Murphy’s Law

Last night KDKA TV aired an interview with Pittsburgh’s former Mayor which could best be described as a puff piece on economic development.

Too bad the reporter did not bother to ask the former Mayor about the true economic impact of spending all those tax dollars. Or about Lazarus, Lord and Taylor’s, etc. and the millions wasted by the Pittsburgh Development funds (proceeds from legalized slots are going to pay those loans off).

The ten years it took to field a winning baseball team is proof of how stupid the argument was to begin with. If the North Shore is so great, why is the City still hemorrhagingpopulation? Why are the schools so rotten and the City’s finances in shambles?

No net job growth for a decade and a hollowing out of the population of the key income earning groups. And a half billion dollars wasted on the Connector with all the lost economic activity resulting from the disruptions in constructing it.

The former Mayor lied about the threat of the Pirates leaving in 1997-98 to get the stadium built and then ignored the wishes of the overwhelming majority of the voters. His legacy can be found in the fact the City is under the financial supervisionof two state appointed watchdogs. Sadly, they have not done a very good job, but they are still here and are likely to remain so for a long time. Pittsburgh does not have the money to pave its streets. How’s that for a legacy?

The former Mayor is the epitome of what is wrong with egomaniacs who have political power. Enough is never enough for these people.

Some Hart Comment Surgery Needed

In his attempt to present the "real" facts in response to a Tribune Review commentary regarding North Shore parking, Mark Hart of the Steelers offers up a litany of purported benefits stemming from the efforts of the Pirates, Steelers and Continental Real Estate.

The most salient point is the claim that, "The money this development has returned to the City far exceeds the investment of public dollars that helped to fuel this growth." The development referred to includes two sports venues, a hotel, office buildings, and a concert venue all of which, it is claimed, have created thousands of new jobs. Mr. Hart also states "that through the efforts of many, including limited support from the public, we have taken an area that held only Three Rivers Stadium and a plot of vacant land-and completely transformed it into a destination area".

Limited public support? Total state, local and Federal tax dollars to build new stadiums and reconfigure the street patterns is close $400 million. The return on the $125 million in claimed private development will never come close to paying back the taxpayers. Total real estate taxes will run about $3 million per year assuming the property is valued close to the development costs. The office buildings referred to did not significantly add new jobs; they were predominantly employees who were moved from other parts of the City. New restaurants are not necessarily producing net jobs or income. Much of their business is likely being taken from other restaurants in the City and County.

Moreover, the Hart comment claims the North Shore transformation is producing millions in amusement taxes, parking taxes, real estate taxes and payroll taxes. Sorry. Three Rivers Stadium was also producing amusement taxes and parking taxes. Mr. Hart needs to show how much additional amusement and parking tax can be attributed to the new stadiums over and above what would have been collected if games were still in that facility. Then too, he needs to take into account the fact that several acres of the near North Shore are now taken up with a tax exempt baseball park that was previously occupied by taxable or potentially taxable property.

As is too often the case, Mr. Hart looks only at what can be seen and does not take into account the unseen: Taxable development that could have occurred absent the new ballparks, the removal of taxable property from the tax rolls, and the opportunity cost for taxpayers for the hundreds of millions spent to build non-taxable facilities.

Finally, it should be noted that absent the two new stadiums, the extraordinary wasteful use of $535 million to build the North Shore connector would never have happened-a project that has not a ghost of a chance to repay the taxpayers for their investment.