Anyone who thinks it's easy to lure development to Pittsburgh has a short memory ...
But the local development scene has not always been so active, something City Council members must keep in mind when they consider imposing new rules on developers seeking to do business here ...
Some members have raised the possibility of linking development subsidies to the wages that would be paid by businesses that move in ...
A long list of developers who do business with the city say otherwise, and we agree with them. (P-G, Edit Board)
The prospect of shifting most if not all of the energy behind the Community Benefits Agreements movement to a legislative push for a generous, blanket minimum wage for any developments that receive any public subsidy also struck this blog as a bit off.
All the same, we were thrilled to see City Council hustling to get its arms around this populist concept. One of Pittsburgh's recurring themes is its big, ambitious development and infrastructure projects doing very little for, or even backfiring upon, regular Pittsburghers. In light of the Ravenstahl administration's scrupulous indifference to that exact dilemma, we felt more encouragement of these Council members and of these community groups was in order as this was published. Those were heady days for a couple of days there.
Then it was suggested to me that at the end of the day, Post-Gazette editorials must reflect the views of the Post-Gazette's publisher -- and the Post-Gazette's publisher is a city business owner who blames his own business woes on pricey union labor and an unavoidably challenging market (instead of, say, an industry culture so tradition-clad it borders on the superstitious, which is offended by innovation and risk-taking and tends to foster a passionless resignation to routine:
George Matta, the Rivers director of business development and community relations, said the casino was "extremely satisfied" with the numbers. They represent the amount wagered and the revenue generated from noon Sunday to 6 a.m. yesterday.
"We were very happy with our first day. We had a lot of people there. We'll see if we can keep it up," Rivers Chief Executive Officer Greg Carlin said. (P-G, Mark Belko)
That was from the third lengthy installment of the daily series, Casino Officials Say Casino Opening Pretty Cool. In order to find something genuinely thought-provoking, one had to access the P-G's Early Returns blog, which is not promoted anywhere in the print edition. Even still it will almost certainly take an actual blogger to raise questions about how widespread is this practice of casinos hiring former government officials, what it means for the regulation of that industry, and what it says about why casino gambling might have been legalized to begin with.)
But I digress. The editorial's concerns, if not balanced, are legitimate.
I'm tempted to go a little anti-intellectual on this living wage issue. We watch government give away precious public resources to industry titans year and year out -- then we watch those titans reward themselves with huge salaries and bonuses and arrange massive lobbying budgets to leverage for tax cuts, deregulation and even more subsidies. Now we're talking about raising workers' wages and all of a sudden we're a bunch of School of Lausanne economists? When's the last time the working class got a break in its favor?
Yet that would be inconsistent. I've said before that each development is different and each arrangement for community benefits may have to be unique. Is your project highly subsidized or non-subsidized? Is it in an affluent, or a hard-luck, or an extremely hard-luck part of town? Are you building a grocery store in an under-served neighborhood or a vomitorium for suburbanites? These are things which should be weighed by leadership as it gauges how to use its leverage.
However, that doesn't mean there's not a good law in there somewhere. Hopefully the Council critters are working hard to discover it during August recess. Most service workers, for example, don't get an August recess.
A final thought:
This is not to say the city should not impose conditions on developers that accept subsidies funded by taxpayers. For instance, a measure crafted by Councilman Bill Peduto and enacted last month requires them to meet green building standards, which promises environmental payback for the city and the developer. (P-G, Edit Board)
I know it's a broad coalition and I do consider myself an environmentalist, but for the record: given the choice I'd rather live on a grimy despoiled planet ruled with economic and social justice and compassion, than live in a verdant sustainable fairyscape with bike lanes amidst rampant poverty, poor access to health care and social services, and limited social mobility. But I'm just one person.