Wednesday, January 18, 2012


So does someone have a 12 step program for blogging about property assessments. Probably a really niche market. But I don’t have a problem. Still, there is time to look at our rosetta stone, otherwise known as the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority.

And the readership drains away………

Seriously, our rosetta stone. Take the news today that the city and county are merging accounting systems. It was not too long ago that the city was fighting that with an argument that the city should merge its accounting system with… yes, the PWSA. The other news is that the PWSA, after 13 months is kind of, sort of, possibly, considering whether it will plan to look for a new leader. Makes you wonder who would have been running the city’s accounting system if it had followed the PWSA plan. It is not like the PWSA was very clear what software it was going to use itself.  There could have been all sorts of fun news stories I bet.

More of course. Other news today is a report looking at the impact of “Swaptions” on the finances of a broard range of public entities in Philadelphia. Plenty of those issues here as well, but none worse than… yes, the PWSA’s.  I'm not convinced that situation is settled completely even yet.

Assessments (who said that) are in the news of late in Judge Wettick’s courtroom. Not long ago though it was the same Judge Wettick who ruled that the PWSA’s line insurance program was illegal. Prompting it’s service provider, one Utility Line Security, LLC, to declare bankruptcy and hint at seeking $3 million in compensation from.. the PWSA again. What is up with that bankruptcy eh? Nobody noticing any longer, but lots this week actually. In summary, more liquid(ation).  If I understand the filings looks like the PWSA is paying the rump ULS not $3mil, but $350K which may just go toward paying contractors awaiting fees. (I still bet that $$ came from cash generated via the Bond to Nowhere) I am guessing that is all needed to clear those contractor's liens that were beginning to gum up the system.  Well... that was fun. 

Why does ULS own this vacant parcel in Garfield anyway? Curious. I'm tempted to go try to buy one of those Dell computers to get the hard drives.  Too much hassle.

And our water is purple…Cool!   Dare I say, it’s not some Ravens aficionados in our midsts.. Look no father than the PWSA. That was a fun prank in high school I have to admit, but points for doing it at scale. 

and I just can't connect it to water at all, but note the story about the city being forced to put money away toward its unfunded health insurance liability. I am sure it is all because it was mentioned here over 5 years ago.

Hey, I'm improving.  Only one mention of Judge Wettick.  I've been put on a quota.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

How bout switching it up with some Port Authority blogging?...seriously. The proposed cuts are insane.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 8:16:00 AM  
Blogger furnguy said...

I for one am enjoying the blogging about reassessment. our county (i'm in the eastern part of the state) just finished the ground work in re-assessing. The administration doesn't want to put the numbers into play because they think the market is volatile and the numbers won't be accurate. County commissioners still want to go this point.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 10:39:00 AM  
Blogger Bram Reichbaum said...

Anon 8:16 - Aren't the proposed transit cuts always insane? We shriek and howl and rend our garments and write furious editorials, until Harrisburg finds us the funding to make the cuts only moderately depressing.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 11:52:00 AM  
Anonymous MH said...

Are you down for SOPA-day?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 12:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Do you ride the bus, sir? They are PACKED as it is, mostly from the previous cuts. Buses pass up waiting riders all the time. Even "just" another 15% would cause serious problems.

The state "found" $45M last year...what makes anyone think Corbett will provide $64M this year?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 12:28:00 PM  
Blogger Bram Reichbaum said...

I don't very often, but I don't disagree. I was just saying I sense an annual pattern of announcing truly titanic cuts, then "finding money", then scaling back to smaller cuts.

I had thought until your comment, this was done by our region to motivate Harrisburg to "find" money; now you have me thinking, doi, it's probably about making the actual cuts headed our way look smaller by comparison, and the politicians look responsive and useful while the opposite is true.

You know, you would think there is a finite end-point to cynicism, at which one can be said to be 100% cynical and just hit a groove. But instead each new day beholding the news is to be summoned further and further into contemptuous incredulity.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 3:38:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

@ Bram

Indeed. But where do the cuts end? Check out some of the outer suburbs and notice all the PAT bus stops no longer in use. It just keeps contracting.

Who would have thought actual CITY neighborhood routes would be on the chopping block? It makes you wonder: What's the point? Just dissolve the system and start over (one can dream, right?).

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 3:56:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

Nobody should believe there would ever be any 'starting over'. Financially, politically, legally.. it just would not happen and that is before you lose ridership you will never get back once the big bang happens.

I tried to inject a question into the ACE race on "Will there be a public transit system in Allegheny County".. eight years from now. I don't think any real transit questions were part of either the primary or general election last year.

What is there real end game here. Public transit with a few core routes, either those that do make money or those deemed so akin to a social service they can't be eliminated.. but it won't be many routes and you may see big insitutions filling in a few routes in some circumstances.

But the route to that end started not that many years ago. It is where we are headed. Once the median voter was lost with cuts to suburban routes as steep as we took there isn't much of an offramp.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 6:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Andrew said...

Methinks this got veered off topic, but I'll roll with it.

As far as transit...with all the positive news about Pittsburgh recently, I always say to myself: "Aren't we better than this?"

If we really are a strong, vibrant, LIVABLE city, than why do we need to go to Harrisburg for a handout every year?

We're better than this.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 7:05:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

ok.. you're right. As much as it just isn't in me I'll talk transit tomorrow. Let's cut this thread off.

So unless someone cares about the PWSA that is.. I really thought someone might be curious enough to go see that ULS is finally liquidating all of its assets.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 7:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Julia said...

Such a great article which It was not too long ago that the city was fighting that with an argument that the city should merge its accounting system with… yes, the PWSA. The other news is that the PWSA, after 13 months is kind of, sort of, possibly, considering whether it will plan to look for a new leader. Makes you wonder who would have been running the city’s accounting system if it had followed the PWSA plan.Thanks for sharing this article.

Sunday, April 01, 2012 6:45:00 PM  
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