately. The Justice declined a stay (he couldn't be expected to create a safety hazard), after which demolition work shifted to other parts of the building instead. When they got back to that section again, according to news reports, they had a hard time getting it come down, evidently because it was so stable.