Thursday, August 13, 2009

Thursday: The Battle Outside Ragin'...

Economic justice is now one tick closer to a reality:

Allegheny County moved one step closer to a court-ordered property reassessment when the state Supreme Court denied the county's request for more time before it must reassess. (Trib, Mike Wereschagin)

It's terrible that not every county in Pennsylvania is presently under a similar court order to make its property tax system equitable and constitutional, but hey! I guess Allegheny County will just have to count itself wildly fortunate! Thank goodness for the judicial branch of government.

There is new movement in the ever-present War on Potholes:

Councilwoman Darlene Harris traveled to Ohio to look at Akron's new RE-HEAT system, which Harris said could reduce the cost of trucking and labor by up to 50 percent while speeding up the street-paving process. (Trib, Matthew Santoni; see also P-G, Rich Lord)

It doesn't quite excite me as much as does data-driven, politics-neutral resource allocation, but hey! Anything which might increase efficiency is worth looking at.

The upcoming G-20 Summit in PGH is continuing to alarm some folks:

Many expressed anger that city and national officials haven't briefed them on security plans for streets near the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, which will host the event. More than 3,500 delegates and journalists — in addition to the protesters — are expected to descend on Pittsburgh. (Trib, Kim Leonard)

I do sympathize, but hey! I can't reproach anybody in this instance. This was going to be a wild ride from its conception, and the disruptions should be well worth the herculean citywide effort. Let's just try to suck out the good and mitigate the bad.

And never fear! There shall be signs! (P-G Multimedia, Nate Giurdy)

The signs will be green, which is symbolic, and will have "Welcome" written on them in a bunch of different languages, which is appropriate. That's just super. I guess seeing as how we needed to hang something on a few billboards and over vacant buildings, and someone actually had to design the poor things, now we have to crow about them. Well, let me emphasize -- and this is no easy task -- you didn't screw it up. Kudos!

Nielsen said some heads of state will "want to do something different than everyone else" and go to a special restaurant or store. The security perimeter would move with them. One restaurant owner said Wednesday he was told Obama plans to visit Big Mama's House of Soul restaurant in the Strip District. (Trib, Greenwood & Boren)

That is a stellar idea. I recommend the sweet potato pie.

"This is a special year for us, and I think people may be losing sight of that. I hope to go there and in some ways be able to celebrate the great job we did last year, which we never really got to celebrate as a community, but this year, for the first time, the convention is very focused on action, trying to figure out how to get more people mobilized and hearing updates on the best practices that came out of this cycle." (P-G, Mackenzie Carpenter)

There are best practices?!? And here I was, thinking we were all making it all up as we went along! Pittsburgh Comet coverage of Netroots Nation and Right Online starts right now.


  1. I respect the idea that everyone should pay their share. But you ought not to forget that if there is a reassessment, there is going to be a real serious case of sticker shock, and in some cases hardship, on a lot of people -- most of whom aren't "rich."

    So basically, "This," capital "T", should never happen again. Find a way to gradually raise taxes if it must be done, rather than giving people bargains they didn't ask for, and then knocking them unconscious with a blunt object seven or eight years later.

  2. Oh, but they DID ask for the bargains! They did so when they voted for the guy that campaigned more than anything else on a platform of refusing to conduct property reassessments.

    Remember that when the millage gets reduced -- so as to keep the whole operation revenue-neutral, no windfalls for the state -- some people will also get unexpected discounts in their property tax bills.

  3. When the governor's race comes up, I'm probably going to vote for the guy who puts state legislators in jail. I'd rather see my property taxes go down than I would see state legislators go to jail, but the latter choice is at least fair.

  4. Yes some people might get a surprise and have to pay less property tax, but think about the traditionally non-white, poorer City neighborhoods. Many of the residents of these neighborhoods - the Hill, Garfield, East Liberty, Upper Lawrenceville, Larimer - have lived there a long time and probably own their homes. Also, the poverty rate is higher in these neighborhoods than average. So even though they own their homes, they got them a while back when costs were much lower. But now with gentrification looming in all of the above areas (except for maybe the Hill to my knowledge), their properties will be assessed higher, maybe geometrically so (see East Liberty). This could very well serve to be a real hardship on people whose taxes double or triple and whose income is low enough that this increase is a substantial portion of monthly income. I agree with Clifton v. Allegheny County that the assessment system was unconstitutional as applied, but the results of the implementation of the new system will hardly be unambiguously, or maybe even mostly, a boon for the lower class.

  5. Darren, I think you maybe a bit optimistic about what is likely to be gentrified.

  6. So a vote against Jim Roddey (and his horendously botched assessment, btw) was necessarily a vote for all of Dan Onorato's policies and the execution thereof?

    I would be interested in a fleshing out of the per capita amount that people in X, Y, or Z "stagnant value" neighborhoods will save, vs. the amount that those across-the-board who've renovated or rehabilitated foreclosed/battered homes into modest, functional ones. And the resultant economic impact of all of this.

    To clarify: I'm not opposing the idea of a reassessment. I'm opposing the idea that we could have gone so long WITHOUT one, or at least some method for raising/modifying taxes year-to-year. And I'm throwing cold water on the idea that it's going to be a wonderful thing for the folks you're concerned about.

  7. How was Roddey's assessment botched? I think he created a fair plan, which, being fair, sucked for the people most likely to vote (the elderly and people with more money in general). Onorato promised everybody a pony and delivered for a few years.

  8. TOMATOS 101: There once was a time when the overlords accepted bounty of land as payment for taxes. Land had a value greater than buildings...

    If such were the case today....

    ...if tomatos, were gold?

    PASTE:Tomatos 101

    All plants have life expediency measured in days. Our days do not necessarily correspond to plant days...

    Plant tags may say 70 days to fruition...our days.

    Tomato days are measured in degree days....Boilers and AC also are measured in degree days.

    Gets real complicated mechanical/botanical similarities.

    Because of cool summer 70 of our days translates to 90 to 110 degree days.

    Just fertilized based on 70 day figure....usually at this point in time line I am pinching brown leaves. All leaves are deep green...

    Plants are over 10 feet with blossoms...weird summer.

    Have new plants growing from 'discarded seed'...along foundation with southern exposure. Degree day 45. Under circumstances can yield into early November...pending on severity of first frost and 'weather' or not we have prolonged Indian Summer.

    There will be a test, Norma (lawyer) attention!


  9. Sure no one cares but I posted my first picture on my blog...(I'm So Proud) Oh! What the future holds for me...

    This calls for a Bud Light W Lime!

    You 'whipper snappers' got nothing on on the Monk...

    I'm talking MAJOR CRAP!

  10. I could answer the question on how the first assessment was botched in detail. Unfortunately it's a bit complicated. It generally comes down to a complete disregard for getting an unbiased result. The only concern was getting something done. Granted the previous assessments were awful since the county had the professional assessors fired years before.. but the result was nonetheless out of line with all current standards for assessments. Sabre was fired pretty quickly and the assessments (at least the modeling if not the data collection) completely restarted from scratch the 2nd time around.

    In the end it was a worst case all around, but it would take me lots of rambling to explain why. The Sabre numbers could have been much more accurate, probably much more accurate than what came afterwards or that we will get in the future, if the county at the time had any clue about the state of municipalities here. I apologize for that being vague.