Saturday, July 31, 2010

Pittsburgh Council Wants You

Last week, Pittsburgh City Council wandered around to Downtown, South Side, and Oakland for public hearings. Monday night, they will visit the North Side to share their side of the pension woes and the mayor's attempt at a stop-gap fix at the expense of the citizens.

As it currently stands, Mayor Ravenstahl is ready to give away the bank to the highest bidder. That means tripling most parking meter rates over the next 4 years, meter enforcement till 10PM everyday including Sundays. That means no more free ride in city downtown parking garages.

I attended last week's South Side hearing to voice my opinion and listen to others. The resounding responses? 50 years (the intended lease agreement length) is a very long time. One of the plan stipulations is that the City of Pittsburgh will pay the lessee if a parking space is out of commission for 22 days in a year. One speaker aptly asked "What if we had locked into a plan 50 years ago?" We'd be paying some company a fee for not using those covered-up trolley lines if you ask me.

Residents also fervently proclaimed that leasing the parking garages is bad business. The city is selling low right now because the city is at a disadvantage. And what is the lessee going to do? Make a steep profit off of higher rates that we've been too afraid to implement ourselves for fear of driving away business. Why not raise the rates, put the profit towards the pensions, and cut out the middle man? Pittsburgh City Council is leaning towards a plan that will issue a bond to increase the contents of the pension fund and retain control over the parking situation. They would continue to raise rates, but since the city would still ultimately be in control, they could respond to suffering businesses and residents if the rates became too unwieldy. That sounds like good business to me.

So why am I telling you this? In order to pull off this coup, 5 city council members need to stand up to pressure from Mayor Ravenstahl and our Harrisburg Legislators. City council is only willing to do this if we insist on this plan. So let your city councilors know that you support them standing up to Harrisburg and Mayor Ravenstahl. Let them know that it's bad business to hand away our assets and lose control of our streets. Will this still mean increased parking rates? Yes. But it also means that the increases will be with the success of the city in mind - instead of a big conglomerate that just wants to profit off of our residents in a time of need.

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