Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Your Guide to the Coming Pensions / Parking Showdown

In case anyone is interested.

Thurs, Sept. 9: Rosh Hashanah.

Wed, Sept. 15: City receives bids from seven companies competing to win Pittsburgh's parking lease concession. City and Parking Authority officials review these in a secure, sound-proof sensory deprivation chamber to make their determination of a prospective winner.

Approximately Thurs, Sept. 16: Media reports on the bids, the goings-on in the room, and which company was / will be selected.

Sun, Sept. 18: Yom Kippur.

Thurs, Sept 23: Under a full moon, Mayor submits the city's 2011 budget proposal to the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (ICA) for its approval. This budget will reflect certain proceeds and synergies from the parking lease, as inextricably and as frequently as possible. The paper itself may be billed to an account pegged to future parking lease revenues. (UPDATED: The budget, more likely to be submitted a day earlier, will reflect a sharp LACK of parking lease revenues.)

Approximately Mon, Sept 27: Finance Scholars Group will present its $250,000 findings to its client, City Council, and to the media. Pittsburgh's parking assets will be determined to be worth approximately seven hundred trillion dollars. Also, a half dozen potent yet scholarly synonyms for the term "rip-off" will be used, along with many similarly potent and scholarly synonyms for "egregious". EG: a "remarkable soaking". Try your own.

Approximately Fri, Oct 1: Controller Michael Lamb and Councilman Patrick Dowd will hold a press conference in front of the statue of Washington and Guyasuta, to reveal their new plan to leverage our parking assets while keeping them public to generate at least $200 million and thereby avert a state takeover. This will probably be almost identical to their old plan to leverage our parking assets while keeping them public to generate at least $200 million and avert a state takeover, i.e., give teh parking assets directly to the pension fund, only with some financial instrument inserted this time as an emulsifier and phlebotinum. Somebody from the Mayor's office later that day will tell us this idea is both illegal and hilarious. They may or may not be correct on both counts.

Approximately Tue, Oct 5: Council members Ricky Burgess, Daniel Lavelle and Theresa Smith will draw straws. Short straw will introduce the lease transaction as a bill to City Council.

Wed, Oct 6 UPDATE: Mayor, Zober depart for Shanghai.

Approximately Thurs, Oct 7: The ICA will approve the Mayor's 2011 budget with particular gushing reference to the bold, ingenious, responsible, encouraging and handsome maneuver of leasing the city's parking assets, and for such an excellent price at that. The Mayor's people will in turn market this approval of the city's financial watchdogs as independent verification from neutral experts, who this year are in no way feckless marionettes of university trustees. (UPDATE: This may now happen after Columbus Day.)

Mon, October 11: Columbus Day. Everybody gets out of bed at 6:00 AM and dons Sestak and Onorato pins and acts real friendly. Everything is quiet. Too quiet.

Approximately Tues, Oct 12: Around this time, you've got to figure some jack-in-the-box will pop up out of nowhere holding signs which read, "POLITICALLY CONNECTED", "WIELDS CLOUT", and maybe even, "BECAME AN ISSUE IN LAST YEAR'S MAYOR'S RACE" (UPDATE: more likely, just "IN THE NETWORK"). Doug Shields and Bill Peduto will fax urgent letters to the International Criminal Court at the Hague and Superman, respectively.

Fri, Oct 15 UPDATE: Mayor, Zober return.

Up to and including approximately Wed, Oct 20 27: Hard to see the future is, but it might go a little something like this: the Mayor will have impressed upon everybody, as is his annual tradition, that if we don't heed the ICA and Act 47 and approve the structurally necessary facets of a duly approved and legal budget on time (if we want to do the lease deal, it requires a couple months' lead-time before year's end to ramp up), then by rule a giant Monte Python foot will come out of the sky and smash Pittsburgh to smithereens. This will be more than enough for the Post-Gazette editorial board to do the requisite gymnastics. The Lamb / Dowd proposal will fail either for want of legality, a clear likelihood of being made illegal by a state legislature which dearly desires us to lease our parking assets, or personal politics. Dowd will say "Well, I tried," and then finally either Council members Harris or Rudiak will need to be prevailed upon with cake and candy to shun the prospect of going into hundreds of millions of dollars worth of standard-issue debt. If the administration is successful in this, Burgess will give the The Reason You Suck Speech and call for a vote. If unsuccessful, he and Peduto will jointly broker a face-saving arrangement that picks up the pieces of the 2011 budget along with the ICA and the Mayor, after the lease deal is scrapped in favor of $220 million in bonded debt plus interest over 20 years (or the unlikely phlebotinum-sandwich, which might conceivably escalate the drama through even March).

A week from Shavuot: Not even by this time will anybody speak in favor of ever allowing the state to take over our pension fund management, save for a some anonymous Internet commentators. Not as such.


  1. I'm pseudonymous, not anonymous.

  2. Between the jokes of leasing parking and Pat Transit, PIttsburgh is really looking at transportaggedon.

  3. I think this scenario could be shaken up if the winning lease bid comes in either substantially higher or substantially lower than the approximately $300 million needed to pay off the debt and get the pension to 50%. The substantially lower part is obvious, and the substantially higher part only a little less obvious: if there is a substantial amount of extra money on the table, it is a good bet there will be enough people with ideas about how to spend that money to change the dynamic.

  4. So, the funding gets to 50%. Then what? Hmmmm?

  5. Cm - Fight like the dickens to keep it above 50 for another 5 years (hopefully stronger market performance, increasing local tax receipts and a little love from an appreciative Legislature will help), till we reach the end of the debt plateau and this all gets a lot easier. And I dearly wish, yes, a transition to defined contribution benefit plans and whatever else is called for on that end.

  6. Speaking of Shavuot, why not just remove the roof from Mellon Arena and make the world's biggest sukkah.

  7. I think maybe I got the wrong holiday there.

  8. @Bram.. Unfortunately, two of your suggestions require more taxes on City residents or more taxes on those of us who do not live in the City. I, for one, am NOT willing to shoulder ANY of the burden for misguided promises and/or acts made by the City. Let ALL of you City residents pay for the idiocy of electing Democrats/Socialists for 70+ years.

    As for increased market returns making a difference.. LMAO.. there's that little problem called Barack Hussdein Obama.. I don't see the market responding positive.. unless Republicans/Conservatives take hold in November and REVERSE Obamacare and many other business-killing decisions, including the off-shore drilling moratorium.

    Oh, the tax cuts MUST stay in place. ALL of them.

  9. Good thing the market didn't crash until Obama was elected. I mean, I don't see the market going well either, but I can remember back to 2008 just fine.

  10. @ Moutnaineer - When I wrote "increasing local tax receipts" I did not mean raising tax rates, I meant (hopefully) doing more business with more people that have more jobs. It's possible we've really just turned the corner on population numbers, and it's also possible we've seen the bottom of this economy. That having been said -- if you don't want to pay a commuter tax, a higher payroll tax, or higher parking rates, you're welcome not to come to Pittsburgh. Unless you just can't help yourself because of all the great stuff this city maintains!

    Also, since you prescribe that city residents alone MUST pay for all of the mistakes of the past (even though not all of them were born / were of voting age yet, and many many residents who actually enabled those mistakes fled to our suburbs), I wonder in all seriousness whether you care if the city thrives. If you do not (if I remember previous comments, you don't much), do you think that the outlying suburbs will thrive much with a terminally unhealthy city as the whole region's core? You may not care about that either -- because I think you've mentioned also plans to move to another region as soon as your nest empties -- in which case, I guess you no longer have simply a differing opinion or ideology for how to improve things, you're just heckling. Is that about right?

  11. Dear conservative mountaineer. Please only use the state roads when driving through Pittsburgh. Also, don't step on Pittsburgh's sidewalks. Definitely don't use any public facility. And please please please don't park anywhere in our city.

    If you don't want to spend money to support what you use, then you are a tool.