Showing posts with label Municipal Pensions. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Municipal Pensions. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Buses, Parking & Pensions (Oh my!)

There's probably many good reasons why I'm not the head of the Port Authority of Allegheny County... the most obvious of which is my well documented, if unusual, collection of Smurf Erotica... but slightly less well known is my ability to see an opportunity when it's staring me in the face. I, of course, am speaking about the proposed sale of the City's parking assets to fund the ailing pension system. Steve Bland is missing a golden opportunity here.

Now, if I'm head of PAT I'm doing one of two things:

First, I'm out in front of the public, news cameras, reporters, random people with nothing else to do, talking about how good this plan will be for you. And, of course, by "you" I mean "me". For, you see, I'd bet that despite the apparent elasticity of demand for parking, I'm guessing that increased parking rates are going to happen, and are going to drive(!) people to taking public transit, solving my own budget problem.

Or alternatively, instead of the Pittsburgh Parking Authority buying these garages and meters, as in the Lamb plan, I'm making a play to buy them myself. Now, you're probably saying "the Port Authority already has a budget deficit of it's own...I mean you just mentioned it in the last paragraph for Pete's sake." While that's true, and shame on you for pointing out my flaws, (1) this would be a capital investment on PAT's part, (2) there's already precedent for PAT owning parking garages, and (3) doing stupid shit has never stopped PAT in the past.

OK, so if PAT owned all these garages, what would they do with them? Well, if you've watched Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, you'll know the answer.

No, I'm not talking about wanting to nail the animated chick with the huge... bike racks. I mean the insidious plot of Judge Doom: buying the trolley line so he could dismantle it in favor of a cars and superhighways. Only this would be the opposite of that.

And there you go! Two problems solved: pension gets partially funded and PAT eliminates a competitor to it's business model. And maybe we'd rid ourselves of the cartoons in City Council while we're at it.

Of course, there's a big obvious flaw in the plan: something tells me that the Port Authority doesn't have a supervillain on staff.

"Yet," he says, twirling his mustache.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The Pension in the Room is Palpable

And then there's this:

Pittsburgh Councilman Patrick Dowd and city Controller Michael Lamb this morning proposed transferring ownership of city parking garages to the financially strapped pension fund.

Mr. Lamb said the proposal was evolving, and it wasn't clear whether some or all of the garages would be part of the deal.

The plan was billed as a more viable alternative to Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's proposal to lease all parking garages -- and potentially surface lots and meters -- to a private entity and use the proceeds to shore up the pension fund.
Now, aside from the obvious flaws (the fact that the Pension Fund runs the pension fund, not garages; the historical mismanagement of the pension fund at that; the asset "swap" for the Parking Authority would be a loss on their books; etc.), the major flaw of this whole plan is that the City isn't thinking broadly enough. There are literally thousands of things that the City could be selling in order to fill up the pension fund:

  • Delinquent Taxes - Right now, the City sells them off to Jordan Tax Services, GLS, Capital Assests, or any other collection agency for an up front chunk of cash, while the collection agency tried to squeeze money from dead beats. But, rather than tossing those liens down a caulis negris, the City could give the delinquent tax liens to the Pension Fund and have *them* sell it off to the collections agency.

  • Asphalt plant - When I think of Pension Fund, I immediately think of skidding out on a slick road and then cracking my front end off of a 12 inch deep pothole that's been left unattended for years.

  • City Vehicle Fleet - If you're a middle manager and you need a City car, it'll cost you $8 for the hour. The downside is that, in order to lower future costs, the Pension Fund may decide to cut break lines in the hopes that you'll "remove yourself" from the pension pool. (Actually this would probably be no different than driving a Toyota now.)

  • The City-County Building - If the City leases it back from the pension fund, for the City it would come under the month budget, and not under the capital account.

  • Water Lines - Nope, wait we've done that.

  • Yarone Zober - A nice boy like him would probably fetch a decent price on the open market, and he's probably big enough for a couple of good steaks and a few stews. (Although, honestly I like my meat a little more lean.)

  • The Pension Fund - The City could have the Pension Fund sell the Pension Fund to the Pension Fund, take the write off for the loss and then purchase it back at a discount.

    Or alternatively, as I've suggested before: we take the whole fund, go over to the Rivers Casino when table games open up and bet on black.

  • 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.