Pittsburgh Councilman Patrick Dowd, a potential mayoral challenger, said today that Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has mismanaged the Parking Authority board, opening the door for potential legal challenges to a big-dollar plan to lease parking garages to a private firm.
"This is hundreds of millions of dollars at question here," Mr. Dowd said, after sending a letter to Mr. Ravenstahl urging that council be brought into the process. "You can't make that decision without collaboration, consensus, and without a duly constituted board with clear membership."
Mr. Dowd alleged in the letter that various members of the Parking Authority board -- which has five seats but only four members who attend meetings -- have been allowed to remain beyond the ends of their terms. He wrote that Mr. Ravenstahl has ignored a city Home Rule Charter provision requiring that each authority board include a council member by failing to appoint a replacement on the parking panel for Dan Deasy, formerly a council member and now a state representative, who left the board months ago.
"We need to have properly constituted boards for these entities, and council has to be represented on them," he said. If the board ultimately votes to privatize the 11 Downtown garages, and perhaps meters and neighborhood lots as well, the legality of those decisions could be questioned in court unless it is "a clear, legitimate decision-making entity," he said.
The board voted yesterday to invite consultants to submit proposals to evaluate the garages and guide it toward a competitively bid leasing process.
Mr. Dowd said the mayor's plan to lease the lots for an up-front payment in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and put most of the proceeds into the city's ailing pension fund, can't be evaluated until two key questions are answered. "How much money does it generate, and at what expense to the people who park in the city of Pittsburgh?" he asked. He would oppose "a short-term infusion that forces businesses out of the city."
Ravenstahl administration officials couldn't be immediately reached for comment.