Couldn't Say It Any Better

Here's a comment on an earlier post that's worth pulling out and posting:
I was born and raised in the Pittsburgh area, graduated from Pitt in '89 and tried back then (unsuccefully) to find employment that would have kept me in the area. I moved to Washington, DC, and have enjoyed all the career and lifestyle benefits of a growing and prosperous MSA. My partner considered a job opportunity in Pittsburgh in 2001, and I found myself seriously considering a move back to the home turf. The more I thought about the idea, the more I liked it. I've thought about relocation from time to time since 2001. Then this casino talk erupted. No way. No way would I attempt to create a future in a city that is hitching itself to casinos for any fraction of its revitalization dreams. It all smacks of desperation, and a low-rent stripe of it at that. To me, a former Pittsburgher still incredibly fond of the place, I feel the city has failed at selecting from two future portraits of itself: 1). an affordable city full of warm people and a variety of attractions (from sports to high culture), and growing business buzz; 2). sports-centric, nostalgia-driven, and seemingly precoccupied with a revenue savior (gambling) that graces too many other destinations all over the map. I can't tell you how sad, desperate and pathetic this all appears to a variety of former Pittsburghers with whom I stay in close touch. We all love the place, and a few have even moved back. But none of us enjoys the prospect of Branson-on-the-Mon. It's death by imitation, not reinvention. It broadcasts conventional thinking. Pittsburgh has given up on being something unique, on daring to be a city of the future built on all that's best about its past. In an anxious, expensive, and rat-race-paced America, Pittsburgh is missing out on its incredibly opportunity to offer America the invitation for which it is so desperate: come home again.

Except that I'm not so sure that everyone has given up on the "city of the future built on all that's best about its past" thing. And how about the following for a slogan (not that slogans do much except capture a certain Zeitgeist):

Come home to Pittsburgh.


6 Responses to "Couldn't Say It Any Better"

beltwayburgher said... 1/03/2007 6:12 PM

Wow, hey, I wrote that. And I apologize for a few blatant spelling typos, as I was on a quick and moderately-inspired tear before rushing out to an appointment. So, please, no jokes about Pitt's English Department. What matters is that every correctly spelled word is from the heart, and even the typos as well. Pittsburgh: please see the opportunity in front of you. America is losing it, and you never really have...yet. Be the mixture of comfort and commerce that people yearn for today.

Anonymous said... 1/04/2007 12:16 AM

I agree with the reader's sentiment towards the casino deal, but I wouldn't let that preclude me from moving back to Pittsburgh. That seems a bit extreme - it's one building removed from downtown and if the riverlife task force is able to enforce some sort of standards, it hopefully won't resemble Branson on the Mon.

Anonymous said... 1/04/2007 8:57 AM

Well, talk about an over-reaction. A casino comes and suddenly Pittsburgh can never amount to anything. I don't think you can blame the city of Pittsburgh for this. Gov. Rendell and the state government devised this casino boondoggle... thinking it logical to place these in the state's two largest cities as well as racetracks throughout the state. Neither the city or county selected the casino operator or the location. The city is merely trying to make the best out of this situation by trying to get the casino operator to throw hundreds of millions at the Lower Hill and a new arena. It's simply misguided for the old "Pittsburgh's doing something stupid again" response from ex-Pittsburghers in more enlightened areas like "The Capital Region" and "The Triangle". If anything, the casino issue reeks of desperation of the state government, which is legendary for its incompetance. Legalized gambling is primarily billed as a method for "property tax relief".

gjhead said... 1/04/2007 10:25 AM

I grew up in Johnstown, and moved around a lot. I spent the last 8 1/2 years living in Buffalo. My wife, who is from Toronto, and I both wanted to move to a town that we could both enjoy. More than a year and 1/2 ago, we decided on Pittsburgh.

We choose this town for a number of reasons, but most of all: My wife likes big cities, I like smaller cities. Pittsburgh was good middle ground. Also, we want to buy a house, which we plan on doing this year.

We both found excellent job opportunities and our income is significantly higher than our previous positions.

Growing up, I always loved Pittsburgh. To this day, one of my most favorite sites is the view of the city when driving out of the Fort Pitt Tunnel.

As per the casino, this is turning into an issue in a lot more places than Pittsburgh. Casinos seem to be popping up in many unlikely places these days. Along with the Casino issues also comes tons of extreme opinions, it comes with the territory. In fact, moving from Buffalo, we are used to hearing all the arguments. Using Niagara Falls as a great example, we also have been able to see first hand some of the effects of a casino as well as anticipated developments that failed to appear long after the casino showed up.

Anyway, I'm rambling but I wanted to make a point that Pittsburgh is a great city to move to and there is plenty of opportunity in this town. My wife and I couldn't be happier with our recent move and are very proud to be Pittsburghers.

Jefferson Provost said... 1/04/2007 5:03 PM

It's hard to imagine a greater example of cultural morbidity than a slots-only casino. If you doubt this, head over to the slots at Mountaineer and take a good long look at the people there.

Someone once called the lottery "a tax on people who are bad at math." Slots are the same, but worse, because they give instant feedback, and hook into the addictive nature of gambling in the most efficient way possible. It's not a coincidence that casinos want an exemption from any indoor smoking ban -- they don't want their customers to have to interrupt one addiction in order to feed another.

The casino in Pittsburgh will principally serve to separate senior citizens from their fixed incomes, and the non-local owners will spirit the profits out of the region.

The tax revenue derived from the casino will be far outweighed by the net loss of capital to the region. The "saved" local capital from gamblers who would have gone to West Virginia will be outweighed by the lost capital from gamblers who wouldn't have made the trip, but will happily go downtown.

It astonishes me that Pittsburgh's leaders continue to rely for economic development on businesses that are either revenue-neutral for the region (e.g. big league sports, except, maybe, the Steelers right now) or revenue-negative for the region (e.g. non-locally-owned entertainment, retail, restaurants, etc). For economic development they need to concentrate on businesses and business segments that bring outside money to Pittsburgh and spend it here, things like R&D, manufacturing, corporate HQs, locally owned businesses with (inter-)national markets, etc.

Ben J.D. said... 1/05/2007 3:12 PM

I agree with the author's opposition to casino gambling in Pittsburgh, but for slightly different reasons. While I personally enjoy some types of gambling, particularly table games like blackjack (especially in Las Vegas), I object when state or local governments use lotteries, casinos or other gambling ventures as a means to raise revenue because it's bad government and bad social policy.

By awarding various licenses to gaming ventures to open state-sanctioned casinos that will supposedly produce revenue for the state, I think the state government is copping out. Instead of facing up to the challenges of balancing a budget, cutting spending, etc., the legislature and the governor turn to gambling, something they know will garner tons of revenue because people love to do it and can't help themselves. Several of the people paying into the state coffers through gambling will end up needing the services of the compulsive gambling hot line, and a large percentage of the people paying into the state coffers through gambling will be low-income folks. This means the state will be abetting gambling addiction and balancing the budget in part on the backs of the most needy in our society. Yes, of course, people can choose not to participate, meaning it's a so-called "willing tax," but why should the state be sanctioning it? If the state wants to ask all citizens each year to voluntarily contribute as much as they are comfortable contributing to help balance the state budget, fine. But by employing a method known to appeal disproportionately to lower-income people, and known to be habit-forming , the state is exploiting the people it should be helping. What's more, as evidenced by examples from other states, where the gaming revenue is designated to some noble social service (e.g. schools, senior citizen health care, or the very poor people who end up doing most of the gambling), the legislature responds to this new allocation by reducing the pre-existing allocation to that social service by the same amount, yielding the same net result.

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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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