“If they refuse, it is my understanding that the city could remove the partially constructed sign on their behalf and then charge the company and/or the Parking Authority for that expense. Either way, it is time this blight and sign of poor government administration be removed from such an important location,” Mr. Dowd said. (P-G, Joe Smydo)
What happens if LAZ Parking and their Wall Street investment bankers add yet another sweetener to the deal — if they offer to cover the Parking Authority’s expenses in dismantling this troublesome sign on its headquarters, including any hypothetical lawsuit from Lamar Advertising?
On this issue, I’m finally going to have to play the self-interest card. I have a hard enough time impressing anybody with the idea that I’m a local political blogger. One of my best moves is to arrange a meeting somewhere near the corner of Grant and Liberty, and then casually mention, “Oh, funny story about that half-a-sign over there…”
When I first started this writing experiment, there was another blog — anonymously authored — which was the most entertaining and by far the most informative portal onto Grant Street at the time. Most of what I learned about the scene, I learned from it. These were the very early days of the Ravenstahl administration, so much of which was regrettably slapstick at its improvised outset. It is a matter of public record that this other blog dished the puck onto my stick in regards to that billboard story, and once I pulled the trigger — well, that was my brand. Viva la revolución.
Lately I’ve been writing a lot about “pragmatism”, and with some distance from those heady events I believe that’s where my core political convictions lie. It’s consistent then that in my ideal Pittsburgh, sure, I’d prescribe some technocratic outsider for a captain, bloodthirsty after government savings but with a bleeding heart for the poor — or maybe more of a mercurial, swashbuckling intellectual. Yet the Pittsburgh we all know and love, like any other mid-size metropolis, is going to produce leaders whose core strengths lie in human politics — a lifetime of coming up through the apparatus, forging alliances, working the community, making enemies and pandering earnestly to constituencies. Just like every one of the folks we happen to know.
The mission is to remove impediments to getting that motley human concerto to perform well, which can be defined as being far-sighted, innovative and compassionate. “Mission impossible”, one might quip — but most public servants sincerely desire nothing more than to perform well. It only helps to provide them with a safe and inviting space for working out that which is most “well”, and to expose and remove those impediments.
I don’t happen to think that a $60 million annual aggregate penalty for a lack of negotiating skills, or a billion dollar surcharge for coming around to a compromising attitude a little too late, qualifies as doing particularly well. Some residents actually depend on city government services to a degree that such latitude is not an acceptable option.
The Mayor of Chicago presented his parking deal a mere 24 hours before that city’s council was asked to vote on it — a procedural crime deserving of the boycotts and vandalism which followed. In Pittsburgh we were informed of the proposal almost 2 years in advance, had the complete contractual details in hand 2 months prior to a scheduled vote (during which time said proposal suffered in a vacuum of any discussion of our alternatives) and have all been substantively and successfully negotiating for an additional 2 months and counting. Very different.
In Chicago there was no competitive process for the concessionaire, or for the broker / transactional advisor. In Pittsburgh, both functions were subject to formal RFPs and long bidding processes to which no one can credibly raise any objection. Very different.
In Chicago no study was done to ascertain the value of the assets until after the fact, which made for a very unpleasant and clear demonstration of Chicago having gotten ripped off. In Pittsburgh the Council rightfully ordered a such an outside professional analysis beforehand, only to discover that the present value of the assets is about $50 million less than the dowry which was actually offered. Very different indeed.
Lumping in the Pittsburgh deal with that of Chicago, if you will excuse the muddled metaphorical time line, is like arguing that since the Iraq War was such a fiasco we should never have stormed the beaches at Normandy and liberated Europe, because war is war is war. Then again, opposition to a serious monetization of our government-run parking system has rarely roused itself very much beyond a noun, a verb, “Wall Street investment bankers” and “Chicago”. It has been distinctly (and shockingly) hackneyed, political, non-empirical and anti-intellectual at almost every turn.
There have been better arguments against a professional services accord, and sounder considerations including some real popular opposition — and this blog will respectfully engage these while there is still time to forge a new compromise solution. But I thought it best to dispense with the crap first.