For once I have a (mostly) good reason for not having blogged for the last couple of days. Not long after I finished Friday's post, I went off to work, and in the course of walking my usual mile from where I park to where I work, I developed a weird, freakish sort of vertigo. I became dizzy, nauseated and pretty much immobilized. I called CMU’s police, who called the City paramedics. They thought I might be having a heart attack (despite my lack of pain, and eventual totally normal EKG in the hospital), and although my doctor eventually guessed at a diagnosis that appears to have been borne out, I stayed over night in UPMC Shadyside. I did not get much sleep, though, due to a roommate whose breathing device had a shrill alarm that went off every few minutes, literally, from 1 am to 3 am. When I came home yesterday, I slept for at least part of the afternoon and went to bed shortly after dinner. I am now at about 95%, but I notice my typing seems to have suffered a bit, so I apologize in advance for any typos or lapses (more than usual).
But enough about me. The new City five year proposed plan is indeed out now for the public to view, at the City Council’s website (I swear it wasn’t there Thursday night, but so what). From the initial description of the plan, it seemed to me the City was being encouraged to find some savings besides those specifically recommended in the plan, and that the plan only specifically recommended keeping the parking tax at 37.5%. But now the Mayor, at least, if not other City officials, has seized on the proposal's comments that the City could petition the state to raise the EMS tax to $145 and to allow a new Pittsburgh levy on a new tax on non-profits that for profits already pay (I believe it is officially a “Payroll Perpetration tax”). Meanwhile, local members of the State legislature, from Jane Orie to Dan Frankel, are rebelling against the idea of increased local taxes. Jane Orie suggests legislators from districts across the state will not support the idea. I don’t see that myself, I think the only reason they might care if Pittsburgh tries to take more money from the surrounding county or counties (as well as from itself) is if the live in a suburb of somewhere like Philadelphia (which may have already done more). But I don’t think legislators from the Scranton area will lead the charge for Pittsburgh, it has to be our own local legislators. Who seem to be very tepid on the idea.
It’s funny to see the Mayor, who was campaigning on lowering taxes last week, suddenly excited about the idea of raising taxes.
Meanwhile, it is not clear what will happen with the Peduto plan. Bill Peduto is showing more of a political side than I have seen before (a good thing, IMO). He has already suggested a .2% tax instead of the $52 or $145 EMS tax (presumably .2% of income over $12,000, the current point below which people who work in the City do not have to pay taxes). Bill Peduto may work to incorporate parts of his plan into the new Act-47 five year plan.
Finally, I have to say something about todays’ Jack Kelly column. Now, I like Top Gear, and I had read Jeremy Clarkson’s Times of London review of the Honda Insight. Clarkson, who by and large despises Americans (and all other non-British people) as inferior, non the less has a very American attitude towards power in cars, and great disdain for efforts to make cars more economical. Which is fine, you can’t care about that (and I am sure Clarkson would share Jack Kelly’s point of view about the Obama administration’s CAFÉ standards proposal). Kelly has made it plain he thinks that oil is not a limited resource, at least not limited within the foreseeable future. I happen to disagree, and I think before there is no oil it will get very expensive. I think the less we consume now, the more that will be available in the future. The more people fifty years from now will have a lifestyle that matches our own, not some sort of Mad Max lifestyle. What I am saying is that if we dramatically cut back now, if we first of all encourage biking and walking to work, if we have electric (or at least hybrid) buses and cars, and if we set up parking lots at central spots for people commuting from the sticks to ride buses from, then we can begin to cut our consumption of oil. Of course, I am one of those who advocates a European style gas tax of 100%, coupled with an increased EIC (to ensure the poor can still work). I think an increase in the downtown parking tax would also be a good thing. Then, as time goes on, maybe new apartment buildings can be build along light rail lines (in the South) and bus-ways (in the east). More apartment buildings in Shadyside near the bus-way stops would be great, because there is great opportunity ofr shopping there now. Except maybe there will be a need for more buses on that busway.
I wrote a letter to the paper, briefly mentioning some of this. We’ll see if it is printed, but I wanted to say some of this here too.