Thursday, September 15, 2011

PfP News: City Council votes to roll back parking meter enforcement times


The parking meter enforcement hours might roll back to their previous hour of 6 p.m. depending on the outcome of a final City Council vote next week.

Pittsburgh has once again expanded parking meter hours and increased rates this summer in neighborhoods throughout the city, including Oakland.

The changes, which took effect June 1, are part of Pittsburgh’s bailout plan to prevent its pension fund from being taken over by the state. City Council enacted a five-year series of rate schedules that extended the hours of parking meters around Oakland by four in a last minute vote on New Year's Eve. However, City Council voted Wednesday to roll back the enforcement times.

Mayor Luke Ravenstahl supports City Council’s decision to roll back hours but is still concerned with their plan to increase rates and enforcement hours as a way to save the city’s pension fund from state takeover.

“The real issue is what does that action do to the pension fund and the potential takeover of our pension fund so if we can figure out a way to avert state takeover and control the pension fund and rollback enforcement hours to 6p.m., I would be a supporter of that,” Ravenstahl said.

Council members cited public outcry — and lack of understanding on why the city increased prices and enforcement hours — as their reasons to rollback the enforcement from 10p.m. to the original time of 6p.m.

The vote passed 8-1 to suspend the extended enforcement hours approved in June for Oakland, Shadyside, the North Shore, South Side, Downtown, the Strip District and Squirrel Hill. The final vote will be on Tuesday, and if passed, will keep the suspension until Jan. 1, 2012.

The plan increased rates from $.70, $.50 and $.50 to $1.50, $1.00 and $.75, respectively, throughout Oakland’s districts.

City Council’s plan will also replace some of the old meters around the city with multi-space meters capable of accepting credit cards similar to those around Schenley Plaza. The job has already been bid on and the revenues are in place to have these installed sometime in the fall, according to John Fournier, a spokesman for councilwoman and parking authority board member Natalia Rudiak.

City Council voted on Dec. 31 to raise revenue for the city’s pension fund by increasing meter rates and expanding enforcement hours without the support of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and the Parking Authority.

“Mayor Ravenstahl agrees with students’ concerns, which is why he did challenge, and eventually veto, Council’s proposal to raise rates and increase enforcement times,” said Marissa Doyle, spokeswoman for Ravenstahl, in a statement.

The mayor’s plan, which was to privatize city parking and lease out the meter system to J.P. Morgan & Chase, was quickly rejected by City Council back in December.  His 50-year plan included a $452 million lease of parking garages and meters to the private investors.

The city does not have the authority to raise local taxes, so all the solutions for the pension fund centered around parking. Any tax increase would have to be approved by the state legislature.

Detractors of the mayors plan fear privatizing this resource could raise parking rates 300-400 percent, citing Chicago’s actions as an example. Chicago recently privatized its parking to Chicago Parking Meters, LLC, a division of Morgan Stanley.

The mayor, however, has said privatizing the meters is off the table.

“That issue has been vetted thoroughly and council sent a message that they didn’t want to do that, and while I don’t agree with that — it’s part of the reason we are having the problems we are now — that issue is over, and we’ll deal with the situation as is now, and we need to find a way to fund our pension,” Ravenstahl said over the weekend.
Since the city owns the meters, the authority was required to increase the rates and expand the hours as City Council dictated. But because of a previous agreement, the authority gets to keep most of the meter revenue.

If an agreement isn’t renegotiated, the city will have at least a $3 million deficit this year and a $10 million structural deficit next year that will continue to grow.

Ravenstahl said he will continue to work with City Council to fix the problem.

“It’s not ideal in the first place to increase the enforcement hours or the rates, but we did so because we had a pension problem, and we’re trying to solve it, and so if there is a way to avoid it, we want to be supportive of that, and we will work with council to try and figure it out."

1 comment:

  1. One of the first rules of government is that you never privatize a cash generating asset. With Chicago as an example, how could this fool ever think this would be a good idea...something doesn't smell right.