Breakfast Sausage: 5 stories to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

State Treasurer Rob McCord speaks at a campaign event in Pittsburgh in 2014. (Connor Mulvaney/Post-Gazette)State Treasurer Rob McCord speaks at a campaign event in Pittsburgh in 2014. (Connor Mulvaney/Post-Gazette)

1) The initial reports Thursday morning – that state Treasurer Rob McCord would step down from his post in early February before completing his final term -- were puzzling. Mr. McCord's resignation letter didn't offer much in the way of explanation, only that with Tom Wolf now comfortably seated in the governor's office, "it is time" to Mr. McCord to return to the public sector. As it turned out, though, Mr. McCord's resignation wasn't the stunner; that came Thursday afternoon, when word began to circulate that Mr. McCord was the subject of a federal investigation of fundraising for his failed gubernatorial campaign. A spokesman for Mr. McCord refused to comment on the reports of the investigation.

2) There won't be any new drilling in Pennsylvania's state parks and forests after this week – Mr. Wolf made good on a campaign promise to put in place a moratorium on new leases on those public lands. Ed Rendell had a similar ban when he served a governor, but Tom Corbett's administration approved drilling in public lands as long as the wells were drilled from adjacent properties.

3) Mr. Wolf took another step on Thursday to separate himself from that other Tom – his office announced that his work schedule would be posted publicly starting next week. That's a far cry from the policy of Mr. Corbett, who gave up his schedule only after a state court ordered him to do so. Anyone up for a Where's Tom widget?

4) The U.S. Senate approved the Keystone XL Pipeline on Thursday, setting up a battle with the White House, which has maintained that President Obama would veto anything having to do with the continental pipeline before a review by the State Department is completed.

er pens

5) And that brings us to this – the Veto Pen that Mr. Obama has been mentioning more and more often these days. The folks on NPR's "Morning Edition" told us today that the president has used a veto just twice so far, but we'd guess that number is going to spike dramatically in the next two years. And while it's customary for a president to use several pens to sign bills into law – those pens then get handed out as souvenirs – we think something comfortable and inexpensive would be better suited for all the vetoing that's about to happen.


Protect Our Parks group 1st to get citizen-sponsored ordinance to Allegheny County Council

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Members of Protect Our Parks presents Allegheny County Council with a petition to stop drilling in Deer Lakes Park last summer. The group is the first to get county council to consider citizen-sponsored legislation. (Michael Henninger/Post-Gazette)Members of Protect Our Parks presents Allegheny County Council with a petition to stop drilling in Deer Lakes Park last summer. The group is the first to get county council to consider citizen-sponsored legislation. (Michael Henninger/Post-Gazette)

By Molly Born

While news that Chelsa Wagner might take four county-appointed authorities to court dominated Grant Street this week, a group of Allegheny County residents got one step closer to making history.

At county council's Dec. 2 meeting, members of the Protect Our Parks coalition presented the more than 1,800 signatures they'd collected in support of a two-year ban on drilling at all non-Deer Lakes Park facilities -- the first citizen-sponsored ordinance to be considered by the panel. And on Wednesday, council's government reform committee gave the proposal a neutral recommendation, moving it to council for a vote.

Committee members commended the organization.

"Congratulations on being the first group to get the signatures," Sue Means, R-Bethel Park, told two Protect Our Parks members.

"I'm glad we have this provision in the charter that we can have this kind of ordinance brought before us. I don't care if they come up with one that says, 'Paint the Gold Room red, white and blue.' If the citizens think that's an important issue, I think we have to listen to that," said Barbara Daly Danko, D-Regent Square.

While also tipping his hat to the group's efforts, Nicholas Futules, D-Oakmont, expressed concern about a moratorium.

"I would vote against this because I want to have that right and opportunity to weight each individual opportunity as they arrive," he said.

And a quick recap on where we are with Deer Lakes: In May, council voted 9-5 to allow non-surface natural gas drilling beneath the 1,180-acre, county-owned park, leasing the county's oil and gas rights to driller Range Resources. The lease will yield $4.7 million to the county, $3 million to a parks improvement fund and 18 percent in royalties that have been estimated at more than $50 million.

Drilling hasn't hasn't started yet, councilman Michael Finnerty, D-Scott, noted at the meeting. Executive Rich Fitzgerald has said he has no plans to begin drilling under other county parks.


Breakfast Sausage: 5 stories to read today

Published by Mike Pound on .

Chelsa Wagner (Pam Panchak/Post-Gazette)Chelsa Wagner (Pam Panchak/Post-Gazette)

1) In which we discover why lawyers will always have jobs: Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner is threatening to sue to gain access to the books of the Allegheny County Sanitary Authority, the Allegheny County Airport Authority, Port Authority of Allegheny County and the Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Sports and Exhibition Authority. But the lawyers for the authorities say Ms. Wager doesn't have the authority to audit them. We're pretty sure it's going to take many, many billable hours to get this one sorted out.

2) Even with their sweeping victories in November, Republicans in the U.S. Senate now have to set up to play some defense; for incumbents who are certain to be challenged – like, say, Sen. Pat Toomey – that means occasionally voting in a less-than-conservative manner, apparently with the blessing of Mitch McConnell. Politics PA notes that Mr. Toomey was one of just 15 Republicans to vote last week for an amendment that said humans contribute to climate change. We'll be watching to see if Mr. Toomey veers more towards the center over the next couple of years – and we'd bet the tea party is watching too.

3) Want to hear something even more strange than Mr. Toomey acknowledging that people have an influence on climate change? Try this one: state Sen. Scott Wagner put down his baseball bat long enough to come out in support of hiking the state's minimum wage. The York Republican, who has done his best to steer Harrisburg into a sharp right turn since he took office last year, doesn't back the proposal from Gov. Tom Wolf to raise the wage to $10.10 an hour, but a spokesman for Mr. Wagner said raising the wage from the current $7.25 to $8.75 is "the right thing to do."

4) No more gifts for Turnpike Commission employees? Man, that's rough – everyone knows it was the gifts that made working for the turnpike commission fun.

Thomas Gaither (Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)Thomas Gaither (Rebecca Droke/Post-Gazette)

5) We offer our congratulations to Prospect resident Thomas Gaither for finally getting his "criminal" record expunged. In 1961, Mr. Gaither led a lunch-counter sit-in in Rock Hill, S.C.; Mr. Gaither and the eight African-American students he recruited – now known as the Friendship 9 – were immediately arrested and sentenced to serve a month in a labor camp. That record didn't stop Mr. Gaither from becoming a biology professor at Slippery Rock University – but it was a blemish he had to live with until Wednesday, when the crimes were erased by a judge in South Carolina.


Zotter announces Pittsburgh council candidacy

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Randy ZotterRandy Zotter

By Robert Zullo

Longtime North Side community activist Randy Zotter formally announced his entry Wednesday into what could be a crowded race for the District 1 City Council seat currently held by incumbent Darlene Harris.

Mr. Zotter, a carpenter from the Mexican War Streets, has also served as director of the Northside Community Development, president of the Pittsburgh Neighborhood Alliance and the Central Northside Council and board president of the Manchester Academic Charter School.

Bobby Wilson, a University of Pittsburgh researcher who lives in Spring Hill, has also declared for the race.

Mr. Wilson finished third in a four-person Democratic primary in the district four years ago. Ms. Harris won with 42 percent of the primary vote; followed by Vince Paulus, 39 percent; Mr. Wilson, 12 percent; and Steve Oberst, 7 percent. Ms. Harris first won her seat on council in a 2006 special election.

Mr. Zotter said he takes "community service very seriously."

"The former mayor and the current mayor are going to try and influence who our next council person is. I am going to take my message of community engagement to the neighborhoods and let the voters decide," he said.

Dave Schuilenburg of Summer Hill, who has run for the seat in the past, said earlier this month that he is also exploring a run for the seat.

Council districts 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9 are up for re-election this year. All incumbents are running. Candidates may circulate nominating petitions between Feb. 17 and March 10, when they must be filed.

The Democratic primary election is May 19, the main event in a city ruled by Democrats. The general election is Nov. 3.

Robert Zullo: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 412-263-3909. Twitter: @rczullo.