A. Fulton Meachem Jr. is resigning as executive director of the Pittsburgh Housing Authority.
The authority announced his resignation this morning, saying Mr. Meachem has accepted a similar position in Charlotte, N.C. (P-G, Joe Smydo; see also Trib)
Monthly Archives: August 2012
Fitzgerald faces Tough Choices on Sewer Strategy
The ALCOSAN Draft “Wet Weather Plan” for satisfying the federal decree mandating that we stop letting our sewers overflow when it rains thereby allowing so much poop into our rivers can be found here.
Good luck with it.
Pittsburgh City Councilman Bill Peduto describes that plan as “huge holding tanks under our rivers and a series of smaller tanks throughout the city to trap excess stormwater and wastewater until it can be safely released for treatment” — which looks about right, near as I can tell.
He goes on to recommend that we utilize parks, ponds, community gardens, permeable pavements, green rooftops, tree plantings and rain barrels to limit the amount of rain water that needs to enter the sewage system in the first place. And furthermore, that this will save us all money on steel, concrete and boring machines. (RPghN and BP.com)
Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald was reported also to be “urging” ALCOSAN at community meetings to incorporate such green tactics.
This seemed strange, since ALCOSAN stands for Allegheny County Sanitary Authority — 3 of whose seven board members are appointed by the County Executive himself, 3 by the Mayor of Pittsburgh (Luke Ravenstahl) and one jointly by them both. Why can’t Fitzgerald simply instruct his board members to do what he wants?
“Rain water is not free. We’re all paying for how we handle it,” Mr. Fitzgerald said. “Alcosan, if it can divert some of it to green spaces, parks and gardens, won’t have to pay to treat it.” (P-G, Don Hopey)
Make it so, numba one! Am I right?
Well, the main reason this is going to be difficult is…
Alcosan has said it’s been on their minds — but that implementing or ordering use of those technologies in municipalities is not within the authority’s purview. Executive director Arletta Scott Williams further explained that if municipalities include “green infrastructure” in future plans they submit to Alcosan, the authority will consider them.
“We fully support that,” Ms. Williams said. “We would like to see the municipalities implement more green.” (P-G, Molly Born)
Neither ALCOSAN nor Allegheny County can simply tell its 130 municipalities and umpteen millions of private property owners to replace asphalt and use rain barrels. The municipalities themselves can use zoning and other law to influence development — but that’s a slow process even if they each are in the mood to undertake it.
Which leads us to the next Peduto idea…
A stormwater utility is a governmental entity – usually an independent authority or a branch of the municipal water system – that levies a fee on property owners, from owners of single family homes to owners of large retail or industrial facilities, for how much excess stormwater enters the system from their property. In effect, a stormwater utility puts a price on runoff. One of the benefits of a stormwater utility is that a cost that was previously invisible – stormwater runoff – is brought out into the open and property owners are held accountable for their impact on the overall system. We’re all already paying for stormwater in our water and sewer bills, but in a stormwater utility system the property owners that are contributing most to the problem pay the most and those that are taking steps to reduce their impact pay less or even get credits for the improvements they make. Thus, a tangible financial incentive for improving stormwater management is created. (RPghN)
NOW Head: Mayor “Screamed” At, “Threatened” Me for Criticism over Trosky Promotion
After a week of taking heat related to issues of diversity, a second promotion by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl of the intermittently controversial George Trosky now to Assistant Chief of Police generated predictable criticism:
“The message is that the mayor doesn’t care about women,” she [National Organization for Women President Jeanne Clark] said. “He doesn’t care about domestic violence. When we disagreed with this appointment for Commander Trosky to become a commander, he [the mayor] said he got it, he was zero tolerance policy and nothing like this would happen again.” (Lynne Hayes-Freeland, KDKA)
That was Tuesday. Allegedly on Wednesday, this happened:
Your public attack on me in the reception line at the Cookie Cruise – berating me for criticizing your promotion of George Trosky to assistant police chief, screaming that I was a “hypocrite,” and threatening to “go public” with what you perceive to be my failure to support all domestic violence survivors – was bizarre, to say the least. (Everyone’s Entitled to Jeanne’s Opinion)
Ravenstahl, Yabolonsky, and Harris on Natural Gas Drilling
Full article here. This is probably a huge election issue in terms of fundraising and connections-building. The funny thing about having attorneys, engineers and advertising sales reps grow invested in industry expansion is, these then become attorneys, engineers and advertising platforms and their extended families predisposed to believe “safe” natural gas drilling is a very achievable thing, probably safe enough already, and can we get over it.
Monday: How Have You Been Getting By Without These?
Did you ever put on a bathing suit as underwear because you forgot to do laundry? That’s a little like what’s going on with the RAD tax and the Port Authority…
The annual funding of $3 million to the Port Authority over the next 10 years will wreak havoc with the surplus, limit inflation adjustments and ultimately affect the stability of these important assets. In the past we stabilized the annual budget with the surplus so that assets could remain fully funded. But one needs a surplus to do this. With $3 million a year to the transit system, I estimate the entire cushion will be wiped out in five to seven years. (P-G, Rick Pierchalski)
If objections to the Fitzgerald notion actually, ultimately result in bus routes disappearing and workers let go, then yes that would redound to the detriment of whoever stood in its path. But if it results in any sort of compromise or more orthodox $3 million solution, that person will wind up looking like the rock-ribbed fiscal and civic watchdog on the scene. Take it as another object lesson in not misunderestimating anybody with proven survival instincts.
Our Controller has spent the last two weeks firing a chain gun in the direction of the administration, while Mr. Peduto — well, at the moment he appears to be showcasing his “vision thing” with such features as bicycling safety, “green” sewage strategies and community planning, though we know the hate flows strong in that one.
Meanwhile, and allegedly, there is Jack Wagner. Who in these locally portentous times is distantly and dutifully trying to support the 911th Airlift Wing, recommend changes at Penn State, and keep tabs on volunteer fire departments. I’m sure he would like to have a hand in the Great Rebellion, but does anybody really believe this guy is running personally? Truly, in a way that is not a psy-ops fake-out against one of the aforementioned challengers? If Wagner fails to chime in substantively and sharply on at least one natural topic very soon, it’s going to be tough to justify his continued inclusion in the penciled brackets.
But this is all crass politics. And as you know, this is a high-class, no fraternizing public policy blog. With so much of consequence going on, now we can only give you glimpses of the substance behind the stories! So without further housekeeping…
However — why the heck is the ICA spending $3 thousand a month on public relations all of a sudden?!?? That’s INTERESTING.
I don’t even care about the “ties” to the chairman — it’s a professional services contract, hire whoever floats your boat — but who is going to be lobbied or persuaded into doing what? To date the ICA has done what it has done in a negative sense, limiting our spending, since it has the power and does not need to sweat how the yokels feel. Now however — what’s up? Pro-active recommendations? The old ones? New ones? Things city leaders have attempted, but as it turned out, maybe they required some public relations expertise to get it past Council and the community groups they heed?
Back to ALCOSAN sewer mega-upgrades again… sure, there is “grey” and “green” infrastructure and everything that entails, and there are certainly notable overlaps with politics and political proclivities which come into play. However the dichotomy between “grey” and “green” may serve as an unfortunate distraction from a more fateful choice: “thoroughly fixing it” versus “sorta half-assing it.” Sure, there is an EPA consent decree with detailed requirements and timetables. But say what you will about squabbling local leaders — when they find themselves on the same side and rowing in the same direction, never doubt their capacity and ingenuity to move mountains to earn exceptions, exemptions, extensions and to generally avoid annoying their near-sighted constituents with expense or change. Personally I would like to see us seize this opportunity to make a real worthy gift to future generations in the form of a water and sewer system they can be proud of: a Wonder of the World. But there are already signs of downward-bearing pressure.
What else… this is getting long already… “At such disquieting moments, it is time to move on.” What does that even mean? A most troubling final word. You’ve got to grade these things on a curve since they are written by committee, and sometimes they wind up with a hung editorial board. But this one went so far as to state signs point to “a moral outrage, maybe even a human tragedy,” but then oh bother keep walking? Although the Trib was doubtful that any “clear evidence” of wrongdoing existed they were very clear that Jordan’s right to retry the unsettled charges is absolute and important. Meanwhile and of broader importance: did we ever figure out if “jump out” aka “scare” tactics were and are employed by the Police Department against “suspicious-looking” though nonspecific targets found in the dangerous neighborhoods that it protects? Because startling someone, if it happens, seems tailored to provoke a “fight or flight” response — and one thing we did learn conclusively is that either fighting or fleeing is the start of an ugly situation.
Not “Orwellian” in the pejorative sense so much as the … uh … literal sense.
Pittsburgh pension board members refused Thursday to consider lowering the fund’s annual investment-earnings projection, saying the move would require increased cash contributions each year that the city could fund only on the backs of employees or with a tax increase. (P-G, Joe Smydo)
Yes, but if we cannot achieve an 8% annual return (which is considerably difficult and would require luck even for aggressive private investors) then keeping future projections at 8% so we can feel better paying less now is like robbing Future Peter to pay Today Peter. One might expect Corey O’Connor to object, since it is to his administration that the brunt of this must inevitably fall.
A lower investment projection would increase the city’s required annual cash payments to the fund, Mr. Ravenstahl said — and leave him scrambling to find funds in a lean budget or asking taxpayers for more money. “To me, this is where this is going, and I’m not going to do it,” Mr. Ravenstahl said, noting he has never advanced a property tax increase and doesn’t plan to now.
Mr. Ravenstahl’s office said a change from 8 percent to 7.5 percent could require the city to pay an additional $9.3 million annually to the fund, without making a significant difference in the funded liability. (ibid)
The implications being: right now all pension funding projections you see are $9.3 million per each year into the future (compounded with interest!) lower than we are making them look on paper.* And Ravenstahl would prefer one day to be remembered as the former Mayor who helped cause some present calamity, rather than make bold choices while in office to head off that reckoning. Simply another in a very long line which we know he abhors.
Ideally, instead of cutting an already lean budget to the marrow or raising residents’ wage and property taxes, the emergency which lowering projections would
cause reveal might instill the political dynamic necessary to do something else entirely. To follow-through on our bluffs to share in the economic successes of our so-called non-profits, to settle upon a least-odious new revenue stream from amongst a commuter tax, tuition tax, soda tax and others, or even to monetize cherished but underperforming assets.
The revelation would actually result in several “I told you so!” moments for our Mayor — were he only willing to let the cat out of a bag which is visibly squirming and audibly meowing.
“I don’t believe 8 percent is realistic for this kind of fund. But you’re right, the other side is, can we afford to lower it?” Mr. Lamb said. Because of the opposition, he withdrew his proposal for a study. (ibid)
See, there’s the difference. A Patrick Dowd would have gone full Cato: climbing walls, rending his garments, pointing at graphs. UPDATE: An anonymous commentator clarifies that his motion failed for lack of a second (so it must be true).
In addition, Mr. Huss said further discussion of pension funding only leads some retirees to fear that they won’t get their checks. Pension payments, he stressed, are not in jeopardy. (ibid)
Mr. Huss accused Mr. McAneny of telling overseers, who are often in conflict with the mayor, what they wanted to hear. (ibid)
Transit Funding Becomes Locally Contentious
The Action: Your 2012 Pittsburgh Pirates
The Music: Frank and Ray Folotico and Ernie Pontiere, circa 1990
Voter ID Game is Transparent, More Ingenious than you have Yet Absorbed
This deal looks more jive every time we see it…
HARRISBURG – On the same day a judge cleared the way for the state’s new voter identification law to take effect, the Corbett administration abandoned plans to allow voters to apply online for absentee ballots for the November election and to register online to vote. (PhillyInq, Amy Worden)