Sunday, August 30, 2009

Time To Address City's Pension Problem Is Now

The City of Pittsburgh's reaction concerning proposed imposition of adult supervision with respect to its egregiously underfunded pension system has reached the caterwauling stage. While the mayor is pleading almost incoherently, others are taking less predictable positions.

The Comet is sympathetic, endorsing months of delay as a sensible response to decades of decay. The Post-Gazette, curiously, has been silent, perhaps waiting until its editorial page queue clears of such weightier topics as the Pitt-Penn State rivalry, Plaxico Burress' schedule for the next couple of years and, of course, news from Sycamore Island. The ossified, ineffectual residue of Pittsburgh's power structure, meanwhile, has lined up with Harrisburg and against the mayor.

I'm with [choke] the [sputter] Allegheny Conference [choke] on this one [cough]. No more delay. No more pretense. No more dysfunction. If the city wishes to explore the (seemingly dopey) prospect of selling or leasing its parking garages, and decided to use that money to satisfy a state-mandated funding obligation, Pittsburgh should be permitted to do that. But decades of dysfunction and roughly $1 billion in ignored obligations is enough. The city needs a funding schedule, and it has proven itself incapable of accomplishing that. The Commonwealth should help the City of Pittsburgh find its wallet (and some accountability). Now.


Bram Reichbaum said...

"The city needs a funding schedule"

Yes, it also needs a realistic one. And it is also true that we could use at least half of a new revenue stream. There are legitimate untapped options out there.

Infinonymous said...

It is rug-cutting time.

Start funding the pension obligations in a responsible manner next month, or file a bankruptcy petition. Either seems reasonable.

Overwhelming evidence indicates that nothing other than force of law will cause the city to act in a half-responsible manner, let alone begin to address its obligations in an actuarially sound manner.

Leasing the garages doesn't make much sense to me (neither did the water system deal), but I am open to a persuasive argument. If that money comes in, it can be used to comply with an established funding schedule. But the funding schedule should not be delayed, in my judgment. Even using the city's numbers, a garage deal would barely keep the system on life support. Fundamental change is needed. Starting today . . . or, if that is not possible, tomorrow.

Has anyone considering what payment of pension obligations from current revenues would be like? That is about two blocks down the road, barring a 90-degree turn or a bankruptcy proceeding, and it is worth avoiding. I do not expect the state to send hundreds of millions of dollars to Pittsburgh to solve this problem, and I do not expect the state to authorize the city to shift the burden to commuters. Pittsburgh should be getting that message.

If Ravenstahl doesn't have bankruptcy lawyers, pension experts and finance whizzes examining this situation, city council should fill the vacuum created by that incompetence.

Begging for a two-year delay to pursue a half-baked plan that might create a half-funded pension system? Non-starter.

Bram Reichbaum said...

I'm not for a two-year delay / exemption and for the present half-baked plan. I am for a two month delay and a more fully baked plan. "Responsibility" may have had something to do with bringing these problems about, slowly over time, but your conception of H.B. 1828 as writ as enforcing paternal "responsibility" on the City is not a valid one. We need less history diatribes and armchair psychobabble and about collective city-states and more solutions that work and that keep what's redeemable about our civilization alive.