Wednesday, September 05, 2007

ADB Releases Plan to Fund City Pensions

If the the mere thought of watching paint dry gives you "the vapors" and the possibility of watching grass grow is just too much for you, perhaps you might want to step it down a bit and pay attention to the Pittsburgh '07 Mayoral Race between Luke Ravenstahl and Mark DeSantis. This event has all the thrills, spills, and excitement of the classic 1928 Parisian Snail Grand Prix 500, which, I believe, is still going on, despite last years "salt" accident on lap four.

The race is so boring that we should be at the center of the Earth by now... at least then the Molemen or the Warlocks could enter some viable third party challenge.

Now, in an apparent attempt to up the excitement level to "Beige," Republican candidate DeSantis has thrown out his first daring policy proposal: Municipal Pension Reform.

Republican mayoral candidate Mark DeSantis took on Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's handling of the city's wheezing pension fund today, in the first salvo of the traditional post-Labor Day run to the election.

Mr. DeSantis claimed Mr. Ravenstahl, a Democrat, is not taking the pension's problems seriously and forwarded his own plan to fund it with payments from casinos and city nonprofits.

The city's pension fund is $469 million short of the funds in needs to pay all its obligations to current and future retirees. That is part of the reason for the city's huge debt load, which consumes a quarter of its yearly budget.

Mr. DeSantis promised to double the city's yearly pension payments to tamp down that debt. To do so he would shift $23 million in yearly gambling and nonprofit payments into the pension fund. Nonprofits -- which are due to end their voluntary payments to the city at the end of this year -- would likely support the funding, Mr. DeSantis said, since it would be used to specifically address an urgent city budget problem.
Excuse me while I recover from the sheer thrill of it all.

Now obviously the incumbent mayor was "baffled" by the plan, probably because he didn't steal the idea from Bill Peduto first or because it involved "numbers", but also because it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to begin with.

First, DeSantis is using the payments in lieu of taxes that the non-profit community is supposed to chip in to the City. This hasn't happened yet and Lord knows if we'll ever see a dime of their money.

Second, he's shifting gambling... er... casino revenues to help fill the gap in the pension fund. This money has already being used to pay for the arena, the redevelopment of the Hill District, a parking garage, property tax reductions, forty acres, and a mule that gives hummers. Now, Mr. DeSantis is surely aware that the Hummer Giving Mule lobby is especially strong in this region, especially in Oakland after CMU's Carnival, so I doubt he's seriously considering this as an option.

And of course, he's setting aside some of the real problems: that the municipal pension scheme is based on current, not former, employees, and that there is no legal mechanism or incentive for municipalities to pool resources.

So, once you set those things aside, you have a nice space for what I call "The ADB 2-Part Pittsburgh Pension Plan."

Part 1: The retirement age is bumped up a scooch to 101.

Part 2: Anyone who does get to retire is shot or rehired. This is retroactively enforced.

My plan, if I may be so modest, is brilliant in its simplicity. First, you reduce projected future expenditures to nearly zero and second, you reduce future expenditures completely to zero. In exchange for lifetime employment, rigorous structure, dental plans, and comradery, employees are now given the opportunity to die "with their boots on" in service to their municipality. The City, on the other hand, gets a core of highly skilled employees with vast accumulations of organizational knowledge, completely loyal to their overseers. And, here's the best part, if they quit the Municipality prior to the retirement age, they aren't at all vested in the pension.

While it doesn't have all the sexiness of "bike trails" or "Downtown redevelopment" or the good sense of rewriting the State statutes on Municipal Pensions it does provide for the use of elderly citizens as target practice.*

It is a plan without a downside... unless, of course, they quit and find a better job...

*If this disturbs you, we'll just send our retired seniors up to a nice farm in Wexford where they can play.


Mark Rauterkus said...

Interesting two part plan.

I advocate a third option to join your two. Allow all the pension seeking people the opportunity to move abroad, before getting shot.

This way a counter to the waves of immigration gets established.

As an upside, over the years, we'll expect to find more ADA accessible facilities with wheelchair ramps when on foreign travels.

O said...

Depends on how fast they can run, Mark.

Anonymous said...

John K. says: Well, this campaign does not have any mud slinging. It is more cerebral. Which forces one to pay attention and actually analyze the issues. This works in the favor of Mayor Ravenstahl, since most Democrat voters within the City will just show up on election day and pull the lever while yawning.

EdHeath said...

"And of course, he's setting aside some of the real problems: that the municipal pension scheme is based on current, not former, employees, and that there is no legal mechanism or incentive for municipalities to pool resources."

Seriously? Pittsburgh politicians should stamp their little feet and say "you mean state, you help us out". I mean, yeah, it would be good for the state to fix its part of pension funding, but what's their incentive? Because its the right thing to do? Does anyone over the age of twenty seven believe the Commonwealth legislature will do the right thing, particularly when some twenty seven year old is telling them to do it? You don't think the legislature won't look at us and say "what are you doing to fix this problem?" Maybe something like putting casino revenues and non profit contributions into our pension funds?

O said...

But y'all are OK with shooting the elderly, right? I just want to be clear on that.

EdHeath said...

Actually, I prefer the democtratic party method. Cut their pensions, jack up the price of cat food and slowly starve them to death.

Anyone remember the generic brand at the Giant Eagle? Back when Robert Lansing was doing ads for them ... That's the last time I heard about the elderly eating the tuna cat food.

Mark Rauterkus said...

O asked: But y'all are OK with shooting the elderly, right?

Not exactly. That is why I offered a third option.

And, it was my understanding -- if you can look beyond the terrible waste of bullets -- that the only shooting of elderly would happen past the new retirement age (101 years) and those who expect a pension from working for the city.

Plus, I'd provide a clear exit strategy -- to foreign lands.