Monday, October 29, 2012

Monday: We're Literally Behind a Paywall ($$)

Freyr, Wikipedia

This post is so good, and yet is going to get so little traffic, it's literally as though it's behind an exclusive paywall.

There are four exceptional articles that need reading:

The state declared Pittsburgh financially distressed in 2003 after then-Mayor Tom Murphy sought a bailout and began downsizing government to pay the bills. (Trib, Bob Bauder)

We didn't get the taxing power we sought, but does anybody think city leaders would have made those cuts and avoided bonded debt for so long without the overseers? Very hard to imagine. Anyway, the story quotes a former mayor's budget director, which is like, wow. Richard Hofstadter over here.

The apparent failure of Longvue and a residential development in Mt. Lebanon highlight risks inherent in projects backed by tax-increment financing plans, and they could cost state taxpayers at least $7.3 million.

Such plans can expose taxpayer dollars to unnecessary risk in financing housing developments when builders could use federal or nonprofit housing assistance programs, said Sabina Deitrick, associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. (Trib, Jeremy Boren)

That one quotes a nonpartisan and acclaimed academic on a matter of fiscal policy. Wowee wow wow.

The city of Pittsburgh has said it must install new and bigger sewer pipes, separate lines for sewage and stormwater and add a 6 million gallon holding tank to address stormwater problems. Good says the city’s cost will be between $100 million and $200 million.

“The city’s plans could change. We are holding meetings, at the request of the mayor, to incorporate more green technology,” he said. (Trib, Rick Wills)

The relationship between the City, PWSA, Alcosan and affairs like the Monroeville Municipal Authority is probably too nuanced to comprehend. Interesting that 3 Rivers Wet Weather was affiliated here with the Allegheny Conference, whereas elsewhere it is described as Alcosan's childe or even John Schombert's courageous initiative.


And now for our premium content:

"They are literally creating a gated community in the Strip District," Mr. Dowd said. (P-G, Joe Smydo)

You see what he did there? He just screamed, "GENTRIFICATION!" without unduly upsetting people who fear that means squashing growth, yet not alienating others who might appreciate a good gentrification argument if they had any earthly idea what that $10 word means.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority said Mr. Dowd's assertions are "overstated." (ibid)

Yeah well, that's not the point. This is like watching Mario Lemieux stick handle, or Newt Gingrich talk about health care.

"This is not public property that Buncher is taking from the city to turn into something private," the authority noted. "Just the opposite is true; this is private property owned by Buncher that they have gone to extensive lengths to provide public access to, so that the national/international draw of the Strip District also includes a robust riverfront experience as a significant amenity." (ibid)

This really can not be emphasized enough. Schenley High School, the Civic Arena, the North Shore, even Market Square -- this was all public land where the question could more sensibly and righteously be asked, "What shall we as a people create here? What do we want to get out of our common investment?"

Croft, Gulliver's Travels
But when we're talking about Donzi's Landing that question becomes, "What sort of business or charity do we think we can try to force this guy into?" Dude's family owned the land before the Riverlife Task Force was even a thing. He can hold onto it for another twenty or thirty years if he wants, and is probably prepared to do so. It's only going to get more valuable, sitting there barren.

Or we can see $30 million extra annually in tax revenue for schools and roads and transit, thousands of new jobs, hundreds of new families, countless new consumers, clients, diners, patients and patrons -- yes, for the old Strip as well. It's merely a matter of personal opinion. Many people bear subjective, irrational preferences for growth: to do more business, to see their children remain close.

Anyway, dismounting the soap box. If you are getting the feeling of history repeating itself, you are probably right. The Pittsburgh Comet should not be the only one effectively communicating the case for this development. It didn't work with the parking lease and it's not going to work now. Is the Allegheny Riverfront Vision dead? It's starting to smell that way.

Once again -- on a central and transformational agenda item -- Patrick Dowd somehow made it halfway around the world before Luke had a chance to get his pants on.