The Morning File regrets to report that efforts to win Frick Park's election as "America's Favorite Park" have turned into an unmitigated disaster (far worse than the mitigated kind, just so you know).
We can only hope the FBI will begin devoting all of its attention to looking into this scandal instead of whatever it is our outgoing mayor may or may not have been doing with police bodyguards or home improvements or parking lot operators or what-not.
A story in this newspaper a week ago described how the city was championing Frick Park in an annual public vote sponsored by Coca-Cola. Local officials hoped that anywhere from $15,000 to $100,000 in grant money from the corporation could be obtained for park improvements, depending on how Frick fared in national voting.
When that story was written, Frick ranked 25th, which put it just above a key threshold; one park among those ranked fourth through 25th in online and related voting will be randomly chosen to receive $15,000.
That's all fine, except that the fine park in the city's East End -- locally famous for its in-ground blue slide and infamous for its dog/dog-walker vs. jogger/bicyclist confrontations -- has dropped out of the top 25 with just five days of voting remaining.
Somehow in this vote, Pittsburgh can't beat out Rathdrum, Idaho. Rathdrum is a city -- to use the term liberally, in the same way you could describe the Cleveland Browns as an NFL team -- of some 7,000 people. Its Majestic Park had received 3,541 votes as of Wednesday, while Frick was listed with 3,447.
The equivalent of one of every two Rathdrummers has voted for their park, compared with barely one of every 100 Pittsburghers. Why, that's almost as few local residents as voted in the May primary election. This is a civic outrage of near-unimaginable proportions (although to be fair, a lot of Pittsburghers have been distracted during the mourning period over Sally Wiggin's departure from WTAE's noon anchor desk).
The real scandal here is that even though the Ravenstahl administration's parks and recreation department put Frick forward as the only city park it was pushing in the Coca-Cola contest, other local parks have been siphoning off votes. Schenley Park has received 78 votes and Highland Park 16; those votes, if they had gone to Frick, would have resulted in a present tie with Rathdrum and created the potential for a dramatic race for the 25th spot by the close of voting Monday.
Instead, we are left to mull a few conspiracy theories (by far, our favorite kind of theory):
• The mayor's critics are still out to embarrass him at every turn. They see the city's losing a park contest to a place no one ever heard of in Idaho as the final nail in the coffin that represents the Ravenstahl legacy.
• The nicely reconditioned Frick is suffering a voting backlash from people who knew it better years ago and dwell on its stinky creek days, when its raw sewage threatened to swallow toddlers whole.
• Rathdrummers carry a seething hatred for Pittsburgh from all the national recognition we've achieved in recent decades, while they've been ignored by Rand-McNally, Forbes, The Economist, National Geographic and others, not to mention their shame in knowing that the G-20 summit gave them no consideration at all as a potential host.
We don't mean to make this personal with Rathdrum. We could just as easily be chagrined with Succasunna, N.J., Roscommon, Mich., Gilbertsville, Ky., or Ontonagon, Mich., which all also have parks outpacing Frick. Every one of them sounds like a fine place to spend a summer vacation swatting bugs and eyeing Americana, but honestly, can any lay claim to a rap hit connected to its park, similar to Mac Miller's "Frick Park Market" from his "Blue Slide Park" CD?
Based on our extensive research, which took us all the way via Google to the city of Rathdrum's home page (which advertises it is "only minutes from big city amenities," alluding, of course, to Coeur d'Alene), the one thing Majestic Park has over Frick is this: its grand opening "was held on September, 22, 1012."
That's right, millennium-old Majestic Park was apparently established long before the Magna Carta, well before any white man set foot in North America and even before two baseball diamonds were created so close together at Frick Park that eight outfielders alongside one another sometimes face in two opposite directions, at great peril, as softball games are played simultaneously.
Despite all that, it'd be great to see Frick Park forge ahead into 25th place, through voting at www.livepositively.com.mobilehome - intelligencer
Gary Rotstein: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1255.