Pittsburgh Government Covertly Attempting to Induce Climate Change

by Mark Saporta, Municipal Machinations Correspondent

In a shocking development in local politics, an expose on the internal workings of the municipal government of Pittsburgh released earlier this week has revealed that both the mayor and the city council are actively attempting to effect climate change.

The document, released anonymously, directly quotes several higher-ups in the city government brainstorming ways to discreetly funnel money towards advancing climate change, from hiring gang members to destroy electric cars, to creating a vaguely-purposed super PAC that secretly devotes all contributions to setting aerosol cans on fire, to breeding especially flatulent cows.

Naturally, this report has enraged and confused many Pittsburghers, who are understandably loath to see their tax money both figuratively and literally burned on a seemingly counterproductive enterprise. Like them, readme is seeking answers to why the Democrat-controlled city government has taken such an aggressively climate-unfriendly stance, and has turned to Mayor Bill Peduto for an explanation:

 

readme: In all my years as a political analyst, I have never encountered any government actively embracing climate change, let alone a liberal one. Why are you doing this?

Peduto: Look outside.

readme: What? Uh…okay.

(At this point, your correspondent looked out the window of the mayor’s office. As per usual, it was overcast.)

Peduto: Q.E.D.

readme: Well, I mean…

Peduto: Pittsburgh has the most dismal weather this side of Chicago. The only times it’s not cloudy is when it’s raining. The only times it’s not uncomfortably cold is when it’s uncomfortably hot. It’s humid, it’s damp, it’s windy, it’s just generally gross. Our snow even sucks! Why wouldn’t we be trying to change the climate? What change could there be that wouldn’t be an improvement from what we have?

readme: Isn’t that rather selfish?

Peduto: As the mayor of Pittsburgh, my duty is first and foremost towards my constituents. If parching California gives us more sunny, 70-degree days in February, then I know where my priorities lie. And hey – any money we invest in inducing climate change will be more than recouped by the tons of rock salt we won’t have to buy every winter. It’s just good governance.

readme: That day was pretty damn nice.

Peduto: Imagine if every day in February was like that. All it would take would be a few more wildfires, a few more islands sunk into the ocean, and a few more sad people on the other side of the world. My government considers the costs worthwhile, and we think voters will too.

readme: Well, Mr. Mayor, thank you for your time, and hopefully the history books don’t demonize your decision any more than is appropriate.

At press time, the temperature in Pittsburgh had once again fluctuated 60 degrees, just like every goddamn Tuesday.

Pittsburgh to Fill Holes in All of Our Hearts. And Streets. Mostly Streets Actually

by Cam Wong, readme Commissar for Municipal Affairs

Pittsburgh residents this past week gathered to vote on a recurring issue—that of the city’s rapidly deteriorating bridge infrastructure.

Pittsburgh, the once-renowned “city of bridges,” has decided that the city’s time and money would be better spent on replacing its human workforce with robots.

The controversial “Road Undertaking Thing” (RUT) initiative was proposed to both remove the need to fix bridges as they get worn out by years of overuse and help address the waste disposal issues that plague every city. This plan would involve filling the various valleys in the city with landfill, then covering it with concrete to make the city mostly level.

Of course, this would be a massive undertaking. Affected residents would need to be moved uphill, where they would be temporarily housed during the reconstruction process. Despite this, responses have been generally positive.

“I think it’s great,” says Nick Rauen, a student from outside Philadelphia who would not be affected. “It’s a great way for the city to save money on fixing the bridges, while keeping the bridges around for tourists to look at!”

Despite seemingly widespread support, however, concerns abound about the city’s restructuring and iconic look. “What will we be if we don’t have our bridges anymore?” asks James Dullman, a longtime resident. “We’ll just be another boring, bridge-less city like Chicago or Boston!” Residents of the aforementioned bridge-less cities were unavailable for comment.

Proponents of the plan argue that such distinctions are ultimately meaningless and will ultimately only hold the city back. “To miss this opportunity would be paramount to burning a bridge to the future” says Mark Saporta, a satire writer from the Oakland area.

A Tale of Two Pittsburghs

Thatcher Montgomery, Editor-in-Chief

It’s a well-known fact that Carnegie Mellon University is located in Pittsburgh. Nestled at the corner of Oakland, Squirrel Hill, and Shadyside, our campus is a bus ride away from many of the city’s other neighborhoods. How often do students really go out, though? And even when we do leave campus, are we seeing ourselves as part of the Pittsburgh community, or are we just seeing Pittsburgh as a platter to pluck from?

One Carnegie Mellon student and community activist sees other students treating Pittsburgh as the latter. “CMU is entrapped in a bubble of privilege,” he said, choosing to remain anonymous for legal reasons. “The only interactions with the pre-existing community are through Culinart or FMS, and they’re not even supposed to talk to us.”

Nina Barbuto, a Pittsburgh native who ventured out but returned in 2010 as an adjunct professor in the School of Architecture and founder of Assemble, a non-profit in Garfield, has similar views. “CMU students tend to live in a bubble. From a design point of view, students use Pittsburgh as a laboratory but then fail to build lasting relationships because their project or reason to leave the bubble is only one semester long.”

“Not all students are like this,” Barbuto said, “but ask the next person you see where Garfield or Friendship or Bloomfield is.”

It’s hard to integrate into a community in the four short years that most of us have here. But that doesn’t mean that students should ignore the people who live outside of the yellow brick walls of campus, and it doesn’t give us the right as visitors, as passers-through, as guests in Pittsburgh, to treat the city as our personal playground.

The University’s presence offers a lot to Pittsburgh, from being a major factor in the city’s tech boom to charitable donations and community service. Members of the Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education (which includes Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh, as well as others like Duquesne and Chatham) contributed $9 billion to the Pittsburgh economy in 2014. There are certainly benefits that Carnegie Mellon (and other institutions) provides for the city.

But it’s important to look at where those benefits are going. Startups and larger tech companies provide jobs, but most of those go to transplanted college students. “It’s like tech is king, and everything else is seen as being in service to that,” the anonymous student said.

One example of the selective prosperity brought, at least partially, by Carnegie Mellon is Bakery Square—primarily used by Google. Twelve years ago, that land was an industrial bakery, pumping out goods for Bake-Line Group, and before that, for Nabisco. A public school stood where Bakery Square 2.0 is being planned.

While the factory went bankrupt and the Reizenstein School was closed for low enrollment and low performance, they were long-standing members of the community. Even though the Nabisco factory operated far under capacity, it provided 350 jobs for locals, jobs that didn’t require an (expensive) education from CMU.

In their place, luxury shops and upscale housing have popped up like mushrooms after a (Google-sponsored) rain. Stores like Anthropologie and LA Fitness appeal to the young and flush tech workers. A 510 square foot studio apartment in Walnut Capital’s new Bakery Living Orange complex comes in at $1,360, and the prices only go up from there.

“All this housing they’re building in East Liberty [adjacent to Bakery Square] is very unaffordable for most lower to mid-range middle class folks,” Barbuto said. “Who are they building it for? People who get 60k plus right out school? Maybe more?”

It’s not just tech, either. Even the many restaurants that are popping up and making Pittsburgh visible on a national level are often located in gentrified or revitalized areas, like Lawrenceville. A decade ago in the neighborhood, it would have been unusual to see menu items like cashew cheese and nitro coffee, which are offered in the newly-opened (and very tasty) vegan middle-eastern restaurant B52.

These improvements in themselves are not bad. High-paying jobs and fancy fares are wonderful, and hardly anyone would deny that they want them. There is a reason why the city has made it on so many “top-ten” lists nationally. Like many college students, I’ve enjoyed many of the nicer restaurants Pittsburgh has to offer. I also know many alumni who took advantage of the local jobs and now work in Pittsburgh, both for bigger companies like Google and smaller startups like Duolingo.

These benefits are one reason why it’s easy for CMU students to ignore, willfully or not, the changes that we indirectly bring to Pittsburgh. “Most majors benefit off of gentrification, like business or computer science,” the anonymous student said.

The problems arise when the city and neighborhood improvements come at the cost of the people who used to live in those areas and call them home. Rent in Pittsburgh has doubled or tripled in recent years, and property prices jumped from $40,000 to $120,000 in Lawrenceville, $68,000 to $140,000 in the South Side—one house in East Allegheny was sold for $38,000 before being flipped and back on the market a year later, listed at $396,000. These rising housing prices, and their associated property taxes, are making it untenable for many long-term residents to remain in their communities.

And improvements for some don’t mean that everyone benefits. While the amount of high-priced housing keeps going up, there’s been fewer housing options for lower-income residents. Private schools and suburban school districts are doing well, or at least better than the Pittsburgh Public Schools (PPS), whose high schools rank 382nd, 492nd, 521st, and 557th out of 592 public high schools in Pennsylvania (the remaining two PPS high schools have no test results listed). While Bakery Square is a bustling center of enterprise, Wilkinsburg, one neighborhood over, experienced a shooting just a few weeks ago.

“There is a huge contention currently about the tale of two cities,” Barbuto said. “Pittsburgh is the ‘most livable city’ for some but not for all, especially not for the people who have been disenfranchised since the 1980s. I would like to see how the digital tech boom is creating jobs for the people who have lived in the neighborhood all their lives. People want Pittsburgh to be cool, but for who?”

Disenfranchisement, not from voting but from having a say in decisions about their homes, is a real concern to many poorer communities, which are overwhelmingly made up of minorities. Most neighborhoods in Pittsburgh are heavily segregated, made up of mainly whites or mainly non-whites, but without a mix. The areas that see their communities changing in ways outside of their control are often mostly non-white, although not always. The racial factor isn’t lost on the anonymous student, who is mixed-race but passes as white.

“People look at me and say I’m not a bad [minority], I’m not a real [minority]. This gives me the benefits of white privilege, and I use that to enter into conversations. CMU students don’t want to think about racism or gentrification.”

The student lives near Braddock, and has worked in the black community for his entire time at CMU, and the difference is jarring. “It’s like two worlds: I live and work in a majority- black neighborhood, and then I come back to CMU.” He tries to make sure that the venues he visits are integrated into the community, and avoids establishments run by white transplants in (formerly) majority-black neighborhoods without input from the established community.

So how can this divide be bridged? By ensuring that a rising tide lifts all boats. Barbuto hopes to see a more reciprocal relationship between the universities and people in Pittsburgh, one that helps bring in underrepresented and minority communities and includes them in Pittsburgh’s incoming tide.

“We try to connect [the universities] with the future generation,” Barbuto says. Her work at Assemble focuses on giving kids access to a makerspace and the ability to take. “This way kids can be a part of the conversation, especially kids who are not traditionally connected to middle to upper class forms of entrepreneurship.”

“We also hope to help shift what it means to be a maker, or at least what a maker looks like (insert white guy with glasses).”

The anonymous student has similar ideas, especially in regards to opening up educational opportunities. “I was lucky, I got into a lottery school in [my hometown] and even then it took extra initiative.” Busing across town to go to a school filled with people who come from a very different background is a challenge, but it can be made easier by institutions helping out by providing transportation, meals, or taking schooling to the students.

“My mom cared enough, and said ‘let’s take this extra push.’ Not everyone has that.”

Pittsburgh needs to include all of its long-term population in its future plans, and not just focus on industries propelled by out-of-town college students. Universities, and their students, need to acknowledge that they’re living in a larger community, and put some effort into making sure that the work they do is beneficial to everyone.

As short-term residents of this city, we have a responsibility to recognize that our presence isn’t solely a boon. We have a hand in raising housing prices, pushing out established communities, and silencing opposition in exchange for the newest trendy restaurant or tech hub.

But we can make ourselves welcome guests. We can talk with the people who live around us, learn about the place we call home for four years and the place they’ve called home for decades. Interact with the people cleaning your dorm and serving your food. Go out and volunteer, and not just once a year. Really get to know this place, and its people. See not just what you can get out of CMU, but out of Pittsburgh as a whole, while giving back at the same time.

Spring Break to be Spent Exploring Pittsburgh, or So Student Thinks

Thatcher Montgomery, Wasted Time Correspondent

Sophomore human-human interaction major Margie Webster doesn’t have big plans for spring break, but that isn’t holding her back. With a week off from classes, she’s looking forward to finally getting off campus and seeing what Pittsburgh has to offer.

“I spent spring break last year at a friend’s beach house in Florida, and that was a lot of fun. This year, though, I’m going to save some money and just stay here in Pittsburgh. I’m sure there will be something to do.”

Despite her unwavering optimism, Webster will spend each day of spring break sleeping in, eating cereal while watching Netflix, realizing it’s already 3pm and by the time she got anywhere it would already be closed, and then staying up late with more cereal and Netflix to repeat the process again.

Webster has ventured away from the campus bubble campus a handful of times, usually taking a bus directly to and from her destination. This spring break, though, she’s planning on doing some exploration, maybe walking around a little.

“I definitely want to go to the North Side, and see the Andy Warhol Museum, the Mattress Factory, the Children’s Museum, and the National Aviary. Oh, and the Science Center. Maybe I’ll take two days for up there, there’s just so much stuff!”

Unfortunately, Webster will never make it past Entropy for restocking her cereal supply.

“I haven’t even been to the Carnegie Museum of Art or the Natural History Museum, and they’re just down the road! Silly me. I’m going to make sure to hit those up, and then maybe wander around the Nationality Rooms in the Cathedral of Learning.”

When classes stop and spring break starts, Webster will feel a great weight lifted, and at the same time she’ll feel the cumulative effects of stress and less-than-ideal sleep she’s been getting the past two months. Instinct will kick in and demand that she sleep 12 hours a day to make up for it, and prepare herself for the months to come.

“Some of the restaurants downtown seem nice, too. If I can find someone to go with, that is.”

As of press time, Webster was daydreaming about walking up and down Walnut Street in Shadyside, but in reality she’ll just be working on that semester-long project she hasn’t started yet.

 

Pittsburgh High Schoolers Decide to be the Worst.

On April 17, LGBTQ advocacy groups across the country participated in the annual “Day of Silence”, an event designed to call attention to the bullying and harassment faced by LBGTQ individuals with a campaign of peaceful demonstration. In response, a group of Pittsburgh high schools started their own event designed to call attention to the bullying and harassment faced by LBGTQ students, with a campaign of bullying and harassing LGBTQ students.

 

This “anti-gay day” was organized by high school students who assumedly felt that their free speech was being stifled, people weren’t being tolerant of their intolerance, yadda yadda. They ‘celebrated’ by encouraging everyone who didn’t like gay people to wear flannel to school the next day, write the words “anti-gay” on their hands, and post homophobic posters on the lockers of known queer students in the school.

 

Unfortunately for these poor maligned douchebags, it does not look like “anti-gay day” will catch on. The blame most likely falls on a lack of stylish clothing choices; homophobes have spent so long deriding the vast majority of cool outfits as ‘gay’ that now the only unambiguously heterosexual options are flannel and the color orange (and even those are suspect). Because be honest: would you rather show your support for a cause by wearing orange flannel or awesome rainbows? Yeah, that’s what we thought.

Pittsburgh Weather Strikes Again

It’s that time of year again. In fact it’s always that time of year. You know, when the weather is just bizarre or really terrible. In case you are still scratching your head over the strange weather, just remember you are in Pittsburgh and everything will make sense. Now, readme is not complaining about the temperatures (although there were a few days that were a bit on the chilly side), but the rest of the weather is just getting plain bizarre. Anyone who wasn’t locked in their room for the entire day last Thursday should remember the huge thunderstorm with gale-like winds that hit campus that afternoon. readme remembers, and it has nothing to do with the fact that readme was hiding under the covers…

 

Well, anyway, readme would like to make some predictions for the upcoming months. First of all, Sweepstakes (that’s Buggy to all you plebeians—and if you don’t know what Buggy is, are you sure you go to school here?) is on Friday and Saturday this week, and according to the Smallgirlsdownhills Law of Weather it is bound to rain one of those days. readme is thinking Pittsburgh might try and shake things up by just having buggies fall from the sky. For the rest of April students should wear wetsuits in order to be able to swim through the spontaneous thunderstorms and still make it to class on time. They say that April showers bring May flowers but readme is pretty sure the flowers are just crushed by the torrential downpours and quietly replaced overnight by fairies without anyone being the wiser.

 

Not to get too far ahead, but for those students sticking around until finals, remember to stay near a building with a basement at all times. Most likely Pittsburgh will be filled with tornadoes all through the month of May. And by that, readme means that there will most likely be at least one or two resident tornadoes on CMU campus. In past years, they have tended to spend time down near Hamerschlag or near Resnik (to catch all those freshmen who just ate dinner). Remember, if you see a tornado, quickly report it to campus police, who will park some campus police cars around it in order to keep the student body safe from all harm. In the days before finals, don that wetsuit again in order to make it through the lake of blood, sweat, and tears that will pour from all of CMU’s students. Once that drains away you should be done with finals, and if you are done with finals, you really shouldn’t stay in Pittsburgh anymore.

 

For those of us here in the summer… well, the entire city of Pittsburgh will simply be sucked into a black hole, because that is how the universe works. Or maybe it’s just an anomaly of the weather here; either way readme doesn’t see any difference.

A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Weather Not be Horrible

Isn’t it lovely? The weather, that is. readme thinks so. I mean, who doesn’t love subzero temperatures? And the windchill? Love. It. While it can be a bit hard to breathe, or to keep your eyes from watering, readme has found the weather to be invigorating and refreshing. It has even made readme more energetic. Constantly slipping on snow and ice will do that to you. readme can’t get enough.

 

The best part is the blindingly white landscape (Seriously—readme experienced temporary blindness, which was so worth it, of course) blending with that lovely blue salt stuff that CMU puts down in nice little clumps. You see, the clumps of salt are just another part of the beautiful weather that readme can’t get enough of. How else would readme be able to wake up in the morning if not for the near-death experiences encountered at every patch of sidewalk that isn’t a pile of blue salt?

 

That breeze really tops things off, though. Not only does it help bring down the high temperatures (What if the snow melted? Then what?), but it also teams up with the ice to keep you on your toes—or your butt, depending on whether you just fell or not.

 

In fact, there’s really only one downside to this weather, and that’s that it’s over too soon. But never fear, world. readme is pleased to report a successful mission from its Punxsutawney agents. A pair of bright flashlights ensured that the world’s most beloved groundhog saw his shadow, thereby inducing an additional six weeks of winter. Unfortunately, our two agents were then immediately sucked into an endlessly repeating Groundhog Day loop reminiscent of that classic Bill Murray movie, “Ghostbusters,” so the poor saps weren’t able to enjoy the freezing weather like the rest of us. They never should have crossed the streams.

 

Well, readme is having a great winter. Having escaped the oppressive heat and Disney mascots (readme took a well-deserved vacation over winter break), readme was ecstatic to return to CMU and Pittsburgh’s fair weather. Because really, who doesn’t love this climate?

 

Save UPMC

upmcpuppyeyes

In a plea for help, UPMC is calling on the general public to rally on March 3rd against the machinations of its greedy employees. For years, UPMC employees have been tormenting its employer – last November they had the audacity to exist as workers, a fact that had frustrated the company as they tried to acquire a non-profit status. In the end, UPMC’s lawyers pulled them through, claiming that: “The City of Pittsburgh has not, and cannot, identify a single person who is employed by or on the payroll of UPMC, the parent holding company.” The ruling was a great gain for the embattled $10 billion non-profit organization, which not only works tirelessly to avoid paying property taxes but also has apparently been needlessly paying its 62,000 “volunteers”.

In essence, the March 3rd rally is a “pick-me-up” for UPMC, who would appreciate an outcry of support after the controversy concerning the way it has treated its employees employed volunteers. As a case in point, the company was criticized even when it opened a food bank to aid its own struggling workers. Many detractors of the move (including more than a few ungrateful employees) whined that a food bank was “demeaning”, and that UPMC had “totally missed the mark”. UPMC supporters rightfully pointed out that food banks met employees’ needs just as effectively as wages – even UPMC’s executives would just as happily take their wages in green beans as they would in greenbacks. And as a gesture of good faith showing this was true, UPMC’s executives did no such thing.

More notoriously and most recently, UPMC has encountered trouble from its meddling nurses. Though the two parties had long been in contract negotiations, its nurses had been making ridiculous suggestions like “upping the nurse to patient ratio” or “having shorter shifts” – all supposedly so that nurses would be “better staffed and better able to treat their patients”. UPMC’s lawyers were forced to walk out of several negotiations when it was clear that the nurses were refusing to be productive and instead producing gag contracts that would in no way profit UPMC. Of course, nurses never know when to quit joking; weeks later, they began clowning around again with “protest” in the form of a day-long strike. UPMC kept its cool through the ordeal and chose the moral high ground by hiring temporary nurses to take their place. And though the price of 1.6 million for temps was much steeper than giving in to the nurses’ concessions, the medical institution’s point had been proven: “Fuck you, nurses.”

All in all, UPMC has had a rough couple of years. Whether from ungrateful minimum wagers or dastardly nurses, UPMC has been beset on all sides by employees who simply don’t know how to stop existing. Won’t you come down and show some support for your friendly University of Pittsburgh Medical Center? Join UPMC as it marches in force against its workers on March 3rd from 9 AM onwards, downtown at the USX Tower, 600 Grant St.