Friday, May 22, 2009

Why? 'Cause Bracken says so

Think for a moment or two what you would do if you had $500,000 to spend on tourism promotion in Washington County. Did buying fake grass for a minor-league baseball team's sloppy field pop into your head? Probably not. But that's exactly what the Washington County Tourism Promotion Agency did on Thursday. Its members voted, 8-3, to plunk down half a million dollars in hotel tax proceeds over the next decade in order to finance the installation of artificial turf at Consol Energy Park, home of the Washington Wild Things. Another $500,000 for the project will come from your state tax dollars. There's no debating that the Wild Things are a major draw, second only to the Meadows in terms of attracting visitors to the county. And no one really debates the fact that the current grass field has significant drainage problems and should be replaced. The objections from those who opposed the tourism spending centered mainly on the use of that particular funding source and the way in which the proposal was handled. Observer-Reporter publisher Tom Northrop, who cast one of the dissenting votes, believed it would have been better to use the local share of slots proceeds from The Meadows casino. But the artificial turf project was not among those forwarded by the county commissioners for slots funding. And the reason is becoming clear. Why use the slots money, and possibly raise the ire of local communities vying for that funding, when you can just strong-arm the tourism panel into coughing up the cash? Northrop was told by county Commissioner Bracken Burns, who was pushing the Wild Things project, "We're the ones who gave you the hotel tax money, and we can take it away, too." If that's not a threat, I don't know what is. I'm pretty sure if you look up the word "arrogant" in the dictionary, you'll find a picture of Burns. But the attempted bullying didn't stop there. Jeff Kotula, the executive director of Washington County Chamber of Commerce, who just happens to be chairman of the commissioner-appointed panel that decided on the use of slots money, allegedly called tourism panel member Jamie Johns of The Meadows to "remind" her that the commissioners appointed her to the board. Supposedly, all the newer members of the board got these "friendly reminders." And there's more. A state-level official also got into the high-pressure act, and some board members were told that if they didn't vote the "right way," they could easily be replaced because they serve at the pleasure of the commissioners. One of the affirmative votes for the $500,000 outlay came from board member Bob Gregg, perhaps better known as the WJPA play-by-play announcer for Wild Things games. Gregg might not get paid by the Wild Things or Ballpark Scholarships Inc., which owns the park and is the entity getting the money, but the average third-grader could spot the conflict of interest in his vote. At least the tourism board representatives from the Wild Things and Cal U., which plays games on the field, had the good sense to abstain. One might also complain that the reason artificial turf is needed at this juncture is that the field was not constructed properly in the first place. Now they want public money to bail them out. As I said earlier, no one is denying that the Wild Things are an asset for the community, and no one is claiming that new turf is not needed. But should $1 million in tax money be used for this? It brought to mind the time when we citizens said we didn't want our state tax money to be used to build stadiums in Pittsburgh, and our so-called "leaders" in Harrisburg stuffed it down our throats anyway. It also makes one wonder why the county even has a tourism promotion panel. Why don't Burns and his equally shameless cronies just make the decisions themselves, in a back room somewhere, and eliminate this charade.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a story that should be in your paper. It's outrageous.

May 22, 2009 at 6:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, is this going to be in the paper? If not, why?

May 22, 2009 at 8:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uh, it was in Thursday's and Friday's paper. Hello? McFly?

May 22, 2009 at 10:16 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

Yep. Just go to the O-R home page. Go to where it says "search Observer-Reporter" and search for the word turf. The stories on the issue should come up for you. Happy holiday weekend to all.

May 23, 2009 at 10:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the things that irritates me the most is the arrogance of elected officials. Burns has to be one of the most arrogant politician around, but the voters continually put him in office. Washington voters put Matt Staniszewski( I think I spelled that correctly) back on council knowing what a disruption he is at council meeting. Can't the citizens of Washington/Washington County come up with better representives than these two twits?

May 23, 2009 at 11:57 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Do what I tell you or you're off the Tourism Board."

That's funny. Not exactly Chicago politics, is it?

May 23, 2009 at 11:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Look the problem is not just arrogance, but the decision to keep putting more money after bad. Is a business an actual asset if it requires more money than it brings to the community? It is a legitimate question that groups like the Heritage Foundation have looked at in regards to stadiums. The best stadiums are a flat line in the revenue generated (including side ventures like restaurants) and the income required from the public. The worst (the vast majority) are actual drains. The average citizen consumes only so much entertainment. This does not change with new venues, only the place that they are spending it. So for the stadium to be a real success it would require a great deal of out of town traffic (not just Pittsburgh). As a former tourism board member, I remember that the state wants OUT of state visitors, not Pittsburgh or Greene county residents visiting the stadiums or other venues.
Before more public money is spent, a serious review of whether this is actually the case should be done, along with an economic impact.
Washington Crown Center is dying in spite of the stadium. Due to more government ventures projects are moving north of that region.
The Wild Things have always overstated the actual number of PAID attendees, as do most of the Frontier League, in addition, the use of every visitor for every game as a unique visitor by Kotula boggles the mind of any fair minded individual.
Now that aside, Bracken Burns' arrogance has been known for years, but little has been done about it by the public for one simple reason, the general weakness of his opponents, combined with quite frankly a lack of press coverage of opponents during elections.
The past opponents have left a great deal to be desired either for a lack of ideas (Neville) or a lack of resources (Shober) a lack of common sense (Bevec) or a lack of focus (Manning). The result has been Bracken being able to survive every election intact because he is the best of a bad lot politically, not public policy wise.

WR Fan who is proud of Mr. Northop's stance

May 24, 2009 at 12:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Artificial turf? Really? How about a ditch witch and 800 feet of french drains. If you have a drainage issue that is what you need to solve it. Not turf. What is this 1979? No one uses turf anymore.

May 24, 2009 at 7:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the former tourism board member, I have this question.

What tourist attraction brings in more than it costs to operate?

I can't think of one thing. If you judge the value of giving money by that, then the casino should never have been built. It sucks money from the residents and percentage-wise returns very little.

May 25, 2009 at 4:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well this was not meant as a defense of the casino. Most of the traffic there is local also and it serves one purpose, a tax on the poor and the foolish.
I am for private enterprise that does not need a government handout. If we are to spend tax dollars on business, it should not be retail or tourism, but instead manufacturing.
My preference is to allow the free market to reign. The history of the Frontier League is to use up a town's resources and move on. Watch for when this happens and we are left with a ball park with no team in the near future.

May 26, 2009 at 12:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Frontier League in WashPA is quite simple. A lot of men/women running the team and working for it or covering it living out their own dream of being in pro baseball. It is fine if they are doing that on their own time and dime. But, to steal money like this out of taxpayers' pockets is simply not right. I am ashamed to be a native of this great city. The Wild Things were a great idea at first, but they simply cant fool people, especially in this economy, anymore in this Frontier League. It is not pro baseball. WashPA needs affiliated baseball to save itself.

May 26, 2009 at 8:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please provide examples of situations in which a Frontier League team dried up resources and moved on....

May 26, 2009 at 9:55 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

From what I've seen, the Frontier League is like a traveling carnival, with franchises sprouting up, dying off and then teams sprouting up in other locations. What happened to these teams: Canton Coyotes, Chillicothe Paints, Cook County Cheetahs, DuBois County Dragons, Erie Sailors, Johnstown Johnnies, Kenosha Mammoths, Kentucky Rifles, Lancaster Scouts, London Werewolves, Mid-Missouri Mavericks, Newark Bison, Oakland County Cruisers, Ohio Valley Redcoats, Portsmouth Explorers, Richmond Roosters, Springfield Capitals, Springfield-Ozark Ducks, Tri-State Tomahawks, West Virginia Coal Sox and Zanesville Greys. I don't know the particulars of each teams relocation and demise, but there sure has been a lot of franchise death and/or movement.

May 26, 2009 at 10:14 AM  
Blogger Mike Jones said...

Don't forget your Slippery Rock Sliders and their ridiculously unbalanced 2007 road schedule!

May 26, 2009 at 1:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Teams in an independent league survive by the way their community supports them. These are not traveling circuses. They don't settle into a community, use up the resources then move to another city. If they are supported, they survive.

Look at the two biggest developmental disasters to hit Washington in the past three years: the closing of the Land America building after one year and the incredible incompetence that shut down the "Foundering."

I might not go to many Wild Things games but I understand the value it is to a community. Just the way I see the value of having performing arts - the symphony, opera, theater - to a community.

You can hope the Wild Things die and leave town, then you can see baseball at PNC Park for the mere cost of $100 a game for a family of four. I'm sure that will be so much better.

May 26, 2009 at 6:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Last poster is where the lazy, uneducated and misinformed rear their ugly head.

Go to PNC Park and spend $100 for a family of four? Whoa.

If you get GA seats, that is $36 for 4 tickets. If you park smart, you can park with a small walk for $3.

The concession prices are a tad more expensive, but not enough to make a significant difference if you can afford to go to a game to begin with. Or you could just eat at home like most people and then go to the game.

The argument that the Wild Thing game is "more affordable" is a joke. Technically, yes, it is. In actuality, they are stealing money for a bad product. Take your family of four to a little league game this summer. At least they can catch.

In other news, the tourism board has agreed to pay me $5,000 to reseed my yard to ensure a greener grass when people get off I-70.

May 27, 2009 at 7:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd rather go see a Major League Baseball game any day of the week than a glorified American Legion game - which is what the Frontier League is.
Is it going to be a little more expensive? Sure. But not as much as some would have you believe.
Major League Baseball is still a far cheaper professional ticket than the NHL, NBA or NFL.
And don't give me this crap about the Pirates stinking. I can go to the game and enjoy watching individual players - be they Pirates or the opposing team - a hell of a lot more than a bunch of wannabes.
Comparing the Frontier League to MLB is like comparing community theater to Broadway.
If Washington had an affiliated Minor League team - even low A - I would go. I'm not spending money to watch a bunch of scrubs.
It's as big of a scam as the casino.

May 27, 2009 at 12:26 PM  
Blogger BURGH08 said...

Although I agree on the Frontier League comments about it pretty much being glorified Legion ball, the Erie Sailors were only a FL team for a year. Most seasons baseball in Erie has been affiliated with a major league franchise.

I think even if Washington were to gain a short A/New York Penn type league they would be better off, but not sure of the guidelines with having affiliated ball close to the MLB product.

One other thing: Bob Gregg used to grace these boards with his comments. Wonder why he is in hiding when he is called out on his vote in this piece?

May 28, 2009 at 1:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

National Association rules would require major changes to the stadium to meet requirements. The stadium was not built to their specfications.

May 28, 2009 at 2:47 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

Would those changes even be feasible? What are we talking about here?

May 28, 2009 at 6:13 AM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

"Would those changes even be feasible? What are we talking about here?"

Probably half a million bucks worth of porch carpeting :-)

May 28, 2009 at 8:30 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

That stuff stays really green for a long time.

May 28, 2009 at 8:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bathrooms that were only for Umpires for one thing, the total addition would about six times the bathrooms currently.
Changes in lighting, seating, concessions, parking. Very specific rules that force cities to update on a regular (2-4 year cycle) basis.
Feasible is apparently in the eye of the beholder.
With the Kotula-Burns way of looking at things, no amount of money is too much for low level baseball.

May 28, 2009 at 3:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

had the guts, or perhaps stupidity, to bring this issue into focus on the Wild About Things blog
and became the victim of character assassination and name calling by a person that identified himself as a Wild Things employee.
Of course, they denied this, even posted a message to that effect. I believe, due to the structure and content of the smear against me, that it was indeed posted by a Wild Things employee. Also, I believe this smear was directed against me by the Wild Things with a “wink” factor involved..
I was called senile, old man (I am 72 Y/O), and it was even suggested I needed mental help. All of this because I expressed my opposition to the way this issue was handled. Two other persons that post on that blog were subjected to the same treatment. All this because I said most of the things that I’ve seen posted here.
If you have anything to say about this issue, I would suggest you not use your real name. You just might find yourself called everything and anything! These folks at the Wild Things have a goal and could care less what their fans or anyone else wants. They will do as THEY please and they will use your money to do it. DON’T GET IN THEIR WAY! They WILL come after you.
Ron Wilson

June 1, 2009 at 2:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the poster who believes I am lazy and uneducated, I would like to know what era of Pirates games you go to. $36 might be right for GA seats but $3 parking went out with the 1980s.

Suppose you buy four hot dogs at $4 apiece, four drinks at $5 apiece and popcorn or popcorn at $3 apiece. That's about $50 and you are at about $86 without parking. Of course, you don't have to eat at games but tell that to your children.

I'll give you the $3 parking, so that puts it at $90. OK, I'm off by $10, unless you buy a souvenir.

June 2, 2009 at 8:37 AM  
Blogger BURGH08 said...

Actually parents do have the right to tell their kids 'no', or actually take them to eat BEFORE the game at many eateries nearby that are much more affordable.

That said, if you have kids they have the little 'Buccaroos' stands through PNC. You can buy hot dogs, ice cream, popcorn, and other novelties much less than you list.

You can also park downtown instead of the North Shore lots for five dollars. I enjoy the walk over the Clemente, and it's easier to get back on 79.

You are never going to beat the prices for the Wild Things, but as many seasons as the Pirates have had, it's still not the glorified American Legion talent that is the Frontier League.

June 2, 2009 at 11:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Washington, PA is just a mini-Chicago when it comes to politics. Just about as crooked as it could possibly be. When these blood sucking turkeys that masquerade as a baseball organization hook up with these politicians, MIRACLES HAPPEN!
Nobody yet has answered the question; Why do the taxpayers owe the Wild Things anything? It should be the other way around. Don’t try to feed us the sickening bull crap about all the businesses they have brought to the immediate area of CEP. Those same businesses also increase the cost of public services to the area.
Tourism? When was the last time a tour bus came through Washington? The last time I saw one it was broke down, it sure as hell wasn’t touring beautiful downtown Washington to see Shortys Lunch!
The Wild Things management has only one thing in mind. How much money can they suck from this area.
When the well runs dry, or the people finally say “no more”, the WT will pull up stakes and leave town in a heartbeat. That’s the history of the Frontier League – an objective review of their past should prove that to you. All you need to do is look at the number of ‘fallen flags’ in the Frontier Leagues brief history. History has proven, time after time, that “The past IS prologue!" It should not be too difficult to reach a logical conclusion.
Crooks are crooks. No matter how they manage to keep it legal. (Remember, the same politicians that make this sh** legal, are also the ones that write the laws). We’ve been ripped off, plain and simple. We HAVE to admit that, but we don’t have to go down like a meek little lamb. I'm "looking the other way"
What are YOU doing to put the 'heat' on these theiving bastards? I suggest you call them, write to them, and loudly protest. Keep talking to people about it, embarrass them (if that's even possible). Pride is not high on their list of priorites. We MUST keep the spotlight on this issue or it will just fade away. The Wild Things know this and are counting on the fact that nobody really cares enough to kick up a fuss or giving a damn - don't let it happen!
Even in 2009, "The pen is mightier than the sword".

June 5, 2009 2:00 PM

June 6, 2009 at 10:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

saying something repeatedly does not, to the liberals' dismay, make it the truth. even saying something louder and louder, to the Democrats' angst, does not make it the truth. why do you feel such a need to post, and repost on multiple threads, the same gobble-dee-gook?

June 6, 2009 at 12:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it was said somewhere that Brant is NOT the "night editor" of the Observer-Reporter....either that saying wasn't true or Brant just can't be bothered to re-do his own blog. they call that a "Napoleon Complex", otherwise known as "Little Man Syndrome"

June 6, 2009 at 12:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brant Newman is night editor of the Observer-Reporter.All content on this blog is Copyright 2009, Observer Publishing Co. Washington, PA. 1998-2009
All Rights Reserved

June 6, 2009 at 12:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it was said somewhere that Brant is NOT the "night editor" of the Observer-Reporter....either that saying wasn't true or Brant just can't be bothered to re-do his own blog. they call that a "Napoleon Complex", otherwise known as "Little Man Syndrome"

__________________________ _So what do you call the syndrome you have? I call it COWARD. Not only do you trash somebody you don't even have enough pride in yourself to take responsibility for your words! I'm sure your parents must be just soooo proud.
Ron Wilson

June 6, 2009 at 4:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

here's one for you, great defender of our rights, Mr. Wilson. you are always supporting the military men and women (as i do). they are fighting even now to protect our freedoms. why is it that you think someone not posting their name means that what they have to say means less? do you sign your ballot in May and November? of course not. you have the freedom to vote anonymously, and i have the freedom to post in that same manner, provided to us both by those same military heros.

thanks be to our fighting men and women, and to you, Mr. Wilson, for your previous service to our nation.

June 6, 2009 at 5:10 PM  

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