Sunday, March 6, 2011

Infindorsement: Allegheny County Executive

Succeeding Dan Onorato as Allegheny County executive -- inheriting a moribund economy in a declining region, confronting a county budget teetering after years of phony fixes -- would seem unattractive to a visionary civic leader, a candidate with bold ideas and a passion to implement them.

Which probably explains how Rich Fitzgerald (left) and Mark Patrick Flaherty (right), a couple of political mechanics with stale toolboxes, have the Democratic nomination contest to themselves.

Fitzgerald and Flaherty have largely split Dan Onorato's unattractive electoral foundation. Flaherty is the List-Maker candidate; Fitzgerald has most of the better-paying unions. When it became apparent that Flaherty was the cream-skimmers' choice, many decent Democratic elected officials and committee members literally stood behind Fitzgerald, figuratively holding their noses.

Fitzgerald, Onorato's dutiful soldier (until recently; he mailed to Democratic Committee members an obvious swipe at Onorato's me-first interaction with the party), has embraced the worst aspects of Onorato's unattractive performance as county executive. Like Onorato, Fitzgerald defends inaccurate and regressive assessments to comical degree; also like Onorato, he neither identifies nor works toward a solution to the genuine problems associated with reliance on property taxes. Like Onorato, Fitzgerald was a mindless proponent of the drink tax; also like Onorato, he seems oblivious to the consequences of that poorly chosen revenue generator.

Like Onorato (and, apparently, Flaherty), Fitzgerald would be a Republican in most of the United States.

For all of Fitzgerald's faults, however, Flaherty's association with the List-Makers (or, as some call it, the Network) is a disqualifier. (See List-Makers' List, far right column)

For today's Democratic Committee endorsement vote, the Infindorsement calls for a protest vote. In a race against nearly any Republican, a sensible voter would prefer Flaherty or Fitzgerald; each is a decent man who wants to help his community in ways of which he is incapable.

But in the context of an intraparty endorsement, the sensible choice would be a write-in vote for a worthwhile Democrat, a standard neither Fitzgerald nor Flaherty meets. It appears Allegheny County will need to wait at least four more years for the leadership it strongly needs.

Infindorsement: Write-in (other than Fitzgerald or Flaherty)
Infinonytune: Running On Empty, Jackson Browne


Felix Dzerzhinsky said...

I really don't get why people had such a problem with the poured drinks tax, at least not in and of itself. The problem was that Onorato, rather than allocating the tax proceeds as an additional county contribution to the Port Authority, simply cut the county's contribution to the transit budget from other sources. That was the weaselly move in my view, much less than passing the tax, which was a reasonable option given that it was the only option that the state gave the county.

As an excise tax, it is regressive. But is it really more regressive than property taxes? I don't mean the county property tax, mind you, but the varying millage rates from municipality to municipality and from school district to school district. This is the nut that no one even wants to think about cracking, because it would involve local government consolidations that would present a real challenge to rotten-borough suburban privilege. This is also why I think the idea of reassessments as a step toward tax fairness amounts to a red herring.

At least the drink tax also hits out-of-town tourists, etc. Has anyone ever done a study of the estimated impact -- by income -- of this tax? I have no doubt it would be regressive, but I wouldn't be surprised if it were no worse than most taxes currently in place. Whiny restaurateurs like Glenn Hawley, Kevin Joyce and Sean Casey can cram it.

MH said...

It was a small thing, but after supporting three separate monopolies for what I drink in my own home, I'd like them to tax something else for once. The tax and the gross inconvenience together are an absurdity.

I ride the bus and I wasn't happy.