Wilkinsburg Annexation

Colin Dean, a friend of the Libertarian Party, brought the following to our attention.  This may be of interest to libertarians because we oppose the use of force in all situations other than in defense.  Thus, we would oppose the forcible annexation of Wilkinsburg by the city of Pittsburgh.

Real estate speculators, an ineffective Community Development Corporation, and a few owners of Wilkinsburg's highest-assessed properties are pushing for the Borough of Wilkinsburg to acquiesce to annexation by the City of Pittsburgh. The initial attempt failed with the city council wanting more time to investigate than the law allows per attempt. It's coming back again with the process currently targeting the May 2023 primary ballot, an attempt at minimizing turnout, especially for Wilkinsburg's nearly 12% third-party voters.

Annexation would more than halve Wilkinsburger's property tax but triple their wage tax. This means that working families take a serious hit: any homeowners with a yearly income greater than 97.2% of their assessment will pay more total tax as Pittsburgh residents. Renters' tax burden simply triples. Annexation would drastically reduce Wilkinsburg's voice as it would lose its part-time government in exchange for one city council member who already has a large constituency. Annexation leaves many questions unanswered about the continuity of services the borough currently provides, such as excellent snow removal and a police force shifting toward socially responsible practices. Annexation won't solve Wilkinsburg's blight problem, because Pittsburgh has a blight problem of its own that it has inadequate resources to address; adding Wilkinsburg's net tax revenue barely nudges the needle on the city budget.

Wilkinsburg is not without its challenges, but annexation is sold as a silver bullet that solves them all when it does not. Local media is often portraying this as a done deal, but it's not: support for annexation among normal Wilkinsburgers is low, and even lower when people actually calculate their tax changes to find that if they don't save an amount per year not worth the uncertainty, their taxes actually increase.

I authored this P-G LttE in January, please give it a read for more information: https://www.post-gazette.com/opinion/letters/2022/01/09/Wilkinsburg-merger-is-not-good-for-all/stories/202201090036. N.b. the recent school tax reduction commensurately reduced the 107.2% figure quoted in the letter to 97.2%.

For more information, I encourage you to read https://www.wilkinsburgfuture.org/faq, a non-partisan group countering this misguided annexation push while finding other sustainable, democratic solutions to Wilkinsburg's problems. How can you help? If you live in the city, tell your councilmember not to support it. If you live in Wilkinsburg, don't sign the annexation petition and advocate against annexation to your neighbors, and consider volunteering for Wilkinsburg's many committees or running for office in order to increase Libertarian engagement in the borough operations.

- Colin Dean