Friday, January 16, 2009

Parking for Penions: Can it Be This Easy?

Leasing Pittsburgh's parking garages could produce hundreds of millions of dollars and bolster the city's anemic pension fund, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl [sic] said Thursday. (Trib, Jeremy Boren; see also P-G, Rich Lord)

This sounds like a serious idea. Makes me wonder why nobody ever suggested it seriously before.

Can you imagine if Mayor Steelerstahl gets to tell people, "Yeah, I basically solved Pittsburgh's entire pensions shortfall, lickety split"?

Are we missing anything?

BONUS: "I think that I should present a report on what I've done," Mr. Dowd said. "I would like to mail it out, but I'm worried that if I do, I could be accused of using city money to promote my name." (P-G, Rich Lord)

This has to be considered a do-si-do that will enable the challenger to better criticize Steelerstahl when he inevitably sends out his own publicly-financed, thinly-veiled campaign material, correct? If so, that's pretty clever.


Oh boy, what to choose: try UK Guardian, James Sturcke.


  1. Clever ... or manipulative and transparent.

  2. I wish we would just sell them all - dissolve the parking authority and remove one more gear (even if it is a small one) of the machine

  3. This strikes me as a very good idea. Others have expressed concerns over parking operators engaging in price gouging and so forth, though expect those concerns are premature. Especially with the North Shore Connector opening up a world of downtown parking possibilities. I think the much maligned Connector is what makes this possible. Suddenly, there's a bigger range of viable competition for parking in downtown Pittsburgh.

  4. I think selling them is a pretty poor idea given the price of real estate downtown. Unless it can be shown that the tax money combined with the sales price generates more than several hundred million dollars over the timespan, which I doubt it would.

    This seems like a good plan, but I agree with Bram's trepidation. It can't be THIS simple, can it?

  5. Selling brick and mortar assets *sometimes* is a good idea when the assets have depreciated in value so much, that it affects your borrowing power. Such as, selling your municipal water lines and associated infrastructure because it's age and substandard condition - you cant borrow money to fix or maintain the system because they're not worth enough. Vicious cycle.

    While leasing, on the other hand, one can maintain a higher net worth, while potentially saving money on the operation and maintenance of the facilities. This is helpful when the city looks to refinance their debt with a BBB+++ leet haxor bond rating.

    I'm not sold on the deal, but I'll continue reading about it.

  6. We can't sell off the water infrastructure because, most likely, n'at, the federal consent decree dictating that we eliminate the 12.4 billion gallons of raw sewage that outflows into our waterways, untreated, annually. It is rather unlikely that even Vivendi, who seems to own so much freshwater resources in South America, would want to deal with the potential quarter-of-a-trillion-dollar federal fine or the federal mandate.

    And even if we could get ALCOSAN, the ACHD, the PWSA to sign off, I don't know how we get the DEP and the EPA to do the same.

    And the risk to our ratepayers of ridiculous, uncontrollable price spikes is way too real.......

  7. Anon, I used municipal water as an example and I was thinking about the situation Pennsylvania American Water is in. Whereas, they purchased many of the small municipal water and wastewater systems in the state mostly from older communities out to make a fast buck, reduce their debt and/or separate themselves from a service they cannot afford to provide to their consumers. And whether you like it or not, the government can buy and sell lemons to anyone it damn well pleases. All it takes is a majority

    To clarify my point about the Parking Authority, The surface lots and parking structures the Parking Authority owns are all relatively new and have significant worth to the authority and city. I believe it would be foolish to sell them off, because the revenues they generate and the borrowing potential they provide far outweigh the cost of operation and maintenance of the facilities.

  8. Re: selling the parking garages: Is the plan to sell off the city's most valuable assets, declare "everything is fixed!" ditch the state oversight -- and then start all over again giving away the store? So that in another ten or fifteen years, the city is right back where it is now -- with insurmountable debt, but without its most valuable assets?

    That's not to say the plan should be rejected outright. It may, in fact, be a stroke of genius and the only viable plan to getting the massive debt under control. But the real question is this: after selling those assets, if city officials claim they'll never mortgage Pittsburgh's future again, why should anyone believe them?

  9. Judge, its because city officials only worry about election to election.

    What will probably happen is that it will increase the amount of suburbunanites who, choke by parking, city streets in proximity to a bus route that takes them into town, more than they do already. Of course that won't upset Port Authority, or Dan, wow what a master plan,

  10. Besides, if Dan is running for Governor his brother David, will probably be aiding his brother on the campaign, so he doesn't need that silly job at the Parking Authority.

  11. Let me guarantee something that WILL happen if this lame-brain leasing idea goes through...

    The politicians and Unions will say something like "Look, we saved pensions." and then, shortly thereafter, "Look at all the money coming in." and then, shortly thereafter, "We can raise pensions." Bank on it.

  12. Oh, and parking rates WILL go up. If not, then how will the lease operators pay the negotiated lease amount AND earn a profit? (To the liberals, a/k/a progressives in their minds, profit is why businesses do these deals.)

    And, if I'm a private operator (remember, it's only the City parking facilities being sold/leased), I'd keep my rates at or just below the new rates. No reason not to do so. Smart business.

  13. I'm with Mountaineer. If Briem says the numbers seem plausible, then maybe I'll pay some attention.

  14. The Huddler just started humming a certain "John Denver" song ...

    Nice job on this one Bram. Well done.

    This COULD BE THE ANSWER. We need Harrisburg to fix the problem and make politicians accountable.

    Stop the Tom Murphy's of the world from destroying pension systems.