"I think what we have proven is that anything is possible in Pittsburgh on the heels of the G-20." Thus spoke Pittsburgh’s Mayor in explaining his optimism in being able to levy new City taxes on college students and hospital patients-with the help, if need be, from the Legislature.
This is just what the doctor ordered after he and the Legislature capitulated to public sector union demands to eviscerate the already modest pension reform last month.
There is clearly one area where the impossibility of improvement in Pittsburgh is solidly entrenched. And that is curbing the power of public sector unions. Unions-that by virtue of political power that is far beyond their numbers-have almost single-handedly driven the City to the edge of bankruptcy.
When it appeared Harrisburg might actually take a baby step towards helping the City deal with the pension and legacy cost issue, the Mayor, with the assistance of labor unions who refuse to yield a scintilla of their overweening control over local governments, essentially browbeat the Legislature into scuttling the reform plan it had worked on for months.
If the Mayor believes his ebullient statement that G-20 proves he can do anything, then he should use some of that new found wizardry to restore a semblance of taxpayer control over the City’s employees. Or perhaps he does not believe that such a restoration of balance of power is necessary, in which case taxpayers (including new ones such as students and hospital patients) must expect to forever bear the brunt of government’s kowtowing to special interests.
The irony of course is that one of Pittsburgh’s biggest PR points during G-20 was how the City had morphed into an eds and meds success story. It must have escaped the Mayor that a major reason for that success is that these sectors are tax exempt and derive enormous amounts of their revenue from government sources.
Why not simply ask the President and Congress to send him the money Pittsburgh needs? Or does G-20 optimism that he can do anything not extend to believing such help would be forthcoming or is he just too embarrassed to admit that America’s premier green, new economy city is teetering on the brink of insolvency?