Is Pittsburgh Smart?

The most recent Pop City issue includes a feature on "Smart City" promoter Carol Coletta, who has a formula for reinvorating cities. The formula has four pieces, most of which will sound familiar to fans of Richard Florida:
--attract young, talented professionals
--focus on innovation in business
--emphasize community connectivity
--appreciate the city's distinctive sense of place

The great thing about these four metrics is that they don't threaten any established interests in any city, no matter how damaged its culture and economy may be. The four-factor Smart City template is a feel-good solution. That makes the template the perfect fit for community leaders and politicians. These four things are all upside and no downside. Hold on to college grads! Develop hip neighborhoods! Get people engaged in the community! Play to local strengths! No reasonable person could possibly object.

What I'd love to see, but doubt I will: A consultant on urban redevelopment who comes in and says: Look, you can't avoid the pain. This city [and you can pick your city; this isn't only about Pittsburgh] won't get off its back unless politicians and business and other community leaders start talking about and making some hard choices. Some people in town are going to lose out, and they're going to be very unhappy, and their unhappiness will simply be a cost of longer term progress. Leaders can avoid making those choices consciously and deliberately and they can avoid doing what they can to miitigate the damage. People will still be unhappy and people will still suffer, but the unhappiness and anger and suffering will seem random and unjust and eventual recovery will be delayed even further. So choose now, or choices will be forced on you later. And here are the options . . . .


3 Responses to "Is Pittsburgh Smart?"

Mark Rauterkus said... 11/03/2006 12:34 PM

I have run on a "tough love" platform in the past. Voters may or may not go to this line of thinking and message. It isn't proven to work in campaigns among politicians.

Those message about "hard choices" are hard to sell to the masses. You have to get way past the fears. And, getting past those prime motivations among people takes an extended conversation and awareness that can't be purchased with 30-second TV spots.

A tough love campaign might be spun by opponents into 'tough sh*t' without too much effort.

No consultant on urban redevelopment is necessary. That would need to be a candidate. Then the consultant will change their tunes. (i.e., horse vs cart / first or last)

Finally, we would ALL WIN, (not some in town to lose out) when we hare honest and prudent. And the biggest winner is democracy -- and that scares those with power, most of all.

Note, the losses would be felt by those OUTSIDE of TOWN, however.

benjamin said... 11/03/2006 12:35 PM

I agree Mike. And this makes me wonder...

What sort of (painful) things do you think need to happen? What are the choices?

Anonymous said... 11/03/2006 2:30 PM

I do not promise you ease.
I do not promise you comfort.
But I do promise you these hardships:
weariness and suffering.
And with them, I promise you victory.

-Giuseppe Garbaldi-

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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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