Monday, June 15, 2009

Burgess: Council Hasn't the Power **

Councilman Ricky Burgess released a legal argument that City Council lacks the authority to develop its own Act 47 Recovery Plan unless the municipality first rejects the Act 47 Plan before it -- and even then it's tricky.

*-CLARIFICATION: The office of the Rev. emphasizes that its argument in the letter applies to all distressed Home Rule Charter governments, of which we are one. This is what we attempted to communicate in reporting, "and even then it's tricky".

CONTINUING: I'm not so sure the case is airtight -- you go decide. I know City Solicitor George Specter declined to spell out anything like it upon repeated questioning during Wednesday's Council session. However, Specter did offer a warning that the matter could bring about litigation.

Burgess also included a note in return correspondence for the legal counsel of Joe King, President of the firefighters union:

I am sure you are well aware of the financial impact to the City if this Plan fails to be adopted, by Ordinance, by June 30, 2009. This would likely be fortuitous to your client, but it would undoubtedly lead to far greater cuts across the scope of City services, and employees not protected by Act 111 in addition to years of protracted litigation. This would create financial hardships that would not be experienced by police and fire employees.Instead, the pain would be borne by the City’s non-fire and non-police employees, its residents and taxpayers. (Burgess)

That is extremely informative stuff -- extremely -- but it has little to do with the legal argument surrounding the Council's authority, and the Municipality's legal ability to pursue a full range of options.

**-UPDATE/RESOURCE: Here, for now, is State Act 47. Sections 244 through 249 are immediately relevant, though definitions, categories and legislative intent may exist elsewhere throughout the document.


  1. Dear Mr. Burgess,

    Thank you for telling truth. All City Employees… not part of Public Safety, would agree...

    Wrote a piece that was published in Trib some years ago concerning Unfunded Pension Liability...and inequities in formulas used to determine benefits.

    I abhor Hero Worship when it comes at expense of everyday working men and women...

    Instead of saying the Emperor Has No Clothes...I said The King Has no Clothes.

    To much to cover here without spell-check...

    Underpaid and under appreciated City Employees accept Act 47 as price to be paid to keep greedy Union like Fire from sucking at the public teat and our wallets.

    Pass Act 47 !


  2. Bram, lay off the 'Bud Light W Lime'

    Simply stated...

    Mayor has said, "City has 100 Million Dollar Surplus"

    Joe King will ask for Contract Enrichment and mention 100 Million...during arbitration.

    That money and distinction is dubious...ask Dowd.

    Joe has nose for money, like X...

    No money hidden on both accounts..

    Advantage of Act 47.


  3. The municipality and its leaders should amend for the purposes only of abbreviating some of the City's authorizations for implementation and for delaying others, obtain the Coordinator's consent, PASS ACT 47, and negotiate hard for necessary and equitable solutions at least until November!

    (This comment was corrected twice)


  4. Monk 6:06 - I understand the inequities of which you speak, and I don't like them. However, nor do I like the idea of lingering without initiative in Distressed Municipality status so that we can keep certain employees in perpetual disadvantage as compared to their counterparts all over the state and much of the country. It just doesn't seem good for business.

    So I guess you could say I'm only in favor of Act 47 if its making itself worthwhile and hastening the day we can leave it. Efforts to amend or repeal Act 111 should be done in its own arena.

  5. Test driving ...

    'Click Name URL'

    Enter 'Monk'

    Seems simple enough...

    Just in case...


  6. Some people are hard-wired, it seems, to worship OVERLORDS. Others are not.

    I am disgusted by the whole notion of OVERLORDS.

    Others, it seem, would act like Job.

  7. I think some things in the Act 47 plan have merit, and others are a pipe dream, that will quickly go up in smoke, and I mean that literally and figuratively.

    It is obvious, that some who respond here have personal issues. That is unfortunate. The Act 47 plan is not good for all, and by all I truly mean the residents, the people who visit this city and the people who work here.

  8. it may be many things (THE AMENDED PLAN) but it sure as hell is NOT a recovery plan no matter how you slice it.

  9. For Anon 12:26 am and 12:52 am, what is the alternative? Bill Peduto's plan? If it would have been politically feasible for us to solve our own problem in 2004 or now, I assume we would have done so. The thing that is good about passing (the amended) Act 47 (plan) is that it gives us political cover. If the State legislature does not pass any or all tax increases for Pittsburgh, then we can say we only asked because the State Act 47 people told us to. And we can complain that the State legislature has (like they did in 2004) made it harder for us to recover.

    Now I happen to agree that the (amended) plan, from what I understand, is not much of a recovery plan. Maybe I don't understand how finance works, but it seems mostly like a band aid. And it does look like City employees are being singled out for belt tightening, although I think it fair to point out that in this economy a lot of jobs are being eliminated, and few jobs created.

    But I disagree that tax increases are falling on only City residents. The increase in the local services tax doesn’t care where you live, only where you work. Since the size of the City increases by some multiple (2, 3?) during the day, that means people are flowing into the City to work within City limits, and pay that local services tax to the City. And although I am sure many City residents drive to work, I am also sure that suburbanites drive to work in the City. In fact, I am sure more City residents have access to buses than suburbanites, because of geography. So suburbanites are forced to pay the parking tax where City residents may have another option.

    By the way, I believe that even if Council makes a small change in the amended Act 47 plan, the Act 47 people would have to approve it. If Council changes a financial component, I believe the Act 47 people would require a detailed analysis of how this would affect the entire plan, and if Council changes a financial component in terms of lowering revenue or increasing expense, I believe the Act 47 people would require Council to show how they are making that money up, and not just by saying the State could give us the extra money.

  10. Try not to think of them as overlords.

    They're more like parents.

    Whose teenagers have wrecked the neighborhood and nearly destroyed the house with a series of all-night parties while the parents were out of town.

    And parents aren't perfect. The Act 47 group is far from it, either in substance (pie-in-the-sky tax schemes) or process (last-minute scrambling over a poorly explained "plan"). But no one thinks a solution is to put the foolish teenagers back in charge.

  11. They are OVERLORDS, not parents. I'm a parent. Parenting is a natural part of life. Being a subject to an OVERLORD is not an element that I want as part of the AMERICAN life.

    The elected politicians were like teenagers, except when a real teen wanted to run for public office -- (i.e. Josh Pollock). That's another story. But, he was far more mature than Tom Murphy in terms of vision and leadership that was just and prudent.

    BTW, the parents were not out of town. But, it was the parents who ran the parties. But, more so, the watchdogs were slumbering. Tom Barnes of the P-G who used to cover Grant Street, and that crew was (and to a high degree still) AWOL in terms of being watchdogs.

    Tom Murphy, Sala Udin and the ones who are here now are not the one's to be back in charge. There isn't much of a difference -- but I'll take my chances with self determination anyday vs. OVERLORDS who are more like ABSENTEE LANDORDS who are not paid after a fix occurs. They have to work their way out of a job and that just isn't happening. They'll need to be tossed out of town. And, that is what we need to do when the going gets bad with the ones we elect.

  12. the overlords have been sleeping at the wheel based on the fat that has had resurgence in the size of the mayor's staff since the beginning of act 47 - many things and more people have returned - including take home cars

  13. and last I checked, "REVEREND" burgess doesn't have the authority to give legal advice.

    hash it out in the courts. THEY have the authority AND the expertise

  14. Council will have to make clear that the current proposed Recovery Plan is a non-starter as soon as possible -- because it is, and because that's the responsible and productive thing to do. But just as emphatically it should implore the Coordinators and if necessary the Secretary to craft a solution that takes care of our June 30th / Act 111 problem for a set, reasonable period of time.

    There may very well be as many as 8 votes to accomplish this: between the populists who see no light at the end of the Act 47 tunnel, and the progressives who are frustrated by our recovery methods.

    No one wants to see the Pittsburgh situation shake up abruptly and needlessly, without all due diligence -- which is exactly what will happen if the present Plan goes up for a vote.

    There'd be no reason for the overseers to apply sanctions in the short term. There are a variety of good ideas on the menu we can engage them on, of which possibly only one or two require state action. It would be best to hone in on only the most ripe. We're very close. That's what you say, right? "We're very close".

  15. Anon 12:54pm

    The Most Reverend Burgess not only has authority to give legal advice but an obligation to do so..

    Lawyers and commoners alike, 'Practice Law.'

    Dragline character in 'Cool Hand Luke', said it best..."When it comes to the law, nothing is understood".

    Ed Heath, who I on occasion like to water-board...practices law...I enjoy his input.

    Mark's work pales in comparison to raising kids. It my be hardest job of all.

    I like all you guys...diverse delinquents, perhaps...

    Act 47, is necessary evil...restraints I favor, increased revenue...always causes problems.

    Large contingent of Suburbanites crowded City Streets during Stanley Cup Celebration...and City was most hospitable host...

    Glad Mayor spent resourses needed to accommodate...

    Surprised that Doug Shields cancelled meeting instead of parade!

  16. Some quick math:
    5 year recovery plan minus the one year already half done equals four years.

    One billion in debt
    One billion underfuned pension
    Income of $450 million per year

    So you would have to fire every single person collecting a check, do zero maintenance on any building, road or other city asset, not pay the utility bills for four years, and continue to collect taxes, despite not having anyone to collect those taxes - and the City would still not be recovered.

    Is it really any wonder that some people are complaining that the Act 47 plan doesn't get us out of distressed muncipality status in 5 years? It can't! The hole is too big!

  17. Same thing was said about Ozone Depletion...CFC contamination.

    And, The Montreal Protocol was established...

    Big hole over Southern Hemisphere while not contracting has ceased to more 80's hairdo's and CFC hairspray, may be explanation..

    Sale of Parking Garages... first step. Elimination of Police and Fire overtime in Pension Benefit calculation, second step...

    The tools are there, but who will pick them up..?

  18. Sell the parking garages, first step. Noted. Not leased -- but sold. Right on.

    Merge of Citiparks and County Parks and Rec into a new entity -- a Pgh Park District -- as they ahve in Illinois. It is democratic driven, open meetings, full on debates. Also operates school district sports venues when out of school session. Takes the RAD tax in whole.

    Sell off PNC Park and Heinz Field too. Begin to liquidate. Sell the Convention Center. Perhaps some G20 nation will want to subside it.