Saturday, September 24, 2011

Assessments Solution: Hit the Road

Okay. We give up.

It is clearly more urgent that Allegheny County compete economically on a level if screwball playing field with neighboring counties, than its own residents finally be treated equitably and constitutionally or that its schools and localities be allowed to benefit from all its general prosperity. Clearly.

But this:

It just so happens that the governor, Tom Corbett, is subject to the same county assessment system. The longtime Shaler resident would be prime for lobbying on the issue because he knows the reality firsthand. (P-G, Edit Board)

Mmm. Yes. State politicians are frequently motivated by "knowing" and "realizing" things, not by the self-interested passions of innumerable legions of rural and affluent property owners and stakeholders, who fervently desire to be left alone to benefit from prevailing absurdities.

Instead, try this:



Send them to Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Washington and Westmoreland counties.

Instruct them to seek out school district officials, property owners invested in declining communities, and one-time political players relegated to the wilderness. Illustrate the real injustices from which they all either suffer or can take advantage. Motivate them to copy, paste and refile that lawsuit which a similar ragtag bunch of misfits launched in Alleghenyland. If they need help doing their own localized research, send Ira Weiss down for an afternoon to get them started.

Wait a year. Maybe more. Maybe less.

At a minimum, all our neighbors will get similarly stuck having to institute fair and constitutional taxation regimes. In every likelihood however, one of those judges is bound to see this issue is crying out for a statewide solution (as we all expected the first time around) and will force the state's hand.

Then finally, release Rich Fitzgerald from prison, a vindicated civil rights hero.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Thursday: WHEYEN is it GOING to EYEND?

1. Thanks to CBS Local Digital Media for selecting the Comet as the "Editor's Choice" for Most Valuable Pittsburgh Blogger for local affairs! Especial great thanks go to Chad Hermann at the P-G's Radical Middle for the nomination in the first place -- he who has long added a fair amount of value to the blurghosphere himself.

More thanks certainly go also to everyone who voted for me -- although we did lose the popular vote for the "People's Choice"award (in retrospect, it might have been a poor month to spend bombing you all with, "This pension plan is goofy and notional! Maybe the State should just take over, you guys!") but those of you who did vote probably helped the Editors feel justified in going with their gut.


She could have been talking about parking meters, you know.


Mayor Luke Ravenstahl is poised to announce his re-election run -- more than two years before the next mayoral election -- while the two candidates for Allegheny County executive prepare to start running ads on television. (P-G, Timothy McNulty)

Opposing Ravenstahl in the 2013 Democratic primary will be the Post-Gazette.

It took hard negotiations and persistence, but the immediate threat of a state takeover of Pittsburgh's wobbly pension fund was averted Monday, no thanks to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. (P-G, Edit Board)

How you gonna play a mayor like that. He worked with actuaries, accountants, antediluvians, and so forth! (Worked on keeping all their big mouths shut most likely but still.)

4. Doesn't even sound like we're going to see a decent implosion:

Ms. Conturo said the full demolition -- or more precisely, the dismantling -- should be completed by May.

The SEA is clearing the 28-acre arena site as part of the 2007 agreement to build the Consol Energy Center for the Penguins. As part of the deal, the Penguins were given development rights to the land. The agreement also called for the Civic Arena to be demolished. (P-G, Mark Belko)

Time to get into the right frame of mind for reflecting on past errors and encouraging future triumphs.

Monday, September 19, 2011


Group hug:

Wrapping up a season-and-a-half long story arc:

State officials today approved Pittsburgh`s plan to bolster its chronically underfunded employee pension funds, staving off a state takeover that city officials predicted would cost up to $100 million annually. (Trib, Bob Bauder)

Next, of critical importance:

The city now must determine how it will offset the general fund deficit. Council`s plan for plugging the gap with revenue from increased parking garage and meter fees has been stymied by disagreements between members and the mayor`s office.

Pittsburgh Parking Authority officials say they must first address capital improvements to the parking facilities before the authority can turn over any extra cash to the city. (ibid)


Two contentions there: 1) That the Council-Controller / Controller-Council plan did the trick (fairly accurate) and that "the pensions" are "saved" (fairly shorthand).

That'll be the overwhelming consensus contention.

Sounds like a rip-roaring good time.

Excerpted from a press release from Mayor Ravenstahl:

“This is extremely good news for the people of Pittsburgh,” Ravenstahl said. “We worked very hard to make sure that the City's plan would be accepted by our accountants, actuaries, and ultimately the Commonwealth. I want to thank members of my finance team for their hard work in ensuring that we can continue to provide quality services and balanced budgets with no new tax increases. This is a critical step for us as we get closer to completing our financial recovery."

Council President Darlene Harris sent out her own press release touting funding that is "sufficient to avert takeover by the Commonwealth", and naming, crediting and/or quoting various officials for last year developing "the inspired idea of using present valuation."

The Allegheny Institute adopts a tone of confusion:

[W]hy was the City so afraid of a takeover? The state law clearly stated collective bargaining would remain at the City level. Also, where is the binding language that holds future City administrations and Councils to honor the promises of 2010? And, if we are to take the comments of the City Controller at face value when he said the bailout plan "is no long-term solution [but] a mechanism to avoid state takeover", then what is the long-term solution? (Allegheny Institute)

An oft-cited rationale for takeover aversion has been that the mandatory commencement of annual $100+ million pension payments was deemed infeasible. Of course, questions persist as to how long the fund can remain solvent without dramatically more substantial cash payments -- notwithstanding the commitment of 30 years worth of future parking tax receipts.

As for the blogger/professor/economist/nabob, we are left with this:

[N]o matter what the state says today, nothing at all has changed impacting the long run financial health of the city of Pittsburgh. This all gives 'accounting fiction' an entirely new meaning. (Null Space; see also from this pm)

Well. Be that as it may. But look on the bright side. We'll still have chances to make news.