Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Liveblogging the Failure to Make Progress on a Pensions-Funding Plan.

Right now, Council is debating how and how much to fund the city's hunger groups in 2011. Councilman Burgess has recommended an increase to $125,000 worth of its CDBG funds, and Councilman Peduto is pointing out that this "has always" been matched by the mayor's "ULO". Burgess is now offering to withdraw his budget amendment for one week so as not to turn this into a political football. Councilwoman Smith mentions that she hopes that next year we can add some accountability measures to make sure the funding is going to the people we're trying to reach, but now the question is resurfacing what accounts this money is coming out of. Councilwoman Rudiak says it's "unfair to the groups in [her] district, in all of our districts, who must rely on this funding" to present an amendment on the day of tentative approval of the budget without previous discussion. "A house divided cannot stand."

So basically, everybody is getting in the mood to discuss saving the pension fund.

Council votes without discussion to hold for one week (?) its consideration of the "present value calculation" solution concept (not hearing much about that one these days).

On the Revenue-Sharing Services Contract, Burgess motions to hold for one week (?) with discussion. Kunka and LAZ are invited to the table. Burgess's introductory spiel takes us back to 1787 and the compromises in the framing of the Constitution.

And here comes the PowerPoint.

"This compromise plan has been supported by I think all of the unions who work for the City of Pittsburgh", says Burgess, and he rattles off almost a dozen. "We have perhaps a week or less to do something against a state takeover." Burgess says despite his previous strong advocacy, from here out he'll be an honest broker and try to work out an agreement. "This is just a framework for us to have conversations."

Councilman Lavelle, to Finance Director Kunka: "With the time we have left, how do you see this being done?" Kunka says we can't get to a closing by the end of the year, but if we reach an agreement we can get some bridge financing.

Alan Lazowski from LAZ comes to the table, thanks Council for the opportunity, and the opportunity to hear constituent concerns to respond to them. Says people were not comfortable with a 50-year plan without revenue sharing, and not comfortable with high rates in neighborhood business districts. Says its not a lease, but a revenue sharing services agreement. Most rates, hours consistent with Council-Controller plan. LAZ also to chip in $340 million on construction, including $93 million in first (was it 10?) years. Plus new technology for the city's own residential parking permit program -- license plate recognition and online permitting, will be provided by LAZ.

In short, this is "a wonderful blend of both plans that everyone can be proud of."

Nobody has questions for Mr. Lazowski, but some have some comments.

Councilman Kraus: "I have remained relatively quiet throughout this issue, though some have belabored their comments ... as though to convince themselves of the validity of their arguments." Has met resounding opposition from his constituents. "You cannot lease public assets to investment bankers." "It's liken to tearing up the floorboards of your house to heat it." If we're not managing the assets good enough, we have to do it better, so people profit not investment bankers. Has done extensive reading on Chicago, where there are boycotts and vandalism.

More Kraus - Somehow vehicle management got mixed up with pensions and that's a shame. We should be talking about light rail from Downtown to Oakland. Some members are choosing to waver. Calls out Dowd in the paper, who sat here and pontificated about rejection and now says it's the centerpiece. I will be more than happy to work with whoever we need to work with to solve this, but will not go against "99.99%" of his constituents.

Lavelle: I agree with Kraus that our constituency, 99%, have voted down original plan. Public has NOT had the opportunity to learn / sound off since real State takeover consequences came out, and since this new plan came out. "I think there's a conversation to be had."

Councilman Dowd: Hasn't wavered one bit since 2009. Doesn't believe everything he reads in the papers. Will now take as much time as he needs (he warns us). Has always said public assets should remain public. That includes management of the pension fund. That includes managing our assets, but it doesn't mean not working with anyone.

More Dowd - "For someone to say they're totally opposed to anything and for the status quo ... that's a very easy path. But the reality is we've got to do something." He doesn't walk the streets and hear anyone happy about the status quo. "We have to get something going here." "We'll never get anywhere if we continue to dig our heels in and stick our heads in the sand."

Smith - "We either want to solve this or we don't." Doesn't even want to hold this for a week; wants to vote it. We shouldn't be leaving this building until we solve the problem -- no Christmas parties or anything. It shouldn't matter who put the plan on the table. Is getting "fed up."

More Smith - "If you want to bring up Chicago, we've learned something from Chicago, we're doing things differently." "LOOK AT OUR OWN BLOGS LOCALLY AND SEE WHAT THEY'RE SAYING ABOUT THIS." :) :) :) "Somebody call a meeting and let's sit down and work on this.

Peduto - The Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, Bloomberg News, Rolling Stone have been covering this. Wall Street is using this to make money. Anybody who says this isn't the same as Chicago "doesn't even understand this issue a tiny bit." :( :( :( "This is a deal that was struck by this mayor, and that's why we can't compromise -- because he can't walk away from this deal."

More Peduto - "Mr. Laz, you're a nice guy, but it's time to go home." "I don't return your calls, because I don't want to give you even a little bit of hope." What do we sell next, the Water Authority? The City-County Building? Will be voting no so he can defeat bill and leave it from this chamber once and for all.

Back to Burgess (w/o 1st round discussion by Harris, Shields or Rudiak.) Asks about timeline and says is ready to work 'round the clock about compromise.

Smith - "Wall Street's in it to make money. No kidding. That's what they do. But last week I sat in a meeting with foreign investors (reference to the Harris life-insurance proposal!) and if I had to choose I'd choose Wall Street." Taking umbrage at the suggestion that the problem is people don't understand or aren't well-enough read on the issue.

Dowd - "I do believe the Council-Controller plan is the best possible solution.", doesn't mean it can't go through in the future. Thinks the 40-year duration in the latest LAZ proposal can be shortened further. Must start with that "idea block". We need to go to "somebody".

MOTION TO HOLD: Fails 4-5.

MOTION TO APPROVE: During roll call vote, Dowd asks for his full minute to think, and gets passed over. Finally: "I hate to abstain, but I have to abstain. I abstain." 2-5-2. Motion fails.

What a convenience, to know who are the good guys and bad guys.

*-UPDATE: I don't know why I keep forgetting these Wednesdays are just preliminary votes -- they're going to have the opportunity to make sure everybody understands all the big-picture arguments again through Tuesday 12/21.


  1. Who voted to "No" to hold and switched? Or do I not understand what the hold was for.

  2. I'm pretty sure, all the eventual yes votes and abstainers voted to "hold" consideration on the bill for another week, so that further last-minute negotiations could proceed.

  3. Thanks. I was thinking that a hold vote was against the lease.

  4. nice work..i watched it via streaming video