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Laurels & Lances

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Friday, Dec. 11, 2009

Laurel: To the Port Authority. Allegheny County's mass-transit agency has increased its efforts to crack down on employees who talk or text on cell phones while driving. More than three times the number of workers have been cited thus far this year than in all of 2008. And to its credit, the labor union representing Port Authority workers helped to devise the policy. That's the kind of cooperation that gives public servants and their agencies a good name.

Lance: To the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. It long has kept its board of directors meetings closed to the public. There's no agenda. There are no minutes. But the library system also receives about 93 percent of its operating income from taxpayers. It's simply unacceptable. It's time to open up these meetings and the best time to start would be for the next meeting -- on Monday.

Laurel: To Allegheny County's child welfare efforts. A child advocacy group says the county is one of several excelling at reuniting foster children with their birth families within a year. And as everyone knows, families are the ties that bind. Our congratulations to those whose hard work made this success possible.

Lance: To Darlene Harris and Luke Ravenstahl. The Pittsburgh councilor and Hizzhoner now are toying with the idea of trying to tap in to the 7 percent tax imposed on poured alcoholic drinks by Allegheny County. The city, of course, has no warrant to conscript a portion of a county tax. That case should be closed. But don't be surprised if this tax-and-spend duo seeks some sort of city piggyback tax that only will serve to make Pittsburgh even less hospitable to residents and visitors.

Laurel: To the state Legislature. The state House, in its proposed table games bill, has eliminated $34 million earmarked as an incentive to attract a developer to build a hotel at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. The money would be directed to other, more pressing needs. It's a wise move. And if a convention center hotel truly is needed, a private developer will step in to build it privately, then reap the rewards.

On the "Watch List": Pittsburgh's tuition tax. For the second week in a row, a final vote on a plan to impose a 1 percent tax on the tuition bills of college and university students has been delayed. City officials are threatening to impose the tax if agreement can't be reached for some other kind of payment from the academic community. That community is balking at what it calls extortion. And still, nobody's talking about government tightening its belt. Sigh.

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