It requires sheer gall for Pittsburgh youth Mayor Luke Ravenstahl to request that the troubled city be released from Act 47 oversight when he is the captain of a ship that continues to sink through the city administration deliberately misrepresenting its ability to meet future pension obligations.
Ravenstahl, along with a board of similarly untrustworthy individuals, asserts, apparently with a straight face, that the pension investments will garner future returns of 8 percent, something which every financial expert worth his or her salt knows is sheer fantasy in an era in which interest rates are essentially zero.
A realistc rate of return, of, say, 4 percent or 5 percent, would require that the city inject millions more dollars into the plan each year, likely triggering a tax increase. I am as much for tax restraint as anyone, but I am not in favor of a denial of reality. Reality dictates that the city of Pittsburgh pay for its unaffordable promises now or pay through the nose later. Putting off the day of reckoning is precisely
what is now occurring with the shortfall in state pension funds, a problem which shamefully, was never addressed by Gov. Edward Rendell over his long eight-year reign as it metastasized. Now it falls into the lap of Gov. Tom Corbett to address a deficit which he estimates to be a staggering $37 billion.
Why are political figures arching for lifelong service and re-election permitted to determine how to fund pension accounts, essentially placing the fox in control of the henhouse?
Mayor Ravenstahl is attempting to pull the wool over the eyes of the public, calculating that he will be out of office and retired by the time his negligence catches up with him. He must not be allowed to get away with it. Are there any individuals in all-Democratic control Pittsburgh that are willing to blow the whistle and stop him?
If we suburbanites are inclined to say, "Who cares? It's not my problem!", we should think again. Ravenstahl and other Pennsylvania mayors have already called for a "statewide (pension) solution." They may use political muscle to strongarm members of the General Assembly and/or the courts to assist. If a Commonwealth Court Justice can order the city of Harrisburg to double its local income tax and if an Allegheny County Common Pleas Court Judge can determine if and how to unfurl the misery and anguish of an inaccurate and inequitable property reassessment on tens of thousands of innocent homeowners, then it is possible that any "initiative" can be inflicted on the people against their will.
The provisions of Act 47 oversight should remain over the head of city leaders unless and until Pittsburgh is placed on a firm financial footing. That has not occurred nor is it likely to occur as politics trumps principle and integrity most of the time.