City controller criticizes mayor over city's financial situation

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Pittsburgh Controller Michael Lamb made clear Monday that he won't support efforts to release the city from state financial oversight, saying Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's office "continues to miss the boat" on financial matters.

Mr. Lamb said the mayor hasn't done enough to trim expenditures, shore up the pension fund, pay for retiree health care or take other steps to warrant release from eight years of oversight. He was reacting to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story on Monday in which the mayor's office reiterated its position that the city has made sufficient progress to end what it calls a costly, unnecessary oversight process.

"I would agree that it is time for this city to complete its financial recovery. However, the administration has not taken the necessary steps for us to be released from oversight," Mr. Lamb said, claiming the city has done little to stabilize the pension fund since a city council-led bailout in 2010 narrowly averted a state takeover of the fund.

His comments brought an angry reaction from the mayor's office, which said the city under Mr. Ravenstahl has reduced debt by about $250 million, won bond rating upgrades, established a trust fund for retiree health care, made other financial gains and pleaded with state officials to enact legislation enabling local leaders to better control pension costs.

"The controller knows all too well that the city's inherited underfunded pension is a problem that can only be solved at the state level," mayoral spokeswoman Joanna Doven said.

"Yet, instead of working with the mayor on reform, the controller chooses politics over the people of Pittsburgh. Residents should consider the source and expect to see more propaganda from the controller who wants to be mayor," Ms. Doven said, referring to a possible mayoral bid by Mr. Lamb next year.

The status of the city's finances will be discussed today during a meeting of the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, one of two state-appointed oversight boards the mayor's office says are no longer needed.

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