Friday, October 12, 2007

Open Letter To City Council President Doug Shields


I am one of the nerds in Pittsburgh who follows the cablecast City Council meetings religiously. Consistent viewing gives me a good understanding of what is going on in the city and, just as importantly, I get an invaluable insight as to just who you councilmen are and where your priorities and loyalties lie.

In this way I’ve come to view you as a smart and generally good guy. You are articulate (too much so?), you generally put the city’s best interest above your own and no one can dispute that you are one of the best "numbers” guys around. Which is why I am speechlessly flabbergasted about your participation in the Motznik Parking Tax Plan.

I know the city is between a rock and a hard spot. To be more precise, we have made all the obvious cuts we can and we have maximized all the revenues we can. While we may be above water now matter what Luke Ravenstahl says, we won't be for long.

However, the operative word in the above paragraph is “obvious.” Yes, we have eagerly grasped on to every piece of low-hanging fruit in sight. Unfortunately our efforts seem to have ended there. None of our local leaders appear to possess the stomach or desire to tackle the really difficult items which MUST be confronted if the city is to survive.

Examples? City/County merger of departments, functions, etc. has supposedly been in the works for a couple of years now. There are millions of dollars in savings here but we’ve only scratched the surface because no one wants to let go of their personal turf and power base. It just never goes anywhere because there is simply no will for it.

The very profitable "non-profits" must pony up more. What they now pay is pitiful. I'm not talking about real non-profits like the Boy Scouts, etc. Do I believe, like DeSantis has implied, that UPMC et al would be more generous if they had more trust in the fiscal prudence of the city. DeSantis appears to have paved the way for greater non-profit contribution if those monies are put in a “lock box” to pay down our debt and/or shore up our under-funded pension plan. Why not be adults and forget about D vs R and just talk to the non-profits as DeSantis has done? Why not implement the DeSantis plan now because it is the right and NECESSARY thing to do?

Various people (I think basically you) talk about joining with the state in their pension/medical plan to save big money. Is there any progress in that direction or just more talk?

Oh yes, and there's a small thing like the firefighter contract that needs to be re-opened. I’m aware there’s a snowball’s chance of that happening. But looking at this from a purely non-political and adult perspective, why not? Doug, this is again something that HAS to happen. Someone is going to have to suck up their gut, roll up their sleeves and start swinging at this and other fruit that does not hang so low.

I know everything mentioned above is very difficult to achieve partly because one lone cowboy can't just pull out his six-shooter and do it by himself. Solutions to the problems above will entail huge sums of trust, cooperation, hard work and goodwill by MANY people. Many people will have to put the good of the city above shielding (no pun intended) their own turf. That is the difficulty level in a nutshell and the difficulty level is why no one wages the battle.

There is one last thing that I haven't mentioned because it’s the wall people keep banging their heads against. It’s the wall that doesn't give. It’s called “Harrisburg”. Going to "talk to", "confer with", "have a dialogue with" or just plain "beg" Harrisburg has not, is not, will not do any good. What good comes of whining about how Harrisburg “neglects us” all the while just banging our heads on that wall again and again? What good comes from putting the cart before the horse by flipping them the Motznik Tax Plan bird right before we go begging again?

I know none of this is a revelation to you, Doug. As I said at the onset, you are a bright guy. This is your world, your life and I'm just a blogging back-seat driver. But you know, Doug, all the political backstabbing and turf wars, WITHIN THE SAME PARTY NO LESS, has got to stop. You guys ..... all of you including the mayor who makes my blood boil daily ..... You all have to attack the big, hard, monstrous mountains together because the low-hanging fruit has been picked clean. You have to do this in concert, driven by what's best for the city and not what's best for the protection of the turf each person now has or the turf they aspire to in the future.


Ms. Pist

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm sure Doug is doing the best he can. In his defense, he was dealt a pretty crappy hand. Doug's stuck between a Mayor that would rather party then actually do work and a lame-duck council majority led by a guy that thinks cats are the biggest threat to the city. Doug's a good guy, and a good leader, but there's only so much anyone could do in his situation.