« Disparage the Nanny Statists: A (Stacked) Forum on the Smoking Ban | Main | Game Lands and Gambling: The Money Grandma Loses to Slot Machines Is Paying for What? »


sean mcdaniel

i like the idea. sure it's a tough sell because even in small town's government jobs and positions have ways of being beneficial to those in charge. these guys are pretty brave (maybe more so than smart or practical) to not milk a personal good deal in favor of something that benefits everyone.

i can't imagine dennis regan or jim ferlo doing the same...or most other local politicians. you'd almost need a dictator to make it happen...like tito in yugoslavia. actually, i do think dan onorato might be one guy who wouldn't try to hold on to power until the rabble pried his hands of the county executive office door knob. i know that some don't like his property tax policy (which renters really shouldn't criticize. if everyone paid a county income tax, the property tax would go away. and i guess if the county consolidated, the issue might be moot.)

anyway, i'm all for it...we could call the new city/county "pittsburbs" (or pixburbs)...and john morris could live in whitehall without being suburban scum. and developers in n. hills could get cushy subsidies for ranch style condos that cost $500,000. at least it would spread the goodies around to everyone.

but even with the usual problems associated with politics, i like the idea...if it's a true consolidation.

C. Briem

You know, I have been to Emporium several times actually.

but it probably is good to keep some perspective. It's not just that the size of Cameron county is so small, but there is not the huge diversity among those municipalities which is what impedes consolidation from the start in most metro areas or large counties. And it is just 2 municipalites there with even 1,000 people and they all have some similar demographics. Just a factoid but related, Cameron county has fewer African Americans than any county in PA, also fewer than in any county in any neighborhing state.

If they really want to do this county-wide, it's unclear if they would want to merge or just disincorporate the municipalities. State law does not make it easy to disincorporate but if they were to pursue this, that may be a path to look into. Honestly, you do not really need to do either (merge or disincorporate) in this case.. there is nothing stopping the county there from just taking on most (not all) services provided by the municipalites.

Sam M


Good points.

The only bone I would pick is that, although these places might be the same "demographically" and/or racially, these people have real diferences. That is, in many respects people from out in the weeds are at least as different from people in Emporium as people in Cranberry are from people who live downtown.

This is true not just in Cameron COunty, but in all of the towns across the Northern Tier. And, perhaps, all small towns.

The best example I can think if is St. Marys. Perhaps because it is a bit bigger. But take a look up there some time. St, Mary's is, actually, kind of "cosmopolitan." I mean, there is a movie theater. A McDonald's. An Arby's. Big grocery stores. Etc.

Now head dow into the valley. Known as, er, "the valley." Towns like Weedeville. Yes, Weedville. Where openly savaging St. Mary's and its Big City inhabitants is a part of life. Where groaning about the people who come to see the elk herd is a cultural fixation. Where I first learned to shoot a potato gun. And cut a car in half with a torch and drive the front around a makeshift track. Home to bars like the Big Trout and the Force Hotel.

The animosity towards the city slickers was pronounced, even in people my age. My folks said a lot of it stemmed from a first wave of school consolidation that happened way before my time. (St. Mary's actually has a pretty big school that draws from across the region. I think it's AAA. Or even AAAA. That's not true in Ridgway or Kane or Emporium, but the same thing happened to different degrees.)

There are other points of contention, but there's no need to belabor them. All I am saying is that even those these people are the same color and work in the same places--and in many cases share the same last names--their outlooks on life and politics can be quite different.

C. Briem

point taken, but just for the record I threw the race stat out there just because it is a basic (and easy) way to look at differences.. Take income, education, family structure or almost anything else, it's hard to come up with the same level of heterogeneity as there is in Allegheny County alone. Median household income for example is more than 10 times higher in Fox Chapel compared to Rankin. I doubt such differences exist across municipalities in Cameron county or almost anywhere else in state, which just makes most local issues far more difficult to address.

I tired to find the Elk once.. they wouldn't come out for me.

sean mcdaniel

Hey, Sam...

See that article in the PG about what a gargabe heap is ...mostly because of absentee landlords who rent to students who trash the houses and the neighborhood...best perspective...the old guy who said he was glad to see the city take charge because he remembered when oakland was beautiful..back in the days when Pitt's population was half the size...before the school went to the state with its purse open wide. you could say the neighborhood "went" right then. those were the days, my friend.

Sam M

Yes Sean, these damn kids. I suspect that their shenanigans have everything to do with the fact that 12 percent of Pitt's operating budget comes from state coffers. I just hope one day we can bring them under control by going completely private. Then Oakland can look more like this:


Or this:


Much better.

(For some reason, I can't fit the entire second link into Typepad. If it ends in "regis" when you cut and paste, make it end "_registry/")
Not sure why this is. Typepad! )

yeah, those private school kids are nuts. guess you can chalk it up to unsupervised underage drinking. none of that stuff would have happened if the kids were attending 2 drink limit parties held by the school or had been kicked out of bars by owners who noticed that a few youngsters had one too many sam adams. that's why i see guys three times the age of college students getting drunk in the parking lots at heinz field before a steelers game...or at bars...or even in their own homes...without anyone to watch over them. face it, a lot of people drink for one reason...to get wasted...and we probably can all agree that that attitude is more prevalent among younger people (i hesitate to say college students for fear of seeming to interpret sam's statements to serve my own purpose).

funny how you can't admit that your employer changed an entire neighborhood to suit its own needs.

Sam M


Whatever do you mean I "can't admit" that Pitt has changed Oakland? Have you ever asked me if Pitt has changed Oakland? Did I say "no"?

And under what circumstances would you expect an institution to not change its neighborhood? WOuld that have been possible in Pitt's case? Or even desirable? And under what circumstances would it decide to change them in a way counter to its own interests? Do you have any examples of that happening? I suppose in your mind the Piatts hope to transform downtown out of the goodness of their hearts?

Did Heinz change the shape of the "neighborhood" it occupies? Did PNC Park? Did your subdivision?

What in heavan's name is your point? Seriously. I have no idea what you are getting at. Or in what way my failure to respond to whatever it is you are implying amounts to hypocrisy.

Man, it's eisegesis all over again. No matter what I write, you read, "Pitt is a state-related institution." Even when I post about how a rural county is planning to consolidate its government.


sean mcdaniel

Sam asks Sean:

"Did your subdivision" change the neighborhood?

funny that assumption you're making. if avalon's a subdivision, then regent square is cranberry township. sam, if your nose wasn't so far up in the air (or your head so far up your ass) you might notice that i've mentioned many times that i live in anything but a subdivision. as for assumptions, my neighbors make a lot of jokes about yuppie elitists like you and your patched sports coat coed chasing drunken colleagues working on that unfinished 10,000 page great american novel that makes Ulysses seem like it was a first-grade reading primer. an unfair portrayal? probably, but like i said, it's an assumption. but i'm not saying i agree...yet.

sam, i've asked you a couple times if you thought pitt's 800 pound gorilla presence has benefited oakland overall as a "functional" neighborhood that will attract all sorts of people of varying incomes and backgrounds...one of the thing that i think you might say is important for a successful neighborhood (i don't see many young families moving there). if pitt were a bank and pulled up stakes for charlotte tomorrow, oakland would quickly look like fifth avenue downtown...and the city would be throwing subsidy money off the top of the cathedral of learning for just about anyone to catch. fortunately, universities don't move...especially when the gravy train is permanently parked outside their front doors.

as for the piatts' project, i doubt you'll find many hovels owned by absentee landlords sprouting up in the vicinity once the project's completed. the heinz plant attracted hundreds of thousands of workers over the years, workers who lived in the neighborhood, many of them right up to the end. my grandfather worked there...and walked from allegheny avenue to get there. same thing happened in homestead when US Steel was king and the southside. i'd really be willing to bet the percentage of people who work at pitt live in the neighborhood, especially when the neighborhood has such as small permanent residential populationthat keeps shrinking every time pitt puts up a new building.

as for pnc park...i'm guessing you weren't around when much of the old neighborhood there was acres of unpaved parking lots and a few blocks of miserable flop houses where the destitue tenants kept milk and perishables on their window sills during the winter (and who really wants to know where they stored that stuff in the warm weather.)

funny, too, how the places you mention are actually moving in a better direction (yeah,i think a clean, shiny downtown is an improvement over its current condition...even if i'll never be able to afford to live there.) but oakland is definitely not a better place to live today than it was 40 or 50 years ago...and that's mostly because of Pitt cutting out the heart of the neighborhood. Aside from a few distinctive (and older) buildings, most of what belongs to Pitt is no different than a sub-division of townhouses along I-279 near wexford or an industrial park along rt 28. and practically nothing that pitt has built in the past 30 years was constructed with the "community" in mind.

and my point is, again and again, sam...why is it "okay" for Pitt to receive the equivalent in subsidies of a new PNC park every year, but not okay for a dowtown developer to receive a one-time far less amount?

why shouldn't pitt have to survive by the same free market rules that you espouse for other organizations? seriously, sam, the damn universtiy pays its basketball coach $900,000 a year to recruit semi-literate players of limited talent who put in two years and then dribble off to the NBA (or stay on scholarship for five year to break a scoring record). Should even less than 5 percent of that state subsidy be used to pay that coach's salary? is that really good stewardship of any money,state or otherwise?

(by the way, jamie dixon's a decent guy and seems like he tries to do the right thing with his players. but, damn, basketball's not an extracurricular activity at $900,000 a year and you're playing in a very expensive new arena. so his real job is to win at any cost...even if the tab comes out of the taxpayers' pockets. and, yes, i'm a diehard panther fan...way back to billy knight and keith starr.)

but i'm asking you, sam, all things considered, if pitt can afford two expensive sports coaches...new basketball arenas...the chancellor's paycheck and perks... and many more things that don't have a damn thing to do with providing a quality education, does it really need or deserve the state's help and should it keep getting permission to raise tuition pay percentages that far outstrip the current level of most workers' pay raise (about 2-3 percent this year)? doesn't this kind of thing run counter to your beliefs?

please tell me how the university has tightened its belt to fight rising operating costs, instead of just reaching deeper into the pockets of its students and their parents...and turning to the state for annual funds that will most likely top $180 million this year?

a few years ago, mark nordenberg discussed why state-related universities in neighboring states were facing financial challenges as great as those facing pitt, psu, lincoln and temple...here's what he said:

Pitt's Nordenberg said that commission members may look at the tuition for colleges and universities in neighboring states, like West Virginia and Ohio, and believe that these institutions are more efficient than those in their own state.

"But it doesn't cost more (in Pennsylvania).... because Ohio State is more efficient. It costs more (here) because of the other revenue stream that we have to work with," Nordenberg said referring to the fewer state dollars Pennsylvania provides for its public institutions.

Here's the link: www.psu.edu/ur/archives/intercom_2000/April6/costs.html

but the answer to running a university more efficiently, that's right, more government money...funny, wasn't that the problem 40 years ago? seems we never learn our lesson...even at the university level.

uh amos, this one might 1000 words. sorry.

sean mcdaniel

make that 1,011 words.

Sam M

Avalon isn't subdivided? Hmmm. Maybe I am using the wrong definition of the word. But here's how Miriam Webster defines it:

Main Entry: sub·di·vi·sion
Pronunciation: 's&b-d&-"vi-zh&n
Function: noun
1 : an act or instance of subdividing
2 : something produced by subdividing : as a : a subordinate part of a larger whole b : a tract of land surveyed and divided into lots for purposes of sale; especially : one with houses built on it

And here's how it defines "subdividing":

Main Entry: sub·di·vide
Pronunciation: "s&b-d&-'vId, 's&b-d&-"
Function: verb
Etymology: Middle English, from Late Latin subdividere, from Latin sub- + dividere to divide
transitive verb
1 : to divide the parts of into more parts
2 : to divide into several parts; especially : to divide (a tract of land) into building lots

Was the land on which Avalon was built never divided into several parts? Divided into building lots? I think most towns have been.

And is Avalon a place divided into building lots, "especially one with houses built on it"? According to Wikipedia, it is:

"Avalon is a borough in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, along the Ohio River, six miles (10 km) downstream of Pittsburgh. It is a purely residential place."

Is there some sort of legal definition of "subdivision" of which I am unaware? If so, I apologize and will call Avalon whatever you want me to call it. Even if it is "The Home of Those Pure Enough to Question Six Decades of Revitalization and Population Collapse."

Sam M

As for Pitt's funding, scroll down here for an interesting discussion.


sean mcdaniel

once again the ugly pedantic side rears its ugly self...by your definition then, everything is a subdivision. even bloomfield. even regent square. even shadyside. even lawrenceville. according to that strict meaning...every pittsburgh neighborhood is a sub-division because someone took the time "to divide [them]into several parts; especially : to divide (a tract of land) into building lots."

Following (wait, i mean mocking) your narrow self-serving view "Was the land on which Avalon (sorry, i meant bloomfield) was built never divided into several parts? Divided into building lots? I think most towns (oops, i meant city neighborhoods) have been."

as for using wikipedia as your source, check how it refers to your new neighborhood..."For the Suburb of Pittsburgh, see Bloomfield (Pittsburgh)" at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Bloomfield,_Pennsylvania. hey, if you trust wikipedia enough to prove a point, then i do too. because if wiki says it's true, it must be!

again from WP on bloomfield:
"The land here was claimed from the native Delaware tribe by Casper Taub, one of the area's earliest European settlers. Taub sold the land to his son-in-law John Conrad Winebiddle, whose descendants then broke it into lots and sold it beginning around the time of the 1868 annexation." en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bloomfield_%28Pittsburgh%29

how about that...they broke into lots and sold them...a subdivision, unless there's a legal definition (or sam interpretation) that exempts bloomfield from being a 100 percent true subdivision...

for the record, i really don't consider bloomfield, avalon or sewickley as sub-divisions. but to paraphrase lynyrd skynyrd...subdivision do not bother me...does your conscience bother you? tell the truth, sam?

sean mcdaniel

Okay, Sam...

I went back to that post you suggested and found this:

"please, nothing more about "image." Yes, shots of Pittsburgh on ESPN are "priceless," I suppose. But schools and roads are not priceless. They come at a price. One that cannot be paid with image."

ah, but Pitt spends millions upon millions to promote its image as a college that has an entire city as its campus...do we really need to see another photograph of the cathedral of learning on a pitt publication in which the university thumps its chest for being such a good neighbor? And what about all those "priceless" shots during halftime of a football game of students quietly studying on the cathedral lawn? is that image paying for anything? was does the school spend so much money on glossy recruitment materials sent to high school kids? couldn't they just fax a course list with a cover page that said "Jonas Salk created the polio vaccine here"? even pitt's web site promotes image...but i guess there's no cost involved. image sells, sam, and you know it. and if image isn't really a deciding factor for drawing students (let's assume that most pick the school for purely academic reasons) to pitt then why spend the money to project an image?

that $175 million could do a lot of road work...or keep open schools in wilkinsburg and other down on their luck towns where school officials and coaches don't make a million bucks a year.

for an interesting comparison of school web pages, check out harvard's site.It looks like a pretty good site for 1996...and it doesn't promote sports teams, unlike pitt's page which hawks the school's team apparel as one of its main links. you won't find that on the harvard site, where image isn't a concern and it appears not a lot of money was spent to create one.

but perhaps the image theme is one you wished i didn't notice? well, at least not regarding pitt.

and once again, i am certainly aware that pitt is competing against PSU, OSU and other schools that might be in the same range of choices for students...and if the schools seem equal to those students in terms of academics, then image might be the tie-breaker. hey, kind of sounds like a kid trying to decide whether to buy a pair of jeans from A & F or American Eagle...both are basically the same, but which company projects (and will help the buyer project) a cooler image.

Sam M

Um, Why in the world would I care if you said that Bloomfield was subdivided for residential? It was. So was Ridgway. And yes, every other place that has a plat.

I write "subdivision" and you read "terrible suburb."


I write "Cameroun County" and you read "Sam works at Pitt."


You want to have one conversation and one conversation only. And you turn everything into that conversation.


Listen, if you think subdivision means something else--something nefarious--take it up with the people ate Miriam Webster. Maybe they will add a third definition that says what you want it to say. Although I doubt you need for that to happen. You can just read the existing definition however you want.

I never said you lived in a "terrible subdivision." Or a "hypocritical subdivision." That's just hwat you heard.

oh come on sam, in the popular vernacular subdivision does mean sterile suburban sprawl...ask john morris or anyone else...you're just being...


just as queer didn't start out as a reference to homosexuality...but it certainly means that today...a point lost on someone so hopelessly...


and what about the image issue you referred me to about pittsburgh and the all star game? as i said, pitt promotes the hell out it's image... something that doesn't register on the screen of someone so ....


as i said, you bitch and moan about subsidies being used for well-off developers and their fancy dan customers, but say nothing about pitt building glitzy event centers (it's not a sports arena!) and paying coaches millions of dollars...and then asking for more state money...money that could help keep the duquesne school district in business for years. or repair the sidewalks on the mckees rocks bridge. or replace aging water lines in the city and county that burst with an increasingly regularity. or maintain county parks, which are free and open to all.

or those funds could help pitt divert some money into advertising its line of panther-wear online. or the could be used to give jamie dixon an even bigger contract the next time around (that's if he can send more coaches around the county to recruit more two-year-and-out "scholarship" players). or they could help build a new downtown events center — complete with slot machines for granny — before the penguins skate away to hartford.even better, that money could be used to build a new cheesecake factory on schenley plaza, instead of another atria's, which is merely an applebee's wannabe.

oh what a wonderful world it would be. just imagine dave wannstedt savoring a $12 slice of mucho espresso cheesecake after another devastating loss to the east connecticut school of taxidermy and proctology while his assistant coaches spin around on the charming carousel outside hoping to grab the brass ring...at penn state.

Sam M


So let me get this straight... I make a post about Cameron County and you respond with something about subsidies at Pitt and what the university has done to the neighborhood. Do you really see a conneciton there?

But then it gets better. I respond to you, and you come back with the pedantry: You complain that Avalon is not, in fact, a subdivision. Or has never been subdivided. Or some such.

So to defend myself I bust out a dictionary to explore what the definition of "subdivision" is. And you hammer me because in your mind, using a dictionary to define words is... pedantic. Even when the definition of a word is the very point being debated.

Remember, you are the one who started mincing words. Avalon, you said, was not subdivided. What other recourse do I have than to see what subdivided means?

Now, in your view, "subdivision" means "sterile suburban sprawl." Who's the elitist prick now? I never said that suburbs are sprawling and sterile. I don't like them, to be honest, but that's because I don't like to drive. I also don't like downtown condo living. Because I don't like living way up. So does that mean I think condo living is sterile and sprawling? If you are a careless reader, I guess it might.

And you are, in fact, a careless reader. At some stage of the game you appear to have confused, conflated or otherwise combined my views on downtown living. Perhaps with John Morris's. I don't know. But careful readers will understand that I have never, in fact, said that downtown living is ridiculous or terrible. Nor did I say it was the greatest way of life ever devised.

What I said, in fact, is that I don't really understand why, to be considered a successful city, Pittsburgh has to have a huge amount of downtown residential. And I still don't understand that. Not every neighborhood has to be everything to everybody. And downtown has not, in fact, been a residential neighborhood historically.

And just like downtown doesn't need to be home to 10,000 resident, I don't see why Oakland has to be home to 1,000 small families and elderly people. It is home to a lot of students because... get this... a lot of students go to school in Oakland. You know. Pitt. CMU. No grand conspiracy. No hypocrisy. Students live there because that's where they go to school. Amazing.

So, if you do not want to discuss the definition of a word, don't challenge someone's use of it.

And do try to stay on point. This post is about Cameron County and government consolidation.

In the meantime, stop being so hard on the suburbs. They are not all sprawling and sterile. Even for a pedantic, eisegesic fellow such as yourself.

sean mcdaniel

sam asks:

"Who's the elitist prick now?"

I still say you win...hands down. day in and day out. and i don't have to result to vulgarity to make my claim. seriously, who the hell pushed you around when you where in grade school? you blog bullies fall into the same category of raging insecurities as the limbaughs and hannitys...and then try to hide it under your oh so enlightened libertarian views. but in the end, blind ideology prevents you from seeing any point of view outside of your well rationalized "reason." after learning that you worked for that rag, i read a few online articles. what a bunch of inarticulate, foul mouthed whiners. oh, i know, you'll point out the few people who are "reasonal"able, usually guest writers. that's what pedants do and do best. minor points. from what i can tell online and in real life, libertarians are the crankiest people around...i guess because no one can see how "right" they are. well, we do see the righteousness.

i'm waiting for your vitriol.

Sam M

Sean, at 12:18 today:

"i don't have to result to vulgarity to make my claim."

Sean, about 15 hours earlier:

"sam, if your nose wasn't so far up in the air (or your head so far up your ass) you might notice that i've mentioned many times that i live in anything but a subdivision."

Sam M

Oops. Sorry. That first quote was from 12:15. I know you are as much stickler for accuracy as you are for clean language.

sean mcdaniel

okay, you got me. but you're a nasty type anyway. as i said, you blog bullies must have got your asses kicked frequently in middle school...as for the vulgarity, yeah, i used one...but you resort to name calling, vulgar name calling...how wonderfully refreshing from a 30-something grad student. not to mention mature.

Sam M

Yes. I did get you.

As for the rest, I find it very interesting. Turns out that you are not only the only person pure enough to criticize government policy (as evidenced by your refusal to name someone else so qualified) you are also the only person permitted to use naughty words. And anyone who responds to your naughty words with similar language is a "bully."

What an interesting world you live in. What color is it?

sean mcdaniel

it's got all the colors, sam. not the easy black and white that fills your world. hell, man, i never criticized government policy (oh yeah, i'm against the iraq war)with the ferocity that you do. seriously, is there anything that the government does right, in your view? i don't expect you to be a cheerleader, but it's difficult to think of many things you voice approval of.

it's kind of easy to snipe at everything...with your only suggestion being the free market fix or auctions. all you do is point all what's wrong.

sean mcdaniel

as for the purity issue...my point is, again, pitt enjoys its position and power in the community thanks to BILLIONS of dollars of state support over the past 40 decades. and that kind of support seems to be something you disagree with. it's that easy. that's money that might have helped build image and events centers...to pay coaches and pamper players who abandon the school after two year...and, yes, to build research centers and libraries and to fund stuff that does make a difference. still, a lot of that money does nothing for the average student and very little for the community (unless you count the few hundred free tickets that local "disadvantaged" kids get for panther football games. hell, no one's giving away tix for the basketball team...wonder why?)

as i said, it's a simple question...how is the money pitt gets every year different than a subsidy for a condo...or a grocery store...or mixed use housing?

or to make it even easier for you...is a subsidy wrong if it gives the recipient an unfair advantage over its competitors, be they other universities, hospitals or businesses?

Amos the Poker Cat

Yup, 1011.

The comments to this entry are closed.