Tuesday, October 23, 2007

City Council sustains mayor's veto on parking tax

City Council sustains mayor's veto on parking tax: "'We all realize that at the end of the day, if we end up on that crash course with the state Legislature, then city taxpayers lose.'"
The city is infamous for playing games of political chicken. They all pile in and drive at breakneck speeds to the cliff. Well, really, the generally don't get in themselves. They love to pack the speeding car hurling into the future with reckless abandon with our kids and the future.

The ones being held hostage are those that would choose to put themselves into bondage by design.

This week's city clerk notice bring news of four or more public hearing devoted to the passing of TAX BREAKS for special interest groups -- TIFs.

They want to expand the TIF zone for Station Square, for North Side and for Downtown. Plus the Bakers Square tax break, TIF, comes to a public hearing too.

I'm signed up to speak at all of them. I don't like TIFs. The city should not be doing any more TIF deals.

The mayor's debate last night showed a contrast with Mark DeSantis and Luke Ravenstahl -- and I was sitting next to Mike D of the DeSantis campaign for a good bit of the event. DeSantis was trying to drive home the point that the city's redevelopment efforts have been with a complete focus on "buildings." DeSantis was saying the city is more than just some 'buildings.'

DeSantis is right, but he didn't deliver the message as strongly as I would have liked.

The city's development, planning, URA, and efforts to avoid blight boils down to buildings. I call them bricks and mortar deals. Build a T-stop here. Build a parking garage there. Make a new office building. Put in downtown condos with subsidized parking.

Those are 'hardware' elements.

DeSantis is a software guy. Same too for me.

Life, generally, isn't about the hardware. Rather it is about the software. Programming, process, smarts, and other factors that live, breath and make transactions are more important.

Buildings, by and large, big and small, sit. They can be vacant. They can be green -- but -- what goes on inside really matters more than the facade.

The crash course matters when you've got big objects that collide. Boom. It is a train wreck.

Pittsburgh needs to be nimble. Organic growth is what we need.

The ram-rod, stick-to-it approach that misses the big picture is depressing.

The big deal of the parking tax isn't 50%, 45% nor 40%. Rather, it is the ownership of so many parking spaces and parking garages by the Parking Authority. Others are not going to build their own parking garages for their tenants, workers, customers and increased returns on investments when the Parking Authority is so pervasive. The Parking Authority twists the marketplace. Pittsburgh suffers. And, the real money is within the ownership of that land and buildings.

Selling the parking garages, over time, will generate far greater incomes to the city than the extra 5% for the tax over the years as it declines.

Same too with the stadiums. Rather than bucking the sports teams to make payments in lieu of taxes for the buildings that they occupy -- the teams should own the buildings. Give a tax discount as the transaction occurs. Then have them own the buildings.

Otherwise, these teams opt to destroy the old stadium (3RS, Civic Arena) while the public still holds the millions in debt.

Not only do those on city council run the city onto a crash course with destiny -- they also have a grand old time of batting at the leaves on the tree of suffering.

Let's get folks onto Grant Street in elected posts that aim to get to the roots of the problems.

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