Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Yay for Fearmongering!

On a national level, the housing slump is hurting the nation. That sucks. It makes me really happy I sold my condo in Connecticut to buy a house in Pittsburgh.

Unfortunately, the Post-Gazette appears to have gotten jealous of all the press other papers around the country are getting about the disastrous housing slump and wants to scare us here in Pittsburgh.

Their disastrous result: It's going to be more difficult to get a mortgage.

I, for one, am thankful that mortgages won't be growing on trees anymore. One of the major causes of the housing bubble was people being able to buy houses they couldn't afford with ridiculous mortgage options - and trying to prevent that from happening here can't be a bad thing. I don't ever expect to make a 100% profit on my house in Pittsburgh like I made on my condo in Connecticut. That's not why I bought my house. I bought it because I fell in love with its view and its character and its great location in the South Side Slopes.

I guess I'm rambling, but my point is. Post-Gazette, quit it with the fear-mongering. The Pittsburgh real estate market is in a pretty good place. Hopefully, in the future, we'll be able to continue to avoid the mania which swept the coasts of this country. This is a good thing.


Saturday, December 22, 2007

Promises, Promises

When I bought a house in Pittsburgh in August, I fully planned on penny-pinching and sending any future children to private school. After talking to some friendly folks at Penn Ave's Final Fridays and reading about the new program, the "Pittsburgh Promise," I had pretty much changed my mind. I was planning on giving the Pittsburgh Public schools a chance, largely thanks to UPMC's commitment. I know full well that this program is not going to single-handedly turn things around, but I also think that the city is headed in the right direction.

Unfortunately, our mayor, whom I generally support on the actual issues <*gasp*>, chose not to mention that UPMC wanted a promise in return that in the unlikely event that the state decides to tax non-profits, they wanted to make sure they wouldn't be required to pay us more than $10 Million per year. Did I mention that, if the unlikely event happened, UPMC would only be paying $8.3 million per year for property taxes, a nice hefty bonus of $1.7 million to the city of Pittsburgh, which currently only gets a contingent $1.5 million per year! These are big numbers, and they are real numbers, and it's important to not forget that.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Len Bodack says: "the scholarship program should be open to city children in private and parochial schools, not only those in the public schools..." if the tax credit applies to UPMC. I don't have to wonder if his kids are in private or parochial schools.
At least, I'm not the only one sick of his bullshit and happily he's out of office at the end of 2007. ( Where is his logic here?? My tax dollars don't currently support private schools. My tax dollars do currently support public schools. UPMC currently supports no schools. Their tax dollars (if they were created) would support public schools - just like mine.

How long have we gone without that tax collection from UPMC? Would a maximum of 10 more years without the money going directly into the city's coffers really outweigh having a viable school system. This program has done wonders for Kalamazoo, Michigan. Can we please give it a chance here?

To the naysayers, who claim that if we offer this deal to UPMC, we have to offer it to everybody who donates to the Pittsburgh Promise: I say, sure. Let's offer it to any non-profit who is not currently obligated to pay any taxes and who wants to commit to donating money to the city.

In the meantime, please skewer the mayor and his staff for not mentioning this earlier - this is a real problem and has jeopardized the start of this major program. More importantly, please realize how much this scholarship program is in jeopardy for 2008 and that it can be resolved if certain council-members can just get over themselves and work together.


Why do I drink at the bars?

Bar-goers in Pittsburgh have caught a lot of flack lately.
The general sentiment I've heard condones the drink tax, stating that it mostly affects binging college students, as though respectable, money-earning people don't go to the bar, as though it's somehow more shameful to go out to the bar after the age 22 instead of staying inside and drinking a case of beer.

To be frank, this pisses me off. I moved to Pittsburgh in August (young person #28 this year), and I like to go out to the bar. There's nothing more fun in Pittsburgh than the crowd at a Pittsburgh bar on a Steelers game day. And a weekday happy hour on the South Side is usually calm and casual - except at Nakama. If I can get beer at the bar for almost as cheap as I can buy it by the case, I will gladly do so for the social interaction value alone. In fact, I have bought one case of beer since August, but I've gone out to the bar at least once a week. Does that make me a bad person? Why am I suddenly the person who needs to pay the burden of public transportation in this whole county?

I won't stop going to the bars, and I surely hope that other people in this city don't let it deter them either, but this tax will definitely affect me and my purchasing power.

Fed up with the Drink Tax

I've been inspired to write about Pittsburgh. The City.
The county sickens me.
How many county councilors felt so awful because they had to vote for the drink tax?? AND the car rental tax?? But they just HAD to do it in order to raise $30 Million for the Transit Authority.

Now, it comes out officially that the powers that be (read: Dan Onorato) have vastly underestimated the money those taxes will bring in. His response if there's extra money: "He said he'd be happy to deal with the problem if more money is collected," according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Not that he'd be happy to lower the taxes next year, not that he'd consider getting rid of these ridiculous taxes, but that he'd be happy to take the extra money. Where is the outrage here except from the obviously biased restaurant group???

The Red Cross got lots of shit when they tried to use the money donated to them for 9/11 in other charities. Let me tell you, I have much less faith in Mr. Dan-wants-to-be-governor-and-get-rid-of-the-city-of-Pittsburgh. If he puts that money to funding more public commuting options in the city, then I'll eat my words and enjoy every last bite. Otherwise, I'll be campaigning against him in whatever race he's running in and hoping I'm not alone.