Friday, December 13, 2013

Friday: That Which Will Not Kill Us


From the overworked "Nobody Said Anything Was Easy" department…

Surprised by a threatened veto from Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, the transition team for Mayor-elect Bill Peduto is revising an early pension plan for employees who may lose their jobs in the next administration and replacing it with a buyout proposal. (P-G, Timothy McNulty)

The new plan bypasses the state's fundamental religious objection to "pension enhancements".

A Municipal Pension Board official called the plan a bad deal. “There's no way in the world I would take it now, and my phone's been ringing off the hook all day,” said John Sibbett, board president, who planned to retire early under the original proposal. “People aren't going to go.” (Trib, Bob Bauder)

If a smooth and orderly transition isn't in the cards, it just isn't in the cards. The new administration will just have to make explicit its performance standards, and monitor compliance.

But meanwhile...

The Municipal Pension Board, chaired by Public Safety Director Michael Huss, lowered the rate from 8 to 7.5 percent, a move that will force the city to increase its contribution to the funds by about $5 million annually. 
The measure passed 5-2 with Ravenstahl voting in favor and Huss against. Ravenstahl Finance Director Scott Kunka, who serves as non-voting executive board director, argued against the decrease. 
Ravenstahl had consistently opposed lowering the projection... (Trib, Bob Bauder)

MORE:  Null Space

Just add it to our tab:

As it turns out, [Ravenstahl's] budget team miscalculated, sending the city's real estate tax revenue -- its single biggest source of income by far -- into the red this year. And it could force incoming Mayor Bill Peduto to "readjust" the millage, aka implement a tax increase, in one of his first acts in office. (Early Returns)

And remember:

"Because the City now has moved through a succession of balanced budgets, it appears that its time of financial crisis may be over, which also should mean that the need for the Public Service Fund and the nonprofit contributions that it has collected no longer exists." (P-G, Moriah Balingit)

Between the City's actual inherited challenges, and the folks who are trying only to break this administration, and the folks who have already given up entirely on City government, and who have punted on government in general, Pittsburgh is set to grow unprecedentedly strong!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sunday Notes: Managing Passions

Yoga for the #newworld

Bus Rapid Transit: the push is back on, with local executives piling on political support.

A preliminary estimate of the overall cost is $200 million and the project would have to prevail in a highly competitive federal grant program to move ahead, Ms. Stern said. A federal grant would likely cover only 50% of the cost. (P-G, John Schmitz)

The application is due in October. The benefits sought are an economic development surge, cascading infrastructure upgrade opportunities, a more intense and striking public transit gateway along a strategic corridor, and of course increased service efficiency along it. But before anybody swoons with pleasure, remember the fate of the Penguins TIGER application and read the introduction to this federal program.


A City police officer drove to work drunk. Fortunately, nobody got hurt.

This was an apple flagged for badness previously:

Officer Gibson was charged with insurance fraud in late 2011 after he admitted to lying to an insurance appraiser, saying that his car was struck when he had actually damaged it while parking. As a result, the bureau transferred him from the bureau's North Side station to the warrant office pending an internal investigation. 
In July of last year, a Common Pleas judge sentenced him to complete 200 hours of community service and fined him $200 under the Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition program, which is for first-time offenders who can fulfill certain requirements with the hopes their charges will be withdrawn. Court records indicated he had not yet completed the program. (P-G, Moriah Balingit)

Routine consequences for an officer committing conduct "unbecoming of an officer" ought to be seriously attended; at least such a thing is worth considering. Numbly reinforcing officer privilege seems not to be doing them many favors.


The world has lost a most unusually successful 20th Century leader in Nelson Mandela.

There was violence, primarily white-on-black violence which then provoked black-on-white violence, despite a Gandhian philosophic core of the blacks’ approach to the struggle, and Mr. Mandela was prominent in the direction of the African National Congress’ armed Spear of the Nation militia, even from prison. 
But what stands out as Mr. Mandela’s signature characteristic was his belief in the need for forgiveness to achieve his goal of a democratic, multiracial South Africa. That was remarkable in someone who was imprisoned for 27 years, 18 of those spent breaking rocks on an island penal colony. (P-G, Editorial Triumph)

That is a relevant detail for anyone that has been trying get down to the heart of the matter. That being that forgiveness can be so wondrously pragmatic.

Meanwhile, the Trib is praising Mandela for renouncing "Stalinist 'progressivism'", which I think we are obliged to accept as a proof of a certain tortured conservative luminescence.