A Day of Bad News for Pittsburgh

Friday the 13th was not a propitious day for Pittsburgh judging from the negative news stories. The Tribune Review reported comments from James McAneny, who is very concerned about the City’s last ditch effort to avoid a state takeover of its pension plans. According to Mr. McAneny, head of the agency that will determine if the scheme meets the 50 percent funded requirement the state imposed on the City, the plan was put together without professional assistance and he needs to see what the City has done well before September if he is to do a proper evaluation.

The City’s plan is based heavily on its promise to dedicate large amounts of its parking tax revenue to the pensions for the next thirty years and to compel authorities to contribute more in payments in lieu of taxes, especially the Parking Authority, which will be asked for massive increases that it does not currently have or expect to have.

As we noted at the time of its adoption in late December, the City’s pledge to dedicate thirty years of large chunks of parking tax revenue cannot be seriously considered as a solid asset. There is no contractual obligation-such as a bank loan or bond repayment-that will force the City to honor their pledge if the financial picture gets tight or some future Council arbitrarily and capriciously decides not to make the payments. The City certainly has no enforceable contract with the state pension agencies that would solidify the present value calculations and make the alleged asset viable. The City’s past failures to live up to its obligations to the pension funds and its ongoing financial difficulties should disqualify the scheme.

A second Tribune Review report offers an account of the military’s assessment of Pittsburgh’s youth in terms of their fitness to be accepted into the armed forces. An amazingly high 90 percent of 18 to 24 year olds in the city are deemed unfit for reasons of obesity, physical condition, criminal records, drug addictions, and inadequate educational preparation. This is what comes of being America’s most livable city?

The Air Force Colonel in charge of the study believes more early age intervention will solve the problem. One may suppose the Colonel is unaware of the vast sums being spent on early childhood programs already. As we noted in the Policy Brief this week, it is not what kids know at age 5 or 6 or even 7 that tells us what they will be like at age 17. It is all the stuff they do and what happens to them in the intervening years. Without discipline at home or in the schools, without a culture that values academic achievement and without an environment that teaches manners, respect and decency, no amount of handwringing and monetary expenditures will solve what ails our youth.

And finally, on a somewhat less momentous note, the Bishop’s Pope-blessed cross was stolen. One can hope the cross will have an enlightening effect on the thief and he will return it. It is unlikely the Pope’s blessing will be transferred to him if he is simply planning to make a sizable financial gain from the theft- nor to anyone who buys it. And so it goes in the Burgh.