Five Pittsburgh City Council members today announced plans to halt parking enforcement at 6 p.m. citywide for the rest of the year, saying Mayor Luke Ravenstahl has undermined their efforts to boost the pension fund and maintain a balanced budget.
The mayor said two weeks ago that he too favored curtailing evening enforcement and Friday ordered that all one-hour meters be expanded to two-hour time limits. The latest council moves, he said, were just another "haphazard" twist in the pension bailout debate.
"The residents and I have been troubled by the impact of this haphazard plan and now, finally, council agrees. Mark down this milestone: Council members are finally on the same page as me and the residents of Pittsburgh," Mr. Ravenstahl said in a statement.
Council's New Year's Eve pension bailout tapped more than $735 million in parking tax revenue over 31 years. To offset the loss of that money from the general fund, council approved a schedule of parking rate increases and expanded enforcement four hours, until 10 p.m., in certain neighborhoods.
While motorists have groused about the changes, the parking authority has declined to turn over additional meter revenue, undermining council's reason for raising rates and expanding enforcement in the first place.
Council blamed the authority's intransigence on Mr. Ravenstahl, whose finance director, Scott Kunka, heads the authority board. In a letter to the mayor today, the council members -- Darlene Harris, Bruce Kraus, William Peduto, Natalia Rudiak and Doug Shields -- accused Mr. Ravenstahl of a "concerted effort to undermine" council's plan to prop up the pension fund and keep revenue flowing to the general fund.
Not only has the authority declined to turn over additional revenue to the city, the letter said, but the authority has moved slowly to install new metering devices that accept credit cards and would help motorists adjust to the rate and enforcement changes.
"These actions have hurt the residents, visitors and business owners of the city of Pittsburgh," the letter said.
Council and the mayor have been at odds for more than a year over how to shore up the pension fund. Mr. Ravenstahl wanted to inject into the fund proceeds from a 50-year lease of parking facilities to private investors; council nixed that idea.
Council members said they would introduce legislation Tuesday to halt meter enforcement citywide at 6 p.m. for the rest of the year. In the meantime, the letter said, the parking authority must agree to turn over more meter revenue to the city and move to install new metering devices.
"It is unfortunate that over the past nine months, you have been unwilling to take the steps necessary to protect the city," the letter told the mayor. "We cannot stand idly by while you take these actions for political gain."
To fill the pension budget hole created by the enforcement halt, the council legislation calls for taking some $1.3 million out of the city's savings.