Saturday, May 9, 2009


Dateline, Pittsburgh: SEC may sue city bond deal adviser.

"This should send up warning signals," said City Councilman Patrick Dowd, an authority board member.

"We'll certainly look into this SEC filing," said Joanna Doven, spokeswoman for Mayor Luke Ravenstahl.

Authority officials are "evaluating" JPMorgan's role in light of what happened in Alabama, said authority spokeswoman Melissa Rubin. "We just got this information." (Trib, Mike Wereschagin)

The Securities and Exchange Commission filings of which they spoke are examined here:

JPMorgan Chase & Co. said U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission officials approved filing an enforcement action against it for securities law violations involving bond and swap sales for Jefferson County, Alabama. (Bloomberg, Darrell Preston)

Governments that have been misled and ripped off in bond swapping arrangements can absolutely seek redress in the judicial realm -- and can absolutely use that potentiality as real leverage -- if and only if those cities are in some way interested in taking simple steps to stand up for themselves.


According to PWSA Resolution #55 of 2009, passed yesterday by a 6-1 margin, board chairman Don Walko and executive director Michael Kenney are pre-empowered to "negotiate", "consummate", and "execute" further agreements, and to "to do or cause to be done any and all acts and things necessary or proper" to fix a mess that just cost the city $46 million worth of needed infrastructure improvements, and is likely to do more harm.

Let me be as clear as possible: there is no earthly reason anyone should believe that the very individuals who subjected us to this peril will act in the optimal interest of City of Pittsburgh taxpayers and ratepayers without total transparency and public deliberation.

I mean cameras in their faces at every juncture as they explain the many options available to us.

There is no earthly reason to trust that these individuals will do anything that might in any way discomfort their campaign contributors, the contributors of the politicians who hired or appointed them, and *the powerful go-betweens* who profit from our loss and may conceivably be found partially culpable if confronted -- not without the public leering over their shoulder.

Administration and PWSA leaders claim Resolution #55 was necessary in order to execute negotiations with "swiftness". Speed means absolutely nothing if the solution they will imperiously hand down amounts to settling for minimal, insufficient half-concessions which they will then explain are the best for which we could have hoped.


I do not believe this issue is going to swing any kind political contest. Absolutely not. I do believe this is going to bring grievous harm to the City of Pittsburgh if we do not alter our course.

Pittsburgh deserves better than to be slowly bled for profit at a rate calculated to barely keep us alive, in a vegetative state in which we cannot make basic infrastructure improvements and move forward. This city deserves to have its leaders fight back against any and all loathsome parasites. Yesterday's abhorrent action by the Water & Sewer Authority assures this will not occur. This is a very big deal.

*-UPDATE: There is some more discussion and some good links HERE.


  1. This IS huge, Bram (wow, late night, huh?). And this bond deal has absolutely nothing to do w/ funding the needed combined storm / waste water pipe replacements that little consent decree addreses, right?

    And we wonder why the young smart and able leave town. Screw the climbing wall. I say we engage in a PWSA boycott and let Walko and pals know how bad corrupt cash flow feels.

  2. I suspect that you are correct that this will not swing the primary. Nor will Ravenstahl's insistence that he should be given credit for City Council’s following the law and reducing parking taxes, as detailed on the Busman’s Holiday, affect the primary. If Pat Dowd or Carmen Robinson were a Bill Clinton or a Barack Obama, maybe they could buck the machine. However, since Luke Ravenstahl has the support of the Party and a very well financed campaign, and is facing insufficiently dynamic opponents, the public does not seem to be rising out of its usual apathy. People (mostly in the suburbs) are more worried about the property taxes going up than (in the City) about the City slipping into bankruptcy.

  3. Some suburbanites are concerned about the City of Pittsburgh's slide toward bankruptcy (literal and figurative), but there is relatively little they can do so long as a dysfunctional city Democratic Committee nominates unqualified hacks, city voters elect those losers, and the elected officials produce the traditional blend of ineptitude and corruption.

    I believe the time is approaching at which the rest of the region may cut bait and leave Pittsburgh to capsize. Downtown Detroit is a national example of what might occur in Pittsburgh; Braddock is a local example.

    For those outside the city, this resembles watching a 22-year-old child slide into a life of crime, addiction, pain and failure. The child is an adult (by chronology, at least), and a free society enables adults to make dumb decisions for quite some time.

    Allegheny County residents are becoming increasing less entitled to claim political superiority -- reassessments and immoral property taxes, the drink tax, shenanigans at the authorites, an unsustainable financial structure -- but the city seems determined to capsize, and the rest of the region should be considering whether and when to cut the ties attaching the anchor from its ankle to try to avoid being pulled under.

    I expect the Ravensthal administration to skate heedlessly right to the point at which indictments are announced.

  4. Fleecing Steeltown:

    Mr. Walko and Mr. Kenney, along with board treasurer and city Finance Director Scott Kunka, are working with the lawyers and financiers who put together the original deal.(Greg Zappala, et al.)That's "the same group of people who brought you this deal in the first place," Mr. Dowd said. "It's like Groundhog Day."

  5. anything with walko involved we need to think about it closely

  6. I like the sinister bent on the rantings, but in all honesty I portend ignorance before malice on this issue.

  7. N'at - Hypothetically, ignorance alone can explain our getting into the fix. Some ignorance sure had to be involved; that's how these things work.

    Ignorance cannot explain a failure to rebel from the deal now, now that it's costing us and now that these deals are blowing up all over the country. Choose another door.

  8. Callowness, perhaps?

    I'm not trying to deflect blame, necessarily. I'm just attempting to more accurately describe the reasoning of the authority's majority voting.

    I just cant see how anyone on the board could profit from this politically or financially. I believe the board simply does not want their noses rubbed in it.

  9. I just cant see how anyone on the board could profit from this politically or financially.That is the problem.