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 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|
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.