As we get back into the regular stream of posting, here's an article I found interesting, and relevant to this blog: Why do fewer women than men tweet political hashtags?
Before we get into the answers to last week's question, here's the question for next week:
What do you want local elected officials to do to tame corporate power in politics?
So for this week, the question was about PILOTs (or Payments in Lieu of Taxes, for the uninitiated). As more and more of our cities have chunks of previously taxable land bought by non-profits, we wonder why we're losing revenue at the local level. Should Pennsylvania cities and counties start asking the mega-charities in their jurisdictions to start paying PILOTs?
Yes, absolutely. Mega charities often find that they can see their way clear to paying their executives multi-million dollar salaries, claiming that they need to be competitive with the private sector. It's not fair to allow them to claim poverty when it comes to filling the needs of citizens in their localities, when it comes time to kicking in for the public good. While I don't believe that charities should be taxed in the same way as for-profit endeavors--they and their staffs still use the city services that major for-profit employers do too--and it's fair to ask them to kick in.
Georgeanne Koehler, kickass retiree & health care activist
In November of 2014 the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh board approved the final processing of $16.5 million in state grants recently awarded by Gov. Corbett for development through out the city.
November's meeting turned into a chance for protestors to speak out against one of the funding recipients, UPMC, over a $2.5 million grant to be used for a new neonatal intensive care unit at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh in Lawrenceville. I was one of those protestors.
We, the protesters, complained about UPMC's insurance policies and it's dispute with Highmark, the low wages paid to their workers and UPMC's non profit tax status with the city.
I was quoted in the Pittsburgh Business Times, "I think it's great that UPMC wants to build a Neonatal Intensive Care unit because it will save lives. This is about a community that has given and millions and millions to UPMC. And in return UPMC closes the doors on those of us who want to see our longstanding Doctors. It pays workers wages that hold our entire economy back and it fires workers when they speak up about improving jobs."
The Board approved the grants, however, I believe the grant to UPMC was going to have a letter from the Board attached to it and as they sometimes say "something is better than nothing."
A week later, the neighbor gals and I met at the little store across the street from my house. We got our cup of coffee and went outside to have our smoke. One of the gals saw one of my quotes in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and in the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, she asked, how can UPMC get away without paying taxes on all the properties they own. I know I couldn't get away with it. I said "Hospitals of today aren't like hospitals of yesterday. Today they call themselves "Healthcare Systems", which means they are Billion Dollar Corporation and we all know Billion Dollar corporations don't need a GPS system to take them to the tax saving Loop Holes, their Lawyers do that, and that loop hole is found in one word 'charitable'. We need to elect folks that aren't afraid to ask all the Mega Charities 'SHOW ME YOUR BOOKS'.
Here's the answer to the question: When I left the coffee meeting with the girls, I knew that Mega Charities would never pay their fair share of taxes, so why not ask them to pay a fee for city services. I remember, especially on the nightshift, all the times, the popcorn being cooked in the microwave caused the Smoke Alarms to go off and a minute later we heard the sirens of the fire trucks. I don't know how many times, during a thunder storm, I would hear the fire alarm going off in the office buildings belonging to Children's Hospital and minutes later the sounds of sirens from the fire trucks. I remember with deep sadness, the shooting that took place at UPMC Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, Police filled the streets, SWAT teams appeared, Fire Trucks and Ambulances came to the rescue. Everything that needed to be done was done. The workers who "Protect and Serve" our city stayed for hours clearing buildings, directing traffic and investigating the incident.
We all benefit from our City Services, the cost for these services come from our tax dollars. If a Mega Charity insists on "no tax dollars from me" the only thing left to do is to charge a fee in Lieu of those tax dollars. The way I see it, nobody knows better, than a Mega Charity, the old saying "nothing in life is free".