Wednesday, June 10, 2009


Okay, not quite:

Pittsburgh City Council today issued an order for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl to meet with council members to discuss the city's five-year financial recovery plan.

"We want to see the mayor at this table. We want him to state his position on the recovery plan," said Councilman Bruce Kraus.

"We have the power to call a meeting between council and mayor at any time," said Councilman Bill Peduto. "I suggest that the mayor find a flight from the beach and come back to work." (Trib, Jeremy Boren)

The maneuver stops just shy of a full-on subpoena -- which would involve sheriff's deputies and whatnot -- though that remains on the table as a last resort.

Lame-duck Councilwoman Tonya Payne said that she "came in saying no [to Act 47], I'm going to go out saying no," joining Darlene Harris, Theresa Smith and Patrick Dowd in clearly declaring opposition to the plan as it stands.

Council members expressed increasing worry that if the city can't find $10 million to $14 million a year to shore up its pension fund, and if it can't win state approval to tax nonprofit institutions or boost the $52 tax on those who work in the city, then they would be forced to boost property, wage or other levies on residents.

"The failsafe option, the sort of nuking of Pittsburgh, is a tax increase," said Mr. Dowd. (P-G, Rich Lord)

This is all a little strange. The council members who might ordinarily be against state oversight are finding common cause with the members who might ordinarily be for state oversight but don't want to be saddled with all the blame when things get even more uncomfortable.

Selected tweets:

And finally, an oldie but goody also from WTAE's Bob Mayo that aired originally around the time of -- um, what to call it, Golfgate II? -- which is relevant to the idea of a Mayor popping in to a session of Council to address grave concerns:

Oops, one more thing: a statement from Independent mayoral candidate Kevin Acklin:

I applaud the seven members of City Council who today compelled the Mayor to actively engage in the critical debate over the proposed amendment to the Act 47 recovery plan. What our Council and our Mayor do on this issue will have a profound impact on the future of our city. The new recovery plan will affect our city workers, our public safety, our long-term financial stability, even our ability to perform and deliver basic city services. The citizens of Pittsburgh deserve the hard work and full attention of their Mayor, and it’s unfortunate that it takes the compulsion of City Council to get Mayor Ravenstahl to engage in this process.

I think we can all agree without too much fuss that we ought to know by now where our Mayor stands in relation to this new Act 47 Part II: The Resubjugation. Obviously now that he has statementized on the subject, eventually it would be super to know where Mr. Acklin himself stands, but Mr. Ravenstahl is currently the guy in charge and as such his opinions are more pertinent.


Late in the afternoon, Mr. Ravenstahl's administration issued a statement in which he said he is "largely in agreement with the Act 47 plan" but "will not support increasing taxes imposed solely on city residents."

He said there's a real risk that the state will pull the plug on aid if the city doesn't meet the June 30 deadline.

"If council is going to vote down the plan because it does not spend enough, they must also provide leadership on how we are to receive additional revenues," he said in the statement, adding that there "will be far worse cuts and pain suffered by city employees and residents in the form of lost state revenues" without a new plan.

This in full: LINK, bottom of screen.

We are twold there is nothing in the statement concerning the Mayor's intent to comply with the Council's summons.



  1. see bob mayo tv: "Mayo finishs his story with "..and he [the mayor] says his door is always open"

    "the door is always open..." yes but he never seems to be there. there.

    Go Pens, say hello to Luke in Detroit for us.

  2. Luke's been awol a o tin his career

  3. A very compelling post Bram.

    Sorry. Had to.

    /shows self out

  4. 115.5 (c) If the coordinator’s plan is rejected by the municipality, the municipality shall develop its own plan which will be subject to approval by the Secretary.

    Would seem that under the law quoted above, that the Mayor would be the right person to lead the "municipality" in crafting a new plan. Hey, if he wants to stay on the beach, I know a couple of Councillors that would be more than happy to hash out there own plan without the Mayor's input. I'm rooting for Council to act.

  5. Hold on a sec. If we reject the plan given us, we *SHALL* develop our own plan, which will be subject to approvals by the coordinators and I assume the Legislature.

    So let's say we develop that plan (from what it sounds like, it'd be akin to what Councilman Motznik told me they did with one of Murphy's annual budgets) and it comes with a lot more leeway and perhaps a few goodies, and then we stone cold PRESENT it upstairs. What happens to the politics at that point, given Harrisburg's own sets of clocks?

    I would think the Governor would not want Pittsburgh to be roundly and severely punished just prior to his preferred successor making his run for office. I would think urban Democrats would naturally take our side, and some other D's. Add to that some R's who don't really care that much personally, who may be swayed or sufficiently steimied by a 'We can't let our 2nd biggest city go down the toilet' argument, or who just fear the Great Unknown ...

    If Pittsburgh takes possession, do you think we could force something more palatable through? Do you think this is what the Mayor alluded to in saying (paraphrasing) 'hoping the Council isn't intent on precipitating some kind of Newt Gingrich budget showdown', someone please remind me where I read that? Because that would be interesting.

  6. If the coordinator’s plan is rejected by the municipality, the municipality shall develop its own plan which will be subject to approval by the Secretary.

    Who is the secretary? Why?

    These are not difficult questions.

  7. "Governor Edward G. Rendell nominated George E. Cornelius to be secretary of the Department of Community and Economic Development on Jan. 22, 2009." LINK.

    I'm not positive if Cornelius is still "acting" secretary or not.

    I'm gathering the impression that June 30th is a real and significant deadline, vis a vis our ability to retain unfortunately necessary leverage over our public sector unions.

    However I don't yet have a clear picture politically of whether Mr. Rendell's Mr. Cornelius will be inclined to float all the stakeholders (of which Pittsburgh is the most immediately significant) a little extra time to attempt creatively tackle its problems and come up with a new recovery plan that is realistic, that is palatable near-statewide, and represents some real progress.

    Just a thought: New Act 47 Amended and Revised 5-MONTH plan, anyone? 5-WEEK plan? That would be a nice Step One if the City can collectively communicate the notion as worthwhile.

    (By the way, I just realized why we used to have a City Planning position named "Director of Community and Economic Development". It's like, "Here, obviously, is where to put the money." Brilliant!)

  8. necessary leverage over our public sector unions

    Sure Bram, blame the underpaid union members. They are the problem. It has nothing to do with those who fail to pay their share. It is the Unions. They are at fault. Right.

  9. TheTruth - Point taken. I'm still not sure if Pittsburgh is yet constitutionally prepared to take on the ordinary results of the binding contract arbitration that is enforced in the state of Pennsylvania, though. There's a reason they call it "distressed".

    Look, what I know about the City's employee compensation regime right now couldn't fill a thimble. But lately I've been hearing a lot that we're becoming less competitive compared to what's available in suburbs and some other cities -- and that does bear its own set of dangers. What I'm not hearing personally is any objections that public employees and their families aren't making ends meet. At least not with any greater frequency than the rest of the country is having trouble making ends meet, which is a lot -- perhaps not something we can hope to utterly protect against.

  10. You need to look at those who are dictating our financial future. Do not plead ignorance. There are "Pittsburghers" who have failed to do their part.

    The boys in blue answer every call we make. What do they get in return?


    Sure, they make ends meet. I guarantee those who are dictating our financial future are doing much better. Don't gloss over the fact that the "non-profits" own this town. Blaming the underpaid public sector employees is exactly what they want you to do.

  11. TheTruth -- Yes, absolutely. My preferred solution to this mess is to tax the meganon-profits double whatever it happens to be we've recently been condescendingly permitted to "explore" taxing them, and then to ahem "make City Government more efficient".

    But we are in a situation here concerning June 30th. 2009, that is. 18 days. That's something I hope to address tomorrow, but for now I'm of the opinion that we cannot sustain opening your particular sluice gate before we dig some semi-permanent trenches. And to even design those trenches, first we need to buy time using our cleverness.

    (And don't give me "blaming". You'll know it, as always, if I start blaming people.)

  12. Folks, there is no way in hell that city council is going to come up with its own plan. They members there took about 4 hours to decide if the mayor should be called to a meeting.

    Bill Peduto wrote out a plan of sorts. But, council has not even talked about it.

    And, council generally talks a lot before it thinks about it.

    On Wed's meeting, it took council another hour or so just to delay a bill for 3 weeks. That was the one about the curfew center that the mayor had told people that it would be open by June 1.

    Council has more drag than play. It is all about drag.

    I'd love to be proven wrong, but then you start the speech by Rev. Ricky Burgess about getting to work and another two days is lost.


    Council's ongoing failure to act is why OVERLORDS are in Pittsburgh. They've done nothing to merit the removal of the OVERLORDS to date.

    Council finding a fix is not even a long shot.

  13. so if the council votes this "plan" down, likely the most important thing the boy mayor must confront as our city's leader, what then?

    It will require Luke to utilize all of his leadership skills, which are questionable at best.

    What's he going to do with a Council over which he has little or no control?

    I can't wait to see the session on Monday for Q&A with all those Coucil members with whom he has shuch a great relationship with.

    Game on Luke.

  14. No votes


    Yes votes

    so what will Shields, Peduto, Motznik, Kraus, do?

    If they go south on the new Act 47 plan Luke will have his hands full. It also shows how little political capital he has in the council chamber.

  15. I gotta say, this whole "MWAHAHA, Luke!" angle doesn't do much for me if it results in a 5 Year Plan that raises city taxes but leaves the city even more impotent 5 years down the road -- or if it results in a LACK of a recovery plan that allows our costs to really spin out of control for a long time.

    Council needed to compel Luke's attendance in order to get him to take a position on the current proposal. That afternoon, he took a public position in the affirmative (though with a qualifier that begs for follow-up), so you can make the argument that the need for his presence on Council's home ice has been ameliorated.

    At the same time, as I think I wrote elsewhere, I'm more sure than ever it would be extremely PRODUCTIVE for the Mayor to attend -- if only to demonstrate with crystal clarity to Council and to the public why the present 5 Year Plan is both tolerable and inevitable (in his view), why discussion of amending it or replacing it is idle grandstanding (I may be assuming too much about his position), or to learn more about some specific amendments he may get on board with.

    Because here's another news flash, Pittsburgh: these people don't talk to each other. At all! Not behind the scenes, not on the phone, not hardly in exchanges of angry e-mails, nothing. It is almost certain they are all making assumptions about each other's premises and beliefs that have no basis in reality. We've grown so accustomed to such a high level of dysfunction that now that there is a crisis / opportunity facing us demanding a rudimentary level of communication between parties, there's nothing anybody can do over it except shout "Yay!" or "Boo!"

    So yes, I think the Mayor's participation at this meeting would be productive for all kinds of reasons, and political theater has very little to do with it (although I admit, I am always in favor of political theater).