Thursday, May 28, 2009

Thursday: Let the Eagle Soar. It Looks Complicated. *

The question of the moment: did Bill Peduto go SOARING over his short-lived shark with this one?

Money from the $787 billion federal stimulus package should be used to fix Pittsburgh's crumbling infrastructure before it pays for new construction projects, city Councilman Bill Peduto said Wednesday.

Peduto said he would introduce legislation next week to create a nine-member citizen-led panel to monitor how the city spends its anticipated $80 million in stimulus money. (Trib, Jeremy Boren)

The esteemed Angry Drunk Bureaucrat thinks, yes probably.

You have a new, complicated Federal program, already loaded with oversight, that a City Councilperson wants to laden with more bureaucracy and oversight.

That sounds like a good use of time. (ADB)

Then again...

The city's Urban Redevelopment Authority requested $2 million to help the private developer of a Larimer retail, residential and hotel complex known as Bakery Square build a parking garage.

In another project, the URA is requesting $4.2 to build an amphitheater and other amenities in South Side Riverfront Park near South Side Works, Peduto said. (Tribid)

Okay I'm convinced. That's not public infrastructure -- that's stimulating private development of exactly the type that we are are already conspicuously overstimulating.

I put the oversight panel into the category of a genuinely useful idea, but will it make it through the present Council?

My magic 8-Ball says, "The math isn't there -- at least not to sustain a veto." And there would be a veto. 2009 is not to be the Age of the Overrides and Oversight.

*-UPDATE: Eh, maybe I spoke to soon. Theresa Smith and Darlene Harris both are making oversightie noises during this rebroadcast of today's post-agenda. 8-Ball now reads, "Looking somewhat likely."


Act 47 coordinator Dean Kaplan himself threw some cold water on the necessity of the city's Tax Crusade.

That lends a little credence to my own interpretation of the smoke signals that the Busman has been sending: that the nominal support appearing for these new taxes in the new Act 47 Recovery Plan may amount only to political cover enabling our own City's leaders to say, "We tried everything we could" to prevent raising our own more conventional taxes.

That's fortunate, because the city hasn't done budget cutting to deserve tax increases, said Sen. Jane Orie, R-Bradford Woods, who objects to Ravenstahl's plans to lobby for tax increases in June. (Trib, Jeremy Boren)

Also chiming in...

[Sen. Sean] Logan [D-Plum] said the city must demonstrate it has shed as much fat from its budget as possible before it can make a compelling case for additional tax money. (ibid)

Surely, the City can throw together some showy semblance of a Responsibility Crusade to pair with our Tax Crusade and help the medicine go down, right? We eagerly await for that other shoe to drop.


Meanwhile, the Water Authority sticks its finger in the dike.

Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority officials inked deals yesterday that their financial adviser said amount to "buying time" while they repair a $414 million boatload of debt that was swamped by the global credit crisis.

Following a meeting of the authority board, Chairman Don Walko and Executive Director Michael Kenney signed papers that will extend guarantees on different parts of the debt package for 30 days, 120 days or one year, upping costs by around $1 million to $2 million over a year. (P-G, Rich Lord)

Some questions left unaddressed are: even if the global economy permanently improves and we can thereby technically afford to remain in the bond deal, does that make it an "okay" deal, is it in fact the same deal that was originally represented to us, and would we be significantly better off if we extricated ourselves from the complex deal and into a simpler, more conventional one?

Pittsburgh Councilman Patrick Dowd, a board member who has been a critic of the debt deal, said yesterday that the authority is "seeing today the manifestation of some of those risks" it incurred when it entered into the package a year ago. (ibid)

Although Dowd sent some advance tweets snarking over his imminent attendance at the surprise PWSA meeting, he did not call a press conference or release a formal statement afterword. Whether that signals his approval of yesterday's specific maneuvers, a political calculation or combat fatigue is not known.


Pittsburgh's water taxi is finally open for business!

"We've got the bar on board," Capt. Schiller said yesterday as we rode the three rivers. "Most people should be just fine. I don't know. We'll find out." (P-G, Brian O'Neill)

Clarification on what you mean by "bar on board", please. Because $8 for an all-night pass would be an acceptable cover charge to get hammered and pretend I'm on Jabba's Sail Barge all night long.


  1. $6 million dollars is too much to accept to stimulate local development, we're going to turn it down and get nothing.

    Good job SOARING.

  2. I guess one part of the mechanics I don't understand is, if Pittsburgh passes on one project, does that mean we will get to reapply the funds elsewhere or do they go away forever?

    Related perhaps, it says the URA "is requesting" ... does that mean there is anything to turn down yet and thereby (shiver) "get nothing"? Or is the panel an effort to encourage the City to make more worthwhile requests which can just as easily be fulfilled instead?

    Would like to see the URA's complete list of requests. I don't know if Peduto was highlighting or cherry-picking, but even to the extent that private economic development is a legit use for this money, that corridor on the East End and the SouthSide Works strike me as the very areas of the City which require resources LEAST. My friends in District 2 would be livid.

  3. My rant on Bill wanting bigger government and passing the buck.

  4. The City is not getting a $100 million dollar check that it can use however it pleases. It needs to apply for the various provisions in the Stimulus Package.

    Bridges falling down are more important than getting Domestic Violence prevention money, but there is $200 million available in the Stimulus Bill for Domestic Violence. Either we try to get it or we don't. Same with agriculture funding. Same with economic development money, which is what the URA applications sound like.

    Also a water bar sounds pretty sweet.

  5. The URA has already spent a hefty sum in improving the infrastructure where? Right on Carson Street, just so happens right in the stretch of South Side works. Surely you all have noticed the one lane traffic where new storm sewers and sanitary sewers, and water lines are being installed...Hmmmmm....