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Friday, January 18, 2013

Heads Up: Morning headlines for Jan. 18

Posted By on Fri, Jan 18, 2013 at 8:49 AM

The Tribune-Review, which first reported yesterday that police chief Nate Harper is the target of a federal grand jury investigation, says Harper's job is safe -- at least for now. Meanwhile, Trib columnist Eric Heyl thinks Ravenstahl should talk more about such things, though it's a bit unclear what Heyl thinks a mayor should say about such issues as a grand jury whose activity is carried out in secret.

Meanwhile, in the wake of the tragic death of Ka'Sandra Wade at the hands of her boyfriend, there are numerous calls to change how police respond to domestic violence calls. Some of these have been noted here before; but Ravenstahl and city councilor Ricky Burgess have also announced plans to look into the issue.

Gov. Tom Corbett, who gives every sign of being worried about his re-election prospects, is promising a big old fight over -- yes -- liquor store privatization. Officials are pledging Corbett will launch what one supporter calls an "all-out attack" on state stores, and that it will begin soon, probably in the next couple weeks. See? And you guys thought this was just an empty Corbett campaign promise -- I don't know how you got so cynical. Anyway, I know at least one newspaper publisher who will be pleased, though Corbett will encounter strong opposition in the legislature.

Newly installed state Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, meanwhile, is acting on one of his election-year promises much more quickly: He is launching a "performance audit" of how the state regulates and monitors gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale.

In other drilling news, Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald says plans to drill for gas on county-owned land by the Pittsburgh International Airport may net a bonus payment of $40 million -- twice as large a bonus as previously reported. Fitzgerald's decision to award the drilling to Consol was controversial, because Consol's bid seemed lower than that of a rival offer from EQT. Fitzgerald seems to plan on using EQT's interest as leverage to get a better deal from Consol. But EQT doesn't sound too happy in the piece; Consol isn't quoted at all. I maybe wouldn't go spending the $40 million just yet.

And finally ... confidential to our frat-boy readership (many of whom no doubt rely on this space for news about developments in state and local government): As you head out to the South Side this weekend, remember that the city is promising stepped-up enforcement of public-intoxication laws and other rules.

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