Wednesday, March 10, 2010
In an ordinance that was just introduced yesterday and given preliminary approval today, the Pittsburgh City Council has taken the first step in launching a study of the value of the Pittsburgh Parking Authority’s assets and the best way to leverage them to shore up the city’s faltering pension program. Council Tuesday waved its rules after President Darlene Harris introduced the bill allowing it to be debated today. The Ravenstahl administration is pursuing a contract to lease the authority’s garages for 50-years. The estimated $200 million from the lease would be sent to the pension fund. A little more than a week ago councilman Patrick Dowd introduced the idea of transferring some of those assets directly into the pension fund and then contracting with the Parking Authority to run the facilities. Dowd says his plan gives the city more control and provides the pension fund with the additional benefit of having a new revenue stream. Council President Harris has now floated the idea of increasing parking rates and fines to cover the needs of the pension fund. That provides a long-term revenue stream but not the upfront infusion demanded by the state. The measure approved 8-1 today calls in the Government Finance Officers Association to help set the value of the assets. Morgan Stanley managers testified before council saying the study could send a bad message to firms bidding on the lease Ricky Burgess says the city should remain focused on “catching the biggest fish” and both Dowd and Harris added their support to the study by saying it is an extremely complex issue. Dowd says, “There needs to be more data in order to have better foresight and better decision making.” Dowd has balked at the length of the proposed lease.