Tuesday, April 21, 2009

City Finances ($$$!): A Pernicious Question

Alright. Clear the room.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl again leaned heavily on his "three straight balanced budgets" to show he has put us in a "strong financial situation" -- and the truthfulness and accuracy of his budget was again called in to question.

Complex stuff, right?

But 2009 is not proceeding as smoothly as did 2007.

This year, Ravenstahl sort cast his gaze downward and to the side in response to pointed criticism, readjusted his feet, and only tentatively got around to referencing that the state's Act 47 overseers and the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority not only approved but "lauded" budgets passed under him.

"So there you go," he offered. "Third party verification".



These are folks who were appointed by and serve at the pleasure of whom? Bill DeWeese? Mike Veon? John Perzell? Folks who owe Vince Fumo favors? Ed Rendell and associates? Do proper records even exist?

Take this clown, for example. Please. He was found already to have privately stolen the city's business, yet he's still at the helm.

The ICA under its lifetime Executive Director Henry Sciortino looks to be one of the least transparent organizations ever legislated into being, if this report from the Busman's Holiday is any indication. It makes the URA look like the Knights of the Round Table.

I hate to offer something that sounds like a conspiracy theory, but it ain't no conspiracy. It's expediency. It's apathy. It's business as usual. So long as the right people continue to receive a cut of Pittsburgh's considerable action, the state of Pennsylvania isn't likely to lift a finger to destabilize our politics.

Their philosophy: "Whatever the goose that laid the golden egg needs to say -- within reason, let him have!"


During the debate, Ravenstahl said proudly that the so-called "no bid contract" for $1,020 garbage cans went through "a competitive process" after all.

Through the state's purchasing pool. Its vendors.

Gotta wonder why the state is splurging on the Cadillac of garbage cans. And customized, no less.

Ca-ching, ca-ching. These are the same folks that robbed us of our asphalt plant the minute they took charge, and directed us to begin purchasing from the state's pool. We even get to send our own drivers and trucks to fetch it from halfway across the state for the privilege.

Now think on who gets to invest our savings in the stock market, in the bond market, and everywhere else: the same selfless geniuses, these opaque political appointees. And the same private-sector megalobbyists that put them there.

Another Example:

The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority board yesterday got a first look at a plan to have professional contracts of more than $25,000 awarded only after multiple firms are invited to submit proposals, graded according to pre-set criteria and reviewed by a committee. (Post-Gazette)

It's that much of a strain to do things right around here? We need to appoint a brand new committee? For what was our existent Authority board outfitted? Politics? Business?

Who's been looking out for us?


Patrick Dowd knows all about this. In detail. He has explained pieces of it in snippets during unguarded moments, and through allusions and suggestions. His legislative agenda and his famous "open letters" provide hints if you connect all the dots, but you've got to wonder why he doesn't just spell it out plain as day, for all to see, with specifics.

No, seriously. You've got to wonder.

Patrick Dowd must cease being circumspect and abstract, and must stop waiting for his own third parties to verify for him -- or we'll all have to wonder if he's worried more about his political future than Pittsburgh's future.

The city requires courage, and Dowd was dumb enough to volunteer to lead it. It's Elliot Ness or go-home time.


  1. And didn't that ICA yo-yo blow off a really important meeting?

    I agree w/ the comment about Dowd needing to Ness it up. Courage, leadership, yeah yeah yeah. Come on, Patrick! Name some names! Show us a map of the crony network! Tell us exactly how much taxpayer $$ has been spent on no-bid consultants, architects + planners, pr people, and other fees not linked to hard assets! You CAN do it!

  2. There is nothing within the city's charter which requires them to follow any guidelines to select and award professional services. However, the city is not allowed to select and award a professional service contract based on the competitive bidding process.

    The County, on the other hand, does require the formulation, management and enforcement of a competitive procurement system. Such as, guidelines and handbooks for the departments to follow when selecting and awarding professional services.

    The committee method is used at the county and state level. Generally, the committee is a mix of department/division heads, managers, senior level employees/bureaucrats which grade the proposals submitted based on pre-defined, public guidelines.

    At least, that's the way it's supposed to work

  3. In my blog's rant, I do a straight-on rebuke on the 3rd party verification of Luke's in the debate.

    In part: His third-party verification is subjugation.

    In full: http://rauterkus.blogspot.com/2009/04/debate-q-by-q-from-wtae-online-video.html

    Furthermore, to turn back the clock, I told ya so. We don't want any stinkin 3rd party verification. We want leaders to lead and do the jobs that they were elected to do -- always. Accountability.

    Remember the slogan: The buck stops here.