Friday, May 7, 2010

MORE on our Resource Allocation Processes*

Now we are placing items in the budget that are informally, colloquially contingent upon other things happening, and then taking them back.

On Jan. 22, though, someone went into the city accounting system and deleted the [library] funds. (Post-Gazette)

Huh. Way back on January 22?

Mr. Kunka said that eliminating the funds was "a typographical error" and it should not have been done...


...until after the administration submits the annual raft of budget corrections, which is coming soon.

"Submits." So technically it should not have been done until both submission by the Mayor and approval by some legislative body or another, which is now even less likely. It's possible that Carnegie Libraries are "crying poor" and the stopgap insurance measure is no longer necessary, but this surreptitious deletion rather botches the attempt at tough love.

Strange story.

*-UPDATE: It appears this was either some ado about nothing, or else the Mayor and Libraries chair have some understandings on how better to move forward. (Post-Gazette)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Darlene Decries "Sleazy" URA Tactics

There is a dispute about how to spend our city's limited resources:

Half of the money the URA sought was not in dispute. But $1.1 million had been shifted by council during last year's budget process from general neighborhood development to the business districts of East Ohio Street, Perrysville Avenue, California Avenue, Lowrie Avenue, and Squirrel Hill. The first four are in the North Side district of Council President Darlene Harris, and the last is in Councilman Doug Shields' district. (Post-Gazette)

FULL DISCLOSURE: East Ohio St. is the author's own go-to place for toiletries, sandwiches and Chinese food.

Mr. Stephany said there aren't projects ready to go in most of those areas. When projects are ready, most of those neighborhoods could tap federal development funds, he said, leaving city dollars for other uses.

My impression is that the "projects" are ready to be advanced -- but more to the point, Council and the Mayor signed off on all this during last year's budget negotiations. Fully vetted, fully considered, fully done.

Ms. Harris said the legislation submitted by the URA didn't clearly indicate where the money was coming from, calling that "a sleazy way of doing business" and "a total disgrace."

Some feel that the word "sleazy" has become sort of a no-go, politically taboo word. Others find it to be straightforward. If a proposed mid-year budgetary transfer from the City to the URA was in fact intentionally made unclear in order to camouflage the raid, that would seem to qualify as having been "sleazy" of the progenitors of any such legislation.

Mr. Dowd, though, said that council was headed into "the beginning of a pattern of, to the victor goes the spoils" in which members of a majority would direct the bulk of development funds to their districts.

Well, that's an interesting point. Majority rule is the way we've been allocating resources in Pittsburgh for 250 years -- and even elsewhere, long before that, it has been always "the best way we know how". But maybe there should be more political pressure coming to bear upon acting in concert always with the truly common interest in mind, and more fulsome discussions of what is that interest (economic development versus public safety versus sustainable city planning).

Whether the URA's perspective on the common good or the Council's under the Shields-Harris alliance is optimal in this case is a legitimate question. But if one wants to open that discussion, one doesn't do it by taking back duly discussed, signed, sealed and delivered business -- and that is to say nothing of any alleged obfuscation.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Mayor Ravenstahl Now Chairman of the Allegheny League of Municipalities (ALOM)

The above was filmed on Saturday, April 10th at Seven Springs (after a gubernatorial forum featuring Allegheny County local hopefuls Tom Corbett, Dan Onorato and Jack Wagner -- among other conference sessions). By rule, the chairmanship of ALOM rotates to the executive of the City of Pittsburgh once every six years. The torch was passed at this annual gathering.

At 7:05 in the above video, the Mayor begins addressing economic development. Battery malfunction ends my recording in the middle of his description of the current Allegheny riverfront vision -- the big finish to his own ten-minute recording. He seemed most passionate and determined on this topic.

Immediately afterwords, Governmental Affairs manager Paul McKrell fielded one question from the audience about the proposed sugared beverages tax: that being, "What about freedom?" McKrell responded that the City needs to inject an additional $15 million annually to the budget to comply with state oversight, that the tax is one of several ideas (one that does not revolve around Harrisburg) and that the City is open to suggestions.

Deputy Dreadlord Kristen Baginski then fielded one question about how GSPIA Connect is coming along. She confirmed that it is coming along.

Ravenstahl's inability to personally attend the organization's annual conference was conspicuously noted in advance by the Post-Gazette.