Homewood15208 - dispatches from the heart of Homewood Nation.
|Posted by Elwin Green on March 6, 2014 at 1:15 PM||comments (0)|
In the quest to enable more empowering and delightful conversations in and about Homewood, Homewood Nation is launching a series of events under the title, "Homewood Nation Presents."
Homewood Nation Presents will include both real-life and online events offering conversations with smart people on fascinating topics.
The real-life events will take place in a variety of venues. The online events will use Google Plus as a platform for broadcasting live video, with the capability for Q and A during the conversation.
Our first online event will be at 8 pm this evening, with guest Shimira Williams, in a conversation titled "Own Your Own." Ms. Williams, founder of Productivity LLC (I cannot BELIEVE she was able to snag such a great, simple name), will discuss the importance of businesses owning their own domain names (such as www.homewoodnation.com), and how to establish your online domain. If you own a business and your online presence consists only of a Facebook page, Ms. Williams will help you to move to a new level.
Next week, Homewood Nation Presents will begin a three-part series of conversations, also for business owners, with Craig Calvert, of SmartProcure - conversations designed to help your business grow by competing for and winning some of the $20 billion that government agencies spend EVERY DAY.
If the last part of that last sentence didn't take your breath away, you need to re-read it.
The series will broadcast live at 8:30 p.m. on March 11, 18 and 25.
To keep informed of these and future events, email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to be placed on our notification list. Thanks!
And in case you haven't guessed yet, FEBU is a play on a fashion brand, and stands for "For Everybody, By Us." Because in the end, I intend to sell to the world.
We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming...
|Posted by Elwin Green on March 1, 2014 at 6:50 PM||comments (0)|
On Thursday, I met with Harry Geyer, proprietor of The Wheel Mill. the indoor bike park on Hamilton Avenue. When he announced plans to create the park in April 2012, I wrote a piece that ended with these lines:
Geyer said that because he does not want to compete with local bicycle shops, the facility will offer only limited bicycle repair services. Likewise, while there might be light refreshments available, The Wheel Mill will not include a restaurant.
Let me rephrase that last bit: "Likewise, while there might be light refreshments available, The Wheel Mill will not include a restaurant, BECAUSE GEYER DOES NOT WANT TO COMPETE WITH LOCAL RESTAURANTS."
During our meeting Thursday, Harry Geyer said that The Wheel Mill attracts about 1,000 people a month, most of whom do not know anything about Homewood, because they come from different states - and so far, from seven different countries.
And when these national and international visitors come to ride at The Wheel Mill, they work up an appetite.
How many restaurants are there in Homewood?
The Wheel Mill's customers are visitors. They do not know their way around. And when they are in The Wheel Mill, and work up an appetite, they want to eat something THERE, and then ride some more. They would prefer not to leave the building (not because they are afraid of crime - they don't even know about crime in Homewood, because they are from out of state and out of country).
And this is what Harry Geyer said: "Pizza Parma is making a killing."
Why? Because they DELIVER.
How many restaurants in Homewood will deliver to a location in Homewood full of hungry people with money to spend?
KNOCK-KNOCK!! KNOCK-KNOCK!!! KNOCK-KNOCK!!!!
|Posted by Elwin Green on March 1, 2014 at 4:05 PM||comments (0)|
Entrepreneurs (l-r) Dwight Mayo (Transportation Solutions), Ken Ross (Artistry Greenscape), Tracey Carter (Shear Delight Beuty Salon), and Naomi Johnson (Something Borrowed Boutique) shared insights at Urban Innovation21's orientation for its business grant competition.
Opportunity knocked on Homewood's door this morning, and some two dozen entrepreneurs got out of bed to answer it.
The opportunity comes in the form of a business grant competition for Homewood-based businesses, offered by Urban Innovation21, a public-private partnership. The competition will award grants ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 to the participants who submit the best business plans.
This morning, UI21 conducted the first of two orientation sessions for interested entrepreneurs, at the Greater Pittsburgh Coliseum (the second will also be held there, Tuesday, March 4, at 6 p.m.).
The program opened with a panel discussion featuring participants from previous UI21 grant competitions.
Panel members stressed that the competition offers value beyond the possibility of receiving a grant - such as the opportunity to network.
"Everybody in this room has something to offer other people in the room," said Naomi Johnson, whose business, Something Borrowed Boutique, was awarded a $5,000 grant last year.
In a series of four weekly workshops that begin next Saturday, UI21 staffers will help aspirants to research and write their business plans.
Even businesses owners who do not win a grant may qualify for a no-interest loan through Kiva Zip, a nonprofit program that allows individuals to lend directly to entrepreneurs.
This is the second year for the Homewood grant competition, which last year awarded grants to eight businesses. Urban Innovation21 has also conducted similar grant competiitons for businesses in the Hill District.
|Posted by Elwin Green on February 17, 2014 at 3:55 PM||comments (5)|
Okay folks, apology time. Last time out, I said that Part 2 would cover PCRG executive director Ernie Hogan's take on the land bank, Malik Bankston's critique of Councilman Burgess' presentation at Council, and Councilwoman Deb Gross' reponses to critiques of the bill.
In short, I overpromised. Mr. Hogan and Ms. Gross will show up here later. Today's offering features some observations by Malik Bankston, executive director of Kingsley Association.
Bankston says that when he began reviewing the Power Point presentation that Councilman Ricky V. Burgess used to open a Feb. 6 post-agenda hearing on Councilwoman Deb Gross' proposed land bank legislation, he quickly got the sense that something was wrong.
Pages six and seven of the presentation, titled "Community Benefits For The Pittsburgh Land Bank," contain charts that list the number of "landbank-eligible properties," by Council district, then in the top 15 most-blighted neighborhoods.
To Bankston, the numbers seemed high. That impression was confirmed when he examined the maps that followed, and found what he calls "gross distortions and misrepresentations."
First, there's a map of Homewood, according to which 50% of parcels - indicated by being highlighted in red - are abandoned, vacant or tax-delinquent:
Then there's a map of the Hill District, which says that 45% of the parcels there are abandoned, vacant or tax-delinquent:
The problem, Bankston says, is that those maps are wrong.
In the top half of the Homewood map, about one-third of the way from the right edge, is a large block of red with a semi-circular road going through it.
That's not abandoned, vacant or tax-delinquent land - those are the housing projects of Homewood North.
The Hill District map shows a large five-sided red spot in its upper right section...
That's not abandoned, vacant or tax-delinquent land - that's Herron Hill Park.
Bankston named other examples of parcels that he said should not be portrayed as abandoned, vacant or tax-delinquent: parcels in Homewood that are owned by the Housing Authority of the City of Pittsburgh, parcels in the Hill District that currently under development.
He said that as far as he can tell, the maps portray parcels that are publicly owned. But being publicly owned is quite different from being vacant, abandoned or tax delinquent.
This of course raises the question, "What would accurate maps of "abandoned, vacant and tax-delinquent" properties look like?"
I'll try to find out.
(UPDATE, 2-18-14: Reader Carl Redwood, of the Hill District Consensus Group, alerted us to a Hill District Vacant Property study done last year, that contains relevant maps.)
|Posted by Elwin Green on February 14, 2014 at 10:55 AM||comments (1)|
A bill proposed in City Council last month became the subject of heated and widespread discussion last week.
The 13-page ordinance proposed by Councilwoman Deb Gross on Jan. 14 would create a Land Bank for the City of Pittsburgh with a mission "to return unproductive Real Property to beneficial re-use through a equitable, transparent, public process, thereby revitalizing neighborhoods in line with community goals and needs."
While the bill was proposed on Jan. 14, much of the conversation was generated by a pair of events that happened two weeks later. First, the New Pittsburgh Courier ran a front page story, with the headline, "Burgess: No protection for Black neighborhoods in Land Bank proposal," in which Councilman Ricky V. Burgess was quoted as saying that the proposed bill would "realize the fears of people that someone could steal their land."
Then, Councilman Burgess sent a letter to constituents in his 9th District, describing the proposed entity as a "Predatory Land Bank," (yes, in bold. And in italics. And underlined) and "The BIGGEST land grab in the City's history!" That language, combined with a lack of detail about what makes the land bank predatory, struck me as alarmist and unhelpful for a community that needs less suspicion and fear and more facts. But that's me. Take a look at it yourself - what do you think?
The back of the letter outlined five points of "Councilman Rev. Burgess' Plan for Land Bank Community Benefits."
1. Low- and moderate-income residents, community groups and churches plan the future of their communities;
2. Low- and modearte-income residents and community groups headquartered within low- andmoderate-income communities have a clear and mandated role in land-use decisions;
3. Low and moderate income members and community-based organizations headquartered within the Land banked communities be contracted to maintain the land in their own communities and the residents within these neighborhoods be employed to do the property maintenance;
4. City Council Members, as the community representative, MUST approve every Land Bank transaction because residents deserve to know who they can hold accountable for what happens in their neighborhoods;
5. The Land Bank's Board of Directors must have residents from low- and moderate-income communities.
The letter also called upon residents to come out in support of Burgess' plan at a public hearing, which was held Thursday afternoon, Feb. 6.
I live-tweeted the event; the tweets are still visible to your right.
Councilman Burgess opened the hearing with a brief presentation which featured maps that highlighted in red the parcels that he said would be subject to seizure by the proposed Land Bank - 50 percent of the land in Homewood, 45 percent of the Hill District.
Invited guests took seats before Council members to express their concerns regarding the proposed bill: Judith Ginyard of Community Empowerment Association; Jerome Jackson, executive director of Operation Better Block; Marimba Milliones, president and CEO of Hill Community Development Corporation.
Then the floor was opened for citizens to approach a podium, and a stream of them did - white and black, old and young - with responses ranging from caution to opposition.
Burgess ended the session by inviting all to a second meeting at 6 that evening, at Community Empowerment Association in Homewood.
I missed that meeting, having already committed to attending the regular monthly meeting of the Larimer Consensus Group, which was held at the same time. In that meeting, held at the Kingsley Assocation. There, Ernie Hogan, executive director of the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Group, gave his own presentation regarding the Land Bank.
PCRG was part of the Land Recycling Task Force, a group that met from March 2010 through December 2011 to study land banking and help the Ravenstahl administration prepare for the creation of a land bank. An archive on the City's website details their work, which was the basis for Councilwoman Gross' proposal. Hogan's perspective was an interesting counterpoint to what was said at Council. More on that in Part 2.
Also in Part 2 - Malik Bankston: Burgess presentation contains "gross distortions and misrepresentations"; Councilwoman Gross responds to critiques.
Part 3 - Burgess 2012 vs. Gross 2014: two proposals compared.
This is the 300th post on this blog. If you find value in this blog or this website, and/or the Homewood Nation Facebook page, and/or the Homewood Nation YouTube channel, and/or the Homewood Nation Twitter feed, please support this work by using the button at the right to make a donation. Thanks!.
|Posted by Elwin Green on February 4, 2014 at 11:10 AM||comments (0)|
The Alliance for Police Accountability hosted a public viewing last night of the police cam video from the arrest of Will and Beyshaud El, an arrest accompanied by a beating that left Beyshaud El unconscious.
I missed the meeting, which was titled "Be A Witness," and was held at the Homewood Carnegie Library at 6:30. But APA has now posted the video on YouTube, and here it is:
The descrption posted with the video reads:
An unwarranted stop and frisk leads to an assault by the police and false arrest. These two young men go to trial on February 10, 2014 facing a felony offense of assault. Why? Because they walked out of a corner store with purchased items in Homewood. According to Pittsburgh Police Lieutenant Kacsuta report, this was enough reasonable suspicion stop and question them.
She decided to stop them because she could not see what was in their hands.
The young men stopped, discarded all their items onto the sidewalk in her view and asked the officer why was she harassing them.
Holding them against their will, Lt. Kacstuta ordered them sit on the ground and called for back up.
According to her report, the young men continued to ask why is she stopping them and harassing them when the back up officers arrived.
This is where our video begins. As you watch the video, observe how these two young men with no prior criminal records, nor under arrest are: held against their will for no justifiable reason; intimidated and questioned.
Watch the response from the officers as they slammed the 20-year old sibling against the wall when he stood up to question the justification of the officers actions and express his desire to leave being that they did nothing wrong and wasn't under arrest.
Observe how the 17-year old younger sibling is tased until he was unconscious when standing up to defend his older brother from being assaulted by the police officers.
No drugs or weapons were found in their possession, yet they were jailed for 2 days and now face felony charges of aggravated assault against a police officer. They go to trial on February 10, 2014.
Side Note: Lt. Kacsuta is the same officer currently under investigation for making derogatory remarks towards subordinate staff, so we can only imagine what she's saying to these young black men.
|Posted by Elwin Green on January 30, 2014 at 7:00 PM||comments (1)|
For lovers of Homewood, the year 2014 has gotten off to a dramatic, intriguing, challenging start.
On January 6, Homewood artist and poet Vanessa German thrilled attendees at Mayor Bill Peduto's inauguration with a spoken word piece that brought the audience at Heinz Hall to their feet, and that made me, watching it with my wife on TV, want and wish to be the kind of neighbor, the kind of Pittsburgher, that she describes.
Ms. German followed that up with the opening of an exhibit, "Citizen Artist," at the Conceept Art Gallery in Regent Square on January 9. The exhibit will run through February 8.
On January 10, I joined Kevin Amos, of Morningstar Productions, and Andrew W. Thornhill, of Thornhill & Studio in presenting "29 Tablets," a symposium to discuss the possibility of establishing a facility in Homewood for the assembly of tablet computers. The event, held on the second floor of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Homewood branch, drew a diverse group that included residents, government officials - State Rep. Ed Gainey and Mayor Bill Peduto - media and other interested parties.
As one of the people behind the event (I also served as moderator), I was glad to see that the New Pittsburgh Courier, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, and the Tribune-Review all provided the coverage - partly because it's good to have mainstream media coverage of productive activity in Homewood, but mainly because their coverage would lack my bias. This is what they wrote (both the Post-Gazette and the Tribune-Review mentioned the symposium in roundup stories about Mayor Peduto's first week in office):
WESA FM also interviewed Andrew and me for the broadcast of "Essential Pittsburgh" that aired just an hour before the event. (Thanks to Terry Glueck of Innovation Works for connecting us!)
On January 11, Vanessa German led a "Citizen Artist Parade" from her Hamilton Avenue home to Concept Art Gallery .
On January 14, Deb Gross, Councilwoman for PIttsburgh 7th District, proposed legislation for the creation of a land bank that could acquire and resell tax-delinquent properties in the City. If passed, this legislation could have a significant impact on Homewood, where more than half of the real estate parcels are tax-delinquent. In an article in the New Pittsburgh Courier, Homewood's Councilman, the Rev. Ricky V. Burgess - who offered his own land bank legislation in 2012 that was not passed - expressed concern that Gross' proposal may result in the fulfillment of many Homewoodians' long-held "fear that someone could steal their land."
On January 16, the Citizens Police Review Board held a hearing on the arrest of Dennis Henderson, the schoolteacher who was arrested last June shortly after leaving a meeting being held at Community Empowerment Association. I was a witness, and will share my observations in a separate post. Meanwhile, here's the Post-Gazette's report.
While the hearing was in progress, Homewood became the site of the first homicide of 2014, when 28-year-old Frederick Douglas, of Homewood, was gunned down on Kedron Street.
Finally, there's the continuing saga of Jordan Miles, the viola-playing high school student who was arrested and beaten by Pittsburgh police officers four years ago while walking home in Homewood. On January 27, Miles' case took a new turn when attorneys Bryan Campbell and Robert Leight filed a motion to have new evidence admitted in a civil trial to be held in March. The motion, filed on behalf of officers Michael Saldutte and David Sistak, requests the admission of ammunition and a gun magazine that were found in the yard where the officers tackled Mr. Miles, then 18.
Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments.
|Posted by C. Matthew Hawkins on January 30, 2014 at 9:05 AM||comments (0)|
The new Land Bank proposal, now before City Council, is not the same proposal we met about in Homewood last summer. That earlier proposal included a community review board, which would set priorities for development and would evaluate potential buyers based on how closely their plans for development matched the priorities of the affected neighborhoods.
The new proposal seems to be based on the establishment of city-wide board, whose accountability will be at-large and will not be directly answerable to neighborhood concerns.
Councilman Burgess currently opposes the new plans for a Land Bank. He was the sponsor of the earlier Land Bank proposal that did not gain approval by city council last year. Are Councilman Burgess' objections to the new proposal based, in part, on the fact that it would weaken of his personal influence over the process, and therefore reduce his potential political clout?
Whatever the case, the new Land Bank proposal appears to shift decisions about land use further away from neighborhood residents, and those who are presumably accountable to them, and more in the direction of a centralized planning process downtown.
Human rights writer Mike Staresinic argues that “the demon is in the details,” and that any land bank proposal should include detailed plans for development after demolition. Staresinic says that most of what he has heard about the proposal focuses on removing “urban blight”, but there is not much discussion about what will follow the demolition of buildings.
That may be a problem with the current land bank proposal. The earlier proposal, the one that was presented in the Homewood library last summer but did not pass city council, addressed these concerns.
|Posted by Elwin Green on January 14, 2014 at 6:45 PM||comments (2)|
I just sent this to my email list of Homewood residents:
Is it too late to say Happy New Year? Oh well!
The first monthly meeting of Block Watch Plus for 2014 is to be held Thursday, Jan. 16, at 6 p.m. in the South Conference Room at the Homewood-Brushton YMCA.
I ask you to make a special effort to attend this meeting, for two reasons:
1) As you probably know by now, Jose Diaz, the staffer who served as BWP's primary point of contact at Operation Better Block, is no longer with the organization, so that bit of outside assistance is gone (OBB as an organization may still be supportive, but I don't know that any particular person on staff has been assigned to the group).
2) I am stepping down as chair of Block Watch Plus. After nearly three years of seeking to grow BWP into a group of residents so united that no one can go around us, and having no success, I want to give someone else a shot at leading the group. I think the decision about who that person will be should be up to the residents of Homewood.
I propose that we devote Thursday's meeting to discussing the issues that you want Block Watch Plus to address, and to forming a nominating committee to seek out candidates for the position of chair, so that the group can vote for a new chair in next month's meeting. But that's just my proposal. If you folks choose to do something different on Thursday, that's fine.
In any case, I hope to see you at the meeting.
Elwin Green, chair
Block Watch Plus
|Posted by Elwin Green on January 9, 2014 at 10:20 AM||comments (0)|
Happy New Year! Have you missed me?
That's a serious question. As Homewood Nation approaches its fourth anniversary (April 1), I am evaluating whether or not to continue the website.
That does NOT mean that I am evaluating whether or not to continue covering Homewood as mainstream media can't or won't. It means asking if a website is the best way to do that. It has been more than a month since I posted anything here, but if you have liked Homewood Nation's Facebook page, you have seen items posted there. Likewise with Homewood Nation's Twitter feed.
So...If you have received news, information, or opinion from Homewood Nation via Facebook or Twitter over the past month, have you missed seeing updates here?
And then there's video, which has become a primary means of sharing news and information. Does having a Homewood Nation YouTube channel make sharing videos on a website extraneous? How can I make the best use of Homewood Nation's YouTube channel?
In the spirit of kaizen, or continuous improvement, I am always asking how to make Homewood Nation better. But in the end, "better" means, "more useful for users." I can hypothesize all I want about what should work; only you can say what does work.
In quest of improvement, I have launched a discussion series, "Building a 21st Century Journalism Enterprise." Consider this your standing invitation to attend any of the meetings in that series - I plan need to update the ad to the right with info for the next one, which I plan to host on January 18.
Truth be told, I expect to continue this website for at least another six months; but intend to make significant changes during those six months, informed by output from the B21CJE discussions, and by what you tell me in other ways about what you want to see here.
There won't be another month-long gap here. But ultimately, what will be here is largely up to you, the users. What changes would make Homewood Nation a better online resource for you, and in what ways would you like to use it? Tell us (I have a small crew; more on that later) what you think in the comment section below.
Meanwhile, as your reward for reading this, here's a silly video:
UPDATE, 1/13/2104: I first linked to that video from my personal blog, where I wrote a post about the Homewood Nation YouTube channel. It ended with these questions, which are also relevant here:
What type of content would you like to see on Homewood Nation's YouTube channel?
Would you like to provide content for Homewood Nation's YouTube channel, and if so, what kind?