Thursday, January 06, 2005

Southwest flies into town without a nickle from a subsidy

Folks, these ideas work! Give nothing away, and we get the best possible outcomes.

I think we should end all corporate welfare. Once we end corporate welfare locally, and, once we are proven to do so -- then we'll begin to thrive.

These statements are not new to me. I've been harping on these matters since I began making public statements about public matters. These views are part of my bedrock, without doubt.

What is new to the conversation today is the fact that this approach I've been stressing for some time is being proven to work in the real world with real outcomes that we can all visualize. Before, these concepts were foreign, sadly. Now they are taking root. Let me explain in a rather long post.

We must end all TIFs. We must end all corporate welfare. We must end all boondogles. We can't spend money we don't have. We can't miss-spend the money we can muster in prudent ways.

Those who have lived on handouts are going to wilt. But, they are fly-by-night hucksters. Let them wilt. Let them close.

Those who don't want handouts will arrive and thrive. The marketplace gets a comeback to health. We'll get real prosperity and those who know how to make it here in Pittsburgh again. Some know how to judge the landscape and see how Pittsburgh's process has fouled up and even punishes the wealth builders.

We've been in one rut after another. We need to get out and "level the field." But, to do that, we do nothing by design. And, we put our intentions out in the public for all to see, know and understand.

I've been speaking harshly about corporate welfare for years. Those that have been part of the games in the past can't stand up and change their tunes now and have it carry any weight.

Trust the markets. Trust our own willingness and ambitions. Trust our inventiveness in building based on our own values, without the crutches of handouts or the need to get funny money from some development deal. To do it and be clean of extra burdens is so rewarding. And, to compete in the market and not need to bid against others who are living rent free is unjust.

When handouts are made, someone benefits at the expense of the others. And, we all pay for the handout by getting poorer products and higher taxes. That is privildege that nets us lower outcomes.

When the system is full of poisons and give-a-ways and bogus dealings -- those who want to make honest industry and honest services and quality goods pack their bags and go elsewhere. Not only do we pay for the higher taxes, get less in return -- but we drive away the bulk of the masses who want to be straight.

Most people expect the courts, the leadership, the deals from the government sector to be straight, open, honest, transparent, easily understood and accessible. When Pittsburgh's wacky weenies churn, blow smoke, inject fear, and over hype with miss-placed priorities, its noticed. People see what's going on. Note to self, "GET OUT OF TOWN." Humm, ... Austin, St. Paul, Tuscon, Chapel Hill, and other places look good next to our disjointed fussing of the managed decline and downward spirals.

When things are seen to be unfair, then people vote with their feet. People leave.

More people left Pittsburgh since Tom Murphy was Mayor than voted for him to continue being our mayor.

The population decline from the past 4 years isn't about the loss of the steel industry. That slip was news in the 1970s.

People vote with their feet. And, that voting can be away from Pittsburgh. But, what is the upside, that vote can be to Pittsburgh as well.

If we clean up, if we change, if we put new people in place, if we validate new priorities, if we hold honest and robust elections with campaigns among people, if we are open minded, if we don't do bone-headed deals, if we are prudent with governmental funds, if we make sure every person and opinion is valued, if we are inclusive, if we are principled, if we have tough-love and live that talk daily ---- THEN WE'LL FLOURISH.

We gotta want it. We gotta express it. We gotta make it happen. And, we have to go out of our way to mend, heal, and set straight the crooked. We need whistleblowers. We need to challenge ourselves and our friends and our loyal opposition.

This isn't the time to be silent and let the staus quo persist. This is change.

I want a holistic approach. That isn't about doing WHOLE deals (like taking over the entire 10-block area of Fifth and Forbes). We got the WHOLE ball of wax with two stadiums and a convention center. Except, we didn't get the hotel. We didn't get the whole package in the end as we have a big HOLE in the budget to maintain these facilities. They are about HOLES and WHOLES. I'm about being holistic, being organic, being faithful to the marketplace trends and civic duties. I'm about balance and power with the voters and people. They are about development companies, unelected boards, commissions without accountability, corporate welfare, back-room dealings.

When we have US Airways -- we've got to build them the airport they spec. We've got to give them lots of tax breaks. We've got to beg them to stay in town for ticketing, or for the new airport hanger, or whatever -- we are begging. You can't beg and prosper. Why should the taxpayers build a new hangar for US Airways? They need it, they should build it.

When we have US Airways and the capacity to make give-a-ways, we don't get Southwest. Look at what has happened with Jet Blue or others who have tried to enter the marketplace. An upstart arrives and charges much less for tickets to Florida. Bang. US Airways drops its prices and matches the fare. That's fair.

The University of Pittsburgh, meanwhile, and other corporate operations too, should choose to fly with the upstart. But, they didn't. The one's with power here insisted that they keep using the others who are here and contain the power and transactions.

When the new airlines came -- and have since gone -- (voting with feet) -- Pitt and others prohibited their people (ha) from booking tickets with the upstarts.

I'm an upstart too. Do you think the media powers or the Pennsylvania Economy League is going to be willing to put me on the air for a debate on issues? Think Again!

You've read this far -- give it a whirl. Let's have a new TV advertiser -- Southwest -- tell the station managers that it wants to see candidate debates on the air this spring. And, ask the PENNSYLVANIA ECONOMY LEAGUE to moderate the event. Ask the Airport Area Chamber of Commerce when its going to hold a forum for candidates for PA Senate. WQED should be doing more. Are those events being booked for Feb, March, April?

We'll flourish again as Pittsburgh and this region cleans up the market place.

Finally, I spoke to a group in December and the question came from the audience. "Mark, what are you going to do about US Airways and the airport?" Yes, that is part of the PA Senate District. Yes, there has been a great deal of hardship and heart wrentching times for many in this saga. Someone close to me in my family works with the company. As I type this blog entry, my wife is boarding a plane and headed to DC for a few days for meetings. We use the airport often, as travelers. I feel the pain. But, here is the answer to the question, "nothing."

I'll rush to the situations, listen, interact, understand the issues. I'll also be there with a different set of priorities and goals.

How can we make sure that the de-icers don't cause pollution and toxic run-offs?

How can we make sure that our existing capacities and capabilities are understood throughout the industry and with the passengers so the black-eyes of lost bags at Christmas in Phili wouldn't dare happen in Pittsburgh. Our workforce and intra building controls are different. We can't discount our care to serve as neighbors and workers. We'll rest peaceful at night knowing the jobs are being done well with pride -- because we are solid with honesty and a work ethic that isn't easily duplicated elsewhere.

How can we eliminate some of the County Police overtime?

Let's lighten up when you're diving around the circle and knuckle down when you go through security. There is a time and place for everything. I don't want a boot up someone's pants for giving a hug and hand to Aunt Mable as she gets to the car.

Maglev to the airport -- no thanks.

Development of the sprawling land around the airport as a priority, no thanks. Its okay to sell that land. Allow for developers to buy and build. The owners have property rights. But, I'm not going to push TIFs and subsidized development. And, I'd even work to end that bad habit.

Finally, let it be know that we are in a crisis. Let it be known nationally that our mayor and others are leaving their posts because their agenda of give-a-ways has been proven to fail. Let's broadcast our misery and our hunger for change. Old habits die hard. But, the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

The the annointed stumble and fall -- there will be a lot of thunder. That's great. Everyone will notice the bumbling, fumbling, un-coordinated, unprincipled contrasts.

As we think again, we'll come to discover great victories -- such as Southwest's arrival. We'll change the philosophy. We'll get a different NORTH STAR as a way to navigate and problem solve.

That's the news and rebirth for our region. That's the kind of place others want to embrace. When we send the signals and messages out that we are not only with fresh faces -- but with different understandings -- those who have left might return. Others will discover Pittsburgh and set up shop here. But, mostly, those that are here now will stay and start with fresh ideas of their own. We've been supressed. We've got new challenges to meet. We'll all do more for ourselves and our neighbors -- because we are able to get things done without red tape and jumping through hoops.

I want self-sufficient solutions.

I want Southwest to come with the understand of $0 in return from government. I want Southwest to know we've got open minded managers who will insist on the option of Southwest tickets for themselves and others in their organizations.

Pull Your Own Weight!

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