Sunday, November 28, 2010

Yinzer Admission Test: Current Events Section

3. When someone in InsolvenCity writes, "The sooner Pittsburgh gives up on this ghost, the sooner it can get on with the future," the obvious subject is:

(a) the city Democratic Committee;
(b) the pre-bankruptcy City of Pittsburgh;
(c) the Allegheny Conference;
(d) the Not-So-Great InsolvenCity Parking Garage Sale;
(e) the Civic Arena;
(f) the pre-indictment Ravenstahl administration;
(g) Iron City Beer;
(h) the Urban Redevelopment Authority;
(i) the Pirates;
(j) the defined benefit public pension system;
(k) the Port Authority;
(l) Steelers exceptionalism;
(m) the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette;
(n) all of the above.

Please explain your answer.


Bram Reichbaum said...

What a dense load that was. Aside from everything else, the Pens & the city have long factored this "delay" into their timetables. If everything goes according to plan, there'll be 4 years and 4 months worth of surface parking lots instead of 5 years.

Infinonymous said...

That response earns no credit.

Anonymous said...

Al of the above.

And Bram is a dense load. He's in need of a blogger tune up.

Add Dump "dense load" Ravenstahl who is attached at the hip to many of the items on the list.

Anonymous said...

oh yeah, save the Arena. There won't be anywhere to line up all the big honkin parades we have here. Bram? Parking lots?

Anonymous said...

Like 10 people want to save the arena. I guess those ten know better than the rest of us and should just get what they want. If they don't, there must be a massive conspiracy.

Infinonymous said...

Like 10 people want to save the arena. I guess those ten know better than the rest of us

If "rest of us" means the City of Pittsburgh electorate, the record makes it a safe bet that 10 randomly selected dementia patients would know better, but that's (mostly) a different discussion.

Anonymous said...

None of the above. It must be referring to the Wanstadt era at Pitt or the effectiveness of city council under the leadership of Harris and Peduto.

Infinonymous said...

It was predictable for some to exhibit denial over some of the ghosts, but genuinely didn't expect to see anyone applauding the current vitality of the Pirates, Iron City Beer or the URA (all thorough and undeniable failures -- and all subsidized with many wasted public dollars).

Rex said...


I was clearly going to say the Pirates, I actually enjoy drinking iron City, especially during Steelers' games, I can go with the DB Pension system being voted off the island, not sure I'll be able to stomach living in post-bankruptcy InsolvenCity (did you trademark that yet like we discussed?)

I'm still holding out on 2010/2011 display of Steelers' exceptionalism (black and gold till I die).

Item number "d" needs a semantic tune-up, and you want to make the city Committee AND the Allegheny Conference simultaneously walk the plank?

Whatever would we do without BOTH the machine and the financial, cultural, philanthropic and civic elite?

And how did UPMC escape your Stalinist-purge list?

Infinonymous said...

It has become unreasonable for anyone older than 13 or 14 to support the Pirates. The local youngsters, of course, not only are blameless but deserve our apologies and pity.

Iron City? Did they pay the pathetically small settlement yet (after screwing taxpayers on their way to taking all of the jobs out of the city)?

Steelers exceptionalism referred to the "Rooney way" or "we operate more honorably" line that has been revealed to be low-grade baloney. Nothing to do with wins and losses; everything to do with how you play the game (taxpayer handouts, Roethlisberger, Holmes, Wilson, Harrison, Reed, etc.). No additional information needed.

UPMC does much good (treating patients) and much bad (freeloading, warping public policy, monopolizing, etc.). Some reform is overdue, but UPMC is ccarcely a good-for-nothing ghost.

The city Committee and the Allegheny Conference, as currently and traditionally constituted, are good-for-nothing drags on the region.

That seems to cover the points you mentioned.

Rex said...


With respect to the litany of Steelers you riddled off, point conceded.

You did miss a couple, and one of them is my fault:

pre-bankruptcy City of Pittsburgh (because I said post-bankruptcy InsolvenCity) and for the record, I'd imagine that post-state-takeover-of our pension (soon-to-be known as triple secret probation) will lead us to bankruptcy, regardless of how, why and who's fault it is, and I'm a little disappointed that anyone can envision some greater good to be gained from the City going into bankruptcy.

and semantics relative to item "d".

I think that just about covers it.

Infinonymous said...

A reasonable argument could be made that Pittsburgh should have filed, or at least openly considered, a bankruptcy petition a few years ago. The city might have been able to renegotiate some bad (ridiculously, perhaps criminally so) deals, such as the noncallable, high-rate bonds foisted on the city (two guesses by whom) during the Murphy years.

The City of Pittsburgh is insolvent. It has deferred obligations and consumed more than it was willing to fund for many years. The day of reckoning gets closer each day. Why not address the situation in an orderly, reasonably fair manner, such as a court-supervised bankruptcy? Some creditors would get haircuts, some taxpayers would experience a more realistic assessment, some especially egregious circumstances would be disclosed and remedied. (The disclosure aspect, by the way, might be the reason some insiders refuse to think rationally about bankruptcy.)

Semantics? Regarding the not-quite-within-the-lines lease proposal? Unless one is prepared to believe that Ravenstahl could (assuming he wanted to) keep up with the privateers, or that the city's usual advisors had suddenly changed stripes with respect to allegiance and competence, "Not-So-Great" seems an understatement of substantial proportion. You'd be just as well off relying on a billion-dollar, half-century deal negotiated by some random schmuck sitting half-drunk at a table at Diesel or S Bar -- which, come to think of it, is what Pittsburgh has for a mayor these days (if you throw in a gangsta-cop security detail and the Tiger Woods fetish).

Anonymous said...

IF Yinzers only knew how much money the Pens and Burkle got handed to them beyond "just" a fancy ugly butt arena.

Rex said...


I think reassessments are the County's schtick, but you know that.

And I'd be very careful about advising a federal bankruptcy, especially considering that I'm pretty sure the state would have to approve it, and since we're BOTH in Act 47 AND ICA, I'm absolutely sure both of those statutes require the blessing of the Governor.

And it's more likely that either the Republican-controlled Commonwealth and/or a federal bankruptcy judge would have us shed assets to cover any shortfall substantial enough to create bankruptcy-like conditions in the City.

And I don't believe we've reached or exceeded the "full faith and credit" of our taxpayers' ability to be fleeced vis-a-vis property and wage taxes and fees sufficient to get to do the corporate-style shedding of obligations.

I can see a rational argument to turning down half-a-billion over 50 years, especially considering that a counter offer was made, but in the face of that counter offer, how does one who was worried about LOSING $2.4 billion in profits now turn around and turn down $2 BILLION in revenues for the same assets?

There isn't a single alternative you can point to (unless Warren Buffett and his buddy Bill Gates personally agreed to give us the money for the City's pension) that comes within a third the amount of cash.

But hey, who's counting, it's only the taxpayers who'll foot that extra billion dollar bill, because of some fancied notion of what, exactly?

I'm sure you'll have absolutely hilarious answers to all of this and more, I just hope you know where we'll find an extra billion dollars to pay for it.

Infinonymous said...

"Assessments" was intended in the sense of "share of burden along all manner of taxation," not in the sense of "valuing particular parcels of real property." The first is a city issue -- residents and property owners have been undertaxed for many years -- and the second is a county issue -- immorality, unconstitutionality, poor fiscal policy, etc. Better writing would have avoided confusion.

In the context of a city constituency that has shirked on taxes, consumed beyond its budget and elected the people who oversaw the associated meltdown, "fleeced" seems not only inapt but indeed the opposite of an appropriate term.

Something may "lead Pittsburgh to bankruptcy," but it is already at insolvency. Bankruptcy would merely constitute acknowledgement of the longstanding circumstance, and a step toward resolution of the problem.

A billion dollars is the appropriate figure to contemplate -- a method to raise a quarter of that is a "solution" solely to someone with the attention span of an eight-year-old -- and that billion will be generated by increased taxes, reduced expenditures, and compromises with creditors. The city also might get a helping hand or two, but not (at least, not likely) before it demonstrates a substantial change in conduct, attitude and competence.

Here's hoping the changes occur before downtown empties, neighborhoods begin to resemble the devastated sections of larger cities, and (perhaps) the city's dysfunction drags down other portions of the county (or region).

Rex said...


Let me get this straight: Our precious InsolvenCity is already headed back to structural deficits in the range of $25 million dollars per annum regardless of the outcome of the "Great Pensions Crisis", and your best answer is to throw the taxpayers to the wolves to the tune of an additional $30 million dollars per annum?

Because no matter what the City does after December 31st, the best-case scenario will cost the City's taxpayers an additional $30 million annually and at worst, $60 million dollars annually.

Infy, that seriously doesn't add up.

The new lease plan, as I understand it, would give the City the cash needed to avoid the takeover, at least $20 million/year in revenue sharing, $2 million/year in advertising revenue (at least) and $6 million/year in parking tax increment.

That's $30 million/year in new money to defray $65 million annually over 30 years if we execute the lease before Auld Lang Syne.

How exactly is a takeover or a bankruptcy better for the taxpayers than this?

Infinonymous said...

Anything LAZ could do, a competent government entity could do . . . well, probably not better . . . maybe nearly as well? . . . probably partly as effectively. In other words, LAZ can't generate additional revenue to share out of thin air. If rates increase, for example, the city should see extra money (assuming the List-Makers and their enablers don't get too greedy).

More important, if the city demonstrates some sobriety, people might be surprised what could happen . . . long before any doomsday arrives.

Pain is as unavoidable as it is deserved, but organ failure can be avoided. The patient needs to stop guzzling liquor by the half-gallon, swallowing donuts by the dozen and treating vegetables as poison. If it rehabilitates, good things could happen.

The lease proposal -- even if it were what the privateers claim it to be (and ignoring what has not yet been revealed) -- is like a "grapefruit cleanse" hawked on television by Kevin Trudeau: nothing close to a solution, probably not even beneficial. It's an expensive miracle cure for the "act now" gullible -- and a huge-margin profit center for the snake oilers.