Friday, September 7, 2012

Political Obstruction Works Here

Since RAD and the Port Authority share an attorney, the board of RAD is paying an outside lawyer $275 an hour to figure out whether it can fund Port Authority transit and thus avert the collapse of a fragile deal between the workers and state government.

The total legal bill should come to about $70 or a long liquid lunch.

All the Port Authority would have to do is to qualify as a "civc asset" in the minds of the RAD board itself, which is not remotely a stretch as these things go. Interpretable phrasing is there to interpret.

Some board members evidently felt the need to ask for a legal opinion either to provide them with political cover for making that leadership decision, or else drag this out further so as to continue poisoning the well against the deal.

There are three camps opposed to using the $3M in RAD money to leverage $30M from the state:

1) Ideologues to the political right of Tom Corbett who believe the biggest problem here is that the Port Authority is "addicted to money," who instead of supporting the compromise struck with the Governor would rather lock the Agency in a cell, starve and humiliate it until it dies, and replace it with something more private and less unionized.

2) Politicians who aren't wild about Rich Fitzgerald strutting around like he owns the joint, appointing notable crazy ladies to key advisory panels and saying "green this" and "I agree with my friend from the East End" that.

3) Folks who are anxious that transit funding should not diminish support for cultural organizations, and may be susceptible to "slippery slope" arguments involving long-term commitments, water treatment plants and parking garages.

Group #1 obviously can't get its job done by itself. Group #2 is happy to support Group #1's work in stirring up taxpayer outrage and popular chaos (more mentions of the drink tax, please!) at least up until the point where transit actually explodes. But in dealing with the RAD board, on which Fitzgerald has the upper hand, neither can really gain traction unless they involve Group #3.

Hence the need for more time to wage more back room campaigns and manufacture more news stories which include the word "tax," as though they're being raised somewhere. The notoriously secretive "ripcord" clause in the new Port Authority contract can only be so hard to activate, right?


Pgh City Paper thinks the stability for transit and for other tax rates is worth it... Null Space notices the RAD tax didn't stop Allegheny County from outperforming most of the rest of the region.

Image: UFC, MMA Worldwide

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Caption Contest #1, and Links

If that's not enough inspiration for you on a grey Tuesday which feels like a Monday, see the already inimitable Len Boselovic.

Don't you people want to comment any further on my sewers post?

If you wish to learn more about the responses and what is driving the continued debate over Clint Eastwood's RNC speech ("got together a group of deeply disaffected voters"), you can read the always surprising La Times.

If you'd rather learn about Romney's post-convention bounce, what it means for key states and who is looking more likely to win, see everybody's favorite FiveThirtyEight.

If you missed the latest in the riverfront / URA / Buncher saga, see the new boss, Jeremy Boren.

Photo credit - Roxanne Tuinstra

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Harrisburg: A Case Study in Seduction

"So what you have is, you have the financial advisor, makes $142,000 on this $30 million notes; that's a lot of money. Now, the County had a law firm, the City had a law firm, you know it's..."

"How many law firms are on this list?"

"It's, um -- financial advisors like to call this the Noah's Ark of public financing. Meaning, there's two of everything."

My guess: no "criminality" here, Certificate 81-10B notwithstanding. Not unless for decades, every room and phone in Dauphin County was bugged 24/7 for passing ill-advised intimations of quid-pro-quo type arrangements -- and even then it would be a matter for interpretation.

Transparent stupidity which befuddles generations is not against any law.

TERRIFYINGLY RELATED: Wall Street's War Against Cities -- Why Bondholders Can't, and Shouldn't, Be Paid (Michael Hudson, Naked Capitalism)

Image credit *SnowFright, deviantart