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Triple threats

Three perfect examples emerged last week that proved that timing is everything .

Lots of things come in threes. There are the three primary colors, the right combination of which is said to create all the other colors — including white. And God’s three top resume builders are generally recognized to be omniscience, omnipresence and omnipotence.

We measure time in the past, present and future. The trident, a three-pointed staff, is the symbol of the Greek god Poseidon and the Roman god Neptune. And three functions — thought, word and deed — are said to represent the full range of human capabilities.

Good things seem to come in threes. And while this is not a cheery thought, my family always believed that deaths came in threes. We would count one, then two — and finally breathe a sigh of relief when the third death we heard about was not one of us.

So, in light of all these things, it came as no surprise when three perfect examples emerged last week that proved that timing is everything .

The convention center

It was a week that saw the grand opening of the region’s new convention center, which, at a cost of $380 million, represents great faith in Southwestern Pennsylvania. This signature symbol of Pittsburgh is surely worthy of a grand celebration, but the timing of the opening could not have been worse.

Celebration promoters blamed poor attendance on good weather and a Steeler’s away game — conditions that could more readily explain great attendance. It just seems that most of us were just not in the mood for a party, with the city and the airport failing, the state struggling to provide services, the Allegheny County assessment mess and US Airways playing us for fools.

At a public price tag of $500,000 for 6,000 attendees, each guest cost the taxpayers a little over 80 bucks. That same commitment of state funds could buy 100,000 tasty lunches at Buon Giorno on Smithfield Street or 10,000 truly memorable dinners at the Carlton or Common Plea. Then, the Downtown economy would finally get the boost that has been promised.

Allegheny politicking

Later in the week, in the hope that timing would work to his advantage, Allegheny County Executive Jim Roddey announced his 2004 operating budget amid accusations that he jumped the gun and announced early for political reasons. Cynics claim that the timing of the announcement was planned to allow Roddey to take full advantage of his ability to make lots of budgetary promises while running for re-election.

Roddey’s speech was, indeed, an event that combined governmental and political purposes. He took yet another swing at that old Republican bugaboo — row office reform . And, as expected, he proposed a tax cut. These are sure political winners.

While there is potential political benefit from a budget address that is timed to coincide with a re-election campaign, there is also a very real downside. Dan Onorato, Roddey’s Democrat opponent, now has the opportunity to remind voters that Roddey promised a $10 million tax cut four years ago — and failed to deliver.

The schools report

And when the 37-member Mayor’s Commission on Public Education convened a year ago, the Pittsburgh school board was in such chaos that several prominent foundations froze or withdrew financial support for discretionary programs. Help was clearly needed, and in an act of public charity, an extraordinary group of talented and influential citizens answered the call to study the problems and recommend solutions.

The release of their findings last week should have been a big day, but timing was not on their side. First, in the ensuing year, the school board started acting more responsibly. It might be because its meetings have developed a television following but, whatever the reason, it appears that some members have undergone extreme makeovers.

And even worse — in the timing department — a centerpiece of the commission’s recommendations calls for the appointment of future school board members by the mayor of Pittsburgh. That’s right: Pittsburgh’s notorious anti-Mayor Tom Murphy would get to appoint school board members under the commission’s plan. This may have seemed like a good idea last year, when the commission started its work and few knew the depth of the city’s financial despair, but things change. Now, no one is eager to let Murphy do for the school district what he has done for city government.

Yes, everything comes in threes. And while we strive to live our lives with faith, hope and charity, unless the timing is right, we can end up with Moe, Larry and Curley.


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