Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pensions / Parking: Digging In, Throwing Grenades.

In most alternate universes, this is news:

In an e-mail to council members today, LAZ Parking CEO Alan B. Lazowski said his consortium would pay the city $355 million up front for a 50-year lease, which it could cancel after 30 years in return for a partial refund. Unlike the original bid, the compromise offer would have the city get a share of parking revenue from 2022 through 2061 that would total $800 million to $1 billion. LAZ would also modernize meters and spend $93 million improving garages. The city would get all revenue from advertising in the garages.

Coming increases in neighborhood parking meter rates would be trimmed to levels proposed in a plan floated by City Controller Michael Lamb and some council members, Mr. Lazowski wrote. (P-G, Rich Lord)

And so is this, maybe even more so:

Mr. Lavelle's plan would involve leasing Downtown garages to private interests for around $160 million, while selling Mellon Square Garage, five lots and all meters to the Pittsburgh Parking Authority for $170 million. Combined, those deals could pay off the authority's debt and shore up the pension fund. (ibid)

Not here though.

Council Finance Chair William Peduto, though, said privatization was a dead issue. (ibid)


He'll keep tweeting it until it sinks in:

The Trash Heap has spoken! NYEEEAAAAH!


If we could all talk a little less about which plans are "dead", and talk a little more about which plans, twists on plans or combinations of plans might actually work, we'd be a lot better off.

Let's face it: All of the plans are dead. Every single one of them.

Most of them are dead because we have exactly 44 days left to begin seriously analyzing them -- with professionals -- and somehow pull them off with the cooperation of whomever else these things require: bond buyers and insurers, state government officials, etc. Some of them are even more dead on top of that because they represent 100% total political victory for some politicians and 100% total political defeat for others, and that's just never a practical option once things reach this point. Still others, even some brand new ones, are especially dead because as it says in the Torah, Thou Shalt Not Privatize. So we're really talking about what dead plans we should try to breath a little life back into.

Besides which, if we keep pointing out that the old lease is dead -- the only plan everyone knew with complete certainty would have worked as far as avoiding the takeover goes -- it only makes sense for us to hold an inquest and an arraignment.


And here come the special agents:

When city workers plowed her street first, it wasn’t hard to find some yelling favoritism.

And now a KD Investigation has found that was just one example of what some might call special treatment – something City Council President Darlene Harris denies. (KDKA, Andy Sheehan)

Watching this exposé, it doesn't take an angel lady to figure out who might have tipped off the newsroom. With the exception of the plow jobs during Snowmaggedon, the work detailed looks like it was done two to three years back, back when Harris and the mayor's office were getting along quite a bit better.

Then again, it was previous Public Works director Guy Costa who was at the helm during that period, and who is defending Harris today -- and Costa, inherited from previous administrations, had a rocky relationship with this mayor even before he was ousted. And it's present Public Works director Rob Kaczorowski who now volunteers to a reporter that "undue influence" has been at play. So if my theory of where the news came from checks out, it's not as though the administration is much implicating itself.

I know that Darlene Harris and her staff consider honesty and ethics to be her bailiwick -- they take any allusions to the contrary very seriously. Indeed, she doesn't deny lobbying for any of the work in the report, she only denies the "unduly" part. It takes a special kind of political confidence to confront these sets of facts and assert calmly into camera, "I work to help the people, not to help myself ... I’ve never taken anything for myself."

But can you imagine running against Harris, and being able to door knock houses and say, "According to KDKA, in the years since Harris was last elected she has had all three streets around her house repaved, had a retaining wall built to protect her property, had the house next door to her demolished so she could use it as a side yard, and had her own street very well plowed during the historic snowstorm that buried most of the city. How is life on your block? And here is what the fire fighters are saying about her leadership..."

Confronted with an attack, Harris again brings up her 35-year history of public service and asserts that her constituents know her work. It's conceivable she knows more than a majority of likely voters in her district personally, and has done each and every one of them a solid. Still, 35-year histories in government are not so much in vogue these days, particularly when they acquire the whiff of entitlement.

It'll be interesting to see what happens, here and everywhere.


  1. Let's be honest. At this point, I'm desperate. I'll try anything to get paid. If I have trot out Rob Kaczorowski and make him look like a hypocrite, consider it done. Without a backup plan or any support on council, what else can a classy guy do?

  2. which it could cancel after 30 years in return for a partial refund.

    I think that would equate to what we otherwise classify as a loan... or and bond if you wish. A collateralized loan maybe. Think of it as a big trip to the pawn shop.

  3. It's all "we get money now and pay for it over time." The only question is the terms, especially who bears the risk of things going wrong again.

    I do hope that this Harris thing manages to restart the debate about political paving.

  4. If we lease the parking, Pittsburgh will be like Chicago in one way. I wonder if we aren't like Chicagoin an other way. Except the only good way to find out about that is for the state to take over.

  5. If the Lease plan is dead, why does Peduto keep trying to kill it?

    What we are seeing is a categorical, religious opposition to a viable solution...opposition for the sake of opposition.

    Pretty soon, the egg on Peduto's face (put there by the long-awaited PMRS numbers) will have to be flipped due to his rising body temp.

  6. Kaiser Wilhelm III's trench-diggers and Hitler's Panzerfaust-tossers?