I never supported the unilateral consolidation of the City of Pittsburgh into Allegheny County -- and I still do not.
But the argument proffered today by Duquesne University chancellor and former ICA big shot John E. Murray Jr. in the Post-Gazette is delivered with such impeccable timing, and with such refreshing frankness and focus, that it deserves to be seized upon by all of us as a challenge to produce something better.
The tuition tax, even if determined to be legal, would be another Band-aid. (ibid)
Yes. That is correct. Neither the $15 million per year this imaginative tax would generate nor certainly the annual $5 million we are requesting in its stead would be near enough to sustain Pittsburgh through the end of its debt plateau in 2017, especially given yet-to-be-determined mushrooming of our pension payments.
But the essential solution is not to tax more; it is to spend less. (ibid)
In point of fact, we need to do both. If today we were to wave a magic wand, undergo a lightening-fast political enlightenment and commence cutting with enormous political courage, we would still retain enormous obligations from the past to pay in full. And those few agitating for bankruptcy should understand that bankruptcy judges realize that governments possess more options for revenue generation than individuals and businesses. Governments are too powerful to be given permission to fail easily. Since governments can access pools of taxpayer funds from hundreds of avenues, they might be compelled to do so -- brutally -- if we ever went down that road. So we need to pay for all the irresponsible decisions of the past -- of decades ago and of months ago -- whether we like it or not. Period.
So we need to raise the right taxes -- and a commuter tax and our non-profit payroll preparation tax are both truly fair, utterly commonplace and fully responsible options that would be available to us, if the state legislature and its oversight boards ever roused themselves from their own narrow political machinations or tired of resisting.
And at the same time, we need to reform our government practices -- from switching our employee benefits packages to defined contribution plans and 401(k)s, to bargaining aggressively with our unions at the conclusion of every single contract from now on with the aim of dramatically shrinking our payroll expenditures, to closing every police station and fire house that neutral outside public safety experts advise us we can, to consolidating every service appropriate with the County and other governments starting with Public Works.
What we do not need to do is this:
The city should have appropriate representation on the non-salaried County Council and a professional manager, similar to a borough manager, working under the authority of the county chief executive. (ibid)
Thanks but no. We will not allow ourselves to be managed by an unelected and necessarily less visible bureaucratic appointee. We will not put all our faith in County Council, upon which the city already enjoys proportional representation, but which can never be constituted to adequately address, understand or even notice all the challenges of city life. And we will not imagine for a second that our County government, given its comparatively slender portfolio of present responsibilities yet its own extremely significant financial problems, is any better capable of tackling these issues than our existent suite of City representatives.
The solutions to our problems do not lie in handing them over laterally, or up to somebody better suited. Walk the earth and try to find naturally superior politicians -- you will be gone a long time. The solutions lie in hunkering down and bringing the tactics of all our political schools and ideologies to bear without prejudice, like people with something immediate and personal at stake.
It is in fact human nature, not Yinzer nature, to resist change and delay hard work until crisis is upon us. Well, here we are. Bring it on.