In which I become an axe-wielding devil-bunny

You guys, it took me so long before I wrote about the parking/pension/lease issue. I waited months before my first post because I just didn’t feel like I knew enough to write an opinion on it.

Then I posted another yesterday in which I admitted that I don’t know what’s best for Pittsburgh as it relates to this issue, but I’d feel better if at least I knew all the data had been properly examined and all avenues considered before a route was chosen. I’d feel better if City Council and Mayor Lukey came to an agreement on it.

Today, I would like to change my position on this issue.

EFF THE PARKING LEASE.

I AM WHOLEHEARTEDLY AGAINST IT.

Why?

Well, because the Post-Gazette interviewed the CEO of the company that should the lease be permitted via vote by City Council, will be the winner of the bid.

What did the CEO say that single-handedly turned me against the lease?

Brace yo’selves. They rapin’ errrybody.

Not really. I just wanted to say that once.

The headline alone made my blood heat up enough that the devil-bunny that possessed my soul in the ScareHouse rose to the surface:

Perks?! PERKS?! Parking perks are going to outweigh the fact that we might be paying ten dollars more per day to park?

What perks, I wondered? Will we get free car washes with each day parked? Will we get our oil checked, our tires rotated? Will the parking garages become like Jiffy Lube? Will we be handed a latte going in and a bag of weed going out? What perks are going to outweigh the cost increase?

Brace yo’selves. They rapin’ errybody.

Cleaner, safer, better lit garages with friendly staff and technological innovations, he said, will outweigh price concerns. He said he’ll bring his company’s customer service philosophy, called GET 100, for “greet, engage and thank 100 percent of the time.”

Are you effing kidding me? I would park inside the very gates of hell if it was affordable and convenient to Market Square. I’d kick the pigeons out of my way and throw a [pew pew wink] to Satan, no problem.

They really think regular working Burghers are going to be all, “Well, it does now cost me $20 to park, but on the plus side, the garage is so well-lit that it makes it easier for me to find the correct credit card when I’m paying! And on top of that, I can’t tell you how priceless it is for me to be told ‘thank you’ 100 percent of the time. Not 80 percent. Not 90 percent. Not even 99 percent. ONE HUNDRED PERCENT OF THE TIME, the machine says, ‘Thank you,’ as I exit the garage. You can’t put a price on that kind of service.”

So, to be clear, the city is going to lease the garages and meters to a company whose CEO thinks that we’ll all be okay with higher rates as long as they keep the places clean, well lit, and so long as the staff has manners.

I also flag that as inappropriate. I do more than that. I reject it. I hate it. I stab it. I hack it to shreds with my bunny-devil axe before I hop away to flag more shit as inappropriate.

On top of that, the parking lease is clearly a band-aid move as it relates to the pension, and eventually, we’re going to run out of band-aids and our patient is going to bleed out and die.

Hide yo kids. Hide yo wife. They rapin’ errybody.

Now, this is a contentious issue. Please feel free to disagree with me and each other. Let’s just keep it civil. Maybe we can teach the Mayor and City Council a thing or two about manners.





57 Comments


  1. Baba Wawa
    October 8, 2010 12:05 pm

    i hate the mayor’s plan…what’s going to happen when the pension problem arises again in another couple of years? (you know it will)



  2. Scott
    October 8, 2010 12:07 pm

    Perhaps the parking lease is a bad idea, but in all the criticisms, nowhere do I see anyone offering an alternative solution to the problem. Until someone presents another option, it seems a bit unfair to pile on the Mayor/City for their first pass at a problem they are expected to solve.

    So…what’s the alternative folks?



  3. Nate
    October 8, 2010 12:08 pm

    My legal advisory council will be investigating the legality of you disagreeing with this lease, Ginny.



  4. stephen
    October 8, 2010 12:08 pm

    Pretty soon not even a PAT bus driver will be able to afford parking there.



  5. Mike
    October 8, 2010 12:29 pm

    It is not the community’s job to seek alternatives. That is the job of elected officials, their staff, and municipal employers: evaluate alternatives and make tough, transparent decisions. It takes skills sets missing down a City Hall. Most local municipal organizations fail to perform meaningful policy analysis.

    More importantly, it is clear the current professional culture at the City is really not receptive to outside input.

    These simple anecdotes suggest no critical thinking on the part of the City: (1) the City is unwilling to fully vet the implications of the state taking over the pension fund, (2) LAX feels comfortable spending >$400M on the deal, suggesting there’s opportunities that the City/Parking Authority were not capable of formulating without private sector analyses, (3) there is no long-term plan for making the pension system fiscally sound, (4) there are no measures being taken to ensure pensions to not fiscally damage the city in the future, and (5) the Mayor’s office does not know what to do with the extra revenue from LAX.

    The current debate suggests myopic, short-term thinking, let alone the unprofessional nature of the City/State dialogue.



  6. Matt
    October 8, 2010 12:38 pm

    @Scott

    http://www.bloomfieldnow.com/2010/09/28/understanding-the-parking-pension-problem/

    There are several other options that the City has to chose from.



  7. alison
    October 8, 2010 1:14 pm

    matt: that link was really helpful. thanks!

    our mayor is a moron.



  8. Pa-pop
    October 8, 2010 1:18 pm

    Solution: Relocate errrything to downtown Youngstown where most on-street parking (if you can find an unoccupied space) is free and surface lots are at most $2.50 a day. On behalf of the Regional Chamber, I thank you.



  9. DannyLameJokes
    October 8, 2010 1:19 pm

    Cut the cost of the government? That’s certainly never going to happen.

    Part problem is that very few people live within the city limits and a lot of the tax dollars are lost that way. A lot of bordering boros have Pittsburgh zip codes but are not considered part of the city for tax purposes.

    The additional 3% downtown tax should be eliminated and the city limits should be expanded to include areas like Edgewood, Shadyside, and Mt Lebanon. Pittsburgh is one of the few major cities that has not expanded its city limits to include similar areas.

    dannylamejokes.com



  10. JS
    October 8, 2010 1:28 pm

    I thought GET100 would be to get $100/day from each person that parks their car.



  11. Joe K.
    October 8, 2010 1:30 pm

    Of course they’ll smile and say thank you! They’re raking you over the coals for parking. Look, I’m a big boy now and I don’t need someone to hold my hand while I park my car.

    The problem is raising revenue, why do we need a middleman for that? Everything I’ve read suggests that this will not permanently solve the pension problem, so why cede control for 50 years? Why send money out of the region, and quite possibly out of the country?

    As Matt’s link in #6 shows, there are alternatives. Privatization is not the answer to everything. I really don’t see the big deal with a state takeover of pensions.



  12. Marc
    October 8, 2010 1:40 pm

    Guys, I think everyone needs to take a deep breath. All that going to occur is that parking will no longer be subsidized. Yes, the price of parking will rise, but only to what the market calls for. These guys aren’t going to raise the price to the point where people won’t pay for it, it’s that simple, to do so would be hurting their business. Before anyone mentions neighborhood businesses, the success of those businesses is also important to those in the parking industry: if the price of parking turns people off from shopping in an area, businesses in the area will suffer and some will close, yes; But if businesses close, less people will have a reason to drive to that area and pay to park, thus why whoever gets this lease would have the health of area businesses in their own interest.

    Long story short, you’re not going to see price gouging price raises. Quite frankly, the price of parking is going to be what it always should have been. Calm down



  13. bigslacker
    October 8, 2010 1:40 pm

    Well, technically they not rapin’ errybody. People who use public transportation are bein’ raped seperately.



  14. Greg
    October 8, 2010 1:48 pm

    At the end of the day…. it doesn’t matter what we think. Our esteemed elected officials know what’s best for us and they know we are all too stupid to know the difference.

    We will just keep on paying, and paying, and paying and re-electing political hacks.



  15. Lizzy
    October 8, 2010 1:49 pm

    CAKE IN THE BREAKROOM!!!



  16. Fish
    October 8, 2010 1:50 pm

    Hey Marc – what amount do you think rates can be raised to until people can’t pay? My downtown lease is already $275 per months which I think is already over-priced.

    I still don’t understand why I have to bail out what I’m sure is a mis-managed pension fund?



  17. Marc
    October 8, 2010 2:02 pm

    @Fish
    I never said it was an ideal situation. I just think it’s the least-worst of several really bad options.
    This has probably already been hashed over multiple times already on this and other blogs, but to really fix our situation, we need help at the state level to change some of the pension laws that–as currently constructed–are pretty much built to keep this city in this precarious situation if for no other reason that the commonwealth makes money from us. Not asking for a handout, just for the ability to have the city really help itself.

    @Bigslacker
    The thing i fear more than anything else is that the death-spiral that PAT is in right now is going to be a serious impediment for Pittsburgh as it tries to continue the momentum of this recent decade. There are smarter people than me to figure this out, but i fear that there might not be a way to fix PAT–outside of a Bill and Melinda Gates-type foundation \just dumping a massive check on PAT (conditional on a list of structural reforms, of course).



  18. Nicole T.
    October 8, 2010 2:05 pm

    I love how raising the price will make the parking company do what the parking company should already be doing to begin with. PAH!



  19. Sooska
    October 8, 2010 2:05 pm

    First of all, I have never seen a well-lit, clean parking garage anywhere. (I agree Ginny. Clean and well-lit is now a “perk?” Shouldn’t that be what is provided at a minimum?)

    At least the old Gimbels garage has a snack bar open during weekday business hours that sells old-fashioned Sky Bars that you cannot buy anywhere else. (Now THAT is a perk.)



  20. Mike
    October 8, 2010 2:19 pm

    @Marc

    I totally agree that local municipalities need more flexibility from the State to achieve reasonable fiscal balance. Limited conversations I’ve had with State officials and the work I’ve done on the PAT situation suggest that State is not interested in helping municipalities reduce pension obligations. It is would unfortunate if that mindset applies to all of City government… More careful evaluation of alternatives and clear presentation of the problem would eventually highlight that main issues: unmanageable current and future pension costs. Any real solution, as you imply, would have to address short- and long-term costs.

    Write your state representatives.



  21. Julia
    October 8, 2010 2:21 pm

    I wholeheartedly disagreed with the plan to lease garages, lots, and meters from the very beginning. Anytime you hear someone, especially a politician, say “this is the only option, there is no other way,” be very careful. Council and the City Controller have floated no less than three other viable alternatives, yet the mayor won’t even consider them. Not to mention what many others on here have already pointed out: nowhere have I seen a plan, even an idea, of how to permanently fix the pension.

    Now, think about the parking rates skyrocketing combined with the very good possibility that PAT transit is going to further cut its service to the point that entire communities won’t have access to transportation.

    Do you think they all sit around at night and scheme of ways to royally f*** everyone, and then laugh because they know that no one will actually ever do anything about it?



  22. Angry Mongo
    October 8, 2010 2:25 pm

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rl5B6ns34LQ
    Hide yo kids! in Auto-tune.

    Let’s flash forward to when the inevitable happens. We need someone out there taking pictures of proof that clean and well lit is a lie.



  23. MessyDee
    October 8, 2010 2:31 pm

    An alternative is to petition Harrisburg to review (and revoke) pension plans the city can no longer afford to pay or should pay. City pensions should be consistent with what industry offers. Why does a state store employee qualify for a full pension after 2.5 years of service? Mind you I fully support the pensions of the city police and fire departments.



  24. TripleC
    October 8, 2010 2:31 pm

    Based on the unibrow alone, this guy CAN not be trusted.



  25. Joe K.
    October 8, 2010 2:39 pm

    Let’s throw around the numbers in Matt’s link (#6). I’m an amateur so feel free to critique this.

    The winning bid is $452,000,000. The bidders think they will get $3,200,000,000 over 50 years. Subtract: $3.2 billion minus 452 million, you get $2.748 billion, no? Divide 2.748 billion by 50 years gives $54,960,000. So it seems the bidders get 54.96 million/year.

    The link states an Act 44 takeover would cost 27 million per year. That would have to come from some combination of parking rate raises and local taxes. Local taxes is money that would eventually end up in the hands of local residents, and you have representation through your elected officials as to how it’s spent. So, do we pay 27 million more in local taxes, or send $54 million to JP Morgan and lose local control in the process.

    I may have oversimplified, I don’t know the expense and overhead involved in running a parking garage. But I can’t imagine this being a good deal for the average ‘Burgher.



  26. Bitter
    October 8, 2010 2:49 pm

    @DannyLameJokes – I thought Shadyside and Edgewood were within city limits.



  27. Greg
    October 8, 2010 2:53 pm

    I know… LET’S TAX TUITION!!!!



  28. Mike
    October 8, 2010 2:59 pm

    @Joe K

    It is a little oversimplified given that the 50-year cash flows are not uniform and need to be discounted appropriately… but yes… the idea that the private sector is going to skim off what could be public benefit is troubling. One has to wonder why the City and Parking Authority cannot consider and present similar plans, potentially making costs more manageable and keeping all benefits public. It would at least be nice to see what they think they can do.



  29. Bobby
    October 8, 2010 3:01 pm

    The government (in this case the City of Pittsburgh) has no business being in the “parking business” anyways! At its basic level, the job of any government is to maintain order by enforcing the rule of law. If they can keep the streets paved and plow them in the winter that’s an added bonus. Those garages are vile, nasty and dirty. The city, since it never should have been in the parking lot business anyways, absolutely should sell them to the highest bidder. As for using the monies to get back to even in the pension fund? Please. How on earth did the world continue to spend for all this time when people didn’t have a government-run pension? Don’t y’all realize all that is is the government telling you that you are too stupid to save and invest on your own for retirement so it’s up to “us”, the government, to take care of that for you.

    Unions and pensions are leading America on the race to the bottom. Don’t believe me? Take a drive out Carson Street someday heading towards Kennywood. How them steel mills doin’? Oh right. They’re not there anymore….



  30. DannyLameJokes
    October 8, 2010 3:09 pm

    @Bitter
    Maybe they are. I couldn’t find a map. I remember my friend saying that he couldn’t work a certain job downtown unless he moved from edgewood into the city limits. Maybe he was wrong



  31. JenEngland
    October 8, 2010 3:11 pm

    As a single income, single mother, as a self employed “entrepreneur” (which we all know is the business version of starving artist) he can BITE ME. There is no perk that is going to make me pay an extra DIME to park downtown, Squirrel Hill or anywhere else for that matter. I will take the bus (assuming they are still running). I will walk. I will shop in Homestead.

    Why? Not because I’m angry, but because I CAN’T AFFORD IT. All my dimes are accounted for. This pile goes to a mortgage. This pile to my business overhead. Oh yeah, and that pile there? That feeds my kids. Any “extra” are spent on things like business clothes for me, movies with my family, things like that. Jeez. Doesn’t he realize that the majority of families/people/businesses don’t have “extra” money to waste on “perks” especially in this economy? And the thing is, it isn’t a PERK if you have no choice! Its not like I can choose the gates of hell parking garage instead. It isn’t a perk its a bad justification.



  32. Bram R
    October 8, 2010 3:17 pm

    John K – The operator still has to run the facilities with that $54 KK/yr, so what you’re looking at is not all profit. Employees and managers with their own benefits, facility maintenance, utilities, insurance. Besides which that’s a revenue projection, if we run out of cars or gas or people in the over 50 years they run that risk. A highly-touted independent study ordered by people who do NOT like the lease AT ALL, came back which said the value of this lease deal is $400 million, and we’re being offered $450 million for it. It’s not a ripoff from an apples-to-apples business standpoint.

    What it is, quite clearly, is parking prices getting raised a lot. To market rates. You either feel that’s tolerable or you don’t. I might suggest taking the bus, or doing something really insane like carpooling. What I can tell you is every other plan being discussed besides the lease involves WE OURSELVES raising parking rates somewhat, and in many cases, not getting so much in return and facing other consequences.

    Gotta be honest, I’m a little impressed we are being presented forthrightly with tough medicine to tackle a long-term problem, instead of being told we can keep eating free lunches if we play shell games for a little while longer and kick the can.



  33. Bram R
    October 8, 2010 3:21 pm

    Claiming that bright lights and smiles will make it worth it, okay yeah, that was a bit douchy of the operator, let’s not delude ourselves. But a little douchy PR never hurt anybody. I think it was legitimate to point out that eventually, those garages are going to need to be rebuilt, and do we really want to pay for that ourselves and with what.



  34. Angry Mongo
    October 8, 2010 3:21 pm

    @Bobby “Take a drive out Carson Street someday heading towards Kennywood. How them steel mills doin’? Oh right. They’re not there anymore…”

    Sunday Night Football would beg to differ.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AlObQC5jsWs

    1:02 minutes in.

    LOL. I always love how they continue to show steel mills during night games.



  35. Lauren
    October 8, 2010 3:22 pm

    Amen Bobby.

    The cold, hard truth is that it doesn’t matter what happens to the parking garages–it’s still not going to fix the pension plan. The band-aid analogy is a good one Ginny. It’s just like social security and Medicare on the federal level. No one wants to truly fix the problem because it would involve hurt feelings and angry old people.

    Unions, while extremely important in the early 20th century, now cause many more problems than what they’re worth. State store employees have pensions? They don’t do anything different than a Wal-Mart cashier. How many people think a Wal-Mart cashier is entitled to a pension? Pennsylvania has fallen behind so many other states because of it’s catering to unions, which are serving political purposes, not the interests of their members.

    The government, at all levels, makes all sorts of promises it can’t and hasn’t kept. I’m an Army Wife, I know, LOL. I wish there would be a movement to change the laws regarding pension plans, but as long as only old people and union members vote, nothing will ever change.



  36. Linda
    October 8, 2010 3:29 pm

    I live in Mt Washington. If I took the bus or incline/T combo it would cost $5.50 a day and take me 40-45 minutes to get to work. Instead, I drive my car and park in a city lot across the street from my work building. It cost $13.75 a day. But I get to work in 12 minutes and never have to worry about the bus not showing up or showing up but driving right past me.

    I figure the extra $8.25 a day is worth an hour of saved time. It would probably cost less if I got a lease but I am pretty lazy and never bothered to ask about one.

    The garage is clean, the staff is friendly 99.98% of the time, and I have never been accosted by panhandlers like I have at some non-city operated garages.

    If the price increased greatly, I’d have to rethink all of this. I suppose once the parking became more expensive than an hour of my time, I’d have to make a choice. Perhaps it would finally motivate me to walk my ass to work. Which incidentally, takes 36 minutes.



  37. Burgh Baby
    October 8, 2010 3:48 pm

    Once while on a business trip in Hollywood, CA, I decided it would be wrong if I didn’t head down to Hollywood Blvd for a bit to walk around. As I pulled into a parking garage, I started to dig in my rental car for an axe or a knife or something because I was certain I was going to have to sacrifice a kidney in order to park there. The floors were so clean I would have been willing to lick them, there was a giant fountain adorning the fully decorated area near the exits, and it turned out to that only valet parking was available.

    It cost $2/hour or $10/day to park there.

    We’re doing it wrong.



  38. unsatisfied
    October 8, 2010 3:55 pm

    @ burgh baby…..I recently went with the wife to reston town center near DC. it’s basically the waterfront or south side works on barry bonds’ steroids.

    we went to park in the parking garage and I wondered where the ticket machine was.

    there was no machine.

    it was free parking.

    I had to go change my underwear from the shock….



  39. Magnus Patris
    October 8, 2010 3:58 pm

    Seems like every time there is a crisis in Pittsburgh, Mayor Doofus Giganti is out of town. Well Pittsburgh, that’s what you get when you elect an immature frat boy mayor.



  40. Mike
    October 8, 2010 4:14 pm

    @ Bobby

    Lots of local governments provide and effectively manage free parking because it creates economic surplus (increased business activity, economic development, etc). Surely there are situations where the service produces a social loss, and that may be the case here. However, I am not convinced that well-managed parking is absolutely and unequivocally a private sector enterprise.



  41. Bulldog
    October 8, 2010 4:17 pm

    We don’t know HOW bad, if at all, a state takeover of the pension fund would be, because the Mayor’s office hasn’t provided the data to the state office to analyze the costs of a takeover. The agency that would be taking over the mis-managed pension fund is already managing the municipal pension funds of numerous municipalities around the state. Since the city admittedly can’t do it on their own, give it to someone who can.



  42. Spuddad
    October 8, 2010 4:22 pm

    What @burghbaby and @unsatisfied said. Pittsburgh has the most ungodly parking prices for a city of ANY size, let alone of its current (and still contracting) size. You can park in Manhattan for $15/day. There is NO justification for the current rates, let alone raising them. What the “market” might or might not “call for” is, as is the case with most all “markets” these days, held synthetically to one extreme or another. The myth of the “free market” needs to be blown up like the statue of Saddam in Baghdad.



  43. Pa-pop
    October 8, 2010 4:49 pm

    Comment #5 said: “It takes skills sets missing down [at] City Hall. Most local municipal organizations fail to perform meaningful policy analysis.” Dead.On.

    The twist on an old bromide is now this: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t … run for public office or get hired by government.”



  44. YinzerInExile
    October 8, 2010 5:02 pm

    Just a peeve of mine: If you want to assign blame over all the mills that aren’t running on Carson (or anywhere else in the Burgh), then — with any interest in fairness — you must split blame between unions and GREEDY ASS OWNERS who did not want to take the losses that would have been incurred to upgrade the mills to match the efficiency of mills belonging to rival producers like Japan and Germany. I get where people are coming from as re: union disgruntlement, but it is a tired straw man to lay the blame for everything at their feet.

    Perhaps the new parking garage owners would be amenable to a bargain? Say a quorum takes them an offer that they would willingly sacrifice cleanliness and good lighting (i.e. leave them the same as I’ve always known downtown parking garages to be) if they negate the rate rise?



  45. Suzy
    October 8, 2010 5:33 pm

    LMAO @ Lizzy

    Mario can fix this. He can fix anything.



  46. NewBurgher
    October 8, 2010 6:22 pm

    @Nicole T. – EXACTLY! Since when is “lighting” a freaking “PERK”? Are they kidding? Are people supposed to bring flashlights, as well as pack their 45’s to ward off the muggers in unlit filthy garages? This is unbelievable.



  47. BeauJacques
    October 8, 2010 7:44 pm

    Reaping what ye sow……..

    D D D D DUPED!!!

    One-party rape!!

    Regular readers already know my opinion of the parking sodomy and the shameless pimps pushing it!

    See you next month Danny- NOT!

    Is this guy Jeff Reed or what??
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bgDaVLCaBzQ



  48. Heather
    October 8, 2010 8:00 pm

    Displaced here, and having since lived in several large cities I can say that yes indeed, something is very wrong up there. In Birmingham, AL and Louisville, KY parking can be had for $10/day, and in perfectly safe, clean, modern facilities. And it’s the south so polite employees go without saying. ;-)

    A few years ago Louisville had a city-county merger, so all of Jefferson County is now ‘city’. It’s foolish (boasting about how large the city is) but it greatly increased tax revenue and solved a lot of financial and gov’t issues (police, fire service, etc)



  49. KGC
    October 8, 2010 9:31 pm

    News Flash!

    If a single operator has control over a significant number of parking places Downtown.. you do NOT have market rates. Pittsburgh’s parking will be very close to an oligopoly.

    Related News Flash!
    Do you *really* think the private owners/operators are going to set rates *LESS* than ‘Lil Lukey’s flackeys? LMAO.

    Too bad some of you here (e.g., @Marc) didn’t finish High School… or, maybe you did and it was a City High School.

    The Boy Mayor and City Council members are effin salivating over the $80-$120M excess funds… absolutely salivating.. the $$ have already been spent.



  50. Bram R
    October 8, 2010 10:36 pm

    KGC – There is at least one other MAJOR player in private parking, Alco. And then there’s Kail. None of them own meters, but garages yup.