Citizens get stuck paying for developers' ventures

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Thanks, Post-Gazette, for reminding average Pittsburgh citizens of just how much contempt our elected officials and policymakers have for us. The June 27 PG advised us that the developer of the very private luxury-homes-on-a-slag-heap project is back for another very large chunk of public funds ($24 million) in the form of taxes paid and forgiven taxes to be owed ("Financing Plan for Squirrel Hill Housing Moves Forward").

Of course no one asked us if we wanted to pitch in and help. Instead a county committee thought it would be a good idea to help a privateer sell another 217 units of $500,000 homes. Try driving your 15-year-old rust-bucket through Summerset at Frick Park and see how warmly you are welcomed for your generous contribution.

But wait, the June 28 PG brings us again a shameless example of the public-be-damned. The former Mellon Bank building has fallen into the hands of PNC bank, another shameless devourer of public largesse (corporate welfare). It proposes to undo the prior devastation of this landmark for one of former Mayor Tom Murphy's schemes ("Bank to Restore Splendor of Lord & Taylor Building"). The mayor, who never met a development project that he didn't like, poured $11.8 million of the public's cash into gutting the building to make Lord & Taylor a happy tenant. Unfortunately, it wasn't.

This city boondoggle then was unloaded to another private developer for a mere $2.5 million. This developer, showing remarkable entrepreneurial spirit, flipped the building to PNC for $3.85 million. And PNC has committed to returning the building to close to its original condition, a remarkable tale of completing the circle after enormous taxpayer loss.

So we don't have enough money to fund our city pension obligations?

In a rational, just world, all the actors in these lurid dramas would be in jail.

Point Breeze



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