Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving...

My fellow Tattlers,

Here is an article that will bring a smile to your face this Thanksgiving.

Don't eat too much turkey. Oh wait, I already did! ZZZzzzZZZzzz

Working to keep you posted...

Friday, November 21, 2008

Post Gazette...

Well this Tattler's question was answered in the online edition of the Post-Gazette. The newspaper's TV editor, Rob Owen, does a weekly Q&A of anything related to television. His latest post can be found HERE.

Q: This is a strange question, but I'm sure you get plenty of those. I tend to watch Fox News frequently and noticed something on several occasions.

During their prime-time lineup I think Verizon may be poaching some extra commercial time. Near the end of commercial breaks, a Verizon FIOS commercial airs, and when it is finished the channel comes back to the program already in progress.

For example, when I'm watching O'Reilly, the show will go to commercial then the Verizon ad will run at the end of the break. Afterwards O'Reilly is about 30 seconds into his next topic.

Is Verizon taking extra commercial time? I know this sounds crazy, but I see it happening all the time.

Any thoughts?

-- Jeff, 28, Ross

Rob: Verizon said it was human error.

"The advertising contractor that develops the ad insertion schedules incorrectly scheduled a 60-second spot instead of a 30-second spot during that program on Fox News, causing the spillover into programming," said Verizon spokesman Lee Gierczynski. "The contractor has updated the insertions schedules."

Working to keep you posted...

Northway Mall...

First of all, I know that Northway Mall officials changed the shopping center's name almost 2 years ago to Shoppes at Northway. Oooh! Sounds so cosmopolitan. Sorry, you're still Northway Mall to me just like how Mellon Arena will remain as the Civic Arena until it's demolished.

But I digress, I hope Northway Mall officials have an ace up their sleeve because they are facing one tough poker hand. The closing of The Kid Company adds to the amount of vacancies including the former location of Value City.

So what should mall officials do? I actually have no idea but this has been racking my brain for some time. Any ideas?

I remember the days of the mall boasting that humongous bird cage. Remember? How can you forget it!

Working to keep you posted...

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Business Update...

Here are a few tidbits about businesses in the North Hills. This post has been a long time coming so some of this happened a little while back.

- The Kid Company has closed at Northway Mall. As of last week, signs said it was temporarily closed but according to a Post-Gazette article in Wednesday's edition -- it is closed permanently.

- Famous Dave's seems closed. The last few times I have driven past the location near TGI Friday's, it seemed shut down. Any of you Tattlers have any scoop on this?

- Firehouse Grille and Pizza has opened up along Babcock Blvd in Ross Township. It is owned by a resident of Laurel Gardens. It seems it has taken over the location of Toscana's Pizza.

Any business tips? Email

Working to keep you posted...

North Hills fall play this weekend...

North Hills Senior High School will present it's annual fall play from Thursday, Nov. 20 through Saturday, Nov. 22. The school's drama club will perform "A Christmas Carol."

Doors open at 7:15 p.m. and tickets are on the cheap. The show will hit the stage at 8 p.m.

Maybe this will get all you Tattlers in the spirit for the upcoming holiday season. Remember the lesson you learn from this Charles Dicken's classic as you struggle an Elmo Live toy from another shopper's grip on Black Friday.

Working to keep you posted...

LL Bean Opening at Ross Park this weekend...

In continuing its steps towards offering a more up-scale retail center, Ross Park Mall will open its L.L. Bean store this weekend. Several events are planned for the opening:

The store will mark it's opening with several activities planned from Friday, Nov. 21 - Sunday, Nov. 23. Events include birds of prey demonstrations, Outdoor Discovery Schools clinics, a book signing with L.L. Bean Chairman Leon Gorman, fly casting demos and a GPS techno-treasure hunt.

This Tattler believes that while the L.L. Bean store will be something a bit different, this direction Ross Park Mall is taking may not be fruitful. While I wish the retailer the best, going upscale may not be the wisest decision given these economic times.

In the spirit of our flagship store in Maine, our new Pittsburgh store will remain open 24-hours a day throughout the celebration weekend. Visitors are urged to stop by after 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday for refreshments, live music and giveaways.

WHAAAAT? 24-hours? You know at 3 a.m. I sometimes wake up in a cold sweat wondering where I can get a fleece sweatshirt or some outdoor gear.

Hey, at least some private security or off-duty cops will make an extra buck!

Working to keep you posted...

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Vote on November 4...

Unfortunately, no early voting in Pennsylvania. There are many improtant races this cycle -- please vote.

My endorsements:

John McCain (R), Presidential candidate - (this is a light endorsement because I think both candidates leave alot to be desired given our country's economic turmoil)

Jason Altmire (D-4), U.S. Congressman - He is independent minded and doesn't always follow party-line politics. He has been a champion for our armed forces members and has been endorsed by the NRA. He will protect our rights.

Tom Corbett (R-PA), State Attorney General - He has done much in regards to combatting corruption in our fair commonwealth as well as targeting sexual predators.

While this is a very important election, this Tattler can't wait till it's all over. I'll have to give my brain some rest after this never-ending campaign.

Working to keep you posted...

Lil O'Reilly...

As someone who is a card carrying moderate Republican that tries to tune in to "The O'Reilly Factor" usually, I still found this spoof hilarious!

Check it out!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Bill O'Reilly and Barney Frank...

In case any of you missed it, Bill O'reilly exploded while interviewing U.S. Congressman Barney Frank on "The O'Reilly Factor" on Fox NEWS. You don't see an interview like this very often...

Watch the video clip HERE

Working to keep you posted...

Altmire and the bailout plan...

U.S. Congressman Jason Altmire (D-4), voted against the Wall Street bailout plan twice. He said that he was against the plan because it didn't provide enough measures to prevent the Wall Street mess from occurring again.

From Altmire's Website:

Today, the House considered the Senate-passed Wall Street bailout plan, the underlying premise of which is nearly identical to the bill I voted against on Monday. Although there were many extraneous provisions added in order to entice lawmakers to switch their votes, the bailout provisions still fail to protect the American taxpayers. There remains little in the bill to address the fundamental problems that have led us to this point.

This Tattler was also opposed to the plan for a variety of reasons. I felt that the problems associated with Wall Street could have been solved in alternative ways other than writing out a blank check.

Let's face it, our government has failed us on many levels. Altmire did the right thing.

What do you think?

Working to keep you posted...

Trust me, I'm not Dan DeMarco...

All my Tattlers,

Let's get this clear, I am not Ross Township Commissioner Dan DeMarco. I am just one of his constituents. Some of you have alluded that this blog is published by him under a fake name.

That is not the case!

Now since that's clear -- I'll have many interesting topics to talk about very soon :)

I'm baaaack!

My fellow Tattlers,

I've finally returned after a long hiatus and much needed break :)

Look for new posts coming soon!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Post-Gazette article...

The Post-Gazette published an article about the closure of several weeklies printed by Gateway Newspapers. You might notice something familiar in the article :)

Working to keep you posted...

Old hotel up for sale...

The owners of the long defunct Beverly Hills Hotel have put it on the real estate market yet again. InRoss Township magazine recently reported on this issue.

The article has not yet been featured on their Web site, so I posted it below in the meantime. Click on the picture to enlarge.

The price tag seems a bit high for a place that has been vacant for years. Hopefully the new owners come to their senses.
Working to keep you posted...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Ross Park Mall changes...

As you've all heard me spout about in the past, big changes are coming to Ross Park Mall. The shopping facility is attracting more upscale retailers with the opening of Nordstrom's this fall.

From the Post Gazette:

The North Hills mall has been under renovation for months, as construction crews replaced the former Lazarus department store structure with a 138,000-square-foot store made just for Nordstrom. The expansion also includes adding other store spaces next to the enclosed mall. Inside, a number of existing tenants have been moving or closing, as management prepares for the new anchor.

The newest announcements follow a string of tenant signings in recent months. Other stores expected to open include jeweler Tiffany & Co., clothing stores BCBGMaxAzria, White House/Black Market, L.L.Bean and Martin + Osa, a new concept from South Side retailer American Eagle Outfitters.

Change also has come inside some established stores. The Sears store at the mall has expanded its Land's End store-within-a-store concept to cover 43,000 square feet. The company said only a few of those around the nation are that big.

Yes, upscale isn't always bad, but mall management must keep in mind that turning the shopping facility into the Galleria in Mt. Lebanon would be a terrible decision. Terrible.

I took a trip up to Ross Park mall last week and noticed the changes underway. My problem isn't necessarily with the fact that new retailers tend to be upscale it is with the type of stores at Ross Park. There is little diversity among them.

Most are shoe stores, clothing stores or department stores. Would it be so difficult to throw in a decent book store, electronics store or something a little different that could set the mall apart?

When it comes to retailers that have left or will be leaving Ross Park Mall, officials at the Shoppes at Northway would be crazy not to try and woo some of them. Remember, there is a huge piece of vacant retail space at Northway after Value City closed earlier this year.

Working to keep you posted...

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Local papers to call it quits...

The McKnight Journal and North Journal newspapers will end their run by the end of the month. While the McKnight Journal only operated for a couple years, North Journal provided coverage of Northern Allegheny County for a LONG time.

These two North Hills-related weekly newspapers are not the only ones being cut from Gateway Newspapers. Other publications facing the chopping block include papers in Oakmont, Cory/Moon, Bridgeville, Penn Hills and Woodland Hills.

While it is sad to see these important publications go, it frankly doesn't come as a shock to this Tattler. You see, I wrote for the McKnight Journal for more than 4 years and left my position last August. I've always felt that a bright future wasn't in store for Gateway Newspaper given the leadership at the helm.

Management in the upper echelon of the company was inadequate at best. Newspaper staff did a good job given the fact that micromanagement ran rampant ever since the Trib bought Gateway Newspapers a couple years ago.

Reminiscent of what happened to North Hills News Record all those years ago, the powers that be at the Trib accomplished ruining yet another worthwhile publication.

I'll let you know if I hear anything else about this. This whole situation totally disgusts me.

Working to keep you posted...

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Italian Restaurant closes...

Hey all,

Sorry for yet another hiatus but I'm back -- finally! One reader commented that I'm a "lazy blogger", which is somewhat correct as I've been known to get lazy every now and then :)

Well, I stopped down to Don Parmesan's along McKnight Road in Ross Towne Center recently and noticed that they have shut their doors. There was a sign posted that said along the lines of "Due to circumstances beyond our control, we are unable to open).

This note could mean a variety of things. The restaurant could have went out of business or it could be simply a problem with an utility. At this point, I'm unsure if they have closed for good. This story is developing.

It's great to be back!

Working to keep you posted...

Friday, April 25, 2008

A Tuesday surprise!

Well, I don't think anyone would've said the election to replace Lisa Bennington's seat in the 21st legislative district would have been neck and neck. I personally thought Len Bodack had this one in the bag but Dom Costa pulled it out. Brenda Frazier also did good.

I think this may be a year where people do not want someone who has spent years in politics but is somewhat new to the political arena.

From the Post-Gazette:

Former Pittsburgh Police Chief Dom Costa appeared to squeeze out the victory in a tight three-way race for the Democratic nomination in the 21st state House district.

Unofficial returns last night showed Mr. Costa narrowly defeating former city Councilman Len Bodack Jr. and former Allegheny County Councilwoman Brenda Frazier.

Mr. Costa, 56, of Stanton Heights, was seeking his first elected office after a 29-year career in the police department. He was wounded during a February 2002 standoff with an armed fugitive in Homewood, and retired from the police force in 2006.

I look at this win with much optimism. Maybe Costa can get things done as someone who hasn't been in politics, although I'm sure he knows how things work as a former police chief.

If this Tattler were to give Costa a word of advice: contact Randy Vulakovich (R-Shaler), who also has a background in law enforcement. Even though Vulakovich is registered under a different party, both could work together and do much for the North Hills in addition to their perspective districts.

I wish Costa all the best and hopefully I can get an interview with him to let you all know his plans. If you know a good way to contact Costa, e-mail me:

As someone who couldn't vote for the legislative seat because I'm not a registered Democrat, I'm ecstatic with this election.

Working to keep you posted...

P.S. Tomorrow I will write about why I think the other candidates did not win...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Political action committee formed to hamper Brenda Frazier's chances...

A political action committee has been formed and are focusing on halting Brenda Frazier's bid for the seat in the 21st legislative district. This PAC is mainly motivated by Frazier's role in passing the drink tax.

From the Post-Gazette:

Restaurateurs and bar owners opposed to Allegheny County's 10 percent drink tax say they are done "playing nice" with politicians who supported the levy and have not pledged to repeal it.

A group of them yesterday launched a political action committee -- Hospitality Political Action Committee of Western Pennsylvania -- which they said will be the political arm of their campaign to end the drink tax.

"This tax can't stand. It's a travesty, and our first goal is to oppose Brenda Frazier," said John Graf, vice president of the Priory Hospitality Group.

Standing behind the bar at Jerry's 1888 Restaurant & Tavern on the North Side, Mr. Graf, chairman of HosPAC, said the group's campaign against the former county councilwoman, who voted for the drink tax, will serve as an example to all politicians and send a message: "Supporting the drink tax has consequences."

Frazier really needs to denounce her decision to pass the drink tax. No cop outs but a sincere message for repeal might be a good start.

Working to keep you posted...

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The primary election...

Someone left a comment as to why they plan on voting for Brenda Frazier for the legislative seat in the 21st district. I personally don't support Frazier for the position due to her voting for the drink tax but think what the commenter said touches some good points among the candidates.

From Anonymous commenter:

I think Brenda Frazier would be a great choice for the district.

She's the only one of the three not running because they don't currently have a job, she's progressive, and she cares about the people of the district.

Costa doesn't have any experience in politics and Bodack owes too many favors to too many people. He's not concerned with whats best for the people of the district. Frazier is.

Working to keep you posted...

Chinese restaurant changing...

The Chinese buffet near Best Buy along McKnight Road is changing to Tokyo Sushi Buffet and Japanese Grill. Who knows when this is happening but I saw a sign while shopping today. When I find more about this, I'll let you know.

Working to keep you posted...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Primaries drawing near...

Well, I'm back from a brief hiatus and I hope you all are doing well. By looking at the calendar we are really getting into the nitty-gritty of the primary elections.

I guess the most important ones this time around are for Democrats voting for who they want as their presidential nominee and essentially electing a candidate for the legislative seat in the 21st district.

Right now, there are three candidates -- former Pittsburgh City Councilman Len Bodack, former Allegheny County Council member Brenda Frazier and former Pittsburgh Police Chief Dom Costa. No Republicans have filed to run in the election.

All three candidates are well known public figures to city residents but don't really have much of a relationship with residents of Ross Township and other suburbs. Gotta love how the district lines are drawn!

The Post-Gazette has endorsed Frazier for the position. They didn't really add anything new to the discussion but interestingly, never mentioned a word about her role in approving the drink tax. If I were a registered Democrat, she would NEVER get my vote because of that.

From the Post-Gazette:

Fortunately, the voters in this race can go with experience that comes with a more positive record of achievement in elected office. As a member of County Council since her election in 2001, Brenda Frazier has shown herself to be a conscientious and caring public servant, whether championing row office reform and the smoking ban or mapping a new path for the Kane hospitals.

She has the Post-Gazette endorsement so that this seat doesn't have to go back to the old boys' club.

I think this election will be a success for Bodack but I guess anything can happen. He has a relationship with a segment of voters in the district and has some political connections, which are always a help. Additionally, the political arena is nothing new to him.

There's a slimmer chance that either Frazier or Costa could drum up enough support to win. Costa has no political office experience but it is admirable that he wants to give back. On the other hand Frazier does have the experience but also carries the baggage that comes with that (she voted in favor of the drink/ car rental tax last December).

I'm going into this election with an open mind and the way I look at it is if they don't deliver, just vote 'em out in two years.

Working to keep you posted...

Friday, March 21, 2008

Value City...

As you know, the Value City location at Northway Mall is closing and everything is on sale. Most items are at least 50% off. So, if you need a new toaster oven I suggest stopping by for a good deal.

I wonder what store will fill that vacancy?

Working to keep you posted...

Friday, February 29, 2008

More changes at Ross Park Mall...

Yet another change is in the works for Ross Park Mall. As part of their revitalization plans, mall officials presented development plans for an L.L. Bean store to be built onto the shopping facility.

From Ross Township Planning Commission's agenda:

Simon Properties amending Site Plan original approval of life styles expansion to construct an L.L. Bean store on property located at 1000 Ross Park Mall Drive in a C-1 Zoning District of the 2nd Ward.

This has come as a part of plans that brought several new retailers to the mall including Cheesecake Factory and Nordstrom's. Word has it that these plans are also attracting a P.F. Chang's Restaurant, Crate & Barrel and a new bookstore.

This is a developing story -- I'll let you know what I find out.

Working to keep you posted...

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Value City to close...

The P-G reported today that Value City at the Shoppes at Northway along McKnight Road in Ross Township will close their doors in the near future.

From the Post Gazette:

The Value City Department Store at Northway Mall on McKnight Road and three Value City stores in the Erie area are being closed as new owners downsize the off-price chain.

A private equity group bought a majority interest from Columbus, Ohio-based Retail Ventures Inc., which also operates Filene's Basement and DSW stores. In an earlier deal, Burlington Coat Factory took over some locations.

A Value City store being closed in Uniontown is under consideration for conversion as part of that deal. Value City stores in Pleasant Hills, Altoona and Johnstown will remain open.

This closure doesn't really surprise me all that much because discount retail stores are becoming a thing of the past. Also, whenever I shop there - the store always seems a little empty. Where o where will I now get a cheap blazer and discounted valour jumpsuits at? ;)

Who knows what retailer may be attracted to this vacancy at the shopping center. Any ideas?

Working to keep you posted...

Friday, February 22, 2008

Bodack speaks... (Part 3)

Here is the final piece of information from Len Bodack, candidate for the state house seat in the 21st district. This legislative district is comprised of parts of the City of Pittsburgh, Ross Township, Shaler Township and other areas.

From Len Bodack:

I’m ready to take the skills I learned on Pittsburgh City Council to the state level as your representative in the General Assembly. After meeting with so many community leaders from the district in this campaign, it’s no surprise that we share so many of the same concerns:

- Public Safety costs are rising for all local governments in a Post 9-11 world

- The state must help with solutions

- Real property tax reform – Not lip service

- Better management of storm water runoff into our watersheds

- Effective flood controls for our downstream riverfront communities

- Expand the educational opportunities at all levels for our children

- Fix our transportation system

- Affordable healthcare for everyone

- Open and transparent government with no late night deals

- No tax dollars paid to employees for political work

- Accessible district office with a dedicated staff

I believe that listening to the people is the most important, but sometimes the most often overlooked quality that we demand from our elected representatives. I plan to staff local offices in the Babcock-McKnight corridor as well as the city for convenient access to all residents. As your legislator, I promise to always listen and represent your concerns in Harrisburg.

I'm glad many of you have learned a little more about Bodack (I know I did). Depending on what issues are important to you this may help you make a final decision when it comes to this election.

I think it is especially important to note that he plans to open a permanent office in the North Hills. While other politicians have used Ross Township Community Center on a limited basis, I think it would be a great step to have an office elsewhere in the area.

The one thing that is clear is Bodack really needs a Web site outlining his platform. If you would like to contact him, call 412-688-8778.

As you all know, I don't play favorites. So, if there are any other candidates out there for the position, I would be happy to interview you.

E-mail me at

Working to keep you posted...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Changes at Ross Park Mall...

Weeks after posting about changes at Ross Park mall, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has published an interesting article in their business section.

From the Post-Gazette:

Say good-bye to Frederick's of Hollywood. The lingerie merchant is leaving Ross Park Mall this week. The Limited is already gone, as is The Children's Place, Ritz Camera and Radio Shack. Carlton Cards will sell its last sympathy card by the end of the month.

The mall is abuzz with talk about what may be coming in to replace exiting stores. Merchants have heard names such as Louis Vuitton, Vera Wang, Juicy Couture and Burberry, all high-end brands.

Mall officials won't confirm store names but they don't deny the North Hills shopping center is changing in preparation for the arrival of retail star, Nordstrom, scheduled to open Oct. 24. "This is the biggest year in the mall's history," said Lisa Earl, mall manager.

If it's odd to think one department store could re-shape a mall, remember Seattle has drawn many supplicants seeking the favor of the well-reputed merchant whose home base is there. Mall owners, real estate brokers and even government officials have all envisioned economic development hope kick-started by cute shoes from Nordstrom.

But change can bring pain along with the gain, and that trade-off has stirred up more than a few debates -- not to mention some tears -- among the merchants, customers and even bloggers who take an interest in Ross Park Mall.

Yes, this Tattler sent a news tip to a few local papers about this issue and at least the Post-Gazette has jumped on it. While Ross Park Mall officials are saying that the shopping facility is not becoming too upscale, I think they are not going to resemble what they offer today.

Granted, it won't be an upscale mall like The Galleria in the South Hills, but will have a lot of offerings to upscale crowds. Is this a good idea?

Only time will tell.

Working to keep you posted...

Bodack speaks... (Part 2)

Here is the second of three parts of what Len Bodack, candidate for the state house seat in the 21st district, has to say about his record as a former Pittsburgh City Council member.

From Len Bodack:

Legislatively, I have always given quality of life issues the highest priority. I have sponsored, co-sponsored and passed a number of bills that protect residents from nuisance properties, require the registration of rental units and hold landlords accountable for their tenants.

I sponsored and passed legislation to stop aggressive panhandling on city streets. I also sponsored and passed a bill to eliminate methadone clinics in residential zoned areas and further restrict this use from within 500 feet of a church, school or library, and also protect local business districts from this type of activity.

I have secured funding and grants to place video cameras in high crime areas throughout my district. You may be aware of the arson suspect that was caught in the Polish Hill neighborhood by video from cameras that I placed at the community’s request. I have also funded cameras for Lawrenceville, Bloomfield and Morningside as well which have been a major factor in reducing crime.

They have also helped identify and apprehend 3 suspects involved in a stabbing, catch an assault suspect, solve a vehicular crime and accident in my neighborhoods.

In partnership with local community based organizations I funded and started a local “Weed and Seed” program in Lawrenceville to address the problems of drugs and drug related crime. In 2005, my program won national acclaim and I traveled to Los Angeles to discuss and share our locally developed program with groups from across the country. Our success landed us a federal site designation in October of 2006 receiving a $2.2 million grant to continue operations for the next 5 years.

I’ve worked with federal and local law enforcement on securing additional police, busting drugs, padlocking nuisance bars and closing drug houses. I’ve worked on local community development, on the reconstruction of Penn Avenue and getting state and local funds to tear down hopelessly dilapidated housing and reduce neighborhood blight.

I also established a private-public partnership that fundraised and reopened the swimming pool in the Polish Hill neighborhood which had been closed due to the city’s financial constraints in 2004.

I assembled a first-rate staff and kept an active district office. I’m very proud of the work my staff did on a daily basis. They got traffic lights and stop signs repaired or installed, refuse collected, taxes straightened out, abandoned cars removed, crack houses identified and they arranged for senior citizens and others in need to get important services provided by other levels of government. We treated everyone in the district as a member of our own family.

This is yet another chance for registered Democrats and residents to learn about Bodack. Expect the last piece of this segment in the near future.

Working to keep you posted...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Bodack speaks...

I've been in talks with Len Bodack, a candidate for the state house seat in the 21st district, and he has responded to comments left on this blog and outlined his platform. I'll be posting this in three parts since there is a lot to cover.

I also plan on scheduling a sit down interview with Bodack to learn even more about his campaign.

From Bodack:

As a member of City Council my duty was to represent the residents, not the newspapers. I have always disagreed with the state’s granting tax exemptions to special business interests like insurance companies, financial institutions and newspapers.

It was a campaign issue when I ran for office, so I never expected them (local newspapers) to endorse me for anything. As a result, when I make positive news, I usually don’t receive any mention, unless it’s something that may be negative or controversial.

What you won’t find in the newspapers:

One reason that members of city council held out on the Act 47 vote (June-Nov 2004) was to protect our work force from being completely dismantled by the Republicans in the legislature. While demanding that the city privatize its workforce, there was no mechanism in place for displaced workers to bid to keep their jobs.

That standoff by Council resulted in language being added to the Act 47 legislation to allow “managed competition” enabling city workers to competitively bid on services they provided to residents as an alternative to privatization. This gives the work force a chance to cut costs by competitive bid, and also protects the taxpayers from being overcharged by the private sector for services.

A few examples:

The forced privatization of the city garage ended up costing taxpayers $1 million more in 2006 than budgeted and another estimated $2.5 million in cost overruns in 2007. Act 47 projected $1.8 million savings per year. The city has just renewed the contract with First Vehicle for $14.7 million over 27 months, $3 million more than the original 36 month contract. That’s a 67% increase.

Where are the savings?

When city refuse workers bid the trash contract through managed competition, the net result equaled $1.2 million savings for city taxpayers. The working people knew the job. They showed us how to do it better. Now we have a happier, more productive work force and the taxpayers benefit. I have always and will continue to stand up for working people.

You may have recently heard how city refuse workers began trash pickups for Wilkinsburg residents. (The eastern borough pays the city about $722,000 a year, saving an estimated $250,000 from what it might have paid a private hauler.) The city is discussing similar deals with other governments. That is inter-governmental cooperation. Working together to find cost effective solutions using shared resources.

In 2006 we didn’t ask to be removed from Act 47. We were asking the Secretary of DCED to evaluate our progress and establish benchmarks, to gauge how far we had come and understand where we needed to be, to remove the negative stigma of being a distressed municipality.

We passed a similar motion last fall and are waiting for the Secretary’s response. When I was elected in 2003 we had a staggering budget gap and were projected to end the year $35 million in debt. In the 2005, we took advantage of a favorable bond market and managed to refinance and reduce long term debt and put together a modest capital budget ($26 million) to pave streets, buy police cars and fire trucks without borrowing ($50 million new bonds were recommended by the Act 47 recovery plan).

We reduced our workforce by 23%. Council cut all departmental budgets by 15% and its own budget by 34%!

The legislative process is difficult to understand. The best analogy that comes to mind would compare it to attending a Steelers game. Your perspective of the game has a lot to do with where you are seated. You may not be able to see the replay if you are seated under the scoreboard, but may have a totally different opinion of the game from seats on the 50 yard line.

Even as we continue to move towards more open and transparent government, it is difficult for people to see everything that is happening at any given time. In today’s busy world we rely on the media too much for information. It is unfortunate that there is so much news for public consumption and someone else gets to decide what is important to people.

All that I can do is try to set the record straight. As I am not in the business of selling advertising or newspapers, I don’t need to manufacture the news or promote any agenda other than that of the people that I was elected to represent.

I think it's great that Bodack has addressed certain issues such as the Act 47 recovery plan. More information will be forthcoming and will help local Democrats make an educated decision on April 22.

Working to keep you posted...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Brenda Frazier resigns...

Brenda Frazier has resigned from Allegheny County Council to pursue a seat in the 21st legislative district.

From today's Post-Gazette:

Brenda Frazier resigned from Allegheny County Council on Monday to pursue a seat in the state Legislature, but she may be able to regain her council seat if her legislative bid is unsuccessful.

Ms. Frazier, 66, of Stanton Heights, filed election papers this week to run for the 21st Legislative District seat, which covers Pittsburgh's eastern neighborhoods.

Ms. Frazier, who was first elected to County Council in 2001 to fill the two-year unexpired term of the late former County Commissioner Tom Foerster, ended her tenure on council effective Feb. 11.

The word is that the vacated position may be filled with a leader who plans to step down if Frazier should lose in the primary election on April 22. Council members would then vote to appoint Frazier to the vacancy.

Allegheny County Council members are denying that a deal has been made but it sounds like something that would happen in local politics here.

Frazier resigned the seat due to a rule on council that forces members to resign if pursuing a different political seat. That said, I don't think she has a chance of winning this election -- Frazier is a total underdog.

Additionally, she is one of the county council members that voted in favor of the drink tax last December. I have serious issues with the way the tax was presented and would have a hard time supporting any candidate who OK'd this levy.

I'll try to find more about Frazier and will let you know.

Working to keep you posted...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What i'm finding out about Bodack...

Here's some info I'm finding out about Len Bodack. I'll continue to update this as I come across more details.

- He is the son of a longtime state senator, now retired.

- Bodack served on Pittsburgh City Council. He was ousted by Patrick Dowd in a narrow defeat last year. Here is information about it:

In their endorsement for Bodack's challenger in his bid for re-election, the Post-Gazette wrote:

They can go with the incumbent, Len Bodack Jr., son of the longtime state senator, veteran of the Democratic Committee and foe of budget cuts that were needed to save the city.

Or they can opt for the fresh thinking and independence of Patrick Dowd, a school board member who has been a force for change in Pittsburgh education and who didn't shrink from closing schools to reduce costly overcapacity.

The Trib also did not endorse Bodack for re-election:

- While on city council, Bodack made some questionable stances. The Post-Gazette previously reported:

The Lawrenceville incumbent, 50, voted in March 2006 -- incredibly and unsuccessfully -- to end the state's oversight of city finances under Act 47. He was a member of council's "gang of five" who, in November 2004, rejected the stiff but necessary budget cuts to pull Pittsburgh from the brink of bankruptcy.

He knuckled under to pressure from city employee unions in June 2004 and voted with three council members against the city's fiscal recovery plan.

Here's more:

Working to keep you posted...

Dan DeMarco leaves the race...

Some of you will be glad to know that Dan DeMarco has decided not to continue running for the 21st legislative district seat. This comes after he did not recieve the endorsement from Allegheny County Democratic Committee.

DeMarco writes:

I have reluctantly decided to not continue my campaign for the 21st district PA House seat. The results of Sunday's Allegheny County Democratic Committee endorsement were disappointing, not so much due to the fact that Len Bodack won, but more so because most of the Ross Democratic Committee member's votes are among those received by Bodack.

As one blogger pointed out, if the people don't want a "party boss" to be elected, they should hope another candidate can beat Bodack. The residents should know that most of the Democratic Committee members from Ross Township voted for Len Bodack. Ross commissioner Dan Kinross endorsed him.

The Democratic Machine is alive and well in Ross Township, unfortunately it is at the expense of the residents of Ross Township. Apparently Len Bodack has offered something to people that I did not.

Likely promises of government jobs for a handful Ross Committee members and their relatives. Promises which will go unfulfilled since the loyalty of those who are members of the 10th Ward Democratic Committee rests with the chairman of that committee, Len Bodack.

The Ross Township Democratic Committee assured for the residents of Ross Township that once again, a city resident will continue to represent us in the PA House.

I'm very concerned about the prospects of Bodack being at the helm. I'm not hearing many good things about this guy and for his supporters out there -- if he did such a good job in the city, why did he not win his bid for re-election?

I'm going to get more info about Bodack in the coming days. Hopefully, I actually hear something positive about him and his prospects as a leader of the 21st district.

Working to keep you posted...

I finally got it...

After more than a year of waiting, I finally got a Nintendo Wii system earlier on Monday. I casually went to the Target at North Hills Village Mall along McKnight Road and decided to check if there were any in stock. This is something I've been doing for quite some time and when I saw two available -- my heart skipped a beat.

Unfortunately, the other gaming console was quickly scooped up after I purchased mine. For those of you searching for one, I heard that Game Stop in the same shopping plaza may be your best bet.

I know many of you may not be "gamers," but this system is so fun.

It comes with a sports game and you're really missing something if you have not yet went bowling on the Nintendo Wii.

Working to keep you posted but addicted to my new game system at the moment...

Democratic committee endorsement...

Hey guys,

Earlier this week, Allegheny County Democratic Committee endorsed former Pittsburgh City Councilman Len Bodack for the race in the 21st legislative district.

From the Post-Gazette:

In the 21st Legislative District, in Pittsburgh's eastern neighborhoods, former city Councilman Len Bodack Jr. had twice as many votes as his closest competitor, former state Rep. Frank Pistella, who was seeking the committee's support to return to the seat he lost in the Democratic primary to Lisa Bennington two years ago.

Ms. Bennington has announced her plan to retire after only one term in Harrisburg.

Mr. Bodack had 60 votes, followed by Mr. Pistella, with 29; Dominic Costa, a former Pittsburgh police official, 11; Dan DeMarco, 8; county Councilwoman Brenda Frazier, 3; and Paul McKrell, 1.

Mr. Bodack is seeking a return to public life after being ousted from his City Council seat last year in a primary loss to Councilman Patrick Dowd.

I am the type who thinks endorsements usually don't matter that much. As a Ross Township resident, I don't know that much about Bodack but when I "Googled" him, the results were not flattering. I plan on getting more information about Bodack but, once again, I'm not sure how much weight the endorsement holds.

Those of you who know about Bodack, feel free to post your comments.

The only thing the endorsement may do is persuade certain candidates from dropping their bid for the seat. However, I still believe several candidates will continue their runs for the legislative position.

Working to keep you posted...

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Changes at Ross Park Mall...

I've been hearing quite a few rumors that a handful of stores at Ross Park Mall are being forced out to make way for Nordstroms and mall officials are courting more upscale establishments.

I've heard Nordstrom officials are demanding the oust of certain retailers that would be competition such as Gloria Jeans Coffee (Nordstroms will have a Starbucks) and a children's clothing store. Also, the word on the street is that a P.F. Chang's (Chinese restaurant) is planning to build at the mall.

I'm looking into this and will let you know what I find out. I for one do not want that mall to turn into something like The Galleria in Mt. Lebonan. Hopefully, it won't become too upscale for the North Hills community.

Right now most of this is rumor. I'll look into it and let you know.

Working to keep you posted...

More responses from Dan DeMarco...

Here are some more responses to comments left to Dan DeMarco, Ross Township Commissioner and candidate for a state legislative seat. His responses are below.

Dear looking for an honest answer :

Yes, honestly, I would have no problem if the Trek/HEARTH plan of homes was built next door or across the street from me. As a matter of fact, it would complement my neighborhood quite well since I own and live in a townhouse in Woodbridge.

Dear Anonymous :

We can agree to disagree on the issue of the pay raise. I do believe it is still an issue with the people. And again, I have had not one resident complain to me about my vote on Trek/HEARTH while knocking on doors.

Moreover, my literature addresses other issues as well, like property taxes, which in the case of North Hills, has been impacted over the years due to the investment in Martorelli Stadium. I would still like to know what we have to show for the tax money invested in this project.

Yes, I was a member of the Benedictine Center Board. That Board sets policy for programs carried out by the Center. If you have any idea of the Center’s programs you would know that it has nothing to do with HEARTH.

It is a completely separate non-profit corporation.

UPDATE: Below are additional responses from DeMarco to your comments:

Dear Anonymous :

I have done my best to try and explain that laws that I did not make impact the inability of Ross Township or any municipality from denying the location of affordable housing in a particular area. I have further explained the serious financial impact a federal discrimination lawsuit could have had on the Township's budget, and the person financial liability each individual commissioner would have faced.

Again, I did not make the laws. I will therefore no longer respond to any further criticisms of me or the decision regarding HEARTH. I am going around in circles to no avail. I would recommend you ask your federal lawmakers what they can do to protect you from the problems you fear from affordable housing.

Dear Woodbridge Resident:

I NEVER stated I was speaking for you or any other Woodbridge resident. I simply stated MY opinion. I do not appreciate your mischaracterization of what I said.

Furthermore, I never invited or sought the location of affordable housing in Woodbridge or anywhere else in Ross Township. Affordable housing seeks for itself where it desires to locate. Federal law dictates the inability to prohibit its location.

Would you be willing to risk your home and car and portions of your life earnings as a defendant in a federal lawsuit in the capacity of Ross commissioner? This situation is much more complex than I think you and many others understand. Ultimately, it comes down to serious financial liability for the Township and individuals.


Dear Speech Writer :

Thanks for offering to write my speech, but it is incorrect. I do not recall saying I would vote against a Wal-Mart Super Center on McKnight Road (I recall another blogger pointed this out as well).

I did say that one big hurdle for Wal-Mart was additional traffic on McKnight Road. But that issue is not for me or Ross Township to decide. PennDOT must determine if Wal-Mart can accomplish its goal of locating on McKnight Road based on traffic studies that then have to be applied to PennDOT traffic regulations.

If Wal-Mart satifies all zoning and land development ordinances of Ross Township to build a Super Center, I will have a duty to approve its plan to build on McKnight Road.

Working to keep you posted...

Sunday, February 3, 2008

DeMarco's campaign...

Here's a flyer from Dan DeMarco's campaign for the state legislative seat in the 21st district. I found this by my front door earlier today.

Maybe some of his competition will do the same.

Working to keep you posted...

Dan DeMarco responds... again...

Well, you Tattlers have been responding to Dan DeMarco's responses to your issues with him. Dan DeMarco, Ross Township Commissioner and candidate for a state legislative seat, wrote:

Dear Ticked off taxpayer :

OK. For the second or third time, let me explain it to you.

Your question was: Why do we have commissioners that vote and then change their vote when threatened with a law suit? The federal lawsuit named Ross Township as a defendant. It also named four individual commissioners as defendants. The result of a verdict against Ross Township and the four individual commissioners would be monetary damages, much like a lawsuit in which a person would be found responsible for rear ending a motorist who suffered permanent physical injuries and then be ordered to pay thousands of dollars to the injured motorist.

Ross Township is insured, BUT, our liability insurance would not pay for a verdict of money damages against the Township in a federal discrimination lawsuit. Accordingly, the money to pay the verdict would come right out of the Township’s budget. This is YOUR money and the money and ALL of the taxpayers of Ross Township.

Moreover, each individual commissioner would have to pay out of his or her OWN pocket any verdict of monetary damages awarded against them. Now, let me ask you this: If you were sitting as a commissioner faced with these circumstances how would you vote? Do you have thousands of dollars to pay a verdict rendered against you? Likely you would have to sell your cars and your house.

As for an individual’s First Amendment rights to speak out, I’m all for it. Unfortunately, the laws don’t give blanket protection to everything a person says. There are limits.
I recall that the same opposition from the neighborhood was displayed when HEARTH converted the St. Benedict’s school into apartments for single mothers. Has that turned your neighborhood turning into a “ghetto?”

You also stated as follows: “The $10 million spent on the Stadium is a drop in the bucket compared to what Hearth has cost the taxpayers. At least we have something to show for the money spent on the Stadium.” Exactly what do we have to show for the money spent on the Stadium? What has it done differently for the school district? Has it improved the education of the students in the school district? Were you in favor of the taxpayers’ money being spent to build PNC Park and Heinz Field? How have you personally benefited from PNC Park and Heinz Field?

Are you paying less in taxes now due to the construction of PNC Park and Heinz Field?

Dear Anonymous :

I’ve been knocking on doors for days and have not had one person ask me about the HEARTH matter. So, I should have learned last night who this “other” candidate is? I did not see any other candidate other than the ones that have been declared now for several weeks.

As the Tattler has asked before: Can you tell me this candidate’s name?

Finally, I have a very hard time believing you or your “candidate” would vote any differently if faced with the exact circumstances with which the Ross commissioners were facing. It is easy to say otherwise when one is looking from the outside in. Sometimes, Anonymous, laws do not seem fair, but we have to obey them. Otherwise, we’d be a society in chaos, much like many third world countries.

Friday, February 1, 2008

The North Hills Tattler celebrates...

After more than 16,000 page hits, the North Hills Tattler has reached its first birthday (ironically the same day as this Tattler's). I first started this blog as a venue to discuss local issues - most importantly the Wal-Mart project along McKnight Road.

Now a year later, we have grown by leaps and bounds -- it could not have been done without your input. That is what makes this blog such an asset to the community, I just hope many more readers discover it in the future.

Shaler teachers may have a hit out on me for my opinion of their contract denial :) but here's to another year of conversation and hopes that the North Hills region can continue to reach for the stars.

As always, working to keep you posted...

Dan DeMarco responds - UPDATE...

UPDATE: For those of you who would like to contact Dan DeMarco, Ross Township Commissioner, here is his e-mail address:

In regards to comments left on my previous posts, Ross Township commissioner and candidate for a state representative seat Dan DeMarco has responded. He wrote:

Dear “Ticked Off Taxpayer” :

I am not sure exactly how HEARTH has “drained” the North Hills School District of millions of dollars in the past 12 years as you state in your comment. Could you please elaborate on this and if you have any data regarding this I would be extremely interested in looking at it.

Since HEARTH does not pay any real estate tax to the North Hills School District, they also do not pay any real estate tax to Ross Township. I am going to inquire of the Ross Township Finance Director if there is any way to calculate how much money HEARTH has drained from the Township, and if he can determine this amount, I will certainly share it with you.

I think it is also fair to look at the other side of the ledger when discussing the school district’s budget. Were you in favor of the school district spending $10 million about 5 years ago to completely refurbish Martorelli Stadium? Was that a good use of taxpayer’s money? I do not believe it was.

Do you think school district real estate taxes should be eliminated by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and replaced by taxes that are progressive, based on the individual’s income and ability to pay? I do.

In reference to your comment, “This is our tax money being used against us and we don’t like it.” I needed to make sure you are directed to my response to “Not a fan of Demarco.” Your tax money would have been used to pay the legal fees of Trek and HEARTH, by ORDER OF COURT!

Once again, I did not make the laws on this matter, but I swore an oath to obey the laws. I am completely lost when it comes to your comment about Ross Township losing “paper” related to St. Benedict’s school. I was not a commissioner back then and I do not have a great deal of knowledge about that matter.

If you could be more specific perhaps I could provide a response.

Dear “Not a fan of Demarco” :

First, the proper spelling of my last name is “DeMarco,” not Demarco.

I am very confused with your statement, “…comment about the “group” not in favor of the Hearth/Trek project hiring a (sp?) engineer…” Please clarify this statement. Ross Township’s engineer does represent the Township and determined that the Trek plan satisfied all provisions of the Ross Township subdivision ordinance.

I believe your comment may refer to my comment that the residents perhaps should have hired their own engineer to study the plan to see if there were in his/her opinion any deficiencies in the plan that would call into question whether the plan satisfied all provision of the subdivision ordinance. I am trying so hard to make you and others understand that this is not about “politics,” this is about LAWS, specifically local laws which are exactly what ordinances are and must be interpreted by the Board of Commissioners and by the courts of Pennsylvania.

We are, BY LAW, supposed to “take of our political hats and put on our judicial robes” when considering subdivision, land use plans and conditional use requests by any property owner. Again, I must impress upon you that the Trek/HEARTH appeal would have been reversed by the Court of Common Pleas and the Court would have ordered that their plan be permitted to proceed.

Would that then have been my fault? And would you have been satisfied that the Court would have not only entered an order permitting the plan to proceed, but also would have ordered that your tax dollars would have to pay for Trek’s/HEARTH’s legal fees?

Dear “Another Ross Twp. Taxpayer” :

Every mother living in the apartments owned by HEARTH is required to work. Therefore, they must pay wage taxes to the North Hills School District and to Ross Township. Likewise, every occupant of the Trek Development must have a job with a minimum income (the specific amount I do not recall) and therefore also will pay wage taxes to the North Hills School District and to Ross Township.

Moreover, they pay income tax to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and to the federal government, just like you and me. Accordingly, the following comment you have made is erroneous: “Has it been fair for the past 12 years for the taxpayers to foot the bill for the Hearth children attending the North Hills School District without paying any taxes to the School District?”

Dear “Anonymous” :

I am quite appalled at the shooting of the clerk at the Indian Market last Saturday at Three Degree Road and Babcock Boulevard. The Chief of Police contacted me immediately on Saturday to debrief me on the incident. I likewise was appalled over a year ago when the clerk was shot and died at the beer distributor on Rochester Road.

These are random acts of violence. The County police are still investigating the beer distributor shooting. The Ross Police will continue to investigate last Saturday’s shooting. If your comment is meant to imply such problems with the HEARTH plan, then perhaps we need to rethink not only the HEARTH plan, but also permitting any retail businesses and banks to operate in Ross Township.

I believe the motive in both shootings mentioned above was the theft of money in a cash register. We also had at least one bank robbery in Ross Township last year, perhaps two. I can get back to you on that if you’d like to know for sure.

Dear "Anonymous" :

I've been reading for a few weeks now about this "candidate" who those opposed to Trek/HEARTH have been saying will enter the race for the 21st state legislative district seat. Time is quickly running out for this candidate to file nomination petitions and financial disclosure statements with the Pennsylvania Department of State in order to appear on the ballot.

I love good challenges, so I do hope the candidate has all his/her paperwork in order to be accepted for filing with the Department. Oh, by the way, my petition to appear on the ballot was circulated by the sisters at the Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh. Many votes up there for me. I guess Anonymous thinks I "caved under pressure" from them.

I did not cave under pressure. I honored my oath to follow the law. It is rather disappointing that what is being bashed is the good work and deeds of the Catholic Church and the concept of assisting those less fortunate to become self-sufficient, hard working contributors to our community. Moreover, the easy past is being a candidate who bashes a current elected official for doing his/her job by honoring their oath to follow the law.

The hard part is being an elected official who honors his/her oath and then gets bashed by the candidate and his/her supporters. I've endured it for 8 years and will continue to do it. And because I honor my oath as an elected official and my Roman Catholic upbringing, I will gladly assist Anonymous if ever he/she needs it from Ross Township or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, with the understanding that whatever it is he or she needs, I must always follow the law.

The bottom line is this: You may disagree with me and you may not like me, but when/if you need me, I'll be there to help in any way I can.

So who says that your local leaders don't listen to you? DeMarco does and love him or hate him he is an open ear to residents.

Remember, he has agreed to an interview. E-mail questions to by Super Bowl Sunday.

Working to keep you posted...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Possible New development at the old Kuhn's location - UPDATE

UPDATE: I talked with Dan Hankins, Ross Township Building Inspector, and he had the following to say about the development plans:

This site plan was tabled by the planning commission at their meeting on January 24th. There are many outstanding issues regarding the proposed Dollar Bank and partial demolition of Kuhn’s.

Also, the façade is going to be replaced on both the old Kuhn’s Building and the middle building in which Health South is a tenant in.

Apparently a new bank may be built at Kuhn's old location along McKnight Road across from the U-Haul and Red Lobster.

From the Ross Township Planning Commission agenda:

McKnight Property Management requesting Site Plan approval for the purpose of
constructing a new 1-story bank and façade restoration on property located at 4721
McKnight Road in a C-1 Zoning District of the 8th Ward.

The commission considered this last week and this Tattler is working to find out what's going on. That said, it's about time something is going in that location. However, all we need is another bank.

Working to keep you posted...

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Mover & Shaker of the month...

I was interested in doing interviews with a mover & shaker once a month from the North Hills community. This could be a local politician, school board member or someone who constitutes a leader in your community.

These interviews would give good insight into these people and what they have to say about issues in your local neighborhood.

Dan DeMarco, Ross Township Commissioner, will be the first one. Who else should this Tattler interview in the future?

Feel free to post a comment or E-mail me at

Working to keep you posted...

Legislative run...

This Tattler has been in talks with Dan DeMarco, Ross Township Commissioner, and he plans to seek the endorsement of the Democratic committee of the 21st legislative district.

Dan DeMarco wrote:

I have declared that I am a candidate seeking the Democratic Committee Endorsement from the committee members of the 21st legislative district on February 10th.

He also has agreed to an interview and this Tattler wonders if any of you have questions you'd like me to ask. E-mail any queries to me at by Sunday February 3.

Working to keep you posted...

Monday, January 28, 2008

I'm back!!!

Oh, my fellow Tattlers, I'm sorry about my absence but I have been a bit under the weather lately. Here are a few things that I've heard lately...

- Ross Park Mall is planning on getting both a P.F. Chang's as well as a Crate and Barrel.

- Old Navy is closing at Northway Mall. However, they have opened a location at Ross Park Mall and will stay there. While I've never been a huge fan of that store, this seems like it was only a matter of time.

- Back in the day, I heard that Barnes & Noble would be building at Ross Park Mall -- is this still happening?

- I went to the Brown Jug Restaurant in Millvale (across the street from Bauerstown Fire Company where I occasionally play BINGO on Fridays) last week. Don't bother, the service was terrible and the food was very mediocre.

- This Tattler was searching for a restaurant to eat at 7 P.M. on a Saturday. I ventured to Wexford and Atria's was full as well as that new Mexican restaurant which had a 45 minute wait. I went to China Palace and guess what? No wait and the food was excellent!

- The editor (Dave Titmus) of the McKnight Journal has left to do public relations for a local law firm. Another one bites the dust (this Tattler left that publication in August).

Working to keep you posted...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Wal-Mart plans at stand still...

Rumors have been running rampant lately that Wal-Mart is scrapping plans for a location along McKnight Road because of traffic issues. In a recent edition of the McKnight Journal, a Wal-Mart spokesman confirmed that their lease agreement with McCrackin Ford has been nixed, at least temporarily.

From the McKnight Journal:

Nearly a year after closing its doors, McCrackin Ford is looking for a new tenant -- and is out of its agreement with Wal-Mart.

The car dealership along McKnight Road closed in February 2007. At that time, Wal-Mart agreed to a contract with the owners that allowed them an option to purchase the property, which is adjacent to Chi-Chi's restaurant and the former Sam's Club site, both of which the mega-chain already owned, said Wal-Mart spokes-man Jim Davis.

However, that agreement was severed last month after its initial expiration, Davis said.

"We did drop the contract on the McCrackin Ford property, but it doesn't necessarily mean we won't go back to them with another offer," Davis said. "We're just evaluating our opportunities right now."

Davis added that the retailer was in the process of completing a traffic study along McKnight Road

I have been in talks with Dan DeMarco, Ross Township Commissioner, who said a meeting was held with Wal-Mart representatives but talks have since broken off. That leader contends they will only meet with the chain's representatives at a public meeting in the future.

The issue of traffic concerns remain a huge problem.

That DeMarco said:

They did meet with less than a quorum of Ross commissioners perhaps two months ago, but I have refused to meet with Wal-Mart unless it is in a meeting that is open to the public.

Indeed, one of their biggest challenges is traffic on McKnight Road. Any changes to traffic patterns, new traffic lights or a widening of McKnight Road to accommodate access to the site is for PennDOT to determine. I feel confident that PennDOT would want us involved in any such consideration.

As I said before, I will not meet with Wal-Mart officials unless it is in a meeting open to the public. If they are still interested in building on the site, it is too important of an issue for the public not to be heard.

If I get an update, I'll let you know.

Working to keep you posted...

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Setting the record straight...

Dan DeMarco, Ross Township commissioner, wants to set the record straight in terms of HEARTH's affordable housing development and the reversal of the board's decision. Some comments posted on this blog have been attacking the board for its reversal.

In an email sent earlier today, he deals with that issue and confirms his interest in a state legislature run.

DeMarco wrote:

The record needs to be set straight regarding the affordable housing plan by Trek Development and HEARTH. I am disappointed by those individuals who want to cast stones at me for my vote to approve the subdivision plan and then subsequently the settlement offer regarding the federal lawsuit filed by Trek, et. al. against Ross Township and four (4) individual Ross commissioners.

First, as an elected official, I have sworn an oath to obey the Constitution and laws of the United States and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the ordinances of the Township of Ross. My oath therefore requires that when I am asked to vote on a subdivision plan by ANY property owner, and the plan satisfies all requirements of the Ross Township ordinance, I am duty bound to approve the plan.

The subdivision plan DID satisfy all requirements of the Ross Township subdivision ordinance. Furthermore, had this matter proceeded to the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, the Court WOULD HAVE reversed the decision of the Board of Commissioners that denied approval of the plan. So, in what position would that have placed the Board of Commissioners?

Quite simply, there was a strong likelihood that the Court would have ordered Ross Township to pay the attorney's fees of Trek Development. Why, because the Court (via Judge Joseph James) has already warned municipalities through recent similar cases that such subdivision denials blatantly in violation of the subdivision ordinance of a municipality warrant the award of attorney's fees. Our liability insurance covers attorney's fees for our legal fees, but it does not cover attorney's fees awarded in favor of Trek, et. al. against Ross Township. So, where does Ross Township come up with the money to pay the award of attorney's fees? The Ross Township General Fund Balance which is the TAXPAYERS' MONEY.

Please pose this question to those who are residents of Ross Township: Is it fair to make all the taxpayers of Ross Township share in the cost to pay the attorney's fees of Trek Development?

Is it sound public policy for elected officials to cast a vote against a subdivision plan in the face of evidence that indicates it complies with all Township subdivision ordinances, knowing that on appeal the Court of Common Pleas will reverse the decision of the Board of Commissioners AND order payment of Trek's attorney's fees? Obviously, those residents of the City of Pittsburgh likely are not concerned with this since it is not their tax dollars at risk.

Second, the federal lawsuit had even greater negative implications for Ross Township. In a federal discrimination lawsuit, the prevailing party is automatically awarded attorney's fees. Moreover, Ross Township was faced with a potential punitive damage award (for egregious discriminatory conduct) against it AND four (4) commissioners individually.

I was stunned and appalled by some of the comments made by those who testified at the hearing on the subdivision request before the Board of Commissioners. If any of those casting stones at me have not seen the federal complaint filed in federal court by Trek Development, tell them to give me a call. It was the comments of some of these residents that helped set up the discrimination lawsuit filed by Trek Development when the plan was denied by a 4-4 tie vote by the Board of Commissioners.

As I told one resident last week, it would have been much wiser for the residents to pitch in and hire an engineer to testify as to why the plan did not satisfy the Township subdivision ordinance. It would perhaps would have raised a slight chance of uncertainly on appeal to the Court. Quite frankly, I am fed up with people refusing to take responsibility for their actions these days. Instead, most people try to point the finger away from any accountability for their actions, and elected officials are always an easy target.

In this case, the testimony given by residents that questioned the character of potential homeowners and their guests was "a plaintiffs' attorney dream" for a federal lawsuit. In the end, had Trek Development prevailed in the federal lawsuit, not only would we potentially have to pay their attorney's fees, but also any punitive damage award out of the Township's General Fund. Again, these damages would not be covered by our insurance carrier. Furthermore, the four (4) individual commissioners named as defendants in the federal lawsuit were potentially faced with paying a portion of the damages out of their own pocket, with NO indemnity from the Township for any damages awarded against them individually.

I am a very likely candidate for the 21st District House seat. I welcome the opportunity to face any resident in this area because in light of what I have just explained, I want them to tell me why my vote was "wrong," and why they think it was sound public policy for an elected official to vote against the subdivision plan.

I hope this helps some of you understand the topic at a more considerable degree and why commissioners have to vote with their head and not their heart.

Working to keep you posted...

Friday, January 11, 2008

Writer's strike carries on...

For those TV junkies like me, a column by an Entertainment Weekly columnist may make some sense. While I don't totally agree with him, He made a lot of good points.,,1569832_20164555_20169858,00.html?iid=top25-20080109-Why+is+this+strike+not+over%3F

I want "The Office" back! Don't get me started about the prospects of the Academy Awards because of this. I can't wait until this strike is over (I don't discriminate, I hate all strikes including those of teachers).

Working to keep you posted...

Ross Commissioners nearly oust township manager...

Ross Township Commissioners came close to ousting Tom Lavorini as township manager by a 5-4 vote.

From the Post-Gazette:

Commissioners Dan Kinross, Grant Montgomery, David Mikec, Gerald O'Brien and Pete Ferraro voted in favor of keeping Mr. Lavorini.

Commissioners Chris Eyster, Daniel DeMarco, Lana Mazur and Grace Stanko voted against retaining him.

Mr. Eyster described Mr. Lavorini as an administrator who "solves a lot of problems that are created by his own doing."

He said the manager gave the commissioners poor advice during labor negotiations with township police that resulted in an expensive arbitration settlement. Mr. Lavorini also failed to cooperate with commissioners seeking to trim expenses during budget preparation, Mr. Eyster said.

After covering Ross Township for more than four years while this Tattler was working for my former employer, this has been a longtime coming. Lavorini is hard to deal with compared to other local managers and frankly, Ross Township could do better.

He made a few mistakes within the last year and if I was a Ross leader, this Tattler would NOT have voted to keep Lavorini around. This was not the first time a vote to keep Lavorini was a close one.

Hopefully he can change and represent Ross Township in a more fruitful way.

Working to keep you posted...

New Mexican restaurant gets good review...

The Post-Gazette's phantom diner, Munch, recently took a trip to Patron Mexican Grill along Perry Highway in Wexford (north of the flats). The eatery got a good review and the prices seemed in line compared to other area Mexican restaurants.

From the Post-Gazette:

It was at this point that Munch thought that even if the actual entrees were lame, the 30-mile round trip might be worth it just for drinks and chips.

But Munch is happy to report that the entrees were not lame, not lame indeed -- although picking one to order isn't easy.

The menu spans page after colorful page, with more than 50 dinner options. Munch eventually settled on the camerones diablo (spicy shrimp, $13.99), DOOM chose the chipotle el tio (shrimp and sausage in cheese sauce, $13.99), PHDSFOM picked the three-choice combo plate (pork tamale, chicken enchilada, beef taco, $9.99) and ACMPFOM ordered the enchilada supremas (one beef, one chicken, one cheese and one bean enchilada, $9.75).

Munch was pleased to see that Patron doesn't skimp on the shrimp: There were at least a dozen of them, coated in a pleasantly smoky sauce, with just the right amount of spiciness.

While I've been meaning to hit this restaurant for a while, I still have not yet ventured there. When I go, I'll let you know how it is.

Working to keep you posted...

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Who do you like???

While this Tattler has already said that Ross Township Commissioner Dan DeMarco may be a good choice to take the legislative seat of Lisa Bennington in Harrisburg, I was wondering what you all felt.

Who do you think would be a good candidate? Do you feel ex-representative Frank Pistella or ???

Post a comment or E-mail me:

Working to keep you posted...

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

New local E-Magazine...

Hey all,

Well there is a new E-magazine that covers Ross, West View and other local areas that you all should take a look at. They have an interesting site and hopefully can expand their content to make this an even more viable resource.

Check it out: Across Ross

Keep your eyes peeled. I'll hopefully get the Tattler present on that site even more.

Working to keep you posted...

Monday, January 7, 2008

Lisa Bennington's first and last term...

Well, this Tattler was reading this Sunday's edition of the Post-Gazette and saw a column about Pennsylvania state Rep. Lisa Bennington not running for re-election.

From the Post-Gazette:

It's been historically tough for women to reach the Pennsylvania statehouse, and now Rep. Lisa Bennington has announced she'll leave it after one term.

Rep. Bennington, 31, a divorce lawyer from Morningside fast with a quip, will finish out the year and then go back full-time to a line of work she finds less contentious and more rewarding. She settles about 90 percent of her divorce cases before the case reaches court but, in the House, "you can't negotiate with anyone."

Keep in mind, when I first interviewed Bennington when she was running for her position, the whole woman in Harrisburg thing wasn't really a part of her platform.

Rep. Bennington knew that her voice would amount to less than one-half of 1 percent of the 203-member House, but knowing something and experiencing it are different. In her law practice, "you are paid a billable hour and somebody is looking and can say, 'Did I get this service for what I paid?' "

She can have that experience when she helps a constituent with an individual problem, but she is frustrated by the glacial pace of lawmaking.

Let's wake up and smell the coffee. Everyone knows Harrisburg works at a very S-L-O-W pace.

Her most rewarding moment came when the House unanimously passed her bill to require that all Pennsylvania laws be available to the public free online. (The other 49 states already did that.) Her big disappointment came when the House didn't even vote on a bill to require hospitals to inform rape victims of the availability of emergency contraception.

Unfortunately, she did not make her own mark but aligned herself with the political machine in Harrisburg.

Maybe Harrisburg is not the place for anyone who already has a fulfilling career, as our statehouse demands an acceptance of accomplishing not very much. That leaves an open seat in a district straddling the Allegheny River, and divorce never looking so good.

Isn't interesting how this column does not even mention the North Hills? As I've always felt (and this article pretty much backs this up) is that Ross Township will always be treated as chopped liver by the way representative districts are drawn.

What a shame!

Working to keep you posted...

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Ross legislator not seeking re-election...

While watching NightTalk on PCNC this evening, I learned that Lisa Bennington (D-21) will not be seeking re-election to Pennsylvania's house of representatives. Bennington won election in 2006 thereby ousting longtime legislator Frank Pistella.

From the Pittsburgh Trib:

Elected as a reformer with visions of changing the way the state House operates, Rep. Lisa Bennington announced Thursday she will not seek re-election to a second term.

Bennington, 31, a Democrat from Morningside, defeated longtime Democratic incumbent Frank Pistella last year. Her two-year term will end Nov. 30.

From the Post-Gazette:

In 2006, she said, " ran for the Legislature because I was outraged that there were so few women elected to our state government," she said in a news release.

While this Tattler likes Bennington personally, I'm not that disappointed that she is not seeking another term. She won on a platform of reform in Harrisburg and I haven't seen much happen under that issue. I do understand that it is quite a daunting task to get anything done in the state and hopefully a good field of candidates throw their hats in the race.

It would be nice for once since the restructuring of legislative districts to have a representative whom actually lives in Ross Township rather than Bloomfield. There is one Ross Township commissioner who would be a great choice.

Hey, miracles can always happen.

Working to keep you posted...

Friday, January 4, 2008

Survey results...

This Tattler has posted quite a few surveys lately and here are some results. Keep in mind that these are not scientific results but can give you good insight on what your neighbors are thinking.

I first asked if the much-disputed HEARTH project should have been approved by Ross Township commissioners after a threat of a lawsuit.

~ With 14 votes cast 70-percent said no while five votes (25%) voted in the affirmative. One voter thought it maybe either a good or bad idea.

~ An overwhelming 24 votes (75%) were cast saying that Walgreens should not have been open without the pharmacy on Christmas Day. Of the other votes, five voted yes (15%), two as a maybe (6%) and one as undecided (3%).

~ Finally, this Tattler asked if I should expand this blog's coverage area. Well, that idea has been nixed as 19 votes said no (73%) and one person voted yes (3%). Meanwhile, five votes were cast as maybe (19%) and one vote was undecided (3%).

For the time being, this Tattler will keep on focusing on the North Suburbs of Pittsburgh.

Working to keep you posted...