Monday, October 18, 2010

Allision in the parking lot

Just my musings on the state of the parking lot(s).......
True it is that democracy is messy.  Still, it is nearly impossible trying to keep score with what is going on Downtown as the plan to lease the city’s parking assets faces possible rejection tomorrow.  These are my thoughts of what is lost in the cracks and the things that I find really curious about how it is all playing out.
First I wonder how many people in the city really have a grip on the current machinations going on Downtown?  I bet the number of people who have any chance at deconstructing the politics at any given moment don’t number much more than a dozen.. and that probably would have to include Bram to get the number that high.  The question is whether those 12 really get it, or whether there is anything to actually figure out..  Maybe everyone is in pure reactive mode at this point.
Many things surprise me.  The first is just how quiet senior leadership with the city or Parking Authority has been.  Granted the Mayor is a few time zones away, but there has been only minimal and mostly reactive public comment from virtually every other major player in mayor’s office as the ground shifted. I don’t quite know what to make of it and I don’t quite believe it’s all because the Mayor is away.  Possibly there was already some realization that this all would not work politically and are already regrouping?  Just a theory, but it is kind of weird.  Maybe everyone is off working on plan B, or make that B1, B2… or B13 at this point??
If indeed it all fails, and that is still only conjecture at this point.. the ultimate mystery may be why support on council fell apart so completely.  Not to say there ever was support, but either the mayor’s office went this far without locking down some core council support, or really just presumed the current presumptive was utterly inconceivable.  Even if a marginal vote or two was needed on council, with the bid so high, there was more than enough for a few pet projects to be fully funded along the way to. Should have been more than enough to get to 5 votes.  Cynical I suppose, but the way politics works most everywhere.  If it does fail, is this the biggest mayoral proposal to be stopped by sheer public opposition since...  Fifth and Forbes?
If I really had to pick myself.. not that I have any say in even how the choice gets framed….  I am partial to the idea of going ahead with the deal.  i.e. taking the money to re-capitalize the pension fund, but still let the state takeover.  I still would really like to see the Downtown garages sold and not leased, but that is not on the table.  Of course, this idea may be pre-empted by the timing and may not even get a vote...  for now. There is no reason that can’t still be the path.  Once you accept state oversight, you take the debate away from the deadline of Act 44, then the timing issues all evaporate.  There is no rush then to do something immediately.  This could all be something we debate for the next year even and go ahead then.  Nothing is over.
The reason the state takeover piece is actually a good thing is because the goal is the long term..  right?  Even if we get to 50% pension funding, realize that is where the pension funds were at just a few years ago.  So there is no reason to think the long run trend has been impacted, just deferred.  The reason we are in this whole predicament is that in good stock market years or bad, the pension fund has almost always continued to fall behind, or certainly not gain as much as it should, if indeed it was on a path to becoming fully funded.  Something has been wrong with the city's contribution calculations for a long time. We could be 100% funded and the problem would still be there in the future.
The thing that really gets me though is the $$ amount that the bid came in at.  Why so few firms actually bid, and how you had one bidder put up more than $150 million more than other firms.  How one investment bank could think the same, theoretically fully disclosed, asset is worth so much more than what others would pay for it just strikes me as really odd.  Some smart people at the firms that bid less, or never even bothered to bid.  Just one of those "hmm...." things.
Bottom line?   One way or another I am pretty sure this story isn’t over whatever path gets taken. If there is a silver lining I would say that unlike the many many years decades where the pension problem was very much a stealth issue, I am pretty sure nobody can ignore it into the future.  That does constitute progress.

update:  Well, boom goes the dynamite and all of that.  Or so it seems.   Also just a coincidence, but check out this book review just out from Rolling Stone of all places:  Exclusive Excerpt: America on Sale, From Matt Taibbi's 'Griftopia'


Blogger Bram Reichbaum said...

You'd have to imagine senior PPA leadership naturally isn't eager at the prospect of having so little to do in two years, or of being replaced by a largish file kept in the Finance Director's office. I think that's totally understandable. As to the City desk -- lord I don't know, but if I had to guess it'd be a long period of "inconceivable!" followed by a sharp instinct toward "regrouping" or maybe even "sulking". Many wise heads are have been saying for a little while now that PMRS a la carte is becoming likely.

Monday, October 18, 2010 2:19:00 PM  
Blogger Conservative Mountaineer said...

No matter what decision is reached, the pension shortfall can is being kicked down the road. The way to approach a solution is from both ends - a financing/funding solution and a pension adjustment solution, including serious adjustment to all current rules and regulations (no more OT feather-bedding) as well as an adjustment of pensions, just like the private sector is being forced to do. Of course, that would take leadership.. and a strong stance against the Unions.. something that the spineless politicians would never do.

End result? Let's discuss this again in 3-5 years or so.

Monday, October 18, 2010 4:40:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

Once you accept state oversight, you take the debate away from the deadline of Act 44, then the timing issues all evaporate. There is no rush then to do something immediately.

With state oversight, I'm not opposed to the leasing of the garages.

Monday, October 18, 2010 8:57:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

I was overly terse. I meant to express a general agreement with the post.

Monday, October 18, 2010 8:59:00 PM  

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