Pa. mayors’ entreaty falls flat

Pa. mayors’ entreaty falls flat

What follows will sound like a broken record. But then, it is public policy makers who keep putting the broken record on the turntable.

The mayors of five Pennsylvania cities – including Bill Peduto of Pittsburgh – have penned an open letter to the federal government, imploring “congressional leaders to step up” with more coronavirus pandemic “recovery” money.

“As mayors of Pennsylvania cities, we witness the human toll the pandemic takes each day it stretches on,” the signatories begin. “We see families losing loved ones, jobless workers struggling to make ends meet, kids stuck at home and isolated and businesses closing their doors for good. Across our commonwealth, residents continue to suffer.”

Continues the mayoral entreaty:

“Each of our cities has been forced to make difficult budget cuts in the wake of Covid-19, and without additional federal relief our residents will suffer even further.

“Congress has the opportunity to go big with its next relief package and to provide the support that the American people need. Experts agree that the danger in this moment is not going big enough — a lesson learned during the Great Recession,” the mayors say.

Well, first off, there’s a greater danger of going too big and fueling inflation that, as a number of analysts have noted, ends up hurting the very people the policy makers supposedly claim they are “helping.” That’s especially true in a climate in which many sectors of the economy already have been recovering on their own.

But let’s read between the lines of this plea for more “recovery” dollars from the leaders of some of the Keystone State’s biggest cities. For one cannot help but conclude that, in the guise of helping “our people,” it also is a bailout for these cities’ past poor decisions.

Take Pittsburgh, for instance.

While Peduto has talked of “belt-tightening,” there have been no layoffs of city workers (at least not publicly announced).

“Essential services such as public health, public safety and sanitation are at risk,” the letter that Peduto signed also notes.

But you can bet garbage collection would not be at risk, as this passage appears to intimate, if steps had been taken to contract out the duties to the private sector as most local governments have done.

The letter also talks of the need for more federal funding to quicken the pace of Covid-19 vaccinations to, in part, “safely reopen our schools faster.”

But the only thing currently stalling the safe reopening of public schools in Pittsburgh is a school board ignoring Centers for Disease Control guidance that schools now can be reopened safely and instead bowing to the extortive machinations of a teachers’ union.

Then consider this wacky boilerplate verbiage in the mayors’ letter, surely lifted from the umpteenth edition of “You Might Be A Bureaucrat If You Use These Passages”:

“Cities are economic engines for their regions, and not spending enough on federal stimulus will result in cuts at the local level that slow the pace of economic recovery in the long run.”

Well mayors, if you’re all such the “economic engines” for your respective regions, wouldn’t prudent stewardship of your government operations produce far more or even sufficient fuel to sustain your cities?

We could go on and on here, from Pittsburgh continuing to publicly subsidize the building of premium office space when there’s a glut of it already, to government pleading for help for businesses, many of which “The State” shut down and destroyed with no rationale other than it could.

State and local governments in Pennsylvania can best serve their post-pandemic recoveries by first best serving themselves. That means facilitating their economies instead of attempting to yet again command them – of course, with somebody’s else’s money — and, in the process, strangling them.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).