Friday, June 8, 2007


"Pittsburgh these days is, of all things, a college town—there's not a single steel mill within city limits. With 60,000 students, it has one of the highest academic concentrations in the country. The hospitals—research and otherwise—are among the best and busiest. The biotech industry is booming.

"At Carnegie Mellon University, they build robots; at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, they replace body parts. Eventually, I can only hope, these trends will merge, and a Pittsburgh-bred Superman will play linebacker for the Steelers.

"The parks, museums, libraries, concert halls, theaters, schools—all are first class, a legacy of civic pride and the philanthropy of Carnegie, Heinz, Frick, Schenley and others.

"The 88 neighborhoods are remarkably intact—a rarity." (LINK)

Lovely! Cut and paste, festoon with ribbons, and distribute with merry abandon.

The rest of the article is the usual tedious pablum.


Well, not entirely.

On the one occasion Mayor Ravenstahl was quoted meaningfully on an issue of public policy -- ever (just kidding!) -- it went down like this:

The city and county are sharing 911 and purchasing services, but Ravenstahl and other city officials have little interest in giving up what power they have. A merger of city and county—a move made by many other regions—would extinguish Pittsburgh’s “voice,” Ravenstahl told me. “No one would pay attention to urban issues.”

That could be construed as a victory of demagoguery over necessity. However, at this early point in the game, it would surely be a mistake to deride Luke Ravenstahl's protective instincts. (UPDATE: Or would it?)


But what the city and region need most is unity and optimism.

These are the words of the author, Howard Fineman of Newsweek Magazine, and they are ridiculous.

h/ts the Busman, AS


  1. We need more "unity"? Wow, we've had one party, one Machine, one template of worker bees that feed the machine, one approach to our problems.....which coincidentally we keep using over and over again even though it doesn't work.

    Seems like quite enough lockstep unity for me.

    Here is a snippet from a piece written in 1914 titled "Disproportion of Taxation in Pittsburgh". If I hadn't told you the date ...... wouldn't you think it was today?;cc=pitttext;q1=Property%20Tax;q2=Oakland;op2=And;op3=And;rgn=full%20text;idno=00hc12051m;didno=00hc12051m;view=image;seq=0246

    We've been "unified" and on the same path for over 100 yrs!


  2. "Unity" can be quibbled with -- but not really, when applied to the city as a whole (rather than its leaders). Optimism cannot be quibbled with. In fact, if I had to choose one word only, that would be a finalist.

  3. Well, one interesting thing: the Mayor has handed DeSantis a clear distinction between them. DeSantis was silly in coming out for a City/County merger, but Ravenstahl is sillier in opposing it publically. The county has nothing to gain (except perhaps a lot of the city's debt), Ravenstahl should have played it close it his vest, an "We're exploring all options" kind of fing.

    Fineman is clearly not in touch with Pittsburgh, or he wouldn't have said this "The mayor is in a constant tussle with the county, run by County Executive Dan Onorato." Really? ... No, really?

  4. Dan, I have nothing but respect for the power of positive thinking. But to say that optimism is what we "need most"??? We need a PLAN, and we need the discipline to stick to it.

    I used to think that Pittsburgh's BIGGEST problem was a "chronic mass hysterical low-self esteem," which has been often cited by Charlie Humprheys of Pgh Filmmakers.

    So focusing only on that, I thought, if we just showed people how GREAT we are, they'd INVEST in us, and bring JOBS, and we'd be SAVED!

    Well, for one thing, the world is teeming with flies, wolves, and a few snake-oil salesmen waiting to take advantage of optimistic cities.

    And for another thing, maybe we could use a bit LESS complacency about our habits and ways of doing business.

  5. I wonder what Chatham is doing. Hugging trees?