Friday, January 4, 2013

Governor Corbett and the Sandusky Affair: Friday case file #1


In regards to the People vs. Common Sense:

P.U., what‘s that smell? If you answered the bizarre, counterintuitive and politically buffoonish federal antitrust lawsuit filed against the NCAA for its sanctions against Penn State University by Gov. Tom Corbett, go to the head of the critical thinking class.

That was the editorial desk of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. They're not just good for gay marriage and pot legalization anymore!

Corbett's suit blames the NCAA sanctions for a drop-off in business at State College hotels, restaurants and bars. But isn't it just possible that the drop-off resulted from people who are simply appalled by what happened at Penn State, and wanted to distance themselves from a program, and a football-cult mentality, that may have allowed Sandusky's abuses to go unchecked in the first place?

That was Chris Potter at the Pittsburgh City Paper Blogh, stating the obvious so we don't have to.

Because he orchestrated his announcement in State College before a Penn State backdrop of alumni, students, former athletes and politicians, it was clear that the governor was putting on a show for Penn State fans.

That was the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette with its world-weary editorial gaze.

And those two keen reporters'-eye tweets were from Bob Mayo, WTAE reporter and elusive blogger.

Wikipedia would have us believe that the NCAA is "an association of 1,281 institutions, conferences, organizations and individuals" originally convened by President Teddy Roosevelt to encourage reforms to prevent football injuries. In 1981 it was challenged by two of its universities for "price fixing, output restraints, boycott, and monopolizing" in an anti-trust suit and lost certain provisions of its media rights contracts.

So in that instance of sales and marketing the NCAA did resemble a "trust" -- although that probably does not mean one can just go pumping that well every time one has a grievance of some sort. The marketing scheme did not involve any fines issued for a "loss of institutional control" or for "alleged despicable institutional behavior," which would fit in much more clearly with the NCAA's charter purposes and intent.

Risk Management Monitor
For what it's worth, I am certain Mr. Corbett believes he is in the right here. When the politics seem to suggest advantage in a course of action, a man can discover vast inner capacities for vainglorious self-delusion. It only gets easier each time you slip the shroud over your own eyes. One can only imagine what happens to somebody by the time they reach Gubernatorial heights -- the air must be so thin up there.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Tom Corbett Appeals NCAA Sanctions on Penn State for Enabling Known Pedophile

Hemi, Tripwire Interactive

He does not like this anymore. He would not like it with a boar!

Gov. Tom Corbett asked that a federal judge throw out the sanctions, which include an unprecedented $60 million fine and a four-year ban on bowl games, arguing that the measures have harmed students, business owners and others who had nothing to do with Sandusky's crimes. (Mark Scolfro, AP via HuffPo)

Okay, we get that.

What law is being broken here? Which article? "Anti-trust"? Please.

The NCAA -- its leadership and its membership -- was disturbed and horrified to learn of institutional behavior which endangered children. It wanted to make a memorable punitive statement to distance itself and discourage such behaviors in the future. And it did. Maybe the NCAA sanctions were clumsy or excessive, maybe not. Penn State University was happy enough being a part of the NCAA before, when it was all ad revenue and merchandise!

In a statement, the NCAA said the lawsuit has no merit and called it an "affront" to Sandusky's victims. (Scolforo)

It sounds as though the Governor has recently determined to angle for a settlement. Make enough noise, throw some mud at the NCAA and some of its members, and try to motivate them to settle on a smaller sanction. Community service. Probation.

While also scoring the political point that, yes, Tom Corbett feels the pain of innocents.

It also says something about Tom Corbett's priorities on spending taxpayer dollars, and assigning taxpayer personnel, in a government. Lots of bad guys out there that need investigated and prosecuted.

BONUS QUESTION: Will this in any way conflict new Attorney General Kathleen Kane as she fulfills her campaign promise to pursue the review AG Corbett's Sandusky investigation?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Parking Authority: Still Driving Us to Distraction

We're being told, and not for the last time:

Council has delayed nighttime meter enforcement until July 1 while it continues to press the parking authority for money it says is needed to help offset the diversion of $735 million in parking tax money for a pension bailout.

The parking tax money will be taken from the general fund over 31 years. The annual diversion is $13.4 million through 2017, then jumps to $26.8 million through 2041. This year, the city will receive about $507,000 in parking meter revenue, $2.6 million in parking authority subsidies and $7.6 million in parking court revenue.

Council members have said they want as much as $9.3 million in subsidies from the authority, partly because of on-street meter rate increases that began taking effect in 2011. (P-G, Joe Smydo

It's not exactly mammoth, glass-clad and glowing, but it's an accurate portrait of the background noise on the 5th floor at the start of 2013, a pivotal electoral year.

Has there ever been a topic in the City of Pittsburgh more sadistically boring and more constant than pensions+parking? I think we can set aside any notion that mayoral critics are pumping the "We need Parking Authority revenues!" controversy for high-octane political fuel.

But we need to know what on earth is the drama. Why are we not flush with increased parking cash, but rather slated to continue borrowing and scrimping to the degree we are projected? Down the rabbit hole we go!


Summarily -- gosh, how to make this brief? -- At the end of 2010, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl wished to satisfy the State Legislature's nebby worrying over our horrible pension funding situation by leasing City parking spaces to the private sector for tons of money, and having them raise parking rates and increase efficiencies to recoup a profit. But most of City Council and the rest of the city wanted to just raise our own parking rates and get efficient ourselves, with a "promise" to pay more of the pensions aided by those proceeds. That latter strategy won out, and "promised" money is flying out the door year by year -- though Ravenstahl's critics are saying his Parking Authority has been dragging its feet in increasing revenues for the City to replace it.

And that's all we ever, ever, ever talk about, ever.

It should be easy enough to tell whether the Parking Authority "dragged its feet" or "dogged it." It only took a month after Council's plan enactment in 2010 for it to warn, it was busy with other things. The idea of unseemly delay was being floated by March.

It seemed like everybody was by then already really impatient, but the mayor's office was suggesting critics could go ahead and try them but quit complaining about a "stealth deal" to bring back the lease. We started arguing about whether numbers are real. And then things briefly got less stealthy! Seemingly the moment after the Authority started moving forward with some new higher rates, it began moving backward. At this point people were fit to be tied. But then, just as the Authority was inventing seemingly new reasons to delay... City Council apparently finally gave up trying to force the Mayor to do something he clearly wasn't about to do.

At the end of 2011 City Council took another stab at motivating the Parking Authority, but that went just about as badly as a thing can go. Soon after, ironically enough, we were treated to a lecture on Council ruining the careful cake recipe of generating more revenue for City coffers at the Parking Authority. And the Ravenstahl administration was like, gosh, this Linda Judson seems to have a knack for this!

Linda Judson: Cohen & Grace, LLC
It wasn't until April of this year that new parking meters were requisitioned by the Parking Authority to support the upgrade, or 16 months following the 2010 "pensions solution". Although that also was backpedaled here and there, eventually by an exasperated Council as well, that is only when it came to meters. Strangely enough, the Parking Authority seems now to be turning its sights on other projects, like pursuing parking availability info by the web, a space-reservation program and pay by phone -- yet in the midst of this adventuresomeness no rate increases at garages, even though the garages were always part of the plan.

The plan to strengthen a revenue stream. To replace what's necessarily flying out the door to go to the pensions. Which in the absence of action, is acting as a significant drag on the City's operating and capital budget. To repair the city and provide services.

Council President Harris and Finance Chair Burgess recently led the City Channel viewing audience to understand there would soon be a special public meeting with the Parking Authority. Not yet scheduled it seems. Probably once again this time it will make for the finest political theater.


ANYWAY. Yes, Council will this year talk about increasing nonprofit contributions to the City, generating ad revenue, redeveloping the Strip District and District 9, and overhauling certain aspects of public safety.

But be prepared to continue going completely numb to the argument about pensions and parking. Just struggle to understand what they're talking about, and you should feel a lot less hopeless about it.

At the heart of it, Mayor Ravenstahl has been openly hostile to generating revenue from a publicly managed parking authority in order to underwrite the city's pension expenses. Meanwhile, attempts by City Council to "force" the Mayor to do so anyway have been 1) necessarily futile and 2) increasingly politically inconsistent.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy 2013, Pittsburgh!

Looks like I'm going to have to get this blog back into quasi-respectable condition. Tomorrow, of course.  For the life of me I can't figure out why Biden and McConnell don't just dedicate money from the parking tax. It's not even like they have to impress anybody, they just have to keep Joe King happy.