Friday, April 20, 2007

May 1, 2007 - Important PUBLIC Hearing to combat Luke's tax give-a-way: City Council Meeting Schedule

Stay tuned. Save the date. Be there to speak. Call the City Clerk's office to get onto the agenda, 412 255 2138. Or, Call to get onto the agenda, either "in favor, AGAINST, or only with "statements." 412 255-2138.

I'm going to be in New Zealand. However, I expect to submit my statement to the city clerk for the record before I depart.

When you look on the city's web site, you notice these scant details.

This is a public hearing. So, folks will be given, if you call in advance, up to three minutes to speak. If you don't call, they still often allow you two minutes after all the speakers have gone.
City Council Meeting Schedule Tuesday, May 1, 2007
1:30 PM - Public Hearing - Bill No. 2007-1285
Ordinance amending and supplementing the Pittsburgh Code, Title Two, Fiscal; Article & IX, Property Taxes; Chapter 265, Exemptions for Residential Improvements: Section 265.01, Definitions; Section 265.03, Exemption for Improvements; and Section 265.04, Exemption for Residential Construction, so as to create a new ten-year exemption covering residential improvements and construction in areas defined as the Uptown District, the Downtown District and Targeted Growth Zones for exemption applications filed on or after July 1, 2007 and through June 30, 2012.

Public Hearing - Bill No. 2007-1286
Ordinance amending and supplementing the Pittsburgh Zoning Code, Title Two, Fiscal; Article IX, Property Taxes; Chapter 267, Exemptions for Industrial and Commercial Improvements; Section 267.01, Definitions; Section 267.03, Exemption Schedule; Section 267.04, Exemption Conditions; and Section 267.09, Participation by Allegheny County and Pittsburgh Board of Education, so as to create a new tax exemption for the conversion of industrial, commercial or other business property into owner-occupied residential use in deteriorated underutilized transition areas and also to increase the exemption for improvements constituting a qualified conversion to commercial residential use as to properties which are located in deteriorated underutilized transition areas for applications filed on or after July 1, 2007 through June 30, 2012.
This amounts to a tax give-a-way for ten years. People who speculate on property will benefit and the rest of the city will pay more.

This provides a benefit to those who have already been able to benefit by being around extensive public infrastructure investments. Those around the new arena are going to get a tax break. Those around the new tunnels under the rivers are going to get a tax break. Those around the new Point State Park are going to get a tax break. Those around the new Market Square are going to get a tax break. Those around the new Convention Center are going to get a tax break. Those around the new slots parlor are going to get a tax break. Those around the new PNC Park are going to get a tax break. Those around the new African American Cultural Center, the Grayhound Bus Station, the Garden Theater, PNC Plaza, etc., -- you get the idea -- get tax breaks. It is backwards thinking and backwards policy.

A massive amount of big-ticket spending has gone on with government money. They've been digging holes in the ground. These development projects are sinks themselves. Plus, these development projects are such that the areas around them need to be subsidized too -- so they think on Grant Street.

They are tossing good money after bad. They need to "Lay The Shovel Down." They need to stop digging the holes in the ground. Rather, they need to be finished with the hole digging and let everyone have a chance at a more level marketplace.

The great big sucking sound that Ross Perot talked about with Mexico is also known as this downtown area.

The new housing that will be squeezed into downtown spaces where it doesn't really belong needs to be subsidized for rich people to move there. That means that other neighborhoods will see valued residents depart for downtown. Other neigbhorhood see their taxes rise so tax breaks can be given to the rich that move to downtown. The poor get poorer and the rich get richer. The rest of the city gets punished for its years of hard work trying to sustain itself and the downtown cronies get rewarded for their political connections and sway.

Furthermore, this policy of putting upscale condos and rich people into homes in commercial spaces means it is going to be harder for commercial operations to come back into areas where they have the most chance of success. Downtown is our business brain center and our finance and law and government and board-room hub. Pittsburgh's rebound into a prosperous, vibrant, center of commerce and innovation is going to be more difficult to achieve in the years to come. Small business is getting elbowed out of places where they should be able to move to and sprout.

We don't want our business upstarts to need to move to Green Tree nor Hayes nor Troy Hill nor Betlzhoover. Green Tree is too finished and too expensive. That's a decent place for US Air expansion but not "Joe's High-Tech Widget Marvels" an early stage company. I want them in flex office space near downtown, on public transportation where the region's best and brightest can mingle. I don't want them to need to recuit the first 20 employees into a space that fits their needs in Hayes, Troy Hill or Betlzhoover -- but employees can't and won't want to work there as buses are impossible.

Summary: I want to have workers work downtown where access to services and capital is a stone's throw away. And, I want to have residents and workers live in Troy Hill, Betzhoover and Hayes.

Summary: I want to see tax breaks given to everyone, especially those who have lived a hard life keeping frail neighborhoods alive despite the shifting tides against them.

Summary: If downtown is such a hip place and is about to boom -- let it do so on its own. Don't subsidize what is already about to bloosom. Let them pull their own weight.


Anonymous said...

I agree --the notion that the rest of us schmo's need to subsidize $300,000+ condos to encourage these people to live downtown is ridiculous. I take exception to your comment that those of us already living downtown will benefit --we won't; we will end up paying more, period. What I don't understand is that if our favorite fraternity president believes that property taxes are too high for people to buy new condos, and that we must subsequently offer an inducement, then why isn't this jackass reforming the entire property tax system? They are too high for everyone, particularly considering the ghetto level of services that Pittsburgh taxpayers receive in return. Luke Ravenstahl, the Mayor of Change and Moving Forward is nothing more than a pimp for his old man's cronies and the entrenched, overstuffed, overfed, underworked bureaucrats that have robbed this city blind for the last half century. I remember how hard my grandparents worked in the mills, only to see their hard labor rewarded by a costly and ever-increasing bureaucratic welfare state as real, private sector jobs left town. Every nickel of so-called investment is countered with a tax break or subsidy and thus, we're stuck with a $400 million deficit in the city pension, another looming budget crisis, a decreasing population, and NO JOBS for the young professional, the lifeblood of any revenue system. We're getting older, poorer, and judging by polling data for Mayor Animal House, dumber.

Mark Rauterkus said...

The exception... ???? .... Perhaps we're talking past each other. I think we're on the same page.

Anonymous said...

"This provides a benefit to those who have already been able to benefit by being around extensive public infrastructure investments."

I haven't gotten a nickel and I can walk to PNC, the Convention Center, the new "Chunnel," etc. In fact, for my $100,000+ worth of personal private investment, restoring a beaten down abandoned dump of a house, I was rewarded with a 3-fold increase in my property taxes, retroactive. Why? Simple. I pulled building permits, while my saavy neighbors who also rehabbed property did not, thus, the City has no idea that their property has been improved upon. $500 per month in property taxes!!! And for what? Some of the worst public schools in the United States. What a joke this city has become.

Mark Rauterkus said...


Your exception makes sense.

Isn't walking to PNC Park worth an extra $500 per month in taxes?

Isn't walking to the Home Show, rather than taking the free bus from Heinz Field, worth $500 per month in taxes?

Isn't the new subway stop in Gateway Center going to be so splendid, with its glass roof, that you'll want to pay an extra $500 per month just so you don't need to walk over the bridge over the Allegheny to The Great Lawn -- worth the $500 per month extra paymement in taxes?

I'm joking, of course.

Anonymous said...

Oh, yes. And there are more: Isn't getting mowed down by crack dealers on East Ohio Street worth $500. How about the ability to score a sweet $10 "hummer" from a toothless crystal meth addict in the alley?

Ravenstahl just doesn't know what he's doing. You don't offer subsidies for brand new housing. You offer them (if at all), to blighted neighborhoods, you require owners to rehab to market rate, and you prohibit them from converting them to multi-family housing or Section 8, There are other incentives to get the blighted properties and delinquent tax properties off the "red" side of the balance sheet and back into the revenue-generating column but he's no experienced enough to see that --he's mimicking a proposal by Peduto and a similar program done in Philly (they have a similar 10 year abatement but it's for distressed properties only), but only wants to pander to the wealthy. State and municipalities need a wholesale tax overhaul to attract business back to Pittsburgh. The governement needs to be cut dramatically (this can be done through attrition) and the overly generous benefit, pension, and salary packages needs to be addressed. It's a heaping spoonful of cod liver oil but one this city and state need to take if it's ever going to begin growing it's base again.

Mark Rauterkus said...

Love the idea of giving a tax break to the re-turn to single family housing from Section 8 units that have been once split into multiple units. Hummm..... Good twist.

Anonymous said...

It avoids another cycle of absentee slum lords from coming in, speculating on the cheap, and renting to people who, frankly, could care less about the neighborhood because they rent --hence the market rate requirement as well. Some municipalities require the purchaser to actually live in the unit for a minimum of 3 or 5 years or whatever the life of the abatement is, but Pittsburgh is in need of serious triage so a more generous offering can be made. You have to watch converting Section 8 back to market rate, single family units --that's a minefield that usually wakes up the entitlement crowd; it's best left alone. Stipulating that the abatement cannot be applied to a Section 8 apartment is enough. Plus, there are enough non-Section 8 delinquent properties around the city that are in need of rehab.

You need to bounce back over to theburghblog and plumb up "the truth." He blathers on about the wealthy still having to pay a wage tax like that's some big concession or gift to the rest of us. Clearly some apologist for Mayor Blutarsky who has forgotten the golden rule: "better to keep quiet and thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt."