Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Against TIFs -- my statement to City Council

Statement before Pittsburgh's City Council on March 1, 2006.

I'm Mark Rauterkus, Libertarian candidate for city council in the special election slated for March 14.

I'm the vice-chair of the Libertarian Party of Allegheny County in 2006. I've been active in politics since 1999 when I called a public hearing in city council to oppose a TIF and land-transfer on the South Side to UPMC for a Steelers and Panthers football training facility. This was in the wake of the NO VOTE on the raising of new taxes to pay for two new Stadiums.

Worldwide, cities and urban areas are seeing tremendous population growths. People are moving to the cities in a new urban trend. Cities offer quality of life enhancements that can't be found elsewhere.

However, Pittsburgh is going against the worldwide trend. Here, people are leaving the city in droves. Our population loss makes a bad downward spiral.

We're upside down because city council is doing the wrong things.

Pittsburgh can boom again, with prosperity, families, community – and increase our population, increase our urban fabric – if we make some serious systematic changes.

TIFs are one prime example of how city council and the powers that be are doing the wrong things. The TIFs are tax-breaks for the super-rich corporations and developers and institutions. TIFs make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

TIFs are complicated – by design. But outcomes are obvious to me. Perhaps I have different perspectives because I'm NOT a Democrat.

Yesterday there was a public hearing in council chambers. It was NOT on cable TV. The TIF for new parking garages on Second Avenue makes no sense to me. It cuts against what we should value.

The TIF takes flat land, next to the river, next to a highway on/off ramp, nestled among tight connections to three vibrant city centers (Downtown, South Side and Oakland). This is a valued, prime asset.

But the TIF is also next to a bike path, near to a pedestrian bridge that just got a $5-million dollar federal check.

Plus, this TIF of 2006 is layered upon a previous TIF from a deal in the past decades already, proving a lack of sustainablity to the entire TIF concept.

We don't know how much this TIF is going to cost. The price tag is unknown. People on Council were at the table yesterday and asked, "How much it was going to cost?" Jerry Detore, the director of the URA, didn't tell you.

Additionally, we don't know when the TIF is going to start. It might end in ten years. So, we are not with any certainty when it is going to conclude either.

I feel that there is little to no demand at the location for this TIF. However, people are starving for attention in Hazelwood. Do deals elsewhere where real hunger cries for help.

There is a demand, so we are told, for quality bio-tech lab space. Some of these spaces are called, 'Wet Labs.' Granted, bio-tech jobs make for good paying professionals in high-turnover companies. My wife, a PhD researcher. Today she is working in Texas on the Air Force's largest base – at a hospital as they solve a bio-tech solution that involves distance medicine. They are there to figure out how to program a new hearing device attached to a person's brain while the patient is on the other side of the world.

If we want to be tech darlings, then don't blow hard earned money, what little there is, on a parking garage just down the courtyard from another garage. This town is overboard on parking, as well illustrated by Joe Gratta's article in the P-G this weekend.

Keep your eye on the ball.

But it gets worse.

City Council and the URA want to do this TIF deal with a hand-picked developer. This comes to the public sector for a stamp of approval from city council without an RFP, (Request For Proposals), without a bid (competitive bid process), only so some can suggest the URA picks a buddie that just did the last job.

I was floored to hear of the last parking garage and its success. The boss of the URA said that it was oh-so-successful since it might make a profit, perhaps, in four years. It takes four years until operational costs cover the expenses. Money is being poured down the drain, yet it is called a success and a model.

It gets worse.

This TIF, like other TIFs, takes money from one and gives it to another. This TIF comes after the news of last night's school board vote when the hard decision was made to close 22 schools. The money to pay for this TIF comes right from our schools. Many of the schools to remain open are part of a trend to K-8 settings. But there are many problems because the available schools are not able to house the necessary students and grades.

I predict that the school 'right-size plan' means 2,000 kids leave the school system in the next two years. It only gets worse when we talk about the High School situations in the years to come.

So, city council is going to rob the schools for a parking garage.

And there is more. The TIF is to build parking garages for suburban workers who can commute to these jobs, along our highways, without hope of public transit.

My advice. Say no to the TIF. Don't build the parking garage along the river. Then we'll have a parking problem and people might need to walk to work, or take a bus to work, and perhaps choose to live in the South Side and be my neighbors. Then we'd have a triple win rather than another depressing, bone-headed, unsustainable mistake.

City Councilman Bill Peduto is right on with his questions about building the lab space and not the garages. But, we've seen this line of questions before. In the end, I expect that he'll vote the wrong way. If the city has a shortage of "wet labs" for bio-tech work, then build "wet labs" -- NOT PARKING GARAGES.

I want Pittsburgh to be a community where we can raise our families. I am not interested in making Pittsburgh into a place where we can park our cars. I don't want to see homeowners pay more than their share of taxes to a school district in crisis mode so in the end the city chooses to subsidize car parking of other people who don't live here and don't raise their families here because the schools are so rough.

An expected vote on this issue goes again to Pittsburgh City Council on March 15. The city council special election is slated for March 14. I promise, (as a candidate, as a citizen-taxpayer-homeowner, as a parent of kids in public school, as a spouse of a bio-tech-like worker in a research / university job,) that I'll go again to Council Chambers on March 15, to speak out against this TIF -- and others just like it in the years to come.

If I am able to win the election, then my questions come from the table within Council Chambers. The questions I want to ask can't fit into 3-minutes before the buzzer sounds. The questions I ask will need to have real answers with specifics -- like how much, when, who, how, and lost opportunities to kids and other sections of the city that really need the attention.

As one vote on council -- I might not be able to defeat the TIF, this year. But, I won't give out a free pass so the rich to rob from the poor, as we've seen time and time again from others.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

from a reader:

I don't understand the PTC (Pgh Technology Center) Tiff thing either... There is no neighborhood that benefits from the PTC, it's an island unto itself.

Our various governments really end up making some maddeningly inconsistent decisions.

john kauper said...

...raterhaus...unfortunately libertarians missed their junior high civics classes..TIF's- there are more than one- are intended to infuse development in stagnated (and prosperous )regions...they do benefit each of us-even libertaries- but the payoff maybe distant or,in the event of a terrible protected appointment by sala udin of muleguttu birru at the URA, structured so poorly as Lord & T and the vanishing lazerus
- there was only the slightest chance of a dollar recovery of city monies expended. the important oversight is the libies focus; why not look at absurd micromanaged zoning codes created from the reform movement of the '20's; condemnation despite the libies antipathy is,fortunately ,a public method to recover and seize land from idle wealthy and inaccessible estates...try raterhaus to enter the 20th century then worry about the 21st....best john kauper (jgkarch@adelphia.net)

Mark Rauterkus said...

I didn't miss my civics class. Spelling is another matter. I'm RAUTERKUS, by the way. At this blog, it wouldn't be too hard to figure out how my name is spelled.

Why are give-a-ways for stagnated and preosperous regions? That is a missed chance at LOGIC class.

Really, the TIFs are to INFUSE development into developers pockets -- be the target either stagnated or rich. Makes no difference. Only helps the developers.

Where has there been any condemnation?

Where has there been any land seized from the wealthy estates?

The best way to seize land from the inaccessible estates and idle land to benefit all is to TAX the LAND -- and if they don't pay the taxes that is a different matter. But, now, we pay them to own the land.

We are paying them a tax break.