Double-parked: A dual standard cheats the public on meter revenue

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No one likes a double standard. I pay taxes, but you don't. You're charged for something, but I'm not.

Yet that is what the city of Pittsburgh espouses when it fails to seek reimbursement from all businesses and institutions that temporarily take metered parking spaces out of service.

An April 14 report by the Post-Gazette's Joe Smydo revealed that the Steelers, Penguins and Pirates plus other corporate citizens do not make up the revenue lost when their activities shut down curbside meters.

Not only does this cost Pittsburgh and its parking authority -- read, the public -- tens of thousands of dollars each year, but it's just plain unfair.

Yet smaller enterprises pay routinely. The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation paid $2,700 in 2011-2012 to have parking meters blocked off for its summer fundraisers on Walnut Street in Shadyside. In the same period, Central Blood Bank reimbursed the city at least $425 for lost parking spaces and last year the American Red Cross paid at least $300. Large-budget organizations pay the city as well: the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University, Duquesne University and the DoubleTree Hotel, among others.

Contrast that with Post-Gazette calculations for what the teams should be paying for metered parking spaces lost to the public. The Pirates would owe $143,045 a year based on the spaces blocked during 81 home games. The Penguins should be charged $7,790 for spaces lost due to 19 home games of this abbreviated regular season. Yet neither team pays the city a cent, and the same goes for the Steelers.

In the case of PJ Dick, which is building the 33-story Tower at PNC Plaza in Downtown, the city billed the construction company $432,000 for 20 meters lost during the expected two-plus years of construction. Today the bill goes unpaid; PJ Dick refers questions to PNC and PNC isn't talking.

Lame answers like We already support the city by paying other taxes don't cut it. That's like a federal tax cheat wanting forgiveness because he pays his state and local taxes.

The city must be evenhanded in pursuing reimbursement from lost parking spaces, no matter how large or small the beneficiary, no matter how chummy city officials want to be with certain civic players. This is about more than public dollars; it's about fairness to the public.



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