Murphy's latest city budget is due today

Same old, same old . . . some notes about obligatory topics:

The Mayor continues to be at loggerheads with the state-appointed Oversight Board over the right way to save the city's finances. We'll see what his new! improved! budget has to say. One guess about what it won't say: "We welcome the input of the Oversight Board and look forward to working with the Board in a constructive effort quickly to put Pittsburgh on a stable financial footing for the long-term."

Meanwhile, amid much continued whining about the state of Downtown, there are deals in the works for both the Lazarus and Lord & Taylor stores. Better that the buildings be occupied than not, of course. But the interesting economic development in the city of Pittsburgh these days is happening anywhere but Downtown: the South Side, the North Shore, East Liberty. To people still waiting for Pittsburgh's Downtown to be a 24-hour cultural and economic hub, that's probably a bad thing. To people who recognize that Pittsburgh's Downtown will never be a 24-hour cultural and economic hub--even with a revived retail sector--that's fine.

Quick: Name one city in the US, other than New York, with a "Downtown" that is economically and culturally vibrant after 5 p.m. on a weekday?

And speaking of revival, how about that Mario Lemieux behaving like a big-city sports franchise owner-bully? As if an NHL team were part of a major sports league!

There's no question that the Igloo (oops--"Mellon Arena") is an outdated facility. There's no question that local public finances can't handle supporting a new one, particularly if the project is driven by the demands of a hockey team. Penguin success, alone, is never going to be enough to support the facility, and there is no meaningful job growth that accompanies arena or stadium construction as such. There are a lot of websites out there supporting the proposition that from an economic standpoint, sports teams should finance their own facilities. Field of Schemes is one; it includes links to several of the studies done on the topic.

The question is whether the region needs a new arena for cultural events, including sports, concerts, and other things. And, importantly, the related question is whether that arena could be managed -- with full market rents charged to all tenants, including the Penguins -- in a way that supports the bonds that would have to be floated to pay for it. The public, not the tenants, should get the first money back from the deal.


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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] Mike also blogs at, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

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