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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Heads Up: Morning headlines for Dec. 12

Posted By on Wed, Dec 12, 2012 at 8:26 AM

It was a red-letter day, so to speak, in city council, with councilors passing a bill to shame property owners who contribute to blight. But the larger story, it seemed, was the fact that council also passed a proclamation honoring Pittsburgh-raised Wiz Khalifa. Maybe I'm just getting old, but stories like this always bore me, and there's always some hand-wringing over whether we should be honoring the current controversial celebrity (see also Lady Gaga day). No one ends up looking good. My favorite item: When it came time for a photo, Corey O'Connor ducked out of the room -- telling the Tribune-Review it was because he was choking on a cough drop. Even the guy's gag reflex has good political instincts!

A bruising column on Gov. Tom Corbett's refusal to discuss policy specifics -- at least with rank-and-file voters -- from the Inquirer columnist Karen Heller. Heller argues, pretty convincingly, that while Corbett came to office promising transparency, he's made an art form out of being opaque. Sample passage: "This is pure arrogance, to suggest specifics to wealth and power behind closed doors, yet offer nothing to the people." (Speaking of things gubernatorial, Sen. Bob Casey says he's not interested in challenging Corbett, though Democrats have a new entrant, state Sen. Tim "Who?" Solobay.)

Meanwhile, faculty at state-supported universities are growing a bit ... impatient ... at having gone without a contract for, like, a year-and-a-half. Doesn't look like that's likely to change anytime soon, either.

Beware, ye barons of capitalism! Tremble, ye pillars of commerce! PA Senator "Fightin' Bob" Casey is coming for you, with a measure destined to bring you 1 percenters to your knees. That's right: He wants to get rid of expiration dates on retail gift cards! Take THAT!

I'm sure Chris Briem blogged about this weeks ago, but it was news to me. The Pennsylvania Municipal Retirement System -- which some city councilors once suggested should take over Pittsburgh's troubled pension fund -- apparently just lowered the rate of return it expects from investments. PMRS now expects a 5.5 percent return instead of 6 percent, which means that local governments who participate must now reckon with a larger pension liability than they previously expected. And what is Pittsburgh's expected rate of return, you ask? At last check it was 8 percent. Get the feeling we still haven't reckoned with the whole problem here?

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