Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Fewer Cars, No Reimbursements for Council Members

In today's Pittsburgh City Council meeting, members approved measures that reduce available take-home cars by half and restructure travel reimbursements, while counting themselves out.
The two bills were introduced by Rev. Ricky Burgess, but Councilman Dan Deasy was not satisfied with the original reimbursements ordinance. It changed the system from a $150 limit to a 750-mile limit with rates adjusted for inflation, which would pay more than $300. Deasy called that a "backdoor raise," and proposed an amendment that excludes elected city officials from any reimbursements. During discussion, members took turns showing off their virtues in not taking any reimbursements yet for this year. Burgess and others also pointed to Deasy's run for a seat in the state House as his motivation behind the amendment. Deasy maintained that it was about leading by example. The bill with Deasy's amendment passed with only one abstention.
Certain City personnel are allowed to take home cars for official use. The Act 47 of 2004 instructed the city to reduce its cars to 29. In 2005, the number was cut from 81 to 41, but has since floated back up to 61. Burgess' other bill mandated the complete reduction. Last week, city solicitor George Specter said a bill passed by Council without orgininating from the Mayor's office would be illegal. Members were still divided on the issue, causing a narrow passage of 5-3-1.

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