Monday, September 11, 2006

Advice for Luke

At Pittsblog, the question about the 'mayor matters' surfaced. The mayor does matter, mostly.

To be sure, Pittsburgh still has two oversight boards. The ICA and Act 47 folks are still here. Plus, we've got authorities out the ying yang too. Even the Gambling Control Panel has serious powers and influences now too.

Let's reflect a bit on the role of the overlords for a moment. I see the biggest role in the city for the overlords (Act 47, ICA, etc.) as insurance. They must make sure that the bond holders get paid. The city's debt is sky high. Pension promises are massive and still not fully accounted. URA Properties are not even listed in an inventory.

The overlords can't 'run the city' as the question asks. Nor do they try. Nor are they capable. The overloards are here to make sure that the city doesn't run on empty without the loss of serious flesh and blood first. The money interests don't want the city to go bankrupt. That would be a black eye. Rather have a kick in the teeth and rats running wild snf eatting what they can gobble.

Luke: The overlords should be shown the door. That should be one of Luke's biggest missions.

Bob didn't choose to kick any tailfeathers with the overlords. To each his or her own.

My first address if I had been O'Connor in January, 2006, would have been, "I'm here now. I'm in charge. Overlords, there is the door. Hit the road. We don't need you help, now. We don't want your help, as you've not been doing any heavy lifting anyway. And, nobody voted for you -- so take your high priced bills out of here. Morph back into citizens and grab a broom like the rest of us are about to do."

But, that song from Day 1 (January 2006) of a new O'Connor Administration would have been 'flat' as O'Connor was on council when quick fix after quick fix was approved and the city slid into its debt. Bob was on Grant Street, with powers, and then with the Gov, too, with powers, when Pgh did a lot of its financial bleeding. Overspending is the norm.

Luke wasn't. That's Luke's advantage. The new guy should be known as "Long Term Luke."

The spend now and pay later philosophy doesn't sit well with a (mature) 26 year old. The high spending ways works for a one-term chief executive who is about to retire.

Luke should be about 'Long-Term Vision' + Short-term power + and finding the ULTIMATE solutions for fiscal sustainability.

Now is not the time for a band-aid approach.

In Luke's 2007 budget address, Luke needs to talk about the work process for the 2008 budget. The 2008 budget needs to be the best budget any city has ever seen -- anywhere in the world. And in 2007, we build the monitors and enforement and accountability into our city's work culture -- round by round, department by department.

Luke needs to not only send the overlords a message to start packing, but then he needs to take his clipboard and computer over to the building next door. Luke needs to camp out with Dan Onorato for a few weeks, after this year's budget is handed off to city council.

Short term, Luke needs to be with Scott Kunka and Bill Urbanic and the present budget folks on the city side. Luke has to be prudent and go with the flow for now. Perhpas Luke can insert a few financial widgets and utilities for 2007 that make budget monitoring possible in the years to come. Then punt and put faith in the ones who have been in the administration all year.

When Luke goes out into the neighborhoods in the weeks and months to come, I hope he is with a calculator. Luke should be meeting with various employees about various spending and revenue matters at every turn. Luke should be dead set upon finding the best solutions possible. That is going to take a lot of research and hard work -- on paper -- and with the folks in the field.

I dare say that the sillyness and silly spending has already been cut from the budget. But, now it is time to turn to the new and next chapter -- serious solutions with honest accountability. Luke can fix the framework for the city, and make the 2008 budget something to behold, if he and everyone decides to take that bull by the horns.


Thomas Leturgey said...

The more I think about it, I believe Luke will remain the Mayor, even if the election is held next year (with it certainly should).

Pittsburgh is normally a city in which Democrats aren't considered young and viable until at least 40, but Mr. Ravenstahl is a name, like the Costas, Wagners, Divens, et al. That advantage gives the 26 year old a decade advantage.

We'll see how the interim Mayor (that's the title that should be given to him) handles the situation before him. So far he's been treated with incredible kid-glove care.

I look forward to finding out if he can do the job.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Honeymoons are nice.