Pennsylvania

Pittsburgh Still Won't Let Anyone See Its Amazon Bid

City officials' excuses are getting more and more ridiculous.

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Bob Downing/TNS/Newscom

Nearly five months after city officials in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, submitted a bid to host the highly sought second Amazon headquarters, they are still refusing to let taxpayers know exactly what the offer entails.

Pittsburgh is one of 20 locales on the company's shortlist for its second headquarters, which would bring an estimated 50,000 jobs to the chosen metropolitan area. Other cities have offered billions in tax breaks and other incentives. We don't know what Pittsburgh is offering, because it is directly flouting Pennsylvania's government transparency laws and seems intent on keeping the public in the dark until after Amazon has made a decision.

This whole saga has gone on far longer than is reasonable.

A Pittsburgh-based reporter submitted a requests for the Amazon HQ2 proposal way back on October 19, shortly after Amazon published a list of locales that had submitted bids for the headquarters. Under state law, public entities have five business days to respond to a request, but they can give themselves a 30-day extension for a variety of reasons. In this case, Pittsburgh and Allegheny County waited until November 27 to respond. By the time an appeal to the denial was filed, it was already December 1. The city and county dragged out that appeal for another month.

In January, the state Office of Open Records (which adjudicates disputes over open records requests) laughed at Pittsburgh's claim and gave the city 30 days to release the records. The city again slow-walked things, waiting the full 30 days before officially refusing to release anything and appealing the Office of Open Record's decision into the state court system.

This is ridiculous.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette yesterday accused Mayor Bill Peduto and Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald of a "cabal of silence" that shows "disdain for the taxpayers who have to pay for whatever incentives are promised the company."

"They're not acting like savvy leaders of a progressive city that's capable of competing for a game-changing economic opportunity," the paper opined. "They're acting like insecure political bosses who prefer to make deals in backrooms outside the public eye."

Amen.

Peduto and Fitzgerald argue that releasing information about the bid would give an unfair advantage to Pittsburgh's rivals attempting to land the second Amazon headquarters. That's bullshit. All the bids have been submitted, and a decision is expected in the next few months. No other city is trying to copy Pittsburgh's playbook or crib their notes.

This is no better than Pittsburgh's previous excuse for refusing to release the bid, which hinged on claiming that taxpayer-funded economic development incentives were "trade secrets."

"The proposal is not related to any business or commerce being conducted by the city or the county; instead, through the proposal, the county is hoping to attract Amazon to the region so that it may engage in commerce," Kyle Applegate, the state's open records appeals officer, wrote in response to that claim. "Therefore, the proposal cannot constitute or contain trade secrets."

The state court system will hopefully treat Pittsburgh's appeal with the disdain it deserves. And Pittsburgh taxpayers will hopefully find out what their city has offered to Amazon before they find themselves on the hook to pay it.

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  1. This is ridiculous.

    What’s not ridiculous is the city’s SIX SUPER BOWL CHAMPIONSHIPS, FIVE STANLEY CUP WINS, and whatever the Pirates did four decades ago. That is what’s in the bid, btw. Glorious sports championships and the very fact of not being FILTHACRAPIA.

    1. Don’t forget the basketball movie The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh, which is better than anything the 76ers ever did.

      1. Ouch! Dr. J is a more effective pretend ballplayer than a real one?

        1. Yes. And Kareem Abdul Jabbar Victor Murdock was a damn fine pilot, too.

          1. Roger?

            1. Over, agrees.

    2. I bet your pizza tastes like shit tho. I never ate pizza made by Appalachians, but I don’t imagine I’m missing much.

      1. Wallow in ignorance. Pittsburgh’s best pizza is called pierogi.

        1. #Trust the process…

          1. Oh, wait, wrong city, the hashtag is a reference to the home of the WORLD CHAMPION PHILADELHPIA EAGLES.

            1. PHILADELHPIA EAGLES

              PROUD PRODUCT OF PHILLY PUBLIC SCHOOLS

              1. Sorry, had to. I certainly fuck up far worse on the reg, as everyone knows!

    3. Show us on the doll where Philadelphia touched you.

      1. My commonwealth’s political makeup. And my sensibilities.

        1. My commonwealth’s political makeup.

          Good thing they have the great statesmen of the City of Pittsburgh, and the men and women who elected them, to act as counterweights!

  2. I am tempted by the argument that the proposal is not material until after Amazon accepts it. But … only if there is a mechanism to overturn it if the people don’t like what’s in it.

    1. If Amazon accepts it then the veto mechanism is irrelevant. By the time the people find out what’s in it the ink on the signatures will have dried.

      1. Don’t worry, after Amazon meets their first few Philadelphians on the street I suspect they’ll realize it was all a giant mistake and lawyer their way out of it anyway.

        1. Damn it, Pittsburg isn’t Philly. I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing though.

  3. There’s a certain sporting thrill watching municipal officials create excuses as to why the public isn’t allowed to see what they’re doing.

    1. It’s got a very Pelosi-esque feel to it. Amazon has to accept it so you can see what’s in it.

  4. “They’re not acting like savvy leaders of a progressive city that’s capable of competing for a game-changing economic opportunity,” the paper opined. “They’re acting like insecure political bosses who prefer to make deals in backrooms outside the public eye.”

    Uhm, that is how savvy leaders of progressive cities capable of competing for a gamechanging economic opportunity act. Without exception.

    Oh, and its not going to be a ‘gamechanging’ economic opportunity to start with and all the money and privileges you insist on showering them with will make it even less so – because you’re willing to impoverish your city *right now* to, maybe, see you break even a generation down the road.

    Assuming Amazon is still in existence.

    Assuming Amazon doesn’t move somewhere else in 10 years.

    ‘Cause if that happens you’ll be left holding the bag like an Olympic host.

    1. Even if they got Amazon HQ2, if they truly are “leaders of a progressive city” they’ll be whining about how all the money has hurt them within two years.

      1. OMG prosperity and riches. The horror!

        1. That’s not even a good prog piece, just a rant. I’d be curious to see what the various best assessments of Seattle are that the prog and market academic perspectives can give us.

  5. Amazon is not locating to Pittsburgh.

    If they wanted a worn out city like Seattle, they would move there.

    Its a better guess than Boston though.

  6. What’s funny is how cities are courting them with tax cuts, or abatement, in order to being more jobs and money into the economy. Most liberal cities do it too, while they try to scream trickle down economics don’t work.

    1. Frankly, I’ve never run into a progressive who wouldn’t admit to a “trickle down” effect. They’ll admit that, say, a rich Wall Street bond trader will use his ill-gotten gains to hire a contracting blue collar crew to renovate the home in the Hamptons, thus benefiting a few lucky working stiffs. But what the progs want is for jobs and money to gush down to the working folks, not trickle down from the 1% who neither earned it or deserve it.

      1. If you read the comments to that link just above about seattle you can see one

    2. Factually speaking, trickle down economics likely doesn’t work but it’s because there is actually no such economic theory in the first place. Leftists that argue against it, or righties that argue for it, are both wrong because there is no such thing.


  7. “They’re not acting like savvy leaders of a progressive city that’s capable of competing for a game-changing economic opportunity,”

    Uhh…actually they are acting exactly like the leaders of a Progressive city by flouting the law and doing whatever the fuck they want. That is what a Progressive is.

    I doubt that’s what they mean in context though.

  8. “They’re not acting like savvy leaders of a progressive city that’s capable of competing for a game-changing economic opportunity,” the paper opined. “They’re acting like insecure political bosses who prefer to make deals in backrooms outside the public eye.”

    Amen.

    Jeff Bezos didn’t get where he is by trusting political leaders. Last thing he wants is to put HQ2 on hold for years while lawsuits over this shit ramble around the courts, and you can bet there will be lawsuits over such a secretive process, not to mention trying to get other political leaders on board for such a stink. And it must be a pretty damned expensive giiveaway if they’re holding it this close to their vest.

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