Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Should we put a parking chair in the parking garages...

So I am relatively confused about what is happening with the parking garages. We should realize that it was over a year ago that the Mayor first floated the idea of leasing the garages. Now, I can't tell you what has taken him so long to get going on this, but I guess since City Council is interested in at least studying the matter, if not an alternative plan, suddenly the Mayor needs to start threatening people (again).

My questions start with the fact that the City will lose a revenue source. Now, I will have to look (when I have time) at some City budgets, to see what the City is giving up, and, perhaps, gaining in lowered payments to the pension fund. Maybe. If the City goes with the Mayor's plan, we will lose control of the parking garages. I believe I read an article that indicated the lessee could immediately (over three years) increase parking rates to "market levels", then increase rates rather more slowly. I have a feeling those three years would be kind of painful. But the City would (might) get a couple of hundred million to put in the pension fund. Hopefully the City wouldn't squander it.

On the other hand, if the City followed the Lamb/Dowd plan would give the pension fund a steady source of revenue for some time to come, perhaps until the automobile disappears. But we won't have that big infusion of cash that frankly might be required by state law (the legislature). The Mayor may in fact have that in mind. All of elected City government belongs to the Democratic party, but in a conflict between the Mayor and the Council, the legislature might decide to side with the Mayor.

But to me, the most interesting thing is that Bill Peduto and Pat Dowd might be working together on this. Not that this should be surprising. When Pat Dowd was (first) running for Council, in spring of 2007, he advocated such progressive ideas as transparency in government and tackling the debt the City carries (including the pension debt). Pat Dowd the campaigner was someone very similar to Bill Peduto the councilman, or at least the image Bill Peduto would like to project. The past couple of years has seen the two men steadily moving to two different camps, at odds. But perhaps they have now (finally) found an issue they can agree on. As I said, that is an interesting thing.


n'at said...

Granted the city has an extremely poor history which such things, but what of Council President Harris? Comparatively, the Parking Authority rakes in more cash than PWSA, but the total liabilities on PWSA is in excess of $700 M. If an evaluation of the Parking Authority's assets were to yield similar values to PWSA, then the Harris proposal may gain traction.

No one in this town would want to float a half billion in muni bonds, but considering the painted picture of doom and gloom for the pension funds and the solid revenue stream from the parking tax, it would be difficult to not consider this at the 11th hour.

EdHeath said...

You know, I saw Darlene Harris's proposal mentioned, but I haven't paid much attention to it. It may be necessary because of state rules, but it would be awfully difficult to work up enthusiasm for still more public debt for Pittsburgh.