Monday, November 8, 2010

Mayor Spends Budget Address Blasting Council

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl spent more time chiding City Council during his annual budget address this morning than he did laying out the numbers. Mayor Ravenstahl says council members are sending the city into a “financial nightmare” if they do not approve his plan to lease the city’s parking assets. The mayor says he has balanced the 2011 budget and a five-year plan by using reserves but he says the picture will be very different in the sixth year. “The first year following the five year plan our fund balance will be depleted. We will be forced to make a $91 million payment to the state pension system,” says Ravenstahl, “ That is a quarter of our city’s entire budget and more than it costs to operate any city department.”

Ravenstahl says that can all be avoided if the council would just approve his plan to lease the parking assets and use the proceeds to shore up the faltering pension program. He says he refuses to take on more debt as has been suggested by some council members and he hopes he and the council can find a way to revive the lease plan. Council members have been invited to meet with the mayor this afternoon to talk about a modification of the lease bid submitted by J.P. Morgan and LAZ Parking. The administration believes that can be done without having to issue a new request for proposal.

Councilman Bill Peduto says today was the mayor’s day to talk to the council about the budget and that did not happen. “I did not hear the budget today. I heard a lot of lobbying on behalf of a ‘Wall Street’ plan but I missed out on the budget today,” says Peduto. Councilman Doug Shields says he was, “a little bit chagrined to hear it is all council’s fault.” “There is a viable plan that the council enacted on the table and he does not seem to be making mention of that fact,” Says Shields. Shields and Peduto both say it is in the mayor’s best interest to listen to council’s ideas in an effort to find a solution.

The mayor says he did not spend his time talking about the budget because it is very similar to the 2010 spending plan. He says it contains no tax increases, no service cuts and no new programs so he thought it better served the public to talk about what is looming in the future. Spending in 2011 will come in around $450 million with a slight addition to the surplus. The five-year plans calls for a surplus in 2012 and then deficits in the next three years. The mayor says he also hopes to talk to the state about new revenue options but he thinks it is clear that the state will not talk until the city “puts its own financial house in order,” and he thinks that includes leasing the parking assets.

Mayor Ravenstahl characterized the relationship he has with council as “not good.” Doug Shields says the current mayor and council have it the worst relationship he has ever seen.

Listen to the mayor's budget address to council here.

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