Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Standing and speaking in opposition to another TIF -- today -- again

A public hearing was held today at 1:30 on Grant Street in City Council Chambers about another URA (Urban Redevelopment Authority) TIF (Tax Incramental Finance) deal that gives a tax-break to a development.

I was there to speak against the TIF, along with Steve D, of Save Our Transit fame and the TMC.

The other candidates in the race were not present.

However, it is fair to say that there are three in the race, out of eight candidates, that are speaking up against the concept of tax-breaks for the large corporation and institutions. I've been talking about ending TIFs since 2000. Joining me on the trails now to speak up against TIFs is an Indie, Matt B. and the 30-year-old Republican. It is good to have them help to shift the conversation away from the corporate give-a-ways that do NOT help the neighborhoods.

TIFs are another way where the city has policy that make the super rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

The TIF on the agenda today was to build parking garages on Second Avenue within what amounts to a suburban office park along the river.

There are many reasons why this TIF and all TIFs should end. These are flowing into a more detailed position paper, to be posted shortly.

TIFs present a quagmire of problems that go to the roots of the city's troubles in terms of finances and population loss. I fear that you will not hear the other four front-runners raise a peep of an objection against TIFs. So far, they have been silent on this topic and this makes for a big distinction in the campaign.

Status quo politicians love TIFs. They love tax breaks. They love to spread the kickbacks to those with influence. They love to make complications and feel as if they are going to win at the game of Sim City.

Furthermore, I need to get onto city council so as to ask a series of direct questions and demand better replies. For example, Bill Peduto asked a fair question. He asked how much this TIF is going to cost. How much is it worth? That is a straight-forward question but he didn't get an answer that had a dollar amount. The best the director of the URA could say was, "We'll see." He didn't know. He didn't say. He didn't answer.

As a tax payer, I'm sitting there to wonder about a tax break that they are going to cut for parking garages -- and they don't even know how much is on the table.

The dollar amount is a big unknow.

These are the types of answers you get when you have eight members of city council all from the same political party.

Sure, I would NOT be able, as a lone vote on city council, to defeat the TIF. However, I would be able to ask pressing questions from at the table and be able to have a dollar amount stated to the public, understood by all the others who are going to vote 'yes' -- and inject a bit of transparency to the process.

Then there is the question of 'when.' This TIF is a deal that could come about in the next 10 years. There is not 'start date.' The project may or may not happen -- say -- when the first graders are in high school.

So, there were total failures on what amount and when it begins and end -- plus comes the kicker. No RFP. The project is going to be a hand-picked deal. There will not be an open-bid process. There won't be a competitive process. There won't be a chance to hear from other developers about ideas that they might have for a deal for the property. There won't be any 'master plan' critique from the market, at large. Nope, this is a good under-the-table, smokey city deal of the highest order.

Let's take some prime, flat, river-front property, right next to our biggest highway, between our three most vibrant business districts (Downtown, Oakland and South Side) pinch it between a new $5-million pedestrian bridge and bike path -- and give it to some developer cronies without so much as an "OPEN CALL FOR PARTICIPATION" to anyone other than a hand-picked windfall agent.

TIFs stink. The TIF process stinks.

What did I do with the phone number for the F.B.I.? This is HIGHWAY Robbery. This is why Pittsburgh is going down the tubes still. We need to turn the tide -- and rather than 3 out of 8 candidates in a race against TIFS, we need every candidate against them.

Kraus, Krane, Koch, Phillips, .... your no-show and no-voice is noted.

There is a simple way to come onto the record when there is a public hearing, such as what happened today. Just call the City Clerk's office and have your name put onto the agenda as either "FOR", or "AGAINST", or "COMMENT" -- and then you can show your true colors.

As I expected, you won't be able to watch the public hearing on the city's cable TV channel because the cable-casting of the meeting was not ordered by anyone on city council. That is like another ring of smoke to complicate deals and keep the city residents and taxpayers in the dark.

But, both the P-G and Trib Grant Street reporters were there to witness the folly. I expect we'll see something in the newspapers, I hope.


Anonymous said...

Council gets pitch for Oakland garage financing

Tuesday, February 28, 2006
By Rich Lord, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The City of Pittsburgh's top development official said today that proposed new garages in South Oakland might spur quick development of lab space and help link several important development sites.

Urban Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Jerome Dettore spoke at a City Council hearing on a proposed tax-increment financing, or TIF, for the Pittsburgh Technology Center. The URA wants to steer 60 percent of property and parking tax revenue generated by new development on the site into the construction of three new parking garages totaling 2,200 spaces.

After the hearing, he said that developer Madison Realty Group is expected to decide in March whether to exercise an option on a parcel. Cleveland-based Ferchill Group, which developed one building in the Technology Center, is considering building another, he added.

He said biotechnology companies coming out of the universities are expected to need some 3 million square feet of laboratory space in coming years. Empty parts of the Technolgy Center could accommodate around 1.1 million square feet of lab, office, residential and hotel development, according to URA plans.

More development there would connect the thriving SouthSide Works complex with the former Hazelwood Coke Works site, which a coalition of foundations seeks to develop, he said.

The URA's plan calls for building some $43.3 million in infrastructure, including garages, using the TIF proceeds, state funds and money borrowed from banks. It must be approved by City Council, Allegheny County Council and the Pittsburgh Public Schools board, all of which would forego tax revenue for the TIF.

Council candidate Mark Rauterkus spoke against the TIF, equating it to "bribing someone to move in."

Councilman William Peduto encouraged the URA to explore financing the lab space, rather than the garages, with TIF. Mr. Dettore said the URA will continue with the garage plan.

An interim council vote on the TIF is expected on March 15.

Mark Rauterkus said...

I did get a mention in the P-G article:

Council candidate Mark Rauterkus spoke against the TIF, equating it to "bribing someone to move in."