Sunday, September 28, 2008

50% Property Tax?

This is the clearest indictment I can find for base-year tax assessments.

The city is trying to sell properties for under $10,000, some in the vicinity of $3,000 that need total rehabilitation, yet the property taxes are upwards of $2,000 per year. Clearly, it would be best for the city, if investors buy and rehabilitate these properties, but within 2 years they would double their purchase price.

We're talking about a potential 50% property tax rate here.


Because these homes are valued using an antiquated system of base-year tax assessment. 10 years ago, they might have been in fine shape and now, they're symptoms of neighborhood rot that the city should be giving away. Yet the county insists this is a perfectly valid means of valuing homes. I want some of that happy-go-lucky pot they're smoking, too.

Thanks again Dan for your excellent executive prowess!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Signs of Reason?

Mr Onorato in recommending lowering the drink tax to 7% has finally caved to partial reason proving he hasn't yet gone completely insane.

"Because of that [over-abundance of revenue], Mr. Onorato, who said he will use this year's excess drink tax revenues for infrastructure development and debt service, plans to trim the levy to 7 percent in his 2009 budget proposal, which he will present to County Council on Oct. 7."

3 Issues Remain:

1) How come Port Authority still hasn't seen ANY of this money and is at risk of going bankrupt?

2) Why does Dan feel that he can spend the extra money on "infrastructure development and debt service"? If the county needs more money, raise and/or re-assess the property tax in this danned county! Why not set aside a special loan fund for helping out beleaguered restaurants and bars? Or how about more money for ailing Port Authority since that's what the drink tax was collected for? Or how about a simple rebate for these bar and restaurant owners? Ever heard of fostering good will, Dan?

3) What impact does the car rental tax have on all this? Every article always ignores the rental car tax revenue. Is it just generating such a negligible income that it should be removed? Is it hurting our tourist economy in any way? Is it hurting our many low-income residents who rely on renting a car to get out of the city because of our abysmal inter-city public transportation options?


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Give it back!

"County Chief Executive Dan Onorato will present his annual budget address on Oct. 7, when he will reveal how he plans to spend the excess drink tax and car rental revenue."

What kind of a moron thinks it's a good idea to tax the county for Port Authority, tax the county WAY too much and then "reveal" how he will spend the excess?

Dan, you have two options:

1) Spend the money on Port Authority. Perhaps in helping to fix this union mess we're in.

2) Give the money back. And while you're at it reduce the tax for next year so there isn't an excess.

How can one man get away with all this bullshit and yet all the pressure is on potential back-handed dealings of our questionable mayor? Dan doesn't even bother to close the door on his wicked wheelings and dealings - he tells the paper.


Hard to Believe My Eyes

For once, the Tribune-Review has honored us with a positive article about Pittsburgh. "City shifts to younger work force, census says" What next, that the unemployment rate is down relative to the nation or that the housing market hasn't tumbled like the rest of the nation? Well, I won't get my hopes up, but it sounds like maybe one of the powers-that-be were inspired by someone like the late Randy Pausch who implored us all to be more like Tigger. How refreshing.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Green is Good. Dan is Bad.

How sad is it that I read about a new initiative "AlleghenyGreen" and all I can focus on is this last sentence:

"The initiative, which will mostly be funded by government grants and private foundations, will be overseen by a manager to be appointed by Mr. Onorato."

Who are you going to appoint, Dan? Clearly not your brother as he's already in charge of Pittsburgh parking. Maybe you have a cousin? I hear Mr Ford is looking for a job...

In hindsight, the county also may have wanted to check that their catchy name wasn't already used by a romance novel.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

More Onorato Foolishness

More fuel on the fire for me despising the policy's of Mr Onorato...

The only reason I can think that our dear County Executive is so peachy-keen on not raising property taxes is not because he cares about dear old Grandma in her 90 year-old house but instead because he cares about his dear cronies and more importantly his chances for being elected to a state-wide or even nation-wide position in the future.

Well, thankfully, in addition to the little old me, the County courts have something to say about static property taxes. They're just not fair - and that means they're not constitutional.

In the past few years, real estate prices in the South Side and Lawrenceville have increased. We should pay more of the percentage of the tax pie. If your home is worth more, you pay more. It's that simple. Except in Pennsylvania where they live in lala land where if once upon a time your home was worth peanuts, you can get the best of both worlds - an increased equity line and lower taxes! And please don't whine to me about the old people and how they can't afford the new taxes. As far as I can tell, older folks with limited incomes aren't really paying property taxes right now, and that's not going to change. Also, they have a majority stake in this county, and they'll continue lobbying for themselves. I don't need to do that job and neither do you. The rest of us need to lobby for ourselves and for those areas who are overpaying because they've dropped in value - can anyone say Hill District?

From the bonehead himself, '"The first thing I will do [if the Supreme Court upholds Judge Wettick's decision] is go to Harrisburg and ask them for a new law," he [Onorato] said. "Allegheny County is not going to do a reassessment any time soon."' I think he missed the elementary school class on how our ingenius forefathers set up a system of checks and balances in our government.

Please, can the county STOP paying our tax money to prevent this??? And can someone take this megalomaniacal dunderhead out of office?


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

And I Thought the Price of Gas was High

The City of Pittsburgh was unable to finish its goal of paving 50 miles of street this year and is instead settling for 41 miles. The purported reasoning, the cost to pave a mile of road was $237,000 in April, and it has supposedly risen to $338,000 due to the price of oil. This is confirmed by both the Post-Gazette and the Trib, so it must be true.

I have a recommendation. Next time the mayor promises 50 miles of paving, can he lock in the price for 50 miles worth of asphalt?

From Pittsburgh Councilman, Mr Motznik, "The South Hills neighborhoods and the West End neighborhoods have been neglected." As of right now, no streets in my neck of the woods have been re-paved this year... There's no excuse for neglecting entire neighborhoods. The price of asphalt has been climbing all summer, and there should have been a mid-summer re-prioritizing to actually make sure that the worst streets got re-paved in the face of not meeting their annual goals.


Tuesday, September 9, 2008

What Could Go Wrong?

Hunting and drilling at the international airport? What could go wrong?

What's up next? Shooting deer from planes? Well, I guess we're not Alaska yet.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Transparency, Oh My

In a city reknowned for its backdoor policy meetings and general nepotism, State Sen. Jim Ferlo is a momentary breath of fresh air. He is suggesting that the URA (Urban Redevelopment Authority) actually post information publicly on its website when awarding new contracts such as who has bid on the projects and what the final bids were. For a little overhead, that proposal could go a long ways toward cooling tempers and letting everyone know what's happening.

In general, I've found that people tend to get pissed when they don't know why something happened even if there's a perfectly good explanation behind it. For instance, even though the highest-paying parking operators did not get picked for re-lease of all the parking lots in Pittsburgh, the one that was picked promised better final rates for consumers. It's easy to pay a high rent when you're planning on gauging those who park at your lot, and as long as the city is making more money, it's fairly reasonable for them to agree to make less money for the relief of taxpayers.

Of course, at the same time, there's a very valid question that employees shouldn't be fighting for cheaper parking in the garages because odds are the only tax people who park in the garages are paying to the city of Pittsburgh is the tax on parking.

Long live the internet and its potential of information overload!

The URA has done a lot of great things for this city. It'd be a shame if the antics of a particular Mr Ford and some questionable wheeling-and-dealing ruined their good reputation. Here's to Jim trying to shift focus back where it belongs.


Friday, September 5, 2008

Less Flights = Less Flyers?

Thanks for the intensive investigative reporting from the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, we learn that this July there were less flyers than last July. Of course, a helpful and downright useful metric would also involve the difference in flights offered between this July and last July. I'm guessing the drop in capacity was more than the 10% drop in flyers.

It is, of course, hugely unsurprising and highly pleasing that the locally-reviled US Airways saw a 30% decline in their number of passengers while 8 of the 13 airlines that service Pittsburgh saw at least a marginal increase. Since US Airways is on their way out the door anyways, everyone feel free to give them a push in the right direction.

This summer, I've taken Delta and Continental out of Pittsburgh, and I have an upcoming flight from AirTran, and I plan to continue that non-US Airways trend.