So Much for Authority Independence

Municipal authorities were purportedly created in part to do things regular governments cannot do and to assume certain financial and operational functions. In Pittsburgh, we have the water and sewer authority, the parking authority, the housing authority, the redevelopment authority, etc. These authorities are governed by a board that is appointed by the Mayor and approved by the City Council. Within the state’s statutes governing the authority and the authority’s own charter and by-laws, the board presumably has the responsibility and freedom to make the big decisions for the authority.

Generally speaking the board is supposedly independent of political pressures. Of course, board members who continually run afoul of the Mayor’s wishes could be asked to resign or not be re-appointed. Certainly, the City Council should not be stepping into manage the affairs of any authority. That is a prescription for turmoil.

Now comes Councilman Shields saying, "The [Urban Redevelopment Authority] can’t even breathe a breath without the consent and authorization of this body"-referring to Council. He went on to say that he would do unimaginable things to the URA if it did not comply with the prevailing wage bill Council is getting ready to pass.

So, in Pittsburgh, what is it? Are authorities independent or are they lackeys of City Council? Apparently, a new era of Council hegemony just dawned in Pittsburgh.