Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Pittsburgh’s City Council has voted to once again put a hold on a vote to create a 1%t tax on college tuition but today’s unanimous vote came with a very different tone. The last two votes to hold were split 6-3 and came after hours of rancorous debate that at times degraded to name-calling. This vote came after council members spent nearly a half hour praising their good work and cooperation. Before the meeting the mayor sent a letter to council asking for the hold because he felt progress was being made in negotiating a deal with the universities for a payment in lieu of taxes deal. In part it read, "Over the last several days, thanks to your strength, conviction and support, we have made progress." Councilwoman Theresa Smith who engineered Monday’s meeting among the mayor, university presidents and the council thanked everyone involved. Councilman Patrick Dowd says he has never seen the nonprofit community respond like they did to Smith’s request to discuss possible solutions in an open forum. Smith demurred and wondered aloud if anyone had ever invited them. Councilwoman Tonya Payne praised the council members who continually voted for the one week holds, “Even though we had [council members] that said ‘don’t try, it can’t happen, presidents of universities will never talk to you.’ You know what I appreciate most is that here we had people that were willing to put people first and politics second.” Councilman Bill Peduto says he does not regret voting no on the first two hold requests. He says a when the supporters of the tax were playing hardball they needed someone with which to play. Peduto warns though that a deal has not yet been reached. The council will have one more chance for a preliminary vote before the end of the year. The tax does not appear to have enough after January 2nd when two new council members are sworn into office.