Parking pariahs: It's time for Burgess and the authority to get aboard

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The Pittsburgh Parking Authority has responded to the increased meter rates enacted by city council in December as if it didn't know they were coming.

Such irresponsibility means that, even though the higher rates and longer enforcement hours went into effect on June 1, the meters won't be adjusted to charge the new fees for at least another week. In addition, the higher rates mean the meters will have to be emptied more often, yet the authority has not hired the additional 10 employees needed for the task.

This is only the latest instance in which the authority, whose members are appointed by Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, seems to pretend that decisions by city council have not been made.

On Dec. 31, council decided to increase the rates and extend the hours in which motorists must feed the meters as part of its plan to bail out the city's underfunded pension plan. Like Mr. Ravenstahl, we were disappointed initially that council didn't approve his idea for a long-term lease of authority garages instead, but officials are obliged to deal with what is, not with what could have been.

The authority board has avoided taking two other actions associated with the plan to keep control of the pension plan. It has not yet discussed how it will share the new meter revenue with the city and it has not enacted higher rates at the parking garages and metered lots that it owns. Both matters are necessary because council decided to tap more than $735 million in parking tax revenue over the next 30 years to cover pension fund shortfalls. That leaves a hole in its general operating budgets, which council hopes to fill with more meter revenue, which is preferable to an increase in property tax rates.

While the parking authority is an autonomous agency, it is supposed to be a vital partner to the city of Pittsburgh. As such, it can and should act to help the pension plan succeed by sharing the wealth that comes from higher rates and by approving new fees at its garages.

Likewise, Councilman Ricky Burgess should give up his fight against council's parking-pension plan. He favored the mayor's lease proposal and now has sent a letter to Gov. Tom Corbett proposing that one of the state agencies that oversees Pittsburgh's finances be empowered to sell or lease the garages. This defiant approach undermines efforts to keep control of Pittsburgh's tax rates in local hands, the whole reason for council's plan in the first place.

Recalcitrance by Mr. Burgess and the parking authority is a disservice to city taxpayers.


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