PG recaps Pittsburgh's bad showing 'This was a data-driven story,' said Reader's Digest reporter Derek Burnett, who wrote the article with two colleagues. 'We just let the numbers do the talking.'
McGrath and other local officials say numbers don't tell the whole story.
Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato blamed two poorly placed air-quality monitoring stations -- one on the Greene County line with Ohio and the other in Liberty near the Clairton Coke Works.
'We're penalized for all the smog that blows in from Ohio,' he said.
Guillermo Cole, spokesman for the Allegheny County Health Department, acknowledged the station near the coke works collects some of the worst readings in the country, but it doesn't mean the air throughout the region is poor.
'We think we are excessively penalized for that one station,' he said. 'It really makes us look bad when we really don't have air quality like that throughout the county and region.'
Water quality problems also are affected by the areas included in the study. Allegheny County hasn't had any water system out of compliance with Clean Water Act standards for more than 20 years, Cole said, but there were incidents in Butler, Washington and Fayette counties.
'Our waterways are cleaner than they've ever been,' said Onorato, who noted that the rivers were clean enough for the region to land this year's CITGO Bassmaster Classic, the nation's premier fishing competition.
Craig Kwiecinski, a spokesman for Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy, said Pittsburgh is 'very proud' of the progress made in improving air quality in the last generation.
Kathryn Klaber, a vice president with the Allegheny Conference on Community Development who spends a lot of time on air quality issues, said it gets tiresome trying to refute air pollution information.
She said she would prefer that Reader's Digest and others look at 10-year projections that the EPA released earlier this year that show the region's air is expected to improve steadily.
'It really does cost us a lot of time and money to combat this kind of thing,' Klaber said.
McGrath said he's become convinced over the years that the only way to dispel negative images of Pittsburgh is to get people to come here. Thousands attending the Senior Olympics will leave with a far more favorable impression of the city than they had before, he predicted.
Face the facts. Deal with the truth. Think again.
Rather than spending a lot of time and money to combat this kind of bad PR for Pittsburgh, perhaps the Pittsburgh power brokers should try to invest more effort and energy into fixing the real problem and look more at the roots of the problems -- the smog and polution.
The leadership here is convinced that there is only one way to dispel negative images of Pittsburgh. Think again. To get folks here is fine. But, how about if we just worked a lot harder on fixing the problems.
Scrub the air. Scrub the water. Protect the shared resource -- spec by spec.
The excuse of poorly placed air quality monitoring stations is but a bad excuse. Bad air here can't be ignored because everyone doesn't live in that neighborhood. The air quality monitoring stations should not be put in Dan Onorato's living room nor the Lazarus perfume counter. The placement of the stations should be as they are -- in at-risk quarters. That's how its done elsewhere as well.
The whopper thought is within the bogus hope that the air quality score would be based on a "projection." The only necessary reply is, "Get real."
Fakes and fake outs are too popular here. Pittsburgh needs leaders who can get a tight grip upon the reality of the situations. We have too many who are "proud" of half-truths.