Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tuesday: Admit That the Waters Around You Have Grown.


Not unexpected. The Mayor gets to store 45 million of our hard-earned tax dollars in a glorified petty cash account. I hope you'll enjoy this, City Council -- every time you ask for a widget, you'll hear, "Oh, we can appreciate that, but we can't afford to jeopardize the City's vital debt savings fund!" And when the Mayor asks for ten widgets, you'll hear, "As luck would have it, we just realized some exciting new efficiencies in our other total nonsense account!"

This one's genuinely a surprise to me. Can't wait to hear the excuses. Why stand up for ourselves? Why take action to defend our own wallets? Why do anything to discomfort the city's and the state's owners and masters? "5-6 people blogeting -- no one cares!" they commented. With good cause it turns out. Back to being good little sheeple and Sheeple Representatives. I just can't wait to hear the excuses.

The event was that of Northside United, conducted by its co-chair Michael Glass. The occasion was a briefing to the City Planning Commission by Continental Real Estate / the Steelers about the amphitheater they are building on the North Shore.

To distinguish among our many new amphitheaters: this is the one for which the City sold city land at a tenth of the market-rate -- and for which our Commonwealth is awarding subsidy after subsidy. Today it was straight-facedly described to the Planning Commission by Continental as a "market-driven" development.

Also, miracle of miracles: although the music / sound waves will travel across the river and reach Mt. Washington, they will stop immaculately at North Shore Drive!

So basically we have a playground to attract suburban and well-to-to recreationalists built at our own taxpayers' expense, directly alongside a typically struggling Pittsburgh neighborhood which is already in receipt of several decades worth of promises regarding North Shore development -- that is again getting nothing practical in return.

FINAL ANALYSIS: Let's just relent and dissolve City government away into the County after all -- becoming its Urban Services Ghetto or whatever they'd like to call us -- and thereby hand over our earnings to well-connected private-sector bullies more efficiently. It's not like there's much left in Pittsburgh worth fighting for.



  1. Ha! Thanks for outing my nerves Bram! Its ok, I freely admit that I want to do justice to all the good causes I work with. There are several more good causes (four in fact) that I will be publicizing this week, so everyone should watch the news. :)

    Also, anyone who tweets, Sen. Specter Tweets @SenArlenSpecter so maybe send him something telling him to go back to supporting EFCA!

  2. WaterAuthorityCustomerApril 14, 2009 at 5:49 PM

    This one's genuinely a surprise to me. Can't wait to hear the excuses. Why stand up for ourselves? Why take action to defend our own wallets? Why do anything to discomfort the city's and the state's owners and masters? "5-6 people blogeting -- no one cares!" they commented. With good cause it turns out. Back to being good little sheeple and Sheeple Representatives. I just can't wait to hear the excuses.I'm highly disappointed in Doug Shield and Rev. Burgess. Shields flip-flopped and Burgess used some excuse about how council is only there to legislate. Apparently, in his mind they shouldn't go back and correct past mistakes (or even learn from them).

    I applaud Patrick Dowd, Bill Peduto and Bruce Kraus. They showed that they will stand up for those who put them in office - the PWSA ratepayers.

    The "sheeple" (Harris,Payne,Smith and Motznick) all used the same flawed argument that an audit is already taking place. What they choose to ignore (or simply don't understand) is that this audit does not examine the bond deal. It simply verifies the numbers that the PWSA is reporting (revenues and expenditures.)

    BTW, It was clear that Darlene Harris was reading a prepared statement (you decide who prepared it) when she explained the reason for her vote. It was a classic example of Sheeple behavior.

    I hope that the 6 misguided council members are comfortable with their decision to follow their shepard on this vote when our water bills double.

  3. How did Shields & Burgess vote?

  4. Looks like nay. Just settling into the Cablecast.

    Funny no midday P-G update on it.

  5. Alright, briefly: DS counted the declared votes before it got to him, and pointed out it wasn't gonna pass. He didn't really explain his switch to 'no', but it seemed meant to convey this isn't the only answer; these council members are "creative and resourceful" and the deal documents, voluminous and complicated though they may be, are publicly available.

    RB, who declared his determinative vote prior to that, well, if I didn't disagree with him so vociferously it'd have been pretty hysterical. He referenced Dowd's previous insistance that Council should LEGISLATE, not manage, which seemed a reference to PD's take on the original Lamar lawsuit (which has been on my mind the past few days).

    Also he said that council should be "very careful to set precedents" that involve revisiting its decisions. Perhaps he had a reason for this warriness in mind.

    More notes - there seemed to be less clarity about whether the Controller's eventual PWSA audit can address the bond swaps. Also, Dowd warned the deal has some "ticking parts", some of which are "ticking rapidly", and twice that there's a window closing in 30 days.

  6. Of course Michael Lamb's audit of the water authority can look into bond deals. Tell him you think he should do that. He can audit what he wishes. He should.

    The ticking part that Dowd worries about could be May 19. Ya think?

    I rant about the logic in this vote at my blog. I disagree with Bram and I'm the realist in the majority on this.

    The idealistic thing to do is to send in Jack Wagner and/or Tom Corbett -- and expect heads to roll into prison if there are rip-offs of the taxpayer's money.

  7. http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dgkpthfm_19hmg8wwd3

    Hey. Your water bill might double, but at least the road will be smooth next year. :)

  8. Yeah. Smooth until the URA decides your street is blighted and hands it off to Walnut capital or Mosites or an ampitheater interest...

    After the bus station / sirk-ford hoo-hah I don't have much confidence in Corbett or Wagner. Waiting for Mary Beth could be our tribute to Samuel Beckett.

    Wish we had Patrick Fitzgerald dismantling OUR machine.

  9. "The ticking part that Dowd worries about could be May 19. Ya think?"

    Actually Mark, the ticking part is the expiring of the liquidity facility that allows the swaps to work. The PWSA has been given notice that the current provider of the liquidity facility is not willing to provide it anymore (it's all in the public records that Council President Shields referred to, wait, you didn't see that, oh yeah, that's because barely anything's online in this City and the administration wants to keep us in the dark).

    The deal is rather complicated. Hence, the need for an audit to help unravel and explain it. Without access to some form of cash through a bank or financial institution, the deal comes apart. Greg Zappala and JP Morgan are getting out of these deals because they're toxic (think mortgage backed securities but even more complex and involving unregulated derivatives and interest rate trades). They've also already taken their pound of flesh from the ratepayers.

    Good article here about the coming crisis (Pittsburgh's not alone in this mess): http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601103&sid=alaFF2rs82lM&refer=news. I'm glad Dowd blew the whistle. We've got to fix this mess before our rates double.

  10. I agree that we need to fix this mess. But, there is no proof that a $15k evaluation/audit/plain-speak report is going to FIX THIS MESS.

    The way to fix the mess is to get the authority board to navel gaze on its own and do what needs to be done.

    The stewards need to act -- not some dis-interested number crunchers hired for a week.

    Fix the mess, by all means.

    Go Dowd go. He can hit a home run by fixing it -- not flexing in the on-deck circle.

  11. Mark - "get the authority board to navel gaze and do what needs to be done"

    How do you propose we do that, Mark? Force-feed them Conscience Pills and wait for them to take effect?

    Authority board members serve at the pleasure of the Mayor, and the pleasure of the Mayor is to enrich the cronies he inherited from Bob O'Connor.

    Those cronies' core business is winning PA Gov't contracts and permits, bleeding Pennsylvanians dry, and funneling some of the profits back toward those Pennsylvania politicians who know how to play ball.

    The Authority Board is unaccountable to us and will be of no help at all. The Mayor does not view himself as accountable to us, and I can hardly argue with that analysis. The Controller cannot get this done by the time the liquidity facility expires (thank you, Anon 11:19 / PD), whether we approve of that fact or not -- and we cannot replace him with a superefficient robot for another two years.

    The Council was the last place to address this -- but apparently the heat from the cronies and their Party surrogates, and resentment of their at-times annoying colleague caused a majority of them to invent flimsy, artful, off-topic excuses ("It's a dangerous precedent to revisit our decisions!") to not lift a finger.

    And do you know what else is crazy? The P-G / Trib appears not to have reported on it at all. Even if one doesn't "get it", the fact that a mayoral candidate was screeching about this for months would have made the bill's defeat newsworthy. Wha happen, guys? Continental's presentation to the Planning Commission that mesmerizing?

  12. You ask a big question: HOW?

    Some on the Authority Board want to get re-elected or get elected to positions on the bench. Don Walko is just that person in 2009.

    So, that is thin accountability. I'd work against Walko for the reasons you described above. PWSA is not a grooming place for cronies.

    - -

    Long term, I've offered a plan that calls for retention votes for all authority board members. Make that happen, then these types of deeds are going to be less frequent.

    Jump on board that solution suggestion.

    - -

    Another solution suggestion is the call for a liquidation of all the authorities in the city. These are vile organizations without accountability that could and should be NUKED. That would fix these ills too.

    The city does not need the water authority, nor the others, IMNSHO.

    - -

    BTW, the last place to address an ill (this for instance) is never City Council. Duhh. Courts and jail time are the last places for things like this to un-ravel. City council is EARLY in the addressing sequence.

    - -
    Nods about the P-G and Trib.