Dear Lukey,

I know we’ve had our problems in the past.

Snowmageddon-gate.

New Orleans-gate.

Seven Springs-gate.

Toby Keith-gate.

Tiger Woods-gate.

Steelers parade-gate.

Trashcan-gate.

Pat Ford-gate.

Snoop-gate.

Tuition-tax-gate.

Ron Burkle-gate.

OMG. Dude, you have so many gates you could build a fence around the moon. Stop that.

Despite our past issues, I want you to know that on this day, I would write a sonnet about you. An ode on an urn. I’d haiku you. I’d hug you. I’d paint your portrait and hang it over my mantle. I’d blingee you.

Wait. I’m going to blingee you.

Here:

Mayor

Too much?

As a downtown restaurant owner, I don’t need to tell you, Hizzoner, that it’s already hard enough to fill a restaurant for dinner when the city essentially becomes a ghost town after six. One saving grace was that after 6:00, our patrons could find a free meter and therefore eating downtown didn’t have to mean shelling out additional money for parking.

With the new 10:00 p.m. enforcement, you have taken that ghost town and turned it into a zombie town. You’ve made it even harder to convince people that downtown is a viable option for dinner. You’ve put up a “YOU ARE NOT WELCOME HERE” sign with a sign underneath that says, “TRY THE SUBURBS. THEY HAVE FREE PARKING THERE.”

On my bitchy days, I’d say you have put up a sign that says, “Trespassers after 6:00 p.m. will be shot on sight.”

That’s a bit much.

But the blingee is not too much because of this:

In a move likely to score points with motorists, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl on Thursday suggested dropping the expanded parking enforcement hours that took effect June 1 as an indirect part of city council’s pension bailout.

I’m going to hug you. Wait. No, I’ll blingee you again.

Mayor

The dancing cats might be a bit much.  Plus, they’re not in sync. I’d buzz them if this was America’s Got Talent.

Look, if downtown was already vibrant after 6:00 p.m., I wouldn’t bat an eyelash at the meter enforcement extension. But you’ve got to FIRST get Burghers used to downtown after 6:00 p.m. before you start punishing them for being downtown after 6:00 p.m.  And you can’t make the comparison to other cities who enforce meters that late into the night. Those cities aren’t zombie-towns as soon as night falls.

I am just so damned tired of hearing city council and you go on about WE NEED MORE REVENUE. WE NEED MORE TAXES. WE NEED MORE REVENUE. MONEY MONEY MONEY. NOM NOM NOM. And rarely, oh, so rarely, do I ever hear, “WE NEED TO CUT EXPENSES. WE NEED TO TRIM THE FAT. WE NEED TO GO DEPARTMENT BY DEPARTMENT AND SEE WHERE WE CAN SAVE.”

I once temped in a city office for a few weeks and I can tell you for a fact that there was GROSS WASTE. Despite being a college student with plenty of skills and smarts that could have been put to use, I was only hired to sit at a desk and read my books every day from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. because the department needed to spend some money at the end of the fiscal year so their budget didn’t get cut. It wasn’t that I didn’t have the skills to do anything for them, they just didn’t have anything for me to do. Other Burghers have told me similar stories. That’s ridiculous. That’s like spending a quarter of a million dollars for 250 trashcans with your name on them.

Oh. Wait.

Anyway.

Lukey, if you somehow manage to get the downtown 10:00 p.m. meter enforcement rescinded, you are going to gain lots of points with lots of Burghers. As for me, I may not become your number one fan, but I sure as hell will blingee the shit out of you.

Yours,

Me.

 





31 Comments

  1. Kevin
    August 19, 2011 9:49 am

    Great read Ginny:
    Sounds like a money losing proposition if you are paying parking attendants for parker’s who won’t be showing up. As a revenue generator, that is a poor business model. Just where is the revenue in that scenario? Sometimes bureaucrats can’t get out of their own way. The cliche’ cutting off your nose, to spite your face seems appropriate here. Who exactly voted to enforce this anyway? Sheer stupidity and being short sided , unable to see the ramifications of your decision.



  2. rose
    August 19, 2011 9:52 am

    first you friended stelly mcbeam, and now this. there is only one explanation: i am in bizarro world. ;)



  3. rose
    August 19, 2011 9:53 am

    *steely. dammit.



  4. Tony
    August 19, 2011 10:04 am

    LMAO … then angry … then LMAO

    What’s next, a per per car parking tax for home owners who live in the city limits… shhhhh hopefully city council members don’t read this, they might actually think that’s a good idea.



  5. tehamy
    August 19, 2011 10:10 am

    Las Velas was the first thing that I thought of as I watched this story on the news last night. I couldn’t agree more. Get rid of the meter enforcement if/until downtown is busy in the evenings.



  6. Baba Wawa
    August 19, 2011 10:26 am

    i wonder what he’s up to



  7. Paz
    August 19, 2011 10:27 am

    Longtime reader, first time commenter.

    All due respect, but this really, really isn’t a matter of trimming “waste”. Pittsburgh can’t cut its way out of its crisis. Are there excesses? Sure. But it only takes one drive through the pothole-filled streets to remember that the city isn’t exactly living high on the hog.

    I’d be laughed off to say that checking meters until 10:00 is good for business. But the city really has its hands tied on where it can raise money. The city can only tax people that live in it, even though everyone else uses its services. It would be like the residents of West Mifflin having to pay for the maintenance costs of Kennywood, while everyone else gets free admission. It’s ridiculous and it makes the city look like the villain when it really doesn’t deserve all the blame.



  8. Virginia
    August 19, 2011 10:43 am

    Paz, welcome to commenting! I wasn’t saying they could make the revenue by cutting waste. I was more just ranting that I’m so tired of hearing about how badly we need more money and never about cutting waste which could help us not get to the point again in two months or whatever that we need more money.

    What would be good for downtown businesses and in turn the city’s coffers is a vibrant, active, busy downtown during evening hours too. Extending the meter time isn’t the way to do that. In addition, making downtown more active will attract businesses who can see actual profit. Also good for the city’s coffers.

    Just my opinion.



  9. Ex-Pat Pittsburgh Girl
    August 19, 2011 10:44 am

    While I applaud this move by the boy-mayor, he was the one who actually first proposed the extended enforcement hours and got city council to pass the ordinance doing so. It is good that he’s recognized the error of his ways. I’m concerned that the relationship betweeen city council and the mayor’s office is so damaged that they’ll be in no big rush to repeal the provisions relating to enforcement. Fingers are crossed that they’ll all act like adults and do what’s best for the city, but as we all know, they’ve not shown a willingness to always do so in the past.



  10. KC Russell
    August 19, 2011 11:17 am

    I could not agree w you more about downtown Pittsburgh. As a Shadyside resident (Pierce Street, right behind Soba on Ellsworth), I need this parking enforcement and please let me explain. I live on a street that is “permit parking” and all day, while everyone is at work and the bars are empty, the parking enforcement is in action! It doesn’t matter that I could have 4 spaces at that time, they are there writing tickets.
    Now, when it’s 6:30pm-7pm, when everyone is getting home from work (and everyone is hitting up Ellsworth Restaurants and bars), there is no where for the residents to park. I mean NO where. It’s maddening. I suggest a more thorough investigation of each area and moving forward accordingly.



  11. PittinDC
    August 19, 2011 11:20 am

    Living in DC, I find this whole thing very interesting to watch from the sidelines. I pay much less per day to park in a garage than my friends that work in Pittsburgh do, so I guess I have no problem shelling out $4-$6 more at night to park at a meter til 10 when I stay in the city. Most of the garages have a $5 night rate anyway, so it pretty much evens out. But good for Luke to recognize that something wasn’t working out for the city. He tried it, realized it wasn’t good, and is taking steps to correct – that seems like growth!



  12. Bram R
    August 19, 2011 11:28 am

    I wrote a longer comment first, but who wants to read a fuzzy math treatise. Bottom line: sure there’s waste, but nothing even close to the order of a billion with a B dollars worth. If you’re going to go to bat for sub-market rate parking, as is your prerogative, I beg, beg, BEG you to *in the same breath* call for getting our “nonprofits” to contribute to the nice government which furnishes ambulances bringing customers to their doors — or something. The tuition tax. The pomade tax. The center, she cannot hold, and you don’t want to be regretting those Blingees when the state or a bankruptcy judge strips the City forcibly of its parking racket AND its water racket AND its determining-our-own-tax-rates racket.

    Frankly, speaking of our suburban friends, they exercise a very large political say in what the City decides to do, and sooner or later they’re going to have to be on board with *something*. There’s no such thing as pain-free solutions, and punishing the wicked irresponsible urban jungle with strict austerity is not going to pay the bills that are already significantly overdue.



  13. Bram R
    August 19, 2011 11:36 am

    I see #7 Paz already voiced my concern as I was typing (and I’m *totally* stealing his West Mifflin / Kennywood analogy, most brilliant) and Ginny responded to it reasonably, but I’ll just shoot this back — I don’t know HOW in this day and age to make a Downtown so vibrant it fills up the City’s coffers to overflowing. Honestly I hear about more people avoiding Downtown not because of the parking prices, but because of traffic and confusing intersections and bridges, oh my.



  14. Butcher's Dog
    August 19, 2011 12:42 pm

    @ex-pat Pgh. Girl: anyone who expects politicians to act like adults here in the second decade of the New Millennium is really from Bizarro Land. We can all hope, though. Just sayin’.



  15. Ex-Pat Pittsburgh Girl
    August 19, 2011 1:55 pm

    @Buthcer’s Dog — as someone who is tasked with working with politicians on an hourly basis every day, I know the likelihood of adult, rational and reasonable behavior is asking for a lot, but as an optimistic-cynic, I hope for the best, knowing we’re likely to get the worst in this regard. On very rare occasision, hope does pay off. :-)



  16. Ex-Pat Pittsburgh Girl
    August 19, 2011 2:00 pm

    My apologies for the transposition while typing, Butcher’s Dog. Fingers got ahead of my brain.



  17. TripleC
    August 19, 2011 2:40 pm

    He’s still an enormous dweeb.



  18. Butcher's Dog
    August 19, 2011 3:09 pm

    @ex-pat: no problem. Pretty much everything gets ahead of my brain.



  19. Lisa
    August 19, 2011 4:02 pm

    I want to bring my husband to the resteraunt. I had not heard of it, until your fire, and really want to help support your family! How is it for motorcycle parking there? Gotta get us in there too! signed (not a biker) middle age mom!



  20. Carpetbagger
    August 19, 2011 4:48 pm

    Maybe if Blush expanded to four city blocks, things would “pick up”.

    I guess it’s too much to ask for a city with a transportation system in which you don’t have to bring your car everywhere you go. I know, all that money went into the North Shore Connector.

    So the city burns while Lukey kicks field goals.



  21. Ginny's Dad
    August 19, 2011 5:26 pm

    The Mayor, like most politicians, is short-sighted when it comes to raising taxes or imposing fees to raise revenue. They erroneously think that people will not change their behavior. I would love to see a comparison of the extra revenue generated with higher meter rates and extended time vs. the cost of enforcement – not to mention lost tax revenue because of the negative impact on businesses.



  22. redram1
    August 19, 2011 6:24 pm

    What everyone is forgeting is that they are using all of this parking stuff trying to make up the shortage in the city workers pension that was STOLEN by corrupt politicians and were supported by the incestuos unions that elected them.
    What needs to happen is for a federal judge to dissolve these pensions just as they did for the steelworkers and the coal miners and stop trying to screw of the general public for their crimes.
    Better yet, go back through thru the city voter rolls for the last 40 years and attach a special assesment to anyone who voted for a Democrat and make them pay for it!



  23. M
    August 19, 2011 8:33 pm

    The dancing cats. LULZ.



  24. Angela
    August 19, 2011 9:52 pm

    When I went to Duq, I HATED that downtown closed so early! For students so close to what is normally a busy hub of any normal city, Pittsburgh’s downtown is really a disappointment.



  25. crturner
    August 20, 2011 12:43 am

    I ate at your restaurant the other night. I was putting money in the parking meter thingy-majig, when it spit my ticket at me with only one hour on it. We decided to chance it since we could see the car from your dining room. And kind of figured we’d only be there one hour anyway (because of your efficient staff). When we got to the car at 8:17, just 12 minutes after the “meter” expired, they had ticketed the car. We had until 8:05 . They ticketed the car at 8:12. $30, folks. I feel like our car was stalked by the mayor’s meter police. It’s definitely not the way to encourage people to stay in town for evening dining and entertainment. Thank goodness your beans and burritos are worth every penny.



  26. bucdaddy
    August 20, 2011 1:31 am

    I know where all the free parking spots are in my town.

    Aren’t there any in yours?



  27. HorseShoeBend
    August 20, 2011 11:28 am

    Anyone recall trolleys? Never had the experience myself but I think at one time this was a big thing in the city. Imagine – you park in some out of the way concrete jungle, board and go whever you like in the city without having to worry about a meter. Just thinking out loud. Feeling psychic today and see a great weekend for all. Go Bucs!!!!



  28. Becky (@mrsgregwillis)
    August 20, 2011 7:53 pm

    So glad to hear this good news, I know there are other implications…but this is good for you (and for us patrons). Last weekend, my husband and I really thought hard about how/where we’d park, but paid the {crazy} $3 to park from just after 9 and eat an amazing {as always} Las Velas dinner. <3



  29. Tam
    August 21, 2011 9:13 am

    I’m not sure what “ghost town” you are talking about. Everytime we are in the city after 6pm – you can’t freaking find a parking spot. If nothing is open – what are all those cars doing there? Theatres, bars, restaurants are all open. Sports venues, hotels, art galleries – all open. There is plenty to do downtown…if you can park anywhere and get to it.



  30. empirechick
    August 22, 2011 10:12 am

    @BramR #12 – RIGHT ON. Every doctor’s office that becomes part of the UPMC umbrella (or building that Duquesne or Point Park make part of their campus) is another one off the tax rolls. I’m all about non-profits, but when you post a $600M ‘surplus’ every year, that sounds like profit to me.

    The last time there was any serious talk about making the non-profits chip in, UMPC couldn’t wait to be part of the Pittsburgh Promise. Of course that’s a worthy cause, but it’s a drop in the bucket compared to what they should be paying.



  31. CRT
    August 22, 2011 3:13 pm

    Ginny,

    Your position is utter nonsense. People don’t make their dinner decisions based on the marginal cost of parking. No one I have ever met has price elasticity of demand for parking flat enough to say “welp, I really wanted to eat a $40 meal in market square, but I’ve gotta feed the meter two whole bucks so screw it I’m going to Chili’s.” At least, if they say that, it’s not a true reflection of what’s driving their decision-making. People don’t drive downtown to eat mostly because it’s a long drive for most people, and there are more convenient options nearby. In fact, the reason it’s a long drive for most people is that we’ve subsidized their choice to live outside the city with abundant free parking and a lack of density in the urban core.

    To illustrate this, a thought experiment: name a single city with (a) vibrant nightlife after 6 pm, and (b) a majority of that nightlife driven (pardon the pun) by suburbanites using private automobile transportation. Just one, anywhere in the world. Time’s up. Now name all the cities with a vibrant nightlife after 6 pm driven by the city’s own residents (i.e., those who don’t need to drive a very long distance, or at all, between home and destination). Much bigger list, right? This shows two things. First, it shows that changing the price of parking from $0 to $3 or $5 isn’t going to change much at all with respect to the nature of downtown as a “ghost” or “zombie” town.

    Second, it shows that, to the extent you want to create a market for suppers downtown through the use of policy, you should seek to emulate policies from those places with a market for suppers downtown. Most of those places haven’t created their market by out-competing their suburban sprawl on parking prices (look at parking prices in Manhattan vs. Passaic, SF vs. Santa Cruz, Portland vs. Lake Oswego, or Paris vs. Lyon), but by being dense, well-governed city cores with good public services and strong urban planning. Indeed, all of these places have found better uses for their land than parking, making driving a VERY expensive proposition, and instead using the land for great restaurants, theaters, bars, etc., all of which are frequented quite regularly by residents. Perhaps, instead of helping the triangle become less of a “ghost town,” the free parking you’re talking about is exacerbating the problem.