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Pittsburgh in crisis: They still don't get it

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Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2009

What is it that supposedly educated people don't get about Pittsburgh's continuing financial mess?

To much fanfare, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl announced on Monday that he had dropped his plan for a 1 percent tax on college and university tuitions designed to bolster a badly underfunded pension kitty. Predictably, an academic community that already contributes so much to the local economy -- but one that also sucks up much public money -- lobbied hard against the measure.

By just about every indicator, Mr. Ravenstahl didn't just blink; he squeezed his eyes tightly and is hoping that when he opens them, manna from heaven will bail out the erstwhile Steel City long in state receivership.

Indeed, Hizzhoner obtained a promise of increased financial support from academia, nonprofits and the corporate community. But no specific numbers are mentioned. That's supposedly to be hashed out early in the year by another one of those largely useless "blue ribbon" panels that also will lobby Harrisburg for more state revenues.

But as the ever astute Jake Haulk of the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy again reminds, Pittsburgh's problems "stem from too much spending and irresponsible financial management. More money will not fix the city's ills."

You don't help an alcoholic by giving him a bottle of gin, the obese by delivering a truckload of cheesecakes, or a financially reckless city with lip service and weasel words. It's time to stop the enabling.

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