Tuesday, February 11, 2014

If you roll out a new web site and it generates no hits, does it make it into the Google?

H/t to Bram who points out that the Pittsburgh Intergovernmental Authority (ICA) has not only rolled out a new web site, but he also points out that the web site says the purpose of the whole ICA is mostly advisory. Or to be specific, the ICA's self-reported purpose is to provide "an objective, nonpartisan, and intellectually honest examination of the City’s fiscal health."  That mouthful does not even add up to "advising," as Bram paraphrases. Makes it sounds like they write an academic report here or there (nobody reads those right?) and moves on. No mention of the ability to withhold revenues from the city nor any other plenipotentiary powers over all things Pittsburgh public finance. I'll get back to that in a minute....

The new web site seems to also have excised an extensive library of documents that the ICA has produced over the (many) years. Lots of money has been spent on consultants and related writing all those reports. I thought in our open data era, we are supposed to be making information more accessible, not burying it further.  I stipulate that I have not made any attempt to ask the ICA if they would make available any of the documents they used to have online available by other means (like maybe snail mail), but that isn't the point.

But let's get back to this fundamental question.  What is the purpose of the ICA?

It is pretty much the same as asking the more recent question about whether the ICA should continue to exist into the future. So let's go back and read what the ICA was supposed to do when created. Since the ICA is a creature of the state legislature, there is clear legislation that purports to charter its existence. The founding document is INTERGOVERNMENTAL COOPERATION AUTHORITY ACT FOR CITIES OF THE SECOND CLASS - Feb.12, 2004, P.L. 73, No. 11

So is the ICA there merely to 'advise'? As you read the actual enabling statutes, realize that "2nd class city" is a euphemism for the city of Pittsburgh. There are no other 2nd class cities in the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. So read that and come to your own conclusion. The most concise section to address the raison d'etre for the ICA appears in 101.B.2:
The General Assembly further declares that this legislation is intended to remedy the apparent fiscal emergency confronting cities of the second class through the implementation of sovereign powers of the Commonwealth. To safeguard the rights of the citizens to the electoral process and home rule, the General Assembly intends to exercise its power in an appropriate manner with the elected officers of cities of the second class.
So the sovereign powers of the Commonwealth add up to no more than advising municipalities as the current web site implies. I think this may come as a bit of a surprise to more than a few municipal officials across Pennsylvania. But later on in the statute is a fairly extensive delineation of duties and powers. I am not sure all can be fairly circumscribed by the diminutive of 'advising.' 

But if all the lawyer-language is too convoluted to follow, I think it all goes back to that butter sculpture they have every year at the annual Pennsylvania Farm Show. You think I jest? Section 103(2) starts with "Because cities of the second class consume a substantial proportion of the products of Pennsylvania's farms...."   Who knew the legislators were such supporters of the local food movement?

And just an observation, but I was counting and it works out that the ICA is now on to its 4th mayor of the city of Pittsburgh (5 if you count Yarone I guess.)  Maybe it will just morph into a permanent institution. The ICA's older sister, Philadelphia's PICA is still around as well. They don't paraphrase their (continuing) mission out east.


Anonymous BrianTH said...

Sections 208 through 210 go way beyond merely advising.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014 8:25:00 PM  
Blogger Vannevar said...

What kind of website has an IP address but no URL? wow. I mean, that's thrifty.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014 10:13:00 PM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

It's like a reverse DNS?? Takes some skill to do that.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014 10:36:00 PM  

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