Tax Abatement Tango

“He has no plan,” Councilman Peduto said Tuesday after Mayor Ravenstahl announced a property tax abatement plan remarkably similar to the one Mr. Peduto was poised to offer council. “He had a sound bite and a press release. Luke has finally decided to embrace my ideas for a new Pittsburgh and a progressive agenda. The next obvious step is to support me for mayor.”

Much of the blurghosphere would cheer this analysis by P-G columnist Brian O’Neill.

As long as challenger Bill Peduto keeps offering ideas, and Mayor Luke Ravenstahl keeps stealing them, this city has a chance to make a nice run. “Stealing” is ordinarily a pejorative, but not in politics. It is a poor politician who attacks a good idea from a rival. A smart politician seizes the idea, tweaks it and claims it for his own.

And the cheering subsides — this is the dominant theme of O’Neil’s piece. Ravenstahl is cast as smart, nimble, and quick to counter his opponent.

Acknowledging his predicament, Peduto weakly notes “It continues a pattern on initiatives that we have undertaken” in yesterday’s Trib piece.

Is there enough daylight between the two proposals to make for an enlightening debate? Ravenstahl would argue that his arrangement rightfully extends to many more neighborhoods than simply downtown. Peduto could counter by paraphrasing military strategist Sun Tzu: to encourage everything is to encourage nothing.

On the Ravenstahl idea, the prez of the Allegheny Institute on Public Policy says “I think the abatement program may be worth trying, but I would stop short when it comes to providing second mortgages.” No comment on what she thought of Peduto’s frills, including additional tax incentives for public art.

This continues a mild trend of the A.I. in favor of Peduto — typically considered the more progressive candidate. Perhaps the Institute’s feeling is, so long as Act 47 limits all the nasty Democrats’ ability to raise taxes, it should fall behind the candidate who takes a generally harder-line, tougher-love view of city finances.

Councilman Doug Shields tried — and we would argue, failed — to sound equally impressed with both proposals in Rich Lord’s P-G piece. “I’m very encouraged by it,” he said of the Peduto plan, and, “”The mayor is going to have to present the detail of his proposal, much the same as this working group presented theirs,” and finally, “”It would be wise for the mayor to look closely at this proposal.”

We take this to mean that Peduto did more impressive homework — but back to O’Neil’s point, so what? If Ravenstahl wins, we still have our wonky Councilman. But if Peduto wins, we lose our unicorn.

The only encouragement the Comet offers our blurghosphere comrades is that both Rich Lord and Jeremy Boren have been turning in more brief and thin work than usual. Perhaps they have a full plate.

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