Friday, June 15, 2007

Fineman: The Politics of Pittsburgh - Newsweek Howard Fineman -

Fineman: The Politics of Pittsburgh - Newsweek Howard Fineman - What Pittsburgh Can Teach the Country
A city down on its luck has an optimistic young leader. The scene there mirrors our national situation. Maybe we can all learn something from Luke Ravenstahl.

What Pittsburgh and America need, above all, is vigorous, shrewd, knowledgeable and optimistic leadership. We need to unite community and country in common effort. And—just a thought—perhaps we need to turn to the generation coming up after the baby boom.

Maybe I’m just a homer — isn’t everybody, in one way or another? But if Pittsburgh can take the next step, so can the country; conversely, if this city fails, so does the country, at least in my mind.
Homer fits him well. At least he told the world that he's a homer himself.

I'm from Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is my home. But, I'm not a homer.

The saga of Pittsburgh and the saga of the nation are NOT linked as this homer states in his article. Sure, there is overlap. But, wondering if Pittsburgh can take the next step and that being a sign for the rest of the country is silly. That's something only an ugly 'homer' would write and try to 'sell.'

Pittsburgh can stand and fall on its own merits. Pittsburgh is a bit of an island even when it comes to political thought.

Perhaps the old benchmark, "Will it play in Peoria?" is being conjured with his thoughts. If Pittsburgh can get vigorous, shrewd, knowledgeable and optimistic leadership, then the White House can be filled with leaders of the same moxie.

Who is going to burst this homer's bubble by explaining that Pittsburgh is still without vigorous, shrewd, knowledgeable and optimistic leadership, even from its 27 year old mayor? A unicorn is cute, rare and mythical but not a vigorous, shrewd, knowledgeable and optimistic leader.
There are hopeful signs.
Did he see the billboards with the hands on hips?
The 88 neighborhoods are remarkably intact — a rarity.
Our city's neighborhood nightlife is such a draw that parents go "out on the town" at wee hours of the night. Intact? Rarity?
... The real problem of this region is political. I’ve been around, and I’ve never seen a place more desperately in need of unified, inspirational, smart political leadership. The government structure is, to put it mildly, a mess: too many bureaucrats and elected officials doing not much.
Hold the phone. He talks of four problems, not one real problem. One is government structure. Two is the abundance of bureaucrats. Three is too many elected officials. Four is not much action from the many elected officials.

Pittsburgh needs to understand its situation before Pittsburgh can begin to grapple with the possibilities of building its solutions. Talk on one front, say elected officials who do squat, can influence what to do in other matters. This is a quagmire. But, first things first.

I agree we have too many elected officials who do nothing. Furthermore, the do nothing elected officials don't have the mental capacity to see the real problems and offer creative solutions to those problems. They can't attack the roots as they are not smart enough to know about them or they are not creative enough to address them.

Pittsburgh of 2007 has plenty of elected officials with do-nothing attitudes except to fill their power-hungry ways of self-preservation. So, we've got to throw the bums out. We need to clean house. But, we might not want to toss out the baby with the bathwater. Our governmental house might be in fine order, except for the slobs who have been squatting there in recent times.

It is important to replace, re-direct, then reform. We can't put the reform of government into the hands of those who should be replaced. We can't allow the lazy politicians of today's Pittsburgh be the ones to build themselves new structures.

We need to be certain that the efforts of replacement are geared to bone-headed politicians and not directly linked to the structure of our government.

Democracy is messy. Community interactions are scary. Getting along is hard work and not always about being neat and tidy. Problems with process and the problems with people in leadership roles (and would be leadership roles) are two distinct elements. Multiple conversations are needed. Otherwise, its all just wasted gibberish.

The writer mentions the 129 other independent municipalities in surrounding Allegheny County. Well, they are throughout the county, not around it. And, the other municipalities might go a long way to making for one of the best features of the region -- mentioned above -- the intact neighborhoods. Edgewood is not the same as Wilkinsburg. Verona and Oakmont and Plum are not the same. West Mifflin and Duquesne are different. I tend to feel that the 129 different municipalities is a strength. Otherwise, we all might be in the same boat, without diversity with bigger headaches.

The writer also gets it all wrong by saying "The mayor is in a constant tussle with the county, run by County Executive Dan Onorato." There is no tussle. Even Tom Murphy and Jim Roddey were on the same page and talked constantly as late as 2002.

Saying that the county has bigger access to state funds is weird reporting too. The big projects are in the city -- stadiums, convention center, tunnels under river to North Side, slots parlor, new arena. Some go elsewhere, like the Mon Valley Toll Road or a warehouse around the green fields of the airport -- creating sprawl.

The county's income stream is limited in more ways than that of the city. The county's 'bread and butter' is the property taxes -- and Dan Onorato has been as was written -- a do-nothing elected leader.

Access to state funds has gone to the city for its bailouts. Act 47, I.C.A., and other state spending stop-gap goodies have come to the city, not the county. PAT's meltdown isn't getting state aid. Dan Onorato's knees are worn with all the begging he has done to the state's do nothing elected leaders.

Ravenstahl was reported to have said, "No one would pay attention to urban issues." Does he do that himself? What urban issues does he care to address? Cats running at large? Transportation?

The state's budget-control office that shares space with the mayor is not just symbolism. Self-determination has gone down the drain and it isn't being sucked back by Luke nor any of the do-nothing leaders.

I agree that "the notion of going hat in hand to a Philly guy is galling beyond words." But, sadly, Onorato and the others do not share that view. Pittsburgh needs to have a new attitude. We need to get the city to pull its own weight.
Ravenstahl is pushing biotech, proudly noting that more than a million square feet of “wet lab” space is on the drawing board.
Ravenstahl might as well be pushing a rope up the river if he is pushing biotech. Ravenstahl needs to let the market place and the science take care of itself. Ravenstahl should be worried about good government. Ravenstahl should be worried about city-wide wellness. Ravenstahl should worry about ways to prevent the next deaths from the next fire from the next poor family that resides in our neighborhoods.

But what the city and region need most is unity and optimism.
The city needs unity like a hole in the head. We need freedom. We need a rule of law, not a rule of a few men (or boys). We need government officials to focus on governmental concerns, not biotech plans.

Ravenstahl can’t be a new Lawrence because he can't thing and do the things that should be done. Ravenstahl is in a tough spot because his principles are soft. One aim of Lawrence was to clean the air. That's something we all share. Biotech is not everyone's domain.

Ravenstahl wants to convene the corporate chieftains who belong to something called the Allegheny Conference, but he would go to them to beseech rather than command. He has little bargaining power.
Telling statement. Ravenstahl wants to kiss butt to the Allegheny Conference. I say screw them. The Allegheny Conference is often what is wrong about this region.

I don't agree that the city needs to attract those in their 20s. If they come when they are 20 but leave with they hit 30, it is all a waste. The city can't even keep what it has. The city needs to be square with the residents of Pittsburgh. First things first.

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