Pittsburgh's Model City?

Brian O'Neill went looking for a city that Pittsburgh might emulate as it tries to work its way out of the doldrums. He comes up empty. Boston comes close, but it turns out that Boston's budget hums along with a generous state subsidy.

If you ask the wrong question, you'll end up with the wrong answer. Pittsburgh's goal shouldn't be to identify a "model city," an outcome that it likes, then arrange itself as best it can to produce that outcome. We shouldn't want to look like (or act like, or thrive like) Boston, or San Francisco, or even Minneapolis. No city can "emulate" any of those in the sense that it can replicate its economy, government structure, or culture. What Pittsburgh can do is assemble educated and motivated people and turn them loose to work with what we have already, to reject the old and try the new, to keep what works and toss out what doesn't. There will still be economic lows and highs, and government successes and failures. But they will be (and should be) ours; there shouldn't be blame assigned (or credit given) for following the wrong (or right) model.

Looking at the world from that perspective, Boston is a great model. No one in "the Hub" decides what to do by asking whether Boston should be more like San Francisco, or New York, or Chicago. For a while, years ago, Boston's high tech community tried to develop an East Coast version of the Silicon Valley around Route 128--and failed miserably. Today, Boston knows better. The Valley is sui generis. And Boston's tech economy--building on its New England strengths, not Palo Alto's--is doing pretty well.

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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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