Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wednesday: The Library's Last Stand?

Today, city legislation will be voted upon to transfer $600,000 from the now-relaxed fuel fund to Carnegie Libraries of Pittsburgh.

Think of it as CPR to be administered while the cardiologist is tied up in traffic. Why walk away and let the patient die on the sidewalk when there are still perfectly viable options to be pursued?

And now, the big news:

But by yesterday afternoon Mr. Ravenstahl said a hybrid of those approaches "would be a reasonable solution, and one that, on its face, I would be supportive of. But the critical piece of that, that I would need in order to not make cuts this year -- significant cuts -- is getting that tuition tax passed and out there into the court system." (P-G, Rich Lord)

Um, if the bureaucratic pruning and the patchwork of revenue generation is sufficient to fill the budget hole (I won't even address the latest revival of the symphony "GAH! Police and fire cuts! Your homes will be burned and robbed!"), why would we hold out to levy the Student Tax?

But Mr. Ravenstahl said that without the "threat" of a tuition tax, they'll feel that $5.5 million over three years is enough. "There's nothing that compels them to do anything more, so they're able to get away with that." (ibid)

A-HA! So it is that we're playing chess!

I would be on board with maneuvers such as this -- have been begging for them, in fact -- but why not be up-front about them to better mobilize the rank-and-file support of the people? And related to that, if we're trying to alienate the non-profits, was taxing tuition optimal? There had to have been ways to apply the squeeze that were more appealing -- and did not involve impugning the civic worth of some constituents.

Finally, this business of accusing the ICA of being controlled by shadowy, conflicted, greedy forces, is starting to sound like -- well, like me. And my schtick has a spotty record of success.

Related: hopefully this means County Council is sticking to its guns. Its plan, though its legality also remains a mystery, seems a lot better targeted. (P-G, Rich Fitzgerald)

More stories:

Aiming to stop Pittsburgh government from subsidizing "poverty-level jobs," a coalition of labor, environmental, religious and community organizations joined City Council members yesterday to propose wage floors for certain workers on city-backed development projects and contracts. (P-G, Rich Lord)

Good start! The "prevailing wage" is actually kind of a crummy wage, and this doesn't address the issue of additional obligations that might come with public subsidies, but this sets an excellent baseline. I knew the 2009 Council had it in'em.

In what officials said would be the largest grant ever made directly to the Pittsburgh Public Schools, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has offered the district $40 million for sweeping initiatives to maximize teacher effectiveness. (P-G, Joe Smydo)

Here's an uncomfortable question if you're me: would the Gateseses have consented to this "intensive partnership" had our School District not set off on this noteworthy campaign of closing beloved schools and ruthlessly reorganizing them? (If that's what impressed them, we could say it was a real blessing in disguise that Schenley had that asbestos emergency, huh?).

"It's going to be a year of frustration" between the Penn Circle work and the construction of the Target, but "it's really all towards the future progress of East Liberty," Hogan said. (Trib, Matthew Santoni)

It's been half a century worth of frustration at Penn Circle as it is. Besides which, straightening that infrastructure nightmare strikes me as a "community benefit". Celebration time, come on!


  1. The Gates Foundation money has little to nothing to do with closing of schools.

    Play chess? Then stand with me and ask Luke Ravenstahl to be removed from the board of the Pittsburgh Promise. His tax on college tuition is counter productive squared to that role.

    More at my blog.

  2. I can say with certainty that Gates doesn't care how many school buildings a district has and agree with Mark that the closings had nothing to do with the grant.

  3. In advance of an inevitable avalanche of criticism that will surely be lobbed at the URA and corporate business for this:
    I will tell you why it happened. The project is not fesible. Any argument to the contrary ignores the facts.

    On a related note, the need for this: is also supported by fact and may be necessary in part, if not in its entirety. In both cases, the motivation for these actions has nothing to do with race.

  4. Anon 12:00pm, maybe we should mention that people of color will be affected by these actions, probably negatively. But we can smile at them in a friendly way and reassure them that we are not motivated by a need to make them suffer, it is just a by-product.

    Bram, you want the Mayor to be even more explicit about using the tuition tax as a bargaining chip? You want him to shout from the rooftops “We were never actually going to implement the tax, we just want the Universities to think so, so they will voluntarily give us more money” … He might add at top volume “Nobody tell the Universities, if they know we are bluffing, they won’t give us the money”.

    I wonder how much the Pittsburgh promise has factored into how much local Universities raised their tuition. Maybe one percent’s worth?

  5. I don't think Luke is a chess player. More like a checkers player who gets mad when he can't jump his own peices.

  6. I like how Bram changes subject.

    Not one nickle of City Revenues should be allocated to Tax Exempts.

    Close all lieberries...foodbanks, the cultural district and so on!

    Sym-phonys...I'd rather listen to "Talking Heads" cd.

    Close down all tax exempts....nothing...

    City owes parasites nothing...including snooty nosed university brats!



  7. Screw the Hospitals...corporate ticks...

    Tell me education and medical suppliers aren't corporations!

    Get real!


  8. Church, needs to weigh in...

    ...plates are empty as are City Coffers...

    Lieberries are not City Responsibility....Public Safety is.