Way back in the early 1980s I worked at a restaurant atop Pittsburgh’s tallest building. The food was decent; the service was good; the view was awesome! The U.S. Steel Building now sports a “UPMC” (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center) sign acknowledging their biggest client. The famed building was recently acquired by UBS Real Estate Securities Inc. based out of New York. Pittsburgh’s Tribune review reported that the investing group has skillfully locally recorded “is a consignment of leases and rents by the lender in the deal…UBS also recorded a mortgage document for a $220 million loan UBS provided for the acquisition to Manhattan-based Karasick and his partners.” Neither action requires the payment of transfer taxes which was estimated to be $10 million.
Enter the Moochers:
- City of Pittsburgh School District – mourning the loss of a windfall tax of $2.5 million: “Based on what we know, we don’t accept the fact that (the April 15 sale) is exempt from the real estate transfer tax. We’re going to closely examine this, because this is significant money to all of the taxing bodies, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t pay what they’re supposed to pay.” – so says school district Solicitor Ira Weiss. My added emphasis withing his quote fully embodies the Moocher mentality: The don’t accept the facts and feel that others are supposed to pay.
- City of Pittsburgh – mourning the loss of a windfall tax of $5 million: “The city could certainly use that money right now” – said Pittsburgh City Councilman Bill Peduto, chair of council’s finance committee. I would change the word “use” with “waste” based on the City’s unresolved financial problems over the past decade. It was reported that the City’s law department is reviewing the documents.
- Allegheny County – mourning the loss of a moderate windfall of around $250 thousand: “We are hoping the announced new owner of the tower will file a deed that identifies the owner of the property.” – said Jim Uziel who is the deputy director in the Allegheny County Department of Real Estate. The action of filing a deed would signal a transfer of ownership and bring on the windfall taxes.
- State of Pennsylvania – estimated loss of a windfall tax of $2.5 million: No comments from state officials, perhaps because we have a new, Republican governor and they control the legislature. The law is the law and it should not matter who is in control, but the reality is that pressure from above occurs. The rest of the Moochers are woefully looking at big state brother to come to their rescue.
Perhaps the Moochers should realize that these real estate investors also have lawyers, probably good, expensive ones, who looked at all of the angles before any action was taken and are more than ready for any challenges. Having government lawyers look at the documents is reasonable and elected officials would be derelict in their fiduciary responsibilities if they did not request a review. Perhaps, just perhaps, I may have been early with the Moocher label, but having been around these local Democrats for decades makes me confident. How they take the final action will soon be determined. The question will be whether the “accept the fact” and allow that the investors are not “supposed to pay” after all. They have to just be grateful that the biggest skyscraper in Pittsburgh will have a solid ownership and that the building is 92 percent occupied.
“Is money made by the intelligent at the expense of the fools? By the able at the expense of the incompetent? By the ambitious at the expense of the lazy? Money is made — before it can be looted or mooched — made by the effort of every honest man, each to the extent of his ability. An honest man is one who knows that he can’t consume more than he has produced.”