Thursday, July 08, 2004

Layers Upon Layers

The fiscal excitement here in Pittsburgh just continues to grow. As I noted a few days ago, the Mayor and the Act 47 board managed to come to an agreement on a five-year plan (how soviet!) to balance the city budget. In the process they proposed some $33E6 next year in spending reductions. Unfortunately, for reasons I still don't understand, they are apparently not the final word on the matter. Instead, the Fiscal Oversight Board has said that they won't forward the proposed changes in tax structure to the legislature for approval unless a way is found to save $50E6 next year.

This is getting truly silly. It seems that, thanks to the distressed city status, there are at least five layers of approval needed to get a budget passed (Mayor, Council, Act 47, FOB, Legislature), and at least two of them aren't accountable to anyone in particular. I am starting to eagerly await the next roadblock once this obstacle has been negotiated.

On a related note, I heartily second Michael Madison comments on Pittsburgh and its self-image issues. The city's history as an industrial center is a very good thing. It has left the city well-endowed with charitable trusts and the associated cultural opportunities. It really is time, however, to accept that Big Iron has gone away and isn't likely to return. The regional economy has changed, and the political structure of the region (that is suburbs as well as the city) needs to change to reflect that. Until it does so, any fixes that are made are likely to be nothing more than bandaids.