A lift in city revenue
By Brian O'Neill, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Tuesday, August 31, 2010
"We will relieve taxpayers of paying for elevator maintenance by putting the charge on the elevator users directly," Mr. Sullivan says. "We will charge only 5 cents the first year, and raise the price over five years to 25 cents - per floor."
(I've learned over the years that this is the point in the column where I need to issue the SATIRE ALERT. In a world where governments are leasing everything from parking meters to highways, it's not always clear when somebody is kidding.)
So it is probably with some trepidation that he makes this pitch, but he argues, "Private companies are more efficient than government, especially when we have licensed monopolies and no competition."
The mayor believes the city can net more than $200 million in this Parkapalooza: It leases its parking garages for the next half-century, and establishes "a no-compete zone" Downtown wherein the private operator must be compensated if the city makes structural changes that cut into parking revenue.
Similarly, under Mr. Sullivan's elevator proposal, no offices could be moved out of the City-County Building, no public hearings could be moved and no one could use the stairs, without compensating the company leasing the elevators.
"Once people realize what has happened, anything that discourages them from coming [to complain to city officials] will be welcomed," he said. "Being gouged by a private parking monopoly will keep them out of the Golden Triangle, and being gouged by me will keep the complainers out of [council] chambers.
I chided Mr. Sullivan because in the early 1990s he seemed to be working the other side of the street, saying city authorities had gotten too far into the private sector. "Perestroika in reverse," he called it then, noting that city authorities were parking cars, hosting conventions, managing sports stadiums, developing real estate and acting as a slum landlord. He joked that soon there would be a Pittsburgh Pizza Authority, with city pizza shops having an unfair advantage because they'd pay no property taxes.
Had he changed his mind?
Yeah, but corporations pay top dollar only when they're betting on a sure thing. Right now, seven pre-qualified bidders have until Sept. 15 to submit bids to the city on how much they'll pay to lease the city's parking garages and meters for the next 50 years.
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