Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The boy who would be Mayor/Fiscal redux

I read somewhere, maybe in a blog, that the Mayor had put 300 miles of extra mileage on the Yukon. Maybe, maybe not. But this is a direct quote from the PG: “Chief Harper said that when the mayor's car was in for repairs, or when he needed a larger vehicle, the bureau often sent over the Yukon.” (emphasis mine). And apparently the police sergeant who complained, had tried through channels to have something done for “at least a month”. The chief almost sounds proud of giving the Mayor “the best vehicle available”, but her superiors sound perhaps frightened of a capricious Mayor’s firing power: “"They basically said, to the best of their knowledge, the mayor can take any vehicle he wants, because he's the mayor."”. That last was the statement of James Malloy of the FOP.

We haven’t heard anything about the Mayor’s bodyguards recently, it might be time for some reporter to ask about them again. Before the US Attorney’s investigation seals the records.

You may remember the two detectives assigned to the Mayor, one at night and one during the day, were on track to make more than the Mayor by the end of the year. I guess Mayoral protection detail must automatically pay time and a half (and maybe double time for overtime), because otherwise these gentlemen would have to each work maybe twenty five extra hours a week, guarding the Mayor when he is out in public, to stay on track to double their salaries.

This is relevant because the Mayor is complaining that he is a regular 27 year old, and like a regular 27 year old, he likes to go out and have the occasional drink and go to concerts. In fact he says "that is what 27 year olds do and I shouldn't be any different". He thinks this is something the city “should” embrace, as he has embraced this lifestyle. In the next sentence he talks about looking at “issues that are of importance and what we've done as an administration over 13 months I'm very proud of where we're at”.

We should be looking at issues of importance. We should also be willing to accept, if perhaps not “embrace”, the night life of the Mayor. But the Mayor seems to expect respect. Respect will not come from having an active night life. And so far, for at least some people, the Mayor’s daylight record is mixed. The Mayor inherited a city in financial distress that is now showing small surpluses that were designed into the five year Act 47 plan. A major initiative, Pittsburgh Promise, has really gone no where. There was the traffic light contract, the bidding process for which was run in an at least unusual, not to say shady, manner. There was the firing of directors, which at the end of the day achieved almost nothing. There is the Penguin’s arena and the casino, but I don’t see exactly where or for what to give the Mayor credit for there. In fact, he has missed some opportunities, in my opinion, to step and maybe negotiate and resolve traffic issues around the North Shore.

These are all issues to debate in the election. Speaking of which, the Mayor asked his opponent, Mark DeSantis, to leave the room yesterday morning at a candidate's forum, when the Mayor was to speak and then take questions. This doesn't seem to be in the spirit of a free exchange of ideas. Of course, the Mayor could just be following the lead of George W Bush, who also likes to have election events controlled.

I was asked, by at least one person, what my opinion of the DeSantis fiscal plan for the city is. I read it more carefully over lunch yesterday. It seems like it really is DeSantis’ markup sheet for the Mayor’s budget, which also means that it probably makes better sense if you have the Mayor’s budget to read along side it, damnit. But maybe I am wrong.

I think DeSantis’ fiscal plan is as notable for what it doesn’t mention as for what it does. He has already allocated casino tax revenue and non-profit contributions in an earlier plan, so he largely ignores them in this plan. I know he wants to use tax cuts to entice business to locate in Pittsburgh, but he needs to be oh-so-careful, cutting taxes in a distressed city. His tax cuts are across the board, won’t benefit any group more than any other (except perhaps businesses), and they are small enough as to be close to not much more than symbolic.

The plan is only an overview, but the point is the direction it points to, one of fiscal austerity, so that the city can survive without bankruptcy and can start to make meaningful contributions to its pension funds and debt, eventually recover and leave state oversight. Maybe city council would refuse to pass a lot of it, maybe they would have other helpful ideas. Even if we keep some of DeSantis’ plan, we would be headed in a better direction.

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