Saturday, June 13, 2009


You know this:

... and how the Mayor had been compelled to attend it.



I mean, just think about it:

"While I am largely in agreement with the Act 47 plan, I will not support increasing taxes imposed solely on City residents to address our long term legacy costs.


I would remind City Council of one very important point: If we do not have a budget by June 30, there will be far worse cuts and pain suffered by City employees and residents in the form of lost state revenues. My administration and I stand ready and willing to further work with Council and the Act 47 team. We remain committed to a solution-focused dialog that will result in the passage of a fair and sustainable plan by June 30, 2009."
... Mayor Luke Ravenstahl (WTAE)

And then BLAMMO...

"No words can describe the history-making comeback achieved by our team. No one believed that this could be done, that we could win on the road and defy history, and that the league's youngest captain could make it happen. On Monday, let's show the world..." ... Mayor Luke Ravenstahl (P-G)


  1. Can the City Council impeach the Mayor for not attending a meeting at which they "compel" his presence?

  2. Is it just me or do more people sound like the offspring of Doug and Wendy Whiner?

  3. Adam - Impeachment is a more complicated procedure. I do not believe this spectacle rises credibly to the thresholds set out for impeachment in § 806, although 17 days remain between now and June 30th. Who knows what this cast of characters is capable of.

    Anonymous 5:31 - That's only funny if you don't think Pittsburgh, City of Champions, can do better than what Act 47 cooked up for us so far. 5 Year Plans only get to be negotiated once every 5 years. That's a long time to live under something that again fixes nothing, that does not change our economic fundamentals and that exposes us to huge risks.

    Why take a knee? It's not halftime.

  4. what happens if they vote it down?

  5. To be honest, the preparations were being made in advance for this parade on Monday, contingent on the Stanley Cup coming back to Pittsburgh.

  6. I'm voting for Harris on November 3rd, and I don't care for the Mayor's tomfoolery just like everyone else, but this strikes me as a bit of an unfair criticism. The city was going to have a parade at some point this week for the Penguins. And it's not as if the Act 47 meeting can't be rescheduled, indeed moved later in the week to make more of a media impact. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, politics is a game that rewards the manipulation of rules that the real world finds silly in the first place (see, e.g., cloture, recess appointments, administrative "nesting", etc.) If the mayor can use his bully pulpit to tactical advantage in this situation, it's his right to exercise that tactical advantage, even when (as he often does) it's in the silliest and most juvenile manner possible.

  7. They'd have to come up with a new plan if the one on the table is voted down.

    Or, on a more draastic front, and where they should be headed, IMNSHO, they'd have to kick the OVERLORDS out of town. But, even pulling the plug on the OVERLORDS would require a prudent plan and more universal agreement on that plan.

  8. Anonymous 12:07:

    Please tell us, in some detail, why you're voting for Harris. What do you know about him? What do you like about him? What convinces you, already, that he's the man for the job.

    I'd be interested to hear your case.

  9. What are the chances the mayor will ride in the same truck as the cup? or crosby? or malkin?

  10. Mark is right, or they could also amend the present plan and then vote it up. As far as I know, neither the Coordinators nor the Secretary have said, "Take it or leave it, busters". There is a process laid out for this in the original Act 47 legislation; turning down the coordinator's initial plan does not entail a constitutional crisis.

    I think another possibility to avoid the June 30th drama could be passage of a short continuing resolution-style recovery plan that buys more time before locking us in.

    Anons 10:52 & 12:07 - Council's order came on Wednesday afternoon, when the Pens were still down 3 games to 2 in the series. As the Mayor said, "No one believed that this could be done," that the Penguins could still win and "defy history". (I actually never stopped believing, for the record.) Sure the contingency of a Monday parade could have been in the works already, or perhaps not -- maybe if we really wanted to "show the world" what Pittsburgh is capable of in terms of championship celebration parades, we could have used an extra day or two to plan ahead, allow people make arrangements at work; get Zambelli involved. But we'll never know.

    Either way, innocently coincidental or partially nefarious, it's quintessential.

  11. Oh by the way, an e-mail from the Council President that went out to everyone involved (and apparently then some):

    "I was informed that the Mayor has scheduled a VICTORY parade for the Penguins Stanley Cup champions.

    Go Pens! What a great team effort and most exciting series for the NHL fans everywhere. And the Pittsburgh Penguins are bringing the cup home in style. A great day for hockey indeed.

    Therefore, the Act 47 post agenda scheduled for Monday is canceled.
    I ask the City Clerk's office to please convey a letter to the Mayor so that he is informed that the Council has passed a motion to compel the Mayor to appear before the governing body.

    The Council expects the Mayor to attend Wed. Standing committee to respond to questions pertaining to the amended Act 47 year plan.

    Thank you all for your anticipated cooperation in this matter.

    Go Pens

    Doug Shields
    President, City Council

  12. Bram, Wednesday was also the day that some found out the proposed Parade was put on the possible agenda for Monday. You are correct, those involved thought it should be no sooner than Tuesday,for the exact reasons and justifications you sited. Was the schedule a coincidence? I really couldn't say.

  13. I think one of reasons for the 6/30deadline has to do with negotiating labor contracts, which begins July 1. George Specter alluded to this early this week, but was somewhat vague, perhaps to protect the negotiotiations. But I gather that having a 5 year paln in effect will force the negotiators- both sides- to stay within its parameters.

  14. 5 year plan only forces labor...other side uses as excuse.

    Spector, is top shelf...


  15. I think one of reasons for the 6/30deadline has to do with negotiating labor contracts, which begins July 1.

    It is not one of the reasons, it is THE reason. The act 47 team wants to limit the salaries/benefits of our underpaid public union members. That is very clear.

  16. 6/30 deadline is provision of Home Rule Charter...agreed. Truth..

    Was brought to my attention 3 Contracts ago...only until recently have Unions complied.

    Contract negotiations usually were done last 2 weeks of December and you didn't dare vote against...ask privatized garage...last to vote against contract proposal from City.

    (Losing Money, like absent asphalt plant... ask Scott Kunka...former Garage Supervisor)


  17. Labor contracts is the only reason Act 47 exists, so of course The deadline is so important.

    I still want to know what State Senators and State Reps pay for healthcare?

  18. My understanding is that if Council amends the Act 47 plan, the Act 47 people have to then sign off on it. Which means it would have to be very detailed, on the order of the 300 page (amended) plan that came from the Act 47 people.

    What I want to know is what happens if City Council agrees to the plan (which I have *sigh* still not read) and then the State legislature decides not to allow Pittsburgh the tax increases (or even keeping the parking tax at its current level)? I gather some variation of that scenario is in fact what happened five years ago, so I guess it might not be a big deal, we would just limp along half-assedly as we have been doing.

    As for the timing of the parade, the Mayor is a child.

  19. Labor contracts is the only reason Act 47 exists, so of course The deadline is so important.

    Do you work for UPMC anon?

    Or are you one of those suburban "Pittsburghers" who pay a dollar a day for city services?

  20. Whoops, I was giving the suburban Pittsburghers too much credit. It should read "a dollars a week."

  21. Ed - If they amend the plan, theoretically that only entails adding or changing one sentence. If they *replace* the plan, yes it would have to be very long and detailed, unless they are offering a stopgap continuing resolution for example; then they could Xerox the old plan and change some things. I'm still not certain if that stopgap idea is realistic, but it seems to hold up internally.

    TheTruth - Anon 12:10am might just be pointing out the, er, truth. Act 47 provides us with some $ from the state AND it lowers the amount of $ we would have to pay out in the form of things like salaries and benefits. The impression I get is even if the state withholds our extra $, we can get it back or even make up for it somehow. But if wages and benefits go up, they go up way way out into the future.

    Act 111, which goes back into effect if Act 47 goes away (there is some debate as to when that happens), demands binding judicial arbitration for collective bargaining negotiations. During this binding arbitration, the arbitrators are not permitted to take into account the municipality's ability to pay. What happens when the City's ability to pay is exceeded? Because arguably it is already there. You may expect the resulting massive cuts will fall only on the wicked and bloated, but I have other ideas.

  22. The impression I get is even if the state withholds our extra $, we can get it back or even make up for it somehow.

    The state is already witholding $:

    -no taxes on mega "non-profits" who own all the land in the city and contribute less than 2 million a year.
    -a forced reduction of parking tax revenue that has been pocketed by the lot operators.
    -a low $52 tax on commuters when Philadelphia is allowed to charge a (much higher) percentage of wages earned in the city.

    The real Pittsburghers - residents of the city - are left to cover the costs of our underpaid public employees
    It is a classic case of the poor taking care if the poor - while the "fat and bloated Pittsburghers" are protected by the state.

  23. There is plenty of fault to go around with respect to the city's insolvency. The city's voters elected fools. Those fools made dumb, expensive mistakes, but kept the shortsighted voters happy by deferring costs. The city employees didn't object when their pensions became flimsy IOU's. The few outside checks on city recklessness -- state officials, rating agencies, financial advisors -- were ineffective (and usually compromised).

    I see little reason to expect or support a bailout from outside the city. After the Iron City Brewing debacle, I see no reason to send another dime of assistance to the city until the city demonstrates a substantial correction in course.

    Why expect handing more money to the same crew that has been wrecking Pittsburgh for decades to solve, rather than create, problems?

    The "dollar a week" line is silly. Anyone who parks downtown pays much more than a dollar for the privilege of entering the city. Anyone who pays to subsidize PAT pays more than a dollar a day for a transportation system that concentrates on the city. I guess anyone who walks to work in the city from the suburbs might get away with the "dollar a week" tab, but I am not even sure about that, given the transfer of state and federal funds to the city, the indirect payment of property tax through rents, and the like.

  24. Economically, I think Pittsburgh needs the non-profit tax (I think a freeze or a bump in the parking tax is easy) but politically we CAN'T AFFORD to pursue the COMMUTER TAX. It's political poison. Shut it down. People don't want to see it, don't want to think about. The complaints are visceral. Relax and in 5 years we'll come back with one scaled to income. Meanwhile, tax UPMC et al and party.

    Meanwhile, since we may only be able to pick one thing on the menu, we need statewide pension management -- the right kind of pooled statewide system, adjudicated by a complex and cleverly selected board

    -- AND we need to reach a consensus on which of our four city taxes we are going to raise, to demonstrate seriousness and oh yeah to raise money. I say parking or property. Yes I said property. Other municipalities in our own County are paying higher property taxes, we can't very well argue we can do different.

  25. Creating a pooled plan for the future might be worthwhile -- although I can't decide which is more likely, (1) reducing risk and improving performance consequent to diversification and (ostensibly) better management or (2) intensifying the consequences of ineptitude and corruption, likely leading to a catastrophic failure -- but no one is going to consider a plan that does not require each participating municipality to cover extant obligations before being admitted to the plan.

    Or, more practically: Which legislator with even a single non-city constituent will not kill or be killed (figuratively speaking) before exposing non-city residents to the liabilities associated with the city's decades of mismanagement? I see no chance of the customary horsetrading for this one, because the toxicity would be nearly unprecedented.

    I acknowledge your point: How can the city justify a lower property tax than any other county municipality, given its insolvency and astounding obligations? Anyone have an answer? Electing the likes of Tom Murphy and Luke Ravenstahl has a substantial price tag, including a relatively high property tax.

  26. Being anon 12:10 a.m, whew that was the first time it has ever been insinuated that I am a non-Pittsburgh resident. I have spent my life here in this city.

    I was being facetious when I said of course that is why Act 47 exists, because of labor contracts.(tongue in cheek) I believe that is a pretty solid conclusion.

    I am frustrated that so much taxable land continues to be given away to non profits that provide jobs regionally while city workers and city residents bare the brunt of the reduction of services. Who continues to allow this land to go to nonprofits? Who continues to allow them to pay no city taxes? Who decides when enough is enough?

    The same people who don't pay for their health care.

    Monk, suggesting that Public safety Unions are somehow the "culprits" taking down the city is disingenuous.Pitting city employees against city employees is exactly what State lawmakers are hoping for.

  27. Joe King would 'Steal The Cross From Christ's Back'...and use to heat Firefighter's homes...