Tale of Two Cities, Two Parking Authorities

Stop us if you have heard this one. A private interest make a cash offer for a parking system, and the Council turns it down. Then there is a new plan hatched whereby the assets of the Parking Authority, the assets that were not sold, are pledged as collateral in order to help the host city through difficult financial times.

It is happening in Pittsburgh, as we have documented in our last three Policy Briefs, but it is also occurring in the capital city of Pennsylvania, Harrisburg. We have written previously about the debt issues plaguing the City of Harrisburg and how bankruptcy and Act 47 have been mentioned as real possibilities.

Now there is a plan for the Harrisburg Parking Authority to issue new bonds and refinance existing debt (there is an uncanny, almost eerie similarity between that Authority and Pittsburgh’s where existing debt is just over $100 million and plans on the table call for issuing $200 million in new debt) to help the City. According to one news report "…up to $60 million in new money to be used for ‘certain qualified purposes.’ The authority could make a payment to the city to help it pay down some $288 million in incinerator debt."

The solicitor from the Harrisburg Parking Authority also said that any parking rate increases would be smaller than those imposed by a private owner and would keep a public asset public, much like the sentiments expressed by Pittsburgh City Council and the Controller with their alternative plan.

Are these two cities and their parking authorities flattering each other through imitation?