Friday, June 18, 2010

Old Vs. New Pittsburgh: Let the War Begin (or at least the argument)

Well, you might know by now, Pittsburgh is no longer really shrinking. New people are comming in, others are returning and more students are trying to stay. We now have one of the country's most educated populations. (In recent years the migration from Pittsburgh has been to the next world as the older steel generation passes on)

The nirvana everyone said they wanted just might be arriving but my guess is many politicians and old city insiders won't like it.

PG's Ruth Ann Dailey, wrote a good piece about an emerging cultural conflict that's only now broken towards the surface. Whatever, one thinks about the Mellon Arena's fate,(IMHO, it has to go) something really stinks about the way things are done here. Now a critical mass of people is talking about it.

But over the past four decades, with the collapse of the steel industry, Pittsburgh's economy has been slowly and painfully transformed to one built on health care, research and technology, financial services and high-tech manufacturing -- fields which, as that Pitt report points out, "recruit and retain ever more educated workers."

Workers in these fields put a greater emphasis on communicating, exchanging ideas, collaborating and reaching consensus. They expect the same from their government, quasi-governmental agencies like the SEA and powerful private entities like the Penguins that so greatly impact our city's quality of life.

They're right to expect this -- it's what American democracy was always supposed to be. Not top-down, but organic, meritocratic and open to all comers.

They're not going to just roll over without protest when the same old, same old goes down -- the backroom deals and nepotistic appointments that are the enemies of transparency and accountability.

Some good aternative viewpoints can be in places like...

Null Space
Pittsburgh Comet
Bike Pittsburgh
Burgh Diaspora
Tube City Almanac
Utterly Opinionated
Reimagine An Urban Paradise

Mostly pretty tame stuff.

As well as the trusty City Paper and occasionally even The Post Gazette. Pop City also moves past the chearleading role more commonly than it used to.

Also, things are a bit more complicated since inside old money power players and some local foundations have put money into many grass roots efforts. Still, this is a place where one feels most of the big checks are endorsed by the same 20 folks or people who know them.

Back with more thoughts later.


Bram Reichbaum said...

Tame how? Not offended, just askin'.

John Morris said...

I guess I didn't explain too well and I should have given more examples.

What I mean is that that even slightly critical words and different perspectives are still pretty unusual.

Your blog might stand out as being the most hard hitting. Up until very recently, the average PG article just looked like a press release from the URA or mayor's office. any deviation was painted as comming from outsiders or people who somehow didn't like Pittsburgh and I think that the root of that is that so few entities control most people's incomes and future's here.

I mean it's pretty weird to have a place dancing on the edge of bankruptcy for so many years where most public conversation acts like nothing at all could be done better.