Monday, November 16, 2009

BREAKING: ICA Throws Down Gauntlet [**]

Sciortino, McNees & Co. galumphed all the way to the Post-Gazette Editorial Suites to reveal this:

The state-picked Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority is poised to reject Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's $453.8 million budget because it doesn't go far enough to cut costs and includes a tax that may not be enforceable, officials said this morning. (P-G, Rich Lord)

Wonder if the administration will take them up on their specific suggestions, or try something even more creative.

*-UPDATE: Lots of uproar over how the ICA only put forth these objections now, and I have a theory. This could be the beginning of a new phase for how the state overlords treat the Ravenstahl administration. Until now it was always, "For goodness sake, let's not embarrass the boy! He gets a lot of business done for the Governor, you know, and we can't be party to letting anyone into power who might rouse rabble and stir trouble in our colony." Now however, for the first time, Ravenstahl's political position is utterly assured -- so the ICA can forget its coddling and its "conditional approval" of a month ago, and come straight out with, "No actually, your budget is no good sir, try again only with less money this time."

**-UPDATE: As Mayo livetweets this morning's meeting:

Oy. Where to start?


  1. Like Luke's choice to replace George Specter as City's Legal point man...ICA, beware!

    Knew his dad Baldy...last time I said 'Hey'...his head was poked out of sun-roof of Limo perched outside Aviary entrance...Marie was retiring. Schere luck...

    Chip off the block I hope...


  2. Bram has advised on several occasions that I comment with frequency...

    And, as the one that took the initative to address plight of Alpark Terrace...I tend to listen, to him

    But hear me now...

    I see a fine individual sitting in Mayor's seat...

    The criticism, is it fair, or sour grapes?

    My daughters all in twenties, like the unpredictability that youth brings to office... it, they see a rebirth, of City they love.

    They, all educated beyond High School, embrace and are currently serving in capacities that look towards their future.

    Not Detroit, Cleveland or Buffalo...Filthydelphia.

    Young Mayor dreams as they do...

    What do ICA members have to offer?



    Bean Counters without Conscience...

    Probably use pocket protectors...N'at.


  3. How could anyone smart enough to attend University argue that institutions of higher learning are not...a business.

    Call it extortion...



  4. Monk monk monk monk monk ... This is why we should have turned your golden years over to the Commonwealth of PA two years ago and been done with it. "I knew his dad" ... Geeeez.

    Why would the ICA have sour grapes? The truth is we're $15 million behind the 8 ball with no legal options in sight except having our employees contribute half a percent or so more into their fat, gushy pensions from another era. You'd rather see CMU students pay into your pension plan instead of sucking it up like the rest of us who don't get to endorse and campaign for our bosses. Only the gravy train is running out of steam and you're running out of options.

    Don't give me "sour grapes" -- you're looking out for your own and I'm looking out for mine.

  5. 2 months ago I mean ... Or years, or decades, it all applies.

  6. If Bram has advised that Monk comment with frequency, I will no longer be reading this blog. What a shame, because I enjoy the postings by everyone else.

  7. At first I thought ...

    Monk was, channeling


    but it hit me, today

    Not Ramblin' Jack

    Old Farmer's Almanac!

  8. Anon 8:45 - He means, I've told him he comments with *too much* frequency, or at least too many times in the same comment threads, too often off-topic. However since he's on topic here and I totally just called him out, I'll be letting him respond liberally on this one if he so desires. No complete song lyrics, though!

  9. Off topic, but here's some snark on Ravenstahl picking TIME's Thing of the Year (Short version: Luke voted for Twitter)--

    Time’s Person of the Year: Usually A Person (Sometimes)
    by Philip Bump | 1:00 am, November 16th, 2009

    Soon, my friends – soon we will know who the Gods of Journalistic Objectivity have determined to be the “Person of the Year,” as featured in Time magazine. You may have heard that the two people leading the pack right now are Mr. Twitter and Dame Economy.

    This, at least, according to the judgment of a panel comprised of the following people: Rudy Giuliani, Barbara Walters, Dr. Mehmet Oz, Gayle King, Tom Colicchio and the Honorable Luke Ravenstahl. (I’d heard of five of those people, though Ravenstahl only made the cut because my sister lives in Pittsburgh.) This distinguished crew’s final vote: three votes for Twitter, three for the economy. (Hey sis! Your Mayor thinks Twitter is a person!)

  10. IsTIMEStillRelevant?November 17, 2009 at 10:27 AM

    Jack Dorsey, not Twitter you fool.

  11. So looking at Bob Mayo's tweets from the ICA meeting, it looked to me like Ravenstahl adopted an entirely confrontational stance from the get go. He accused the ICA of being influenced (not to say controlled) by local Universities. Then union heads testify that City services will be hurt if the tuition tax is not passed. Finally Lamb and Peduto testify in the other direction. Which makes me think first that Ravenstahl is enlisting the public service unions as a base of support, by trying to get the City out of Act 47 status and paving the way to large wage hikes for them (through arbitration). Second, Ravenstahl must have known that his testimony would not be persuasive, which makes me wonder who its intended audience is? And third what are Lamb and Peduto up to, openly opposing the Mayor?

  12. Ed - Ravenstahl's intended audience is the media, and ultimately kina sorta the Governor and the legislators behind the ICA board. Peduto and Lamb are up to what they're always up to -- trying to show up the Mayor by offering better ideas. I'm just a little impressed that they're up to it together.

  13. If anyone thought the Mayor's Office expected this budget to pass with tuition tax...

    Clearly enabling legislation is not in place. They were merely "Belling the Cat."

    Tax exempts have been living off of students, for far to long. Were is the uproar over Annual Tuition Increases?

    Cities should be compensated for tax exempt properties in same manner that we compensate State Game Lands.

    If not the City's Right to levy taxes, than it is the State that should act.

    Would like to hear Onarato and Wagners take as both want to occupy Harrisburg Mansion.

    Within Pension structures there are three groups...Police, Fire and Municipal. It is not Municipal that has contributed to current situation but Public Safety.

    Purely statistical...

    Wrote report in 1999 addressing issues....

    As it is Public Safety Costs, I propose increasing the $52 per year fee to $144.


  14. Bram you said:

    "Why would the ICA have sour grapes? The truth is we're $15 million behind the 8 ball with no legal options in sight except having our employees contribute half a percent or so more into their fat, gushy pensions from another era. You'd rather see CMU students pay into your pension plan instead of sucking it up like the rest of us who don't get to endorse and campaign for our bosses. Only the gravy train is running out of steam and you're running out of options."

    I would gladly trade City Municipal Pension for one offered by those employed by Tax Exempt Employers.

    University employees never worry about unfunded pension liabilities...they raise tuition to cover costs.

    If students were taxed would it change where they attend school?

    CMU students could opt for MIT...but would pay more in cost of living expenses...far more.


  15. I'm telling you guys.

    We could fare far worse, Bob O'Conner could still be in office.

    That being said, I like Doug in a position where he is his own man.

    Dedicated, as is Luke...

    However, I think Doug should reconsider giving lieberries $660,000 out of fuel fund. We are going to see $4.00 per gallon gasoline costs soon.

    Mabe reconsider once audit is complete....

    ...maybe we should audit "all" tax exempts. Perhaps Auditor General Wagner has dropped the ball? Or, he has chosen comfort, of 'no opinion'?


  16. So Ravenstahl is making an argument that Pittsburgh is ready to exit Act 47 status using a tax of dubious legality, and the adoption of which usurps the power of the legislature (who might have to vote on whether Pittsburgh could tax students). To make that argument, he attacks the ICA itself, suggesting they are in the pocket of big non-profit. The ICA might be an important part of the recommendation that Pittsburgh is ready to exit Act 47 status. But Ravenstahl does seem to be making nice with the public service unions.

    I am sure the media is entertained, but Joe Six-Pack voter is unlikely to notice. So still I do not understand.

  17. Ed-

    Joe Six-Pack does not vote.

  18. Why Tax Exempts are exempt...

    *The Carnegie Institute began life with a $10 million endowment, to which Carnegie added an additional $2 million in 1090 and $10 million in 1911. Rockefeller’s Institute for Medical Research, the precursor to Rockefeller University, was launched with a grant of $200,000: in 1903, Rockefeller donated an additional $600,000 for a tract of land on which to build a permanent home for the institute on York Avenue: in 1907, he responded to a request from his directors for a $6 million endowment by giving $2.6 million : in 1908, he gave another $8 million.”

    If they recieve taxdollars in any way they lose tax exempt status...

    FASFA ?


  19. 26% said...

    Joe six pack does not vote!

    ...hate pour tax!

    Corbett gets this Joe's vote...not On-a-rat-o


    Bud Light With all!

  20. I would be remiss, Bram...

    ...if I did not point out that I'm sick of financing spoiled brats with hard sought dollars, tax dollars... in the way of subsidized student loans...

    ...for your education.

    In your case, I take comfort in money, was well spent...

    If you could see it in your acknowledge same in form of pension contributions...

    For municipal services rendered...



  21. I am not sure how many of the Municipal employees, or retirees respond routinely to the Colleges for emergencies? Why is the pension fund so severely underfunded? Who stole that money? Yes stole.

    Over and over again,emergency responders render aide and service to these universities. Many days they respond dozens of times you have no idea.

    Would it have been better or worse to work for the University so that my children could go to school for free and I would still receive a fat pension from the University? Maybe.

    The carrot for a life of service to the city, to stay employed here was the pension. There were no tuition breaks presented, those are reserved for Administrative officials.

    Pay freezes for years,many, many extra hours paid at straight time, yes, straight time, so the city did not have to hire. Maybe you ought to read some of those contracts.

    Ever responded to a fire to off campus housing for the Universities where their student died? I have, more than once. It is an endless battle against slum lords and young kids.

    The truth is, college kids do stupid things, they are kids. Everyone knows that. Parents know that. Parents expect that where they send their kids, they will be taken care of, to the best of that areas ability. Ever pay an ambulance fee to a rural college campus medical responder? Do you have any idea? It is outrageous, do they get it? You bet your ass they do, or they don't pick up your kid again. Try that in the city.

    Believe me the 1% fee is nominal compared to the service these kids and these colleges get, day in , day out 24/7.

  22. I would agree with some of what you say, Anon 6:30. The City, specifically past Mayors and City Councils, stole that pension money. And we kept voting 'em in.

    And yes, University faculty and staff get tuition benefits for themselves and their children (and yes, I work for one of the two big schools in the area, and have worked for the other).

    Of course this "fat pension" is an F-ing illusion. Maybe in the past, but not now. I have a TIAA-CREF 403b, into which CMU is putting money and currently I am not, because my wife's and my salary are pretty low by private industry standards. Which is part of the reason why Universities give administrative employees tuition, to attract them in the first place.

    And we get our share of wage and hiring freezes, and freezes on overtime, like right now.

    I fully agree that students are stupid (or at least don’t understand consequences). I don’t deal with them on a daily basis, but I see how they are.

    I am not saying that the public service employees don't work hard, or that they have not suffered under Act 47. But my understanding is that when Act 47 is lifted, the unions can demand arbitration if they don't like the City's offer, and the arbitrator is not supposed to consider the financial health of the City. I don't know for sure if that is true, but it is what I heard.

    But the biggest problem with the Mayor’s suggestion I can see is that it lets the local health insurance giants and health care giant totally off the hook. Let’s make the tuition tax legit by making it a fee (and maybe it should be $52 a year to be even with the local services tax), and levy some kind of fees on health insurance and health care. Since everyone knows they have “excess revenue”.

  23. Oddest part of article:

    Sipping on a diet Pepsi, he said the ICA doesn't stand up for cost cuts it proposes, like the proposed closing of a Greenfield fire station.

    Highly pertinent information.

  24. Someone! Anyone! Please remind Joe King that his ace of a mayor is trying to close yet another fire station (Greenfield) with or without the tuition sales tax.

    Then ask Joe..."why oh why are you helping mayor wonderboy at the ICA meeting today???? Yo! Joey! Wake up and smell the coffee."

  25. Archi - That's one reason I like the mid-day web updates more than the print edition. It does illustrate the spirit of the meeting. Our mayor blithely insulting the ICA while casually satisfying his caffeine jones. Thanks for preserving that.

  26. Unfunded Pension Liabilities were address during Caliguri's Administration, by Harrisburg...1985.

    I believe it was Act 205. The Municipal Pension Recovery Act.

    Dick, dies and Sophie...well, Sophie sees oppotunity to take advantage of The Pension Recovery Act. To do so she had to show pension was distressed...1988.

    She cut income tax not once but twice...and put pension funds into distressed status.

    She pleased voters to the extent that she was re-elected. Cut taxes is winning proposition and was employed in other PA cities.

    The slices of the pie, Act 205 recovery Act, grew slimmer as more came to the table...and did not satisfy bellies.

    This is why we are in situation we are in today...

    Pension situation needs to be handled locally... if Harrisburg is involved in another recovery plan...expect more of the same.

    Luke was right to opt out as there is no trust in a corrupt State Capitol.

    Long term solution is not Harrisburg forte'.