Pittsburgh City Council has given preliminary approval to a bill that would ask the Mayor to negotiate with the Pittsburgh Parking Authority to purchase one garage, a few surface lots and a long list of parking meters. The bill passed 8-1 with Councilman Ricky Burgess voting no.
The measure began as a bill moved by Councilwoman Theresa Smith asking the mayor to enter negotiations to reach a modified deal to lease the parking assets owned by the Parking Authority to a private company.
During debate, it quickly became clear that very few council members were willing to approve any lease deal and councilman Patrick Dowd started to suggest that they should gut the bill and fill it with amendments. Burgess argued that the bill did nothing more than to put more options on the table. Councilman Daniel Lavelle agreed, “What this legislation did was allow myself and others to have the conversation… it’s allowed me to have it with my colleagues, it’s allowed me to have it with the administration yesterday. That’s what this legislation did.” Lavelle has suggested that the city may want to lease the garages but hold on to the meters to have more control over the rates that were of most interest to local business owners and residents.
City Council President Darleen Harris says it is time to move on from the idea of leasing any of the parking assets. “We talk about fairies. From Peter Pan, J. M. Barrie says ‘you can have anything in life if you are willing to sacrifice everything else for it’ and I’m not willing to sacrifice this city,” says Harris. Councilwoman Smith shot back that she does not work in fairy tales, she works in reality and in reality the public wants a solution.
City Council President Darleen Harris is also concerned that the city would be opening the door to a lawsuit if it started to negotiate with just one party. She says she has gotten calls and letters from parking companies that have asked the city to put out a new RFP if the terms of the deal are to be changed. The mayor says he thinks they can make the changes without having to open the lease to new bids.
Councilman Dowd eventually offered amendments that changed the bill from requesting negotiations on a new lease deal to asking the mayor to work with the Parking Authority to sell the assets and use the proceeds to shore up the pension plan.
The re-written bill quickly passed and will come up for a vote Tuesday.