We all talk a big game about how to turn Pittsburgh's fortunes around.
Moments after a man with an AK-47 sprayed gunfire down Race Street, killing another man just feet from her front porch steps, Chala Johnson overheard something that still shakes her with fear.
"After the shooting, people were hollering, 'This ain't over,' " Chala, 15, said. "These kids said there was about to be a war on Race Street." (P-G, Sadie Gurman)
Sometimes we talk about reinvigorating Downtown with more rental units and condominiums. Sometimes we talk about developments like restaurants, hotels and office parks, and the jobs they bring.
Sometimes we talk about mass transit. Sometimes we talk about making the city more bike and pedestrian friendly, or greener and more energy efficient.
Sometimes we talk about "school choice" and the Pittsburgh Promise. Sometimes talk about tapping into our universities more efficiently and better leveraging our tech-savvy human capital. Sometimes we talk about political reform.
The two were Pittsburgh's 55th and 56th homicide victims of 2008 -- only one fewer than last year's total, putting the city on pace for the highest number of homicides in a decade.
[UPDATE: This looks to be number 57 already.]
At the same time, police have seen a sharp drop-off in the number of arrests connected to homicides. The Pittsburgh Police Bureau's clearance rate was 46 percent for January to September, down from 75 percent for all of last year. The rate was 96 percent in 2004, when 43 of 45 homicide cases were cleared. (P-G, Jerome L. Sherman)
What sort of suburban or exurban families are going to move to Pittsburgh to take advantage of a scholarship, when headlines like these warn that their children could just as easily not survive through graduation?
What self-respecting leading edge company, in the age of globalization and infinite options, is going to move to a city in which about half of the surface area is regarded as some sort of no-go no man's land?
The city has been engaging in a lot of creative theoretical conversations about "solutions" and "game-changers" that might bring about a much-awaited Pittsburtopia -- but are we all failing to properly address some totally obvious, right-in-front-of-our-noses problems to which we're utterly desensitized -- and for which there are no trendy, easy, or comfortable solutions?
In short: is Pittsburgh actually yet constituted to play the game of a 21st century city, or is it still mired in 18th century problems without quite realizing it?
There is a new policing strategy on the way. That is good, though frankly, at $200,000, we wonder if it is being well-enough resourced. We routinely spend far more money on needs that seem far more trivial.
There is new legislation being proposed that would curtail the sale of black market handguns. We do not pretend there are not some legal question marks around it, but we feel we're at the point where making some noise and rallying to a cause might un-glue more or better state action. It's kitchen sink time, or it should be.
It also feels like there's something we can be doing at a private, citizenship level to help assist with the crisis. If a call to action is forthcoming, we feel about ready to seize upon it.