Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Rocks and shoals

It's January and 55 degrees outside in Pittsburgh; the unemployment rate is down and...  I guess it isn't true that there are no assessment headlines, but the ones I see are calm, sensible and rational stories*. Makes you wonder why could not have started out that way. Still a banner day all around.

So no poking the bear I say.  That and you should never be fooled by the calm weather; the big rocks are always right under the surface and we are still far to close to shore to think this is all over with.

Plenty of other topics.  For all the new bemused readers, and the poor PR folks now being assigned to check in every day, I will update my unemployment graphic and add a new twist. The unemployment story is kind of curious in that in ink I only see a story from the PG.  The monthly labor force dump is de rigueur all around, yet no story in Trib or PBT or elsewhere as yet. Kind of curious.  PG did also note the factoid we pointed out last week that the total employment count for the region is highest since April of 2001. I would say the highest other than just for April of 2001, but I parse.  So with the December data just out this is what I get for the history of how regional unemployment looks to me. 

What are the red numbers I added this time? I have generally failed in my quest to create a neologism that sticks;  I am nowhere near smart enough to ever discover an equation, we will leave that to the physicists; but it is a far lower bar to create a metric.  We obsess a bit to much on the monthly level of unemployment.  Its the trend and the long term that really matters.  So what I have done is create a measure of how many percenage points the region has been above or below the national unemployment rate cumulatively for distinct periods.   So for the prolonged periods where the regional and national rates diverge, there is a cumulative number of "unemployment percentage points-months" that can be added up.  I have noted what I have gotten for each of the significant periods for Pittsburgh on the chart.   A name?  It could be the Briem Unemployment Metric?  Umm...... maybe not.

* and for those who read between the lines.. Note that the PG story makes a step toward clarity by pointing out that the lower percentage  expecting their property tax to go down  applies to a universe much bigger than just residential properties.  Note where in that it references "residential and commerical owners" which is a point that was just skipped in the previous reporting.  Still not quite right in that a lot of the virtually zero valued parcels I excluded in my higher number are parcels that have no owners really.  Some are owned by the city itself, or just don't have owners period.  Dead parcels with long gone owners that exist in a legal netherworld or otherwise are not relevant to the question at hand.  I am quite sure that if you are talking a universe of Pittsburgh residential owners.. which would be the universe most analagous to those showing up at these meetings or lets say voters in the city.. you are talking a percentage a lot closer to my 65% number previously.  If that is all too much minutia or too complicated in summary: a parcel is not a parcel.   There are some folks out there with toolsheds separately deeded.  or  Probably should not treat them the same as a person.  Citizens United not withstanding.  Counting something valued at $1000, and which has a total annual tax of well under $100 as equivalent to most homes is confusing the issue. 

Yeah,    12 step program is failing.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh no. Maybe Briem's fallen into the rabbit hole, too. This Peduto/Lamb/Ravenstahl plan to spend $150K of taxpayer money helping people appeal assessments is "sensible and rational" only if you accept the premise that most assessment values are wrong.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012 9:28:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

Oh, come on. $150 is a sensible amount to help those who may have legitimate issues. But it can't really go far. An actual appraisal costs what? $300 a pop to start? Actual legal representation per case? Even if priced in bulk and as I see the idea 'prep work' is done in the controllers office or by someone else what is the absolute absolute minimum cost per case? At $100 then 150K means 1,500 could be helped which amounts 1% of total parcels in the city. Given that it sounds like they will limit it to lower valued homes then it is even a smaller potential impact on the change it can have on total assessed values. I'd spend twice as much on this.

It's sensible in that they are dealing with the assessment, not trying to sabotage it. If they were going to spend $150K on flyers trying to drum up support to oppose the assessment then it would be something else altogether. This is all called being constructive.

What I still find lacking is anyone standing up and saying they have an issue with how inaccurate the base year assessment numbers are. Everyone thinks there are issues with the new numbers, but never mention the clear issues with numbers in use now. Not a single pol, or most anyone, will touch that.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012 9:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe I'm just too cynical. But this just looks like a flyer campaign with window dressing. The P-G does say the program will be limited to properties worth less than $150K, but nothing about the assessment in question having legitimate issues. And, if you're right and government employees in the controller's office or mayor's office or councilman's office are really doing the back office work, this is going to cost taxpayers a lot more than $150K--and who pray tell will be doing the people's work in the meantime?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012 10:22:00 PM  
Anonymous MH said...

Who's doing it now?

Tuesday, January 31, 2012 10:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, there's probably a fair amount of political jockeying going on here. Lamb/Peduto and O'CONNOR? (PG put his face front and center in its story.)

Lamb, Peduto and Ravenstahl are all running for mayor, and they'd all cut off their pinkie to get O'Connor's backing, not to mention his support on any number of council matters.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012 9:04:00 AM  

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