A stinking carp along the Mon
When lame-duck Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl announced that the city was challenging the real estate tax exemptions of UPMC because it no longer meets the state Supreme Court's charity test, even his staunchest critics were pleasantly surprised.
“Luke, we hardly knew ye,” some said. It was the kind of bold move they once expected but had long ago given up on seeing, as the young politician formed “old boy” alliances and squandered his mayorship. Now, at the end of the line, he delivered.
The move was not celebrated in every camp, especially by other nonprofits that fear the same scrutiny. In a letter to Ravenstahl, the Pittsburgh Council on Higher Education cited the “adversarial environment” caused by Ravenstahl's UPMC challenge and refused to even talk about tax-exempt status with a special task force.
The council is composed of all the colleges and universities in Pittsburgh, the beloved alma maters of mostly everyone in these parts. We wear their rings, sing their songs and celebrate their victories. They enjoy considerable goodwill but they might want to reconsider this show of solidarity with UPMC, lest they be tainted by what the public sees as the excesses of the health care giant.
As a Tribune-Review poll showed last week, 76 percent of likely voters support the city's challenge and a mere 15 percent oppose it. And Ravenstahl, who has been traveling a rough patch of road lately, finally has something to trumpet.
“Since our decision to challenge UPMC's status as an institution of purely public charity, we have received overwhelming support from the community,” he said. “We are pleased that so many agree with our position to do what we feel is right.”
Three of the four candidates for mayor — Bill Peduto, Jack Wagner and A.J. Richardson — agree with the city's challenge. One, Jake Wheatley, prefers to negotiate with UPMC, but now that is impossible, as the nonprofits have “gone to the mattresses” in this fight.
While there is a lot of fat talk coming from UPMC about what this litigation will cost city residents and how futile it will be, the medical behemoth has a problem. If anything smells like a dead carp withering on the banks of the Mon, it is UPMC's decision to close Braddock Hospital and replace it with a sparkling new hospital in Monroeville.
Purely public charities are granted tax exemptions, a matter of public grace, with the expectation that they will continue to serve the poor even if it is not profitable. That is the social contract and Braddock will be Exhibit A.
Will any of our universities and colleges stake their good reputations to UPMC's abandonment of the poor? Can any of them say that the closure of Braddock Hospital in exchange for a new one in Monroeville was entirely free from private profit motive?
Sometimes those who stand too close to a stinking carp will pick up that smell.
Joseph Sabino Mistick, a lawyer, law professor and political analyst, lives in Squirrel Hill (SabinoMistick@aol.com).
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Federal, Indiana authorities raid home of Subway spokesman
- Starkey: Burnett writing incredible final chapter
- 6 PSU, Pitt, WVU players on watch lists for Maxwell, Bednarik awards
- Penn Hills gravestone business owner who swindled mourning families sentenced to jail
- New Kensington residents furious over road conditions
- Alvarez’s walk-off single lifts Pirates over Padres
- Crazy Mocha owner likes comfort, says shrewd decisions foster growth
- House explodes in North Braddock
- Pirates notebook: Four players selected for All-Star Game
- Living Treasures animal park plans upset Liberty residents
- Fox Chapel’s McCrady to play lacrosse at Brown