Councilman Bill Peduto just fired off a doozy to the ICA (which is meeting on Monday) and to the Act 47 team, and to the rest of city government and to the press. After raising some technical issues with Mayor's latest, somewhat rhetorical 2011 budget submission, Peduto objects:
But what is worse is the harmful and destructive tactics being utilized by the Mayor to cover up shortfalls within his Administration and penalize those who are opposed to his parking scheme. (Letter)
Also Peduto complains of "blatant lies" and "sophomoric retaliatory actions." And then:
This Council has resoundingly rejected ANY plan to lease our parking assets. Let me be very clear on this issue, City Council will not support ANY plan that would lease out our parking assets to a private firm. There is an alternative plan supported by the Controller and seven Members of City Council that has passed and is now law. The only person blocking it is the Mayor. (ibid)
This is all in the event that the ICA has been living in a cave, which is indeed possible.
Council President Darlene Harris is also on record at a recent high-profile meeting of Council declaring that "A lease is a lease is a lease, and privatization is privatization is privatization -- is privatization." So it would seem City Council is in an uncompromising mood.
What seems to be far less widely understood is that Mayor Ravenstahl, for his part, is apparently every bit as dead set against being any part of a "revenue bond", at least not in the $300 million ballpark necessary to elude a state takeover on its own.
There seems to be a widespread perception that once the Mayor spiritually or emotionally comes to terms with the fact that his lease has been rejected, he will acquiesce to doing his part to issue this debt -- and to either commanding or liberating the Parking Authority to do the same -- out of fear of getting blamed for the resultant takeover. Contrariwise, every indication so far seems to indicate that the Mayor would rather fight a large revenue bond with his last eyeteeth, on his own conviction that it is impossible in the remaining time-frame, or unworkable as written, or ill-advised, or maybe most importantly worse over the long term than even the takeover.
Now, there are several reasons the Mayor might feel politically comfortable with this position. For instance, somewhat vulnerable Council members Harris, Kraus, and Dowd, as well as Controller Michael Lamb, are all up for reelection just this coming May -- whereas Ravenstahl gets two whole years to repair any damage. Yet what would truly chill the Harris Council to their core (if they would credit it) is the possibility that the Mayor actually adopted his position because he feels it is the responsible choice for the city.
At any rate, what is news today is that The Fund that is Something in the Nature of an Irrevocable Trust for Debt Service Reduction -- remember, that which was to be locked down most responsibly to pay down debt and debt alone, formally even under a defeasement agreement, so that we couldn't do something else with it like prop up the pension fund -- is now being tapped to pay down debt whereas others might desire it to help with the pension problem.
NO, WAIT! What is news today is that Council would now rather have the City itself retain its own parking assets, and use raised rates and penalties to create "dedicated funding" for the pension fund -- cutting out the middleman (and obstacle) that is the Parking Authority. It does not appear from today's news that the Council intends to take out a bond leveraged against that revenue and deposit cash into the fund, but rather "infuse the fund with value"; so too is it unclear how much this differs from the original Council-Controller plan. I suppose it is also unknown at this time whether the state would acknowledge a "value infusion" in its calculations, since hypothetically the city could change its mind in February and do something else with the money (sort of like it may do with the Irrevocable $45 million) *-UPDATE: Nah, it's sounding like they intend it to be drawn up and notarized, possibly.
At any rate...
Who's up for some oversight NOW, y'all?
If this furious last-minute financial and political jujitsu goes on very much longer, there is a real possibility that it will cloud this blogger's faculty for parsing truth from nonsense. Evidently it has shattered the capacities of our newspaper of record some time ago, which plainly threw up its hands. We realize that our oversight boards under Act 47 for Financially Distressed Municipalities are not "authorities" in the sense that they are our lords and masters -- but the establishment of a few common sets of facts, and some insight as to which assertions floating around are credible, would be extremely helpful.
Finally, in a somewhat roundabout but a very real way, our tax dollars are paying your salary. And it's a high salary. Get overseeing, oversight boards!