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Vanaski: Budget gap? End frivolity |

Vanaski: Budget gap? End frivolity

Pop quiz: You need $4 million to plug a hole in your city budget! What do you do? What do you do?

If you’re Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto, you make the people who have the audacity to work/live/play Downtown pay more for parking. A lot more.

Right now, Peduto is battling with the state oversight board over the city’s proposed 2015 budget. This week, the Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority turned down the mayor’s financial plan for a second time in less than a month, saying too many questions need to be addressed.

Council this week considered the mayor’s plan to charge more for parking during peak-demand parking times. Peduto’s budget proposal planned for $10 million from the Pittsburgh Parking Authority, but an agreement with the city brought in only $6 million.

Some financial experts (and those who are not financial experts) might suggest that the first thing a cash-strapped city should do is trim the fat. You know, like plans to put changing tables on every floor of the City-County Building — stuff City Council approved last year without first calculating the cost. Or offering to pay retirement benefits for police K-9 dogs. How much will that cost? Well, it’s $4,500 just to feed the nine dogs who are retired from the police department. But, look, don’t worry about it. It’s the right thing to do, right? Right.

Adding bike lanes to city streets for $188,000 (just for the first phase) without asking those who use them to help pay for them with some type of registration fee to the city? No, no. There’s got to be a better way.

Like hitting up people who are just trying to park Downtown without having to leave an organ behind as payment.

But there are a few other ways to accomplish this goal, other than spending money wisely, which is apparently a last resort. The city could, for example, just start a campaign. Sure, it might sound a little weird going to strangers for money, but hundreds of people do it every day. All you need is a catchy mission statement and the dollars will start flowing in.

How about this: “The City of Pittsburgh needs your help. For just a few dollars, you can help a city pay its employees, keep its roads relatively passable, retain its status as one of the most livable cities in the country and as the only city that has a changing table a diaper’s-throw distance away in any city-owned public building.”

The Trib reported this week that the city has taken to online auctions to sell off some of the things it doesn’t need. Why not broaden that horizon? City officials could sell off all of their calculators.

Nobody uses those anymore.

Nafari Vanaski is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8669, [email protected] or on Twitter @NafariTrib.

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