So a lot happened last week. And a lot is going to happen this week. Last week George Specter issued his opinion on the electronic billboard. And what an interesting opinion it was. Mr. Specter opined that Ms Tymoczko (the Zoning Board of Adjustment director or administrator) acted appropriately in her decision to approve the permit the billboard, because of the 4 year practice of allowing vinyl billboards to be swapped with electronic ones. However, he split the difference, also opining that a variance would have been required for this electronic billboard by the Zoning Board (which had not happened). So he stated the practice should stop in the future.
How does that affect the appeal filed by Dr. Dowd, which was joined by several other council members? I think over all it strengthens it. All that has to be stated is that since the billboard is not up yet, the rules established by Mr. Specter’s opinion call be applied retroactively. We now know that Lamar received special treatment, which they really should not have reasonably expected, so they should be blocked, or at least forced to renegotiate. By the way, I am not a lawyer, so that is nothing more than my uninformed opinion.
A few minutes later, in an odd bit of timing, the Nordenberg committee released its report on City County Merger, only five months late. I’ve only scanned the report, but there does not seem to be a whole lot of specifics. I notice that Yarone Zober and a deputy county manager, Kathleen McKenzie, were the vice chairs of the Nordenberg committee. That might explain the vagueness of the report and the timing of its release. Another interesting part to this issue is Our Mayor’s conversion to the religion of merger, as of the day of the release of the report. You really do wonder if the Mayor is getting instructions from Rendell or Onorato or both. First, hours before Ravenstahl endorsed Hillary Clinton, he was saying he didn’t even know if he was a super delegate. Now he says he started to take merger seriously only in the last couple of weeks. These were the same weeks where Council learned how to be assertive. I believe Our Mayor is looking forward to getting rid of City Council, and was letting them know that (my opinion). If true, it is a pretty short sighted view. I hope the Mayor makes up and starts to play nice with Council, though, starting tomorrow. Council is likely to stay in existence well past the 2009 election. I think they will vote for merger when the issue comes up, but if the progressive coalition holds together, they can let the Mayor know that they will decided vote by vote whether to continue supporting the merger. This is not something coming from outside, so Council will now have the option of being petty without endangering State money essential for the City’s survival.
Speaking of outside State money, the Act 47 hearing is coming up Tuesday, I believe. I guess my invitation or public notification got lost in the mail or went to an old address. Seriously, the only reason I know about this was from a tangential mention in a story about city firefighters wanting to get in some early negotiations on contracts. But I really wonder if the removal of Act 47 will be the Mayor’s reward for having endorsed Mrs. Clinton. My fantasy is that the State people will say we need a whole new five year plan, where we need to act like grown-ups, with a real capital budget, not some ephemeral chunk of the operating budget that is a faux surplus. They would also say we need to hit the non-profits harder for money, and apply it to the debt and under funded pensions. In turn, the State would match the additional revenues from the non-profits as admission that they had a role in our problems. We probably wouldn’t wipe out the debt in five years, but we might reduce it by a quarter.
That, as I say, is my fantasy. Reality will probably be the State cutting us loose from Act 47, with praise from Democrats and threats from Republicans. And my God have mercy on our souls, because Wall Street will not.