State Oversight, We Hardly Knew (Know?) Ye…

Apoplectic, Spreadshirt

Do you think the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (ticka ticka… ZOOMP!) is just an opaque and unelected cabal of political appointees beholden to Harrisburg legislative caucus leaders, run by a battered and bruised bonds trading journeyman earning $120,000 a year for part-time consulting?

Well, your understanding couldn’t be more partial! The ICA are hometown nuns and union laborers who volunteer because they share a love for this City and are working hard to put it back on its feet!

The second thing we share is our support of the recent findings of the Act 47 team and its recommendation to terminate the city’s status as a financially distressed municipality — while keeping the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority in existence. (P-G, Geibel & Stanizzo)

The first question to ask is, who is the audience for this op-ed? Who exactly is it important to convince of this? Public officials? Financial markets? The newspaper itself?

So far, there has been no move to dismantle the five-member Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority.

“One step at a time,” Mr. Ravenstahl said. (P-G, Joe Smydo)

One wonders whether there is anything buried deep down in the enabling legislation underpinning the ICA which the end of Act 47 can “trigger” in terms of its own sunset.

“I’ve always said I think this administration can use all the oversight that it can get, and I still feel that way,” said Lamb, a likely candidate for mayor next year. (Trib, Bob Bauder)

Editorial comment: I hear that — I really do — and bonus points for quotable zing. But it’s just no valid argument in terms of whether or not to disband oversight. If democratic self-government is good enough for Egyptians, it’s good enough for Pittsburghers — and although it might be better in terms of bean-counting to remain impervious to some collective bargaining pressures until we manage to elect a True Savior, it’s not terribly fair with respect to those collective bargaining units and their constitutional rights.

Of course, as 2/5 of the ICA point out above, we are still behind the eight-ball in terms of the very pension and debt burdens which caused the City put out a “distress” call in 2003 in the first place. So I’m not in any great rush to quit that until we have substantially resolved those conundrums.

Wait and see time.

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Pocket Childrens’ Books

But last week’s display left us with at least two interesting bits of intelligence:

1. The Act 47 Coordinators are really the junior partners when it comes to oversight. The last time they were in the news at all was the summer of 2009, when significant portions of their 5-year recovery plan were re-written by an historically rebellious Pittsburgh City Council. It almost seems as though the Coordinators lost their mojo after they threatened hardball and sanctions, yet ultimately accepted a deal.

Meanwhile, it is still an annual spectacle getting the City’s budget approved by the ICA. They are even known to step in to override day-to-day matters.

Considering the timing, it’s almost as though somebody or somebodies in Harrisburg wished to provide Mayor Ravenstahl with the presumed massive political triumph of vanquishing “Act 47 Distressed Status” — while still keeping the City fundamentally down under strict oversight. Who ever said the Mayor doesn’t enjoy good relationships with leaders in Harrisburg?

2. Let’s return to what the two board members of the ICA wrote. Aside from pension obligations, which has conventionally been considered the paramount impossibility:

The second obstacle is overall debt. While the debt level has been moving in the right direction, the city issued $80 million of new debt this year and has plans to issue more in 2015, 2018 and 2021. This will make it hard to reduce overall debt to an acceptable level. (P-G, Geibel & Stanizzo)

Really? Plans for more new debt in 2015, 2018 and 2021? The one loan was one thing, but it would be uncharacteristic for this administration to backslide into such a credit-card mentality.

I can recall over the years looking at so many graphs, looking forward to the immense relief of a debt-cliff in 2017. Now, no more debt cliff in 2017? How will we pay down the pensions?

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