Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Post-Gazette Editorial Board Throws Cold Water on CBA Movement

Sure, we love them during election season, but do we care what they write the rest of the year?

Anyone who thinks it's easy to lure development to Pittsburgh has a short memory ...

But the local development scene has not always been so active, something City Council members must keep in mind when they consider imposing new rules on developers seeking to do business here ...

Some members have raised the possibility of linking development subsidies to the wages that would be paid by businesses that move in ...

A long list of developers who do business with the city say otherwise, and we agree with them. (P-G, Edit Board)

The prospect of shifting most if not all of the energy behind the Community Benefits Agreements movement to a legislative push for a generous, blanket minimum wage for any developments that receive any public subsidy also struck this blog as a bit off.

All the same, we were thrilled to see City Council hustling to get its arms around this populist concept. One of Pittsburgh's recurring themes is its big, ambitious development and infrastructure projects doing very little for, or even backfiring upon, regular Pittsburghers. In light of the Ravenstahl administration's scrupulous indifference to that exact dilemma, we felt more encouragement of these Council members and of these community groups was in order as this was published. Those were heady days for a couple of days there.

Then it was suggested to me that at the end of the day, Post-Gazette editorials must reflect the views of the Post-Gazette's publisher -- and the Post-Gazette's publisher is a city business owner who blames his own business woes on pricey union labor and an unavoidably challenging market (instead of, say, an industry culture so tradition-clad it borders on the superstitious, which is offended by innovation and risk-taking and tends to foster a passionless resignation to routine:

George Matta, the Rivers director of business development and community relations, said the casino was "extremely satisfied" with the numbers. They represent the amount wagered and the revenue generated from noon Sunday to 6 a.m. yesterday.

"We were very happy with our first day. We had a lot of people there. We'll see if we can keep it up," Rivers Chief Executive Officer Greg Carlin said. (P-G, Mark Belko)

That was from the third lengthy installment of the daily series, Casino Officials Say Casino Opening Pretty Cool. In order to find something genuinely thought-provoking, one had to access the P-G's Early Returns blog, which is not promoted anywhere in the print edition. Even still it will almost certainly take an actual blogger to raise questions about how widespread is this practice of casinos hiring former government officials, what it means for the regulation of that industry, and what it says about why casino gambling might have been legalized to begin with.)

But I digress. The editorial's concerns, if not balanced, are legitimate.

I'm tempted to go a little anti-intellectual on this living wage issue. We watch government give away precious public resources to industry titans year and year out -- then we watch those titans reward themselves with huge salaries and bonuses and arrange massive lobbying budgets to leverage for tax cuts, deregulation and even more subsidies. Now we're talking about raising workers' wages and all of a sudden we're a bunch of School of Lausanne economists? When's the last time the working class got a break in its favor?

Yet that would be inconsistent. I've said before that each development is different and each arrangement for community benefits may have to be unique. Is your project highly subsidized or non-subsidized? Is it in an affluent, or a hard-luck, or an extremely hard-luck part of town? Are you building a grocery store in an under-served neighborhood or a vomitorium for suburbanites? These are things which should be weighed by leadership as it gauges how to use its leverage.

However, that doesn't mean there's not a good law in there somewhere. Hopefully the Council critters are working hard to discover it during August recess. Most service workers, for example, don't get an August recess.

A final thought:

This is not to say the city should not impose conditions on developers that accept subsidies funded by taxpayers. For instance, a measure crafted by Councilman Bill Peduto and enacted last month requires them to meet green building standards, which promises environmental payback for the city and the developer. (P-G, Edit Board)

I know it's a broad coalition and I do consider myself an environmentalist, but for the record: given the choice I'd rather live on a grimy despoiled planet ruled with economic and social justice and compassion, than live in a verdant sustainable fairyscape with bike lanes amidst rampant poverty, poor access to health care and social services, and limited social mobility. But I'm just one person.


  1. You take that last thought, blend it, pour it on the ground and let sit in 90 degree heat with 90 percent humidity. The result is Mumbai.

  2. Please, with the class envy B.S. I'm so f#@*ing bored with the whining about how "they get rich and I get nothing".

  3. Frankly this is something the HUDDLER would expect to read over at the Pittsburgh TRIB.

    Has DICKY MELLON-SCAIFFE infiltrated the PG Board?

    Nice writing Bram. The HUDDLER has to agree with City Council, Bram, and MOST people on this issue.

    Affordable Healthcare and decent wages should be a mandate not an option when public dollars are subsidizing development.

    The right wing screams about welfare? unless the recipents where $1500 suits, and create a few lousy MCJOBS in the name of progress.

  4. There are many people with great stories of how they started out at a "MCJOB", learned the business, worked hard and elevated themselves to a leadership position. For these people, there was no CBA. That is how you do it.

    If all public funds for development projects (what you call corporate welfare) had been redirected to public welfare programs, would any jobs have been created? Do you think any development projects would have been undertaken? Could the region attract new residents or visitors, much less the G-20 leaders if the major development projects of the last 30 years had not been completed? If a development project is not believed to be profitable, should it not be considered?

    Now if you'll excuse me, I need to get fitted for a $1,500 suit.

  5. Anon 2:12 - How can anyone have "class envy" for people that have no class? ;-)

    No one is acting out of jealousy. People are simply trying to build a better city that serves city residents better with their own public dollars, and with the assistance of zoning and planning boards set up to provide this kind of community continuity with new development. If there is a higher and a better role for government I'd like to hear it.

    I do not think many visitors and G-20 leaders are coming to Pittsburgh because of the Civic Arena, the East Liberty high rises, Allegheny Center, Lord & Taylor, Lazarus and F.A.O.Schwartz. I do think it is debatable whether most Pittsburgh residents are going to be any better off next year or a year from now because the G-20 came here. But I'm not asking for an end to large-scale developments. I'm asking for U.R.A. and private investment in parks, wholly public amenities, and most especially in neighborhood non-profits and community development interests across the city. I don't know why the City is so hostile to allocating resources to neighborhoods by neighborhoods.

  6. Bram.. I can give you 2 possible reasons..

    1. "Show me the $$!" (so quietly and secretively sayeth the politicians), and,

    2. City voters blindly pulling the "D" lever for (what?) 70 years (expecting a different result each time).

    Just my 2 cents.

  7. Anon 3:15 says "If a development project is not believed to be profitable, should it not be considered? " (besides wrestling with the double negative in that sentence) I dunno. If a project needs a public subsidy to be profitable, should it be considered? If a project needs to pay below poverty wages to either construction workers or eventual office workers in the completed business to be profitable, should it be considered? Mind you, I think reasonable limits can be set here. Sure, mailroom clerks and bottom rung file clerks may earn a low wage. If they show potential by working hard, they may be able to move up. But if the majority of employees are not paid a living wage, then there is a real question of what this employer is adding to the landscape. Of course, jobs are tight right now, so employers might be able to get away with that kind of thing. But then no one should whine about Pittsburgh’s young people hightailing it for greener pastures elsewhere.

  8. The PG ownership argument is ridiculously weak. It's little more than a means to gloss over the fact that a very smart, sensible, liberal editorial board disagrees with them (and see the silly "Dicky Scaife took over" smear in a prior comment for more of the same mentality).

    A quick check of Fundrace will tell you that PG owner Allan Block contributed the max to McCain, George Voinivich, and others! Yet only on this one little issue does their self-interest surface in the form of a strong-arming the PG board??

    CBA's are complex, controversial, and simply too new for anyone to make claims, with any authority, about their long-term effects. There are damn good arguments and concerns on both sides, and this is one of those issues where a balance will ultimately need to be struck.

    It is *more* than reasonable to assume the PG editorial board's opinion is very much its own.

  9. Ed... What is a "livable wage"? $10/hour? $15/hour? $20/hour? more???

  10. The Mumbai argument is facile. How do you equate an entrenched caste system and selective abortion practices with social justice?

    You got the meteorology wrong -- chill it, hide the sun, boil some roots, and you're looking at Sweden. Which happens to be one of the world's happiest nations.

  11. Frankly, CM, I'm not entirely sure. That would be a matter for some research (Personally I am leery of basing a person's pay on how many family members they say they are supporting, as apparently some living wage calculations want to do). Of course, the research won't be done, the figures won't be calculated. The poor are still the favorite punching bags of business people and conservatives, perhaps including such as yourself.

  12. Bram's comment above said, in part: "But I'm not asking for an end to large-scale developments."

    You should be asking for an end to the spending of all public money into large-scale private developments.

    I don't want to end large scale development. But, I want to end all giving of public funds to any private development.

    And, you can't really have social justice and be in favor of bribes.

    Finally, the CORPORATE WELFARE types are often "Rs". The Rs spend gross amounts of public money, as do the Ds. But they favor different crowds. Jim Roddey and John McCain are big corporate welfare Rs.

  13. Archi - That's why I qualified what I wrote with "it was suggested to me that...", and ultimately backpedaled from dismissing what the P-G had to say. However, I wouldn't agree with you that the owners/publishers, if they did horn in here, did so "only on this one little issue". Example: LINK.

    "No, we haven't taken leave of our senses. Yes, you read the headline correctly."

    It's never encouraging when an editorial leads off by making excuses for itself.

  14. Ed.. Thank you for an honest answer.

    How much should a janitor make? How much should a receptionist make? How much should a foodservice worker make?

    Yes, I am a business owner (10% owner). My employees have received raises ~every 15 months.. we paid raises effective April 1 PLUS BONUSES in June for the fiscal year ended March 31... not big, but I guarantee many others would have liked to be employed by me.

    That being said, some jobs pay what they are worth to us as business owners. I strongly believe in paying what a job is worth, If someone wants to earn more, they can do a few things.. get another job (maybe a 2nd job), get more education and/or training, chnage their lifestyle and/or expectations, show more/better attitide, move, etc.

    Please note I am not being calluous or cavalier in my response.

    I am in such a situation, although I CLEARLY do not expect people to empathize with me... I have not have a raise in 7+ years.. my employees have have been afforded such.. I make just under $100K, but... I have a professional certification (CPA) plus an MBA from a Top 10 B-school and 25 yrs experience.. I've stuck with my current position for the last 4-5 years because and SOLELY because I believe in my employees even though the majority owner of the business is [redacted] beyond all belief. Plus, I simply have not wanted to recognize I've 'lost' my investment in the Company.

    You're right, it depends.

    Oh, my "livable wage"? At least $150,000/yr. I can't wait to move from Pittsburgh to where qualities I have are respected and rewarded. Yes. I'm looking. Hard.

  15. CM;

    At first glance you appear to be a reputable employer.

    Do you provide educational opportunites for advancement? Do you INVEST in the education of your employees?

    Do you provide access to quality, affordable healthcare?

    Do you base your employee compensation on the duties and responsibilites of the position? or simply pay what the market will bear?

    Are men and women with similar positions and responsibilites compensated equally?

    Finally I would ask that as a mere 10% owner of your business, how much influence do you really have regarding employee compensation and benefits?

    The HUDDLER has a GREAT job, started out at the bottom, and worked endless nights, weekends, holidays, making great sacrafices to advance.

    The HUDDLER only wants the SAME opportunities for every working man and woman in America.


  16. If you believe that public money should not be appropriated to development projects, what would you do with Armstrong Cork? The GC Murphy Building? Several projects in East Liberty? Any of the converted former school buildings?

    Each of these were examples are older buildings that could not be developed profitably without a public investment. The private investment capital could not be recaptured by developers, and profit motivated capitalists do not pursue projects that projects a loss. Without the public financing instrument, these projects cannot be completed.

    So are you still strongly against public financing? People were hired, buildings of historic value were salvaged and the region is better off.

    Now, if you'll excuse me, I must run my business so that I underpay my employees.

  17. Iron City receives some interesting treatment by the city and it's authorities, and seemingly takes advantage of it. While Pastorius and Co. are requesting a loan from the URA out of the Pittsburgh Business Growth Fund.

    Quite the conundrum.

    Is there room in this discussion for allowing public subsidies to companies which produce gold medal award winning beverages?

  18. Anon:

    You seem to take great pride in the last part of your statement.

    The HUDDLER wants to thank you for reminding us of all of these projects, which equate to corporate welfare.

    The HUDDLER fails to see any historic significance to gutting an old school or the Cork building and turning it into 300k lofts, at a partial expense to tax payers.

    It does benefit municipalities to get those properties back on the tax rolls.

    However more often than not those tax revenue benefits are waived for decades and actual costs by the municipality increase due to an increased consumption of municipal services.

    The HUDDLER is not a developer and does not play one one TV - however if you can't take a shell of a building and re-furb it at a profit, perhaps you should tear it down and build from scratch?

    NONE of the properties or projects mentioned carried such significant historic value that society would be at a loss if they were razed.

    As far as jobs. NONE of the tax increment financing or loss of future tax revenues can be justified for a few construction jobs, that last less than 12 months usually?

    Although elected officials are usually behoven to the trade unions to produce these type of projects in order to keep their members employed.

    The HUDDLER believes in corporate welfare ONLY if the project will bring a sustainable number of longterm, decent paying jobs, that provide affordable healthcare and benefits, and job opportunities to the members of the community that is paying the bill.

    Now, if you'll excuse me, I must be off to hold bosses like you accountable.

    Since you are not a developer and you do not play one on TV, one would conclude that you are not qualified to evaluate the merits of a development.

  20. The HUDDLER is however a taxpayer and therefore more than QUALIFIED to make remarks as to where our tax dollars are SPENT !!

    One must ask that does government have ANY BUSINESS spending tax dollars on development?

    Especially development that only benefits a limited number of individuals or organizations?

    Just some food for thought there ANON.

    What has the CORK building development done for the City of Pittsburgh? Community?

    Who has benefited?

    The residents that got a subsidy for a new 300k condo?

    The developer that made millions?

    The land owner that dumped a building that they watched decay and reduce property values for decades?

    Calling someone "unqualified" is nothing more than an attempt to hide the fact that developers are pillaging the average taxpayer!!!

  21. I think one thing we keep skipping over is while there may be some benefits to some subsidized development, a huge proportion of our city is neglected, crumbling and larded with poverty -- and this proportion is growing faster than our alleged "upswing" in other areas can make up for. And the city itself is broke, dead broke. So where are public improvements to come from? I would think CBA's would be one way to make sure a rising tide lifts all boats. And let's remember we're not talking about a huge expense -- like, 1% of the total project cost would usually be too much -- and it'd actually be up to the developers to influence how to allocate those resources. Why not generate some goodwill?

    And please, let's not skip over -- I keep repeating, this isn't all about developers. The U.R.A., a public entity, receives millions and millions of dollars for the purpose of redeveloping our urban environment. And it receives that money BECAUSE of all the poverty around us. But the money gets allocated to largest possible aggregators of wealth -- yes, often campaign contributors, sorry -- the benefits of which to trickle down only in the most oblique and inefficient fashion over the longest time.

    So much more of that money should be going into neighborhoods at the nonprofit, community group and CDC level, as occurred in Lawrenceville to great success and none of our other 87 neighborhoods. What distinguishes Lawrenceville from Perry Hilltop for example I have no idea.

  22. If the URA buys me a pony, I promise to ride it to work at leasst once a week to save green house emissions.

  23. HUDDLER ASKED: One must ask that does government have ANY BUSINESS spending tax dollars on development?
    REASONED RESPONSE: That's what economic development organizations do. In Pittsburgh, Paris, and everywhere in between.

    HUDDLER ASKED: What has the CORK building development done for the City of Pittsburgh? Community?
    REASONED RESPONSE: An abandoned, blighted building that could not be demolished without significant expenditures and could not be renovated for some profitable use is now producing tax revenue.

    HUDDLER ASKED: Who has benefited? The developer that made millions?
    REASONED RESPONSE: Do you have evidence to support your claim that the developer made "millions"?

    Huddler, your arguments and others are filtered through the prisim of class envy; a tired theme that is supported by baseless claims, and on the fabricated assumption that developers are millionaires and their "work" is not considered worthy since it is not a blue collar pursuit.

    Most developers work hard. Most people work hard. So please, put the working class hero BS to rest.

  24. Did the residents of the Cork Factory get the 10 year real estate tax abatment? Reasonable public financing of private projects can promote the rising tides raise all boats theory but the money is not doled out fairly. It goes only to those influencial political donors who in turn are not concerned about livable wages. But that is nothing new to politics in general and to Pittsburgh politics specifically.

  25. Anon 1:47 - Regarding "all boats": the Cork Factory may be a worthwhile project for other reasons but it is nothing like "affordable housing", even including the tax abatement. Which gets to whether or not we have a balanced policy. I'm unsure if any of the URA's recent residential property activities have advanced what we think of as "dignified, affordable housing", but certainly none of the ones I read about fall into that category.

    And you write, "But that is nothing new to politics in general and to Pittsburgh politics specifically." It doesn't sound like you are defending anyone in particular, but I tire of hearing that all the same. We should punish pay-for-play period.

  26. "dignified, affordable housing"

    But that seems like it shouldn't need to be that big of a priority. One of the strengths of Pittsburgh is that you can afford to buy the median house while earning below the median income. What the city lacks are jobs that are not government/non-profit sector that pay well.

  27. There is a difference between the merit of a development and the merit of a public subsidy for a development.

    There are three classes of outcomes for subsidies -- positive, neutral, negative. Most of the money spent on "economic development" subsidies in this area have occupied the latter two classes for decades. A staggering volume has been counterproductive.

    Except, of course, for the campaign contributors -- I mean, developers.

  28. Bram,

    I did not mean to imply that the Cork Factory was affordable housing. It is quite the opposite. I was referring to the anon 11:32 response where he explains that it is "now producing tax revenue". But is it? Not if it is part of the tax abatement. If it was not part of the tax abatement program you could substitue other downtown condo projects in its place.

    Which does not mean it is not a positive development. But not if it used public funds for the benefit of political donors.

    And I did not intend to defend pay for play politics. I am not defending any particular politician but implicating all of them. I apologize for my pessimism but pay to play seems to have become so engrained in local politics.

    You and others do a fine job of shining light on these issues though.

  29. Don't forget the city/school income tax (3%). Plus an abatement is lower property taxes, not none.


  31. Anon 9:11/1:47 - No, I wasn't trying to correct you, I can see you are being reasonable. I just get a little sensitive about hearing, "Well, this goes on all the time, its nothing new." It's like well -- okaaay -- but now we're going to cut it the #$$%^ out. I've been squelching the pay-to-play resentment in my posts but I guess it comes out in my comments.

    And in response to MH - I'm not so much talking about affordable housing to buy so much as to rent. Maybe that bus trip with N.U. changed my perception of some things. Sure there are low property values in PGH, but are those places safe to live in, does the heat all fly out the windows and rafters, are the streets around them safe, are there any resources in the neighborhoods? I don't want to sound like a broken record (though I'm positive that I do), but living through a recession (or a major correction) is hard, and it sounded as though some of those people already have two jobs.

    I mean -- HUGE TRACTS OF LAND, around here, that aren't doing so well. And resources -- we have resources -- that aren't going there.

  32. Bram, you shouldn't squelch your resentment for pay-to-play. The MSM does not shed enough light on it so someone has too.

    MH, I did not consider the local wage tax but it my understanding that the abatement is a complete forgiveness of local/cty/school property taxes. At least I think that is the case for the downtown condos. Perhaps there is some sort of real estate value cap on what is forgiven.

  33. "MH, I did not consider the local wage tax..."

    Wow, I never forget 3% of my income. I'm also not sure how the abatement works these days. I'd looked (years ago) at some places with abatements and it certainly wasn't zero property taxes, even for the city and the schools. I thought that it fixed the tax at what is was on whatever was there before you made it nice.

    Bram, yes, there is a ton of substandard housing. I'm not saying there aren't many individuals in tight spots, but, rents are also lower than nearly everywhere I've seen. As far as housing goes, I think focusing on code enforcement and demolition is enough for now.

  34. MH, I guess I was assuming the folks buying condos at the Cork Factory already were living in the city limts so the net effect is zero. I think not only is the abatement zero it carries to a new owner if the first owner sells it within 10 years. A nice selling point, for sure.

  35. Q from above:

    If you believe that public money should not be appropriated to development projects, what would you do with Armstrong Cork? etc.

    You tax the land. Then, the ones who make the investments and do the fix up of the properties are not punished for doing the development.

    A LAND VALUE TAX is like a TIF for EVERYONE. Think of that as a tax break for those who invest and build onto the land that they own.

    Presently, sadly, the developers build and the taxes go sky high. The tax rate is calculated on the total building plus the land. THAT's WRONGHEADED public policy.

    The next true revival of Pgh, like the past ones, will come when we turn back to a land-value tax.

  36. The tax rate is calculated on the total building plus the land. THAT's WRONGHEADED public policy.

    I don't agree with you much Mark, but you're spot on here.

    Taxing improvements to properties at the same rate as the land discourages owners from developing land or making upgrades to buildings.

    Unfortunately, back when the first re-assessment happened, everyone freaked out and blamed Pittsburgh's land/building split.

    You can thank Bob O'Connor for that, by the way.

  37. because it was misunderstood.. though it's a bit more complicated than that. The tiered tax never applied to the school district property tax for example.

    I've been meaning to study the pre-reassessment land values. I have a theory that they tended to be often set near 1/6th the total property value whether that was accurate or not. if true it meant that the de facto impact of the tiered tax was negligible for most parcels. What I am pretty sure happened is that the initial sabre values tried to put a more reasonable value on land which often was not 1/6th the total parcel value. The folks who were hit with the biggest sticker shock were those living in areas which had higher land values. That translates into those neighborhoods with the biggest location premia. So places like Shadyside and Squirrel Hill (not the least politically influential folks) where higher property values are really not being driven by higher structure values, but more where they are located. Those folks saw pretty radical changes in their taxes as a result and reacted as you might expect. For them some of the tax increases were mitigated by the return to a flat tax. The folks who saw their property taxes go UP as a result of getting rid of the tiered tax probably just didn't realize there was an issue. It was all debated pretty quickly and lost amongst the louder debates over the assessment in general. .. debates that we are likely to replay again with the ruling from the state supreme court.

    BO for sure proposed the elimination of the split tax... but he was not alone in instigating the change. Remember those anti assessment council meetings held around town. Lots of ranting then against the split tax along the way. Elimination of the split tax was sort of collateral damage.

  38. What?

    You mean to tell me that the school district taxes and the city taxes, collected by the same office and established by the same office, taxed different realms?

    What: "the de facto impact of the tiered tax was negligible for most parcels." -- UNLESS you wanted to fix up a property -- and that always is a factor for all property owners. NOW the way to get a tax break is to drive down the value of one's building.

    The de facto impact of the tiered tax (land value tax) is a dense downtown with high buildings (great legacy of Pgh) as well as affordable housing (another great Pgh legacy).

    Today the trend is to be quick to bulldoze both houses in neighborhoods as well as high rises.

    Sabre Systems and Jim Roddey screwed up. They got it all wrong. And, then Bob O'Connor jumped on board -- as did Tom Murphy. In that order. Hence the screw ups of Sabre could not be challenged -- with the help of controller Tom (now a judge). Sure, there were political forces at work, but, ... in the long run, with a tax on land -- it is very insulated from politics. Land value tax policy becomes a geo footprint calculation that is easy to measure (without counting bathrooms and shag carpeting) and map and blend with values.

    There was no ranting against the split tax. I was there as Tom Flaherty fueled the flames. He was vile to Jim Roddey. It was skin deep discussions. Even O'Connor wanted only a temporary stay and temporary unified tax until this could be sorted out down the road.

    I called for at least a 99 to 1 change in the split tax rate with 99 on unified value and 1 on land value so that there would be a 'standing' within the system for appeals and challenges over years. Or really, what was needed was a decent re-do of Sabre's sucko work.

    It didn't matter to the county. So, the city residents got screwed. Now we see green space downtown. That aint "Green", BTW.

  39. Mark, the city has lost half its residents. Houses are being torn down because they are worth less in rent than it costs to keep them up.

  40. Oops, I was the Anon above. I guess my main point is that I think the land tax is a good idea, but the more everything gets blamed on the lack of a land tax, the more dubious I get.

  41. Weren't bloggers having this discussion 100 years ago in the commonwealth when there were so many undeveloped/underdeveloped parcels in the city?

    What would the land tax do for surface parking in the city? More elevated structures, or less parking?

    Which direction will the tax burden of my parcels filled non-native flowers and invasive tree species go from the $8 I currently pay in taxes, up or down?

    This is like the Nutting situation: we must go several steps backwards in order to move forward. Perhaps we'll have a world series ball club, when we arrive at a fair system of funding local government.

  42. Ha. Henry George as 19th century blogger. I like that. WWHGB

    But theoretically it would mean more elevated parking.. though parking economics are it's own thing. Cost differential between surface and elevated is a lot bigger than people realize.

    Hard to address Mark's points because I don't get some of them. But on one thing, yes the city school district taxed differently than the city itself. City had a split tax. School district did not. That certainly mitigated a lot of the impact of the split tax. Also the point about upgrade and improvements is certainly true in theory. My point is that the prior assessment regime in practice did not really take into account the land versus structure values and often would have land values set at 1/6th of the total parcel value no matter. At that ratio, the actual tax you received was no different between flat tax and tiered at Pgh tax rates.

    soo. the only places you may have seen some impact was in large commercial structures. Biggest loser in absolute $$ value when the land tax went away was probably the owners of the steel building (lots of structure, little land).. but you can't even extrapolate to some of the other big real estate in town. The land/structure ratio for gateway center buildings was very different and not so much impacted by the change.

  43. The land-value solution is nothing like the Nutting situation. With the land-value tax, a solution of fairness and equity follows. Without it, we have more empty houses.

    People vote with their feet. As the city is corrupt and cronies rule -- people won't want to invest. People won't want to raise their kids in schools that fail -- and in a district that yanks the families around.

    The Land Value Tax ends some of the yanking. It is more fair. It curbs government growth.

    People move out because they don't want to fix up a house and stay in the city because the investment will cost them too much over time and the rest of the hood is going to hell. The Land Value Tax means people don't get rewarded for letting their property go to weeds -- as they do now. They'll sell. The'll fix up. They'll have the 'incentive' and it will be a FAIR TAX BREAK, not a subjective, like the breaks around here now.

  44. As to the three outcomes of subsidies, I'd argue a different story. Once poison is put into the common well that we know as the marketplace, then that well is poisoned. Dirty water. Everything around it gets tainted.

    When Peter gets robbed to pay Paul, none are interested in playing Peter in the next chapter. They depart. And, none are interested in forming a business to compete with PAUL, because PAUL has an unfair advantage.

    Lazarus gets a parking garage, rent free if it does not meet certain sales goals, and other perks -- like the mayor shopping there w free PR by the river load. Woolworths managers and owner notice that. L&T owners do too. And, the pigs at other high end chains start to put their hands out as well.

    There are too many other places for good investment dollars to land. It won't show up to duke it out with the corrupt.

  45. Perhaps I didn't phrase the analogy properly in the previous post. The buckets of cash the ball club receives from the profit sharing scheme for maintaining sub .500 play with bush league talent is very much similar to the situation you describe.

    I'm catching what you're throwing, Mark, but I don't believe this tax shift will solve the city's funding problems when much of the land is tax exempt. Eds and Meds have been building out and up for years now, with not much development from many other for profit sectors.

  46. Agree with plenty of the land being tax exempt. But, it is way worse in many other places. Evanston, Illinois is more than 70% owned by nontaxable while Pgh is less than 40, but a lot.

    I've suggested that the Pgh Partnership Fund with the Bishop and other nonprofits who promised some millions each year but won't say who gave what, when, and are sure to pay as promised needs a different tune.

    I say we demand that all nonprofit land expansion in net land be curtailed -- even shrunk over the next 5 to 10 years. If something goes to a nonprofit, then something else needs to be put back into the tax base.

    This would allow for UPWARD expansion of nonprofits and much more cooperation among the nonprofits. Nonprofits can build taller and better utilize their existing spaces / land footprints.

  47. "If something goes to a nonprofit, then something else needs to be put back into the tax base."

    why not supplanting government services, instead? say... rezoning the police forces so the universities handle their facilities and the surrounding neighborhoods. Or, work-studies picking up garbage on a saturday morning.

  48. Well, the Bishop is already supplanting a huge amount of government services. If it wasn't for Catholic schools, I'd be in Mt. Lebo or Aspinwall. Protestant/secular schools cost too much for me.

  49. Agree that the nonprofits already do plenty to avoid dealing with gov. They've got their own police. EMS -- well -- let's not go there. Trash, okay. How about medical waste?

  50. Alpark Terrace: City of Pittsburgh's Oldest Mobile Home Community Buckles Under Union Pressure

    Many at Alpark wonder why Unions would climb into bed with G-20 participants.

    P-G editorial agreed and supported Union involvement.

    There is common ground with Union and G-20 participants...

    Exploitation of and the crushing of poor in the name of money and expansionist Imperialism.

    Union collaboration with economic powers that exploit 3rd world labor is confusing.

    Protesters need not look at 3rd world countries...look at Union aggression as it applies to Pittsburgh's Oldest Mobile Home Community: Alpark Terrace.

    And, the ineptitude of Government Boards ruling, or in this case not ruling... on life altering decisions made in vacuum of Mayoral indecision for fear of Union reprisal. (ZBA Case #109-09)

    The International Union of Boilermakers Local 154 in nothing but Big Business pretending that they understand plight of poor....

    Cork factory?