Just the ticket: The stadium authority needs to end its cozy ways
Share with others:
Pennsylvania's politics in general, and Pittsburgh's in particular, have always been a cozy affair. It's who you know -- or sometimes who you are related to -- that makes the difference when doing the public's business. The public itself is usually none the wiser.
If you're an ordinary Pittsburgher with no connections, you might try Ticketmaster if you want to go to a concert. The connected, however, can ask the Sports and Exhibition Authority. It seems it is very helpful.
The Sports and Exhibition Authority is a public agency that oversees venues for sports, entertainment, recreation and conventions. It has seven directors appointed by the city and county and it owns some of the region's finest attractions: Consol Energy Center, PNC Park, Heinz Field and the convention center.
As landlord to these sports and entertainment meccas, the agency receives tickets and -- surprise, surprise -- they are generously distributed to lots of people. This is public knowledge only because the Post-Gazette submitted a right-to-know request and reporter Joe Smydo detailed the findings in a front-page story Sunday.
Between 2010 and February 2012, the authority gave unidentified city representatives about 790 tickets to about 100 events, ranging from Steelers games to Monster Jam. Some 465 tickets were for seating in suites.
The records identify some of the favored. Authority chairman and state Sen. Wayne Fontana, D-Brookline, received more tickets than anyone else, 175 for about 45 events. He said he doesn't use the tickets himself, but gives them away to neighborhood groups and officials. That news will not come as consolation to the average Joes of the region, who have to line up and pay for their tickets.
Authority rules allow the distribution of tickets primarily for promoting economic development in the region. They also allow "limited use" of tickets for officials responsible for venue oversight -- and apparently nothing does that better than attending a choice football game or concert.
Mayor Luke Ravenstahl went to 13 events last year. Whether he got free tickets is not clear from authority records, but his campaign expense reports show he paid for food and beverages. His spokeswoman did say the authority gives the mayor tickets because it wants him to be at events. Bon Jovi and U2 were undoubtedly impressed.
Clearly, the rules are too loose and must be tightened. In the age of transparency, the agency's records are a muddy stream that don't even reveal why officials are receiving tickets. This is nonsense and part of the petty, grasping behavior that this region should have outgrown years ago.
Stop it. Now that's the ticket.
First Published July 11, 2012 12:00 am