Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has added some detail to his plans to enforce his mistaken belief that the cost of his mistakes (and those of his predecessors) should be borne primarily by those unable to vote for or against him.
Tagging undergraduates at the rate of $100 per year, collecting a $25 surcharge from those who enter hospitals (dead or alive, I suppose), and smacking parkers with a $5-per-day fee would provide short-term cash to the city. But would those measures help the city? They wouldn't prevent the boy mayor from spending millions on job-destroying "economic development" schemes; if anything, they might provide additional ammunition for misfires. They wouldn't incline city voters to elect better public officials; they might have the opposite effect. But the largest problem might not involve anything the city inflicts on itself; it might be a problem imposed by forces outside the city.
Pittsburgh residents constitute a small fraction (one-quarter) of Allegheny County residents, a smaller fraction of regional residents, and a rounding error with respect to the Commonwealth's population. If the city starts poking sticks in suburban eyes, it is difficult to see the city winning many of the resulting battles.
Suburban municipalities could enact tit-for-tat policies. Could a city that requires employees to reside within city limits complain if other municipalities refused to permit employees to reside in Pittsburgh, or declined to do business with professionals or other vendors that maintain any office or residence in the city? How would the mayor respond if other municipalities demanded (with backing from the state legislature) that UPMC stop diverting profits from suburban hospitals to fund the the inexplicably discriminatory Pittsburgh Promise? Why should a suburban municipality not enact reciprocal provisions that impose fees solely on residents of the city (or of any other municipality that imposes such fees)? Why should the majority of Allegheny County residents permit the public transit system to favor the city so aggressively with respect to routes and fares? If the city is going to continue to offer poor service at inflated prices, should the state direct public funds toward development of suburban corporate campuses (free parking would become a $3,000 or $4,000 per-capita annual head start with respect to many employees).
Logic (based largely on population-based power), morality and common sense should incline the City of Pittsburgh to avoid provoking a slapping contest with the rest of the region by seeking to offload responsibility for its dysfunction. I see no reason, however, to expect those factors to begin to play any role in decision-making by the City of Pittsburgh.
Let the chess game begin, with Pittsburgh employing the East German gambit. If the city builds a wall, the rest of the region might wish to respond with a moat. Complete with sharks with laser beams attached to their heads, of course.
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