MuniLand

Greening the city

By Cate Long
June 27, 2011

Greening the city

Many cities took a big step forward for clean air when they adopted buses fueled by natural gas. But there are other important projects that will make getting around easier, quieter and less polluting. New York City is getting ready to take a big step. From American City:

New York City has the potential to take those [bike sharing] concepts and scale them up to a size unseen on this side of the Atlantic. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a man the transportation community has a complicated relationship with, has been dangling a transformative bike sharing program in front of alternative transportation advocates since 2009 when New York’s city planners issued an “exhaustive proposal” that included a 10,000 strong fleet of safety-equipped, GPS-ready bikes.

Economically, the deal is a victory for innovative financing because it fully absorbs the burden of maintenance, damage, and —as this is a city— theft, vandalism, and “artistic destruction.” New Yorkers would buy their memberships on weekly, monthly, or yearly bases and get an unlimited number of free rides that take less than 30 minutes; ride a little longer, pay a little more. New York has decided that an initial burst of capital will serve their purposes the best not least because of their uniqueness among American cities in terms of density and population.

Take with one hand, then the other

A rich guy makes a gain at the expense of his state’s teachers’ pension fund and then asks for public funding for his stadium project. This is now how things should work — the public should just say “enough,” or at least demand more transparency around this deal that lost the teachers’ money.  Bloomberg reports:

Philip Anschutz, who seeks taxpayer support for a $1.4 billion downtown Los Angeles football stadium complex, bought out a partner in his nearby hotel and condo project at a loss to investors including state teachers.

California State Teachers’ Retirement System, the nation’s second-largest pension plan, is an investor in a MacFarlane Partners fund that sold its money-losing interest last month in the Anschutz-led Ritz-Carlton and JW Marriott hotels and attached condominiums at the L.A. Live project, according to Ricardo Duran, a spokesman for the pension fund.

“It was sold at a loss, I don’t know how much,” Duran said in an interview yesterday.

[...]

Anschutz’s firm, AEG Worldwide, has asked the Los Angeles City Council to approve a plan to build a $1.4 billion football stadium and convention-center expansion that involves the city issuing $350 million in municipal bonds for the convention- center portion of the project. Part of the existing center would be torn down.

AEG seeks to attract at least one National Football League team to the city, which lost the Raiders after the 1994 season. Revenue from the stadium and convention center addition, along with assurances from AEG, will be enough to repay the bonds, according to Michael Roth, a spokesman for the company.

NJ Governor Christie’s pension win

From the New York Post:

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie pulled off something of a miracle this week — pushing through a package of pension and benefits cuts for government employees that will save the state $130 billion over the next 30 years.

And he did it as the Republican governor of a blue state where Democrats run the House and Senate — and where unions have long run the Dems.

The changes are remarkable:

* Public employees will pay more for health-care insurance and pensions (still below private-sector rates, of course).
* Cost-of-living adjustments are abolished, and the agreement raises the retirement age for new hires.
* Unions lose collective-bargaining rights for benefits — the rules will be imposed through legislation instead.

Kudos to Governor Christie, but the math for the savings is very funny. I’m poking around in the numbers and may have something later.

Mini sweeps

Commonwealth Fund: Aiming Higher: State Score Card

Center for Budget and Policy Priorities: Proposal to Establish Federal Medicaid “Blended Rate” Would Shift Significant Costs to States

Government Technology: Report: Best Practices Guide for Local Governments

Wall Street Journal: Number of the Week: U.S. Teachers’ Hours Among World’s Longest

Bloomberg: Illinois Stiffs Vendors From Mortuary to IBM as $4 Billion Debt Piles Up

NWITimes.com RDA millions fueling Marquette Plan, other local projects

Wisconsin State Journal: Union contracts will come to an end on Wednesday

Bloomberg: Arizona Jobless-Benefit Cutoff Turns Lemon Tree Into Safety Net

Columbia Business Times: Municipal bonds — financial risks where they’re least expected | From the Roundtable

Investment News: New Fidelity funds meld target date portfolios, muni bonds

LCD Comps: HY mutual-fund outflows more than double, balloon to record

Bond Buyer: Market Post: Not Enough Retail Investors Tuning Into Munis

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