Mysteries of Pittsburgh

I am regularly reminded of just how difficult it is for outsiders to break in to the networks that structure Pittsburgh's social and cultural patterns -- at just about every level (region, city, neighborhood, community, society, politics, business, jobs, fun, etc. etc.).

The other day, I started to wonder: Who, exactly, are these people who (some imagine) govern so much of our outsider lives and leave us wondering -- what else do we have to do to be accepted around here?

I suspect that many of them are imaginary; it's not "they" who maintain these boundaries, but often "us" who don't work hard enough at identifying and understanding local traditions.

Nevertheless, is there a small local "they"? "They" would be private networks and organizations that stay off the public radar screen but seem to wield significant influence in local politics, culture, and business. The Allegheny Conference on Community Development is *not* what I'm talking about; the Conference is as public as it can be, and its influence on local politics, culture, and business is far smaller than it would like -- despite occasional and objectively inexplicable nods in its direction.

What and who are the hidden power sources in Pittsburgh?


11 Responses to "Mysteries of Pittsburgh"

globalburgh said... 9/23/2006 5:46 PM

You'd have trouble cracking established networks anywhere. What Pittsburgh lacks is an avant garde network that is predisposed to outsiders and new arrivals. In other words, Pittsburgh needs a network counternarrative.

China employs an interesting strategy to deal with the entrenched network problem. They build new cities. Check out this article by David Dollar. As political and economic networks develop, the city loses its ability to remake itself in the face of structural changes in the economy.

I'd suggest that breaking into Pittsburgh's good ole boys network is a waste of time. You'd be better off blogging.

Mark Rauterkus said... 9/24/2006 6:55 AM

Exactly GlobalBurgh! Good, no GREAT observation.

First, don't discount the Allegheny Conf.

Second, we need a "MON Conference" to counter what they proclaim.

Third, blogging is healty and a worthy investment of energy and resources.

Fourth, many of the unseen networks are really 'families.' Cousins, uncles, buddies of family members.

Fifth, lifelong friends are hard to replace, if not impossible to replace too.

Sixth, Central Catholic and North Catholic -- and other private (and some public school) networks are alive and well in certain circles.

Some industry and some company culture exists too. Ex-Westinghouse, or MDs, Ad Agency Folks, Firefighters, etc. There are some tight bonds out there in some select market(s) -- or demographics -- if you call them that.

Judge Rufus Peckham said... 9/24/2006 1:46 PM

I think it's more a myth that there is a "they" who refuse to admit outsiders. There are, of course, the very wealthy who circulate everywhere and most of us will never break into that high level philanthropic circle. And there are upper management corporate-types who land in the "SEEN" column because they attend some function or other (and almost everyone says, "Who are they?"). Most of the people in SEEN feel like "outsiders." There is, however, a clique of very well-connected people that the vast majority of people here have never even heard of who contribute to politicians of both parties and who have access to elected officials -- that's where the real "power" is. Example, certain members of the Station Square casino group. Why aren't the Governor, the Mayor and the county executive giving heavy-duty support to backing the popular choice, Isle of Capri? Heck, they are risking being blamed for losing the Penguins by not backing Capri more heavily. You see, the politicians are in a real bind, and it is because of the influence of that Station Square group that most people here have never heard of. (Not that I necessarily think either Capri or Harrah's is the best choice -- the North Shore plan shouldn't be discounted.)

Anonymous said... 9/24/2006 10:09 PM

the powerbook

Anonymous said... 9/25/2006 9:06 AM

It's the Masons, they run everything, you can join yourself if you like. (you aren't Catholic are you?)

delicious said... 9/25/2006 1:51 PM

Globalburgh, did you just use "counternarrative" in a sentence? Jesus Christ.

Anonymous said... 9/26/2006 9:42 PM

I would like to know if there are any entrepreneurial groups south of Pittsburgh? Not like Florida south. But just outside the city say South Hills, Upper Saint Clair.

I have been looking for months for entrepreneur groups meeting outside the city limits.

If anyone knows of any, please contact me at 724-992-8695 or (rich_vmail [at]

Stuart E Lawrence III said... 9/27/2006 11:37 AM

The Duquesne Club. eh.. read for yourself.


Sunil said... 9/27/2006 12:29 PM

We just moved to Pittsburgh from DC. Neither my wife or I could find a job here, despite reasonable credentials. We didn't even get calls back. There is a possibility we had nothing to offer, but we were still a little surprised.

Thankfully, we were able to keep our DC jobs and work remotely. We're happy to be here, but what does one need to do to get a call back?! Have a Pittsburgh address, that's what.

Anonymous said... 9/27/2006 12:51 PM

Pittsburgh certainly does have a number of qualities that would lead to social and cultural conservatism: low immigration rates, habits developed from working in rigid, rule-oriented, hierarchial workplaces, and establishment-oriented churches. It would be an interesting to understand if any of these were controlling.

The dicussion around the Allegheny Conference is interesting. It is certainly an organization that promotes control. Its structure is designed to control the agenda, and it often blames its ineffectiveness on the limits of its control. Despite this effort, its power and relevance continues to decline. Apparently, however, its reputation remains strong.

I wonder if the real issue is the relative scale of new ideas, or perhaps their intensity? Or is it the lack of institutions capable of empowering new ideas?

Anonymous said... 9/28/2006 5:46 PM

How about Peer Connections through the Pittsburgh Technology Council?

This is suppose to be a network for entrepreneurs to meet and discuss relevant issues.

Anyone ever try that?

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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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