Thursday, March 24, 2005

The 'other' Pittsburgh, where crime is common and life is fragile

Brian O'Neill talks about violence and the tale of two cities in Pittsburgh. Nice article. Let's pick up on some of his closing words.
The 'other' Pittsburgh, where crime is common and life is fragile ... That's our Pittsburgh. That won't change.

The other one has to...

The words, "That won't change." speaks to the greatness of Pittsburgh and its wonderful quality of life. Brian and I share this city. We both have kids here and choose to live here, crossing the same paths. Our Pittsburgh, in that respect, is swell.

We differ on the perspective of Pittsburgh's propensity for change. Brian is so bold in his prediction that Pittsburgh won't change. He feels that the goodness is always sure to be.

It is my hope that the good Pittsburgh won't change. But Pittsburgh is on the brink. It is changing. Pittsburgh won't be a legacy town much longer. We need to scramble to insure that it won't change.

There are a number of struggles that are being waged in this city at the same time. Among the violence comes the fight between gangs or drugies. Among the peaceful is the struggle to engage or be at rest. Then of course, there is the matter beteen the cops and the robbers. There are other dimensions as well. The blending and spill-over from one realm to the others is starting to swirl as never before.

When a cup of poison goes into a gallon of water, the purity is gone. The buffers are spent. Containment slips.

Sure Brian, the other side has to change. But I worry greatly that the change agents are now without the capacity to do their jobs. We are at the brink and beyond on a number of critical tipping points. The youth have been ignored for so long that the kid's kids have become a challenge that is ten-times the effort. And we've got one-tenth the capacity and are using lame programs as well.

The life that our kids know today is special. We are not the norm. Those in our Pittsburgh have a life that is similar in many ways to the life of all the kids of 30 years ago.

Summary: Ninty-five percent of the kids shared the same Pittsburgh 30 years ago. Today, 30 percent of the kids share the good Pittsburgh. In 20 years, that old, good Pittsburgh could be but a memory. None will be afforded what is ours today, still.

Meanwhile, in suburban areas, a bulk of the kids are still in the same general groupings. The disparity among the kids in Franklin Park (North Allegheny School District) is super thin compared to what you properly describe between the two Pittsburghs.

Next, we need to roll up the sleves and ponder the fix for the situations of the two Pittsburghs.

Some advocate a crash and burn. Some want to flee and just make Pittsburgh a sore with puss that festers. Some want to take apart the city and have the county take over.

My approach is to think it out, get up the will for action, find the strongest counter measures, and attack on all fronts. We need to flourish with the best and the brightest. We need to soar everywhere we can. And at the same time, we need to insure that the ones in the other Pittsburgh are given opportunities to soar too.

We need to demand the best from everyone -- while being patient and persistant.

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