Pittsburgh is named after the first William Pitt, Earl of Chatham. The 300th anniversary of his birth comes up on November 15, 2008. Why not plan now for a municipal birthday party?

Pitt is more than a mere historical footnote. He was an English advocate of fair treatment for the American colonies. Speaking in Parliament in support of of the notorious Stamp Act, Pitt argued: "Trade is your object with them and taxing was ill advised. If you do not make suitable laws for them, they will make laws for you, my Lords." His colleagues, however, left the law in place, and the rest is history. Could history be repeating itself? The recent parking tax increase may be a ploy by the City of Pittsburgh to get suburban legislators to pressure the Legislature for meaningful financial help that puts some of the City's financial burden on the shoulders of the suburbs. There's no doubt that the city and the suburbs share responsibility for Pittsburgh's financial mess. But using parking for political leverage may drive them apart. William Pitt could teach the mayor and City Council a thing or two about how an old economy and a new economy can get along. If the City doesn't watch out, the suburbs may make their own rules--and they aren't likely to think about helping out Downtown businesses.

Few who commute to the City would mind a reasonable increase in the "commuter tax" (as opposed to the wacky parking tax increase), but any tax that discriminates in favor of suburban employment is a long-term loser for the City's budget. Downtown firms will continue to move out of the City. Moreover, when City politicians publicly express their contempt for regional residents who aren't their constituents, the attitude is bound to backfire. People will just stop coming Downtown. The City has to find a way to harness some of the wealth generated by firms located outside of its current boundaries. That means taking steps to reduce the ridiculous number of governments that we have in Allegheny County. It also means abandoning the idea that Downtown has to be the economic, cultural, and political center of Pittsburgh. Treat the suburbs as part of the solution, not as part of the problem.


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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at]gmail.com. Mike also blogs at Madisonian.net, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

All opinions expressed at Pittsblog 2.0 are those of their respective authors and of no one (and no thing) else, least of all the University of Pittsburgh.

Pittsblog 2.0 has a motto: "It's steel good in Pittsburgh." Say it aloud, with a Pittsburgh accent.

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