Wednesday, February 21, 2007

No Representation Without Taxation

The P-G's Rich Lord brings us yet another substantive divide between our mayoral candidates. The City of Pittsburgh has an overabundance of land owned by nonprofits, and we have been trying to cajole them into offering some form of tax-like substitutes. The split is over whether to continue cajoling, or to begin to coerce, even compel.

Acting (and hopeful) Controller Tony Pokora wants to devise a lasting formula by which to guide nonprofits on their contributions. An umbrella group representing the nonprofits is not enthused; it regards any contributions as a sheer gift.

Councilman / Candidate Bill Peduto wants to go even further, asking for state-mandated payments -- but only from "universities, hospitals and insurers, period. Not churches, arts organizations, or the Girl Scouts."

Meanwhile, Luke Ravenstahl is only luke-warm to Pokora's proposal. "Whatever they feel comfortable with, to enhance the current system as it stands, that's something we'll look at," the mayor said. "But I don't want to set any goals that may not be attainable."

If Peduto can be accused of using rabble-rousing rhetoric to lift unrealistic expectations, Ravenstahl can be flagged -- once again -- for failing to make any tough choices.

Arguing for state-mandated payments ... calling for the feds to take over the investigation of the convention center collapse ... you would think Bill Peduto is in danger of getting tagged as a big-government liberal. Yet he continues to enjoy modest praise from conservative outfits.

During a recent interview with KDKA's Fred Honsberger, the Honz man tried to nail him for demanding payments from nonprofits, while offering tax breaks to outfits like PNC. Peduto pointed out that he was the only city councilman to oppose tax increment financing for PNC ("Mr. Rohr, give back the public money"), thereby earning considerable conservative stripes. By the end of the segment, Honsberger was so charmed, he was inviting OSHA (OSHA!) to take charge of things in Pittsburgh.


  1. Nice post, Bram. I totally missed this one in this morning's paper. I'm so ashamed! But you caught it, and did an excellent job with it. Thanks again.

    What in the hell am I supposed to post on if you keep noticing all the really good topics first?

  2. Ad-mir-al (pronounced in that three sylable Ricardo Montalban way): there's always Master's of the Universe to post on ...

    This is a good post. I knew Peduto is considered to be a detail man, but I didn't realize he has some conservative support. Maybe that will work to his advantage in the primary with democrats-who-would-be-republicans-outside-the-rust-belt. Or maybe not.

  3. You guys better peruse the Commonwealth's "Institutions for Purely Public Charity Act", or "Act 55."

    Ever since this act went into place in 1997, the power of governments to aggressively pursue PILOTS from non-profits was essentially castrated!

    I'm not sure if this legislation took into consideration that non-profits hold 1/3 of the city's real estate.

    Pittsburgh brings in almost $125 million/yr in real estate taxes, or that the City loses upwards of $50 million/yr. as a result.

    All I can say is this definitely ISN'T Boston!