In response to controversy and indecision surrounding the city’s parking authority and pension fund, District 9 City Councilman Rev. Ricky Burgess challenged democrats, who overwhelmingly control city government, to return to their core values.
“What have democrats done here in Pittsburgh? For 70 years, democrats have run this City. For 50 years, we didn’t fund the City’s pension fund, which is why we are where we are today. We certainly didn’t invest in poor communities, even though Congress gave us nearly $750 million in (Community Development Building Grant) funds over the past 40 years to do just that,” Burgess said. “For 50 years, the city’s democrats have made Pittsburgh ‘America’s Most Livable City’ for the rich and the well-off. We have been the party that promotes and protects the interests of the rich in this city. We might as well be republicans, that’s what they do. How did this happen? Our party has controlled this city for 80 years.”
REV. RICKY BURGESS
On Dec. 15 city council rejected a proposal by Rev. Burgess with a vote of five to two with two abstentions. The proposal from Alan Lazowski, CEO of LAZ Parking, was designed to avert state takeover of the city’s underfunded pensions.
“Today, right here, right now, in Pittsburgh, we have democrats who refuse to fix the city’s pension problems because they can’t be mayor and because they envy the man who is mayor,” Rev. Burgess said. “Democrats who refuse to fix the city pensions problems even though they all know that their actions will inflict needless pain and suffering on the city’s residents—especially the middle class, the poor, seniors, minorities, the sick, the hungry and the needy.”
In Burgess’ statement, he said failure to reach a compromise on how to solve the city’s pension crisis would result in negative consequence for Pittsburgh’s poor and middle class.
“The money generated from the revenue sharing compromise plan, puts our pension on the path to full funding without hurting the most vulnerable residents in this city, those who can’t afford to pay higher taxes, and those whose neighborhoods will fall apart without the help of government services,” Rev. Burgess said.
If the city doesn’t raise 50 percent of its $1 billion pension funds by Dec. 31, the Pennsylvania Municipal Retirement System will take over management of the fund. Currently the city still needs more than $200 million to meet this requirement.
“The Democratic Party is the reason, that people have pensions, that the poor have a safety net, that the seniors have a safety net—and healthcare,” Rev. Burgess said. “But today the majority of Pittsburgh’s democratic city council will vote for the interest of wealthy business owners and suburban commuters in rejecting the revenue sharing plan rather than supporting the interests of our city’s workforce and our city’s homeowners. What kind of democrats are we?”
Under Rev. Burgess’ legislation the city would receive $305 million and an additional $340 to $350 million over 40 years from Pittsburgh Parking Partners.
“Something like the parking lots, which is a public asset shouldn’t be turned over to Wall Street,” said City Councilman Bill Peduto.
“There’s a reason Wall Street is looking at buying these public assets, because they are guaranteed revenue streams and I think the people of Pittsburgh should have that. To me its gimmick financing.”
On Dec. 28, Council President Darlene Harris proposed a plan that would force the parking authority to increase parking rates. This idea was briefly considered by council last month, but has resurfaced due to the rapidly increasing deadline.