Fiddling While Rome Burns?

One of the reasons that I rarely blog about Pittsburgh politics is my view that the who's in / who's out / who's playing by the rules / who's not details of Grant Street are largely irrelevant to the future of Pittsburgh as an economically viable community. Bill Peduto fell on his sword to satisfy the imperatives of local Democratic Party clubbiness? No surprise. No matter. From an economic development perspective, Ravenstahl is completely beholden to the imperatives of the Allegheny Conference. Old Pittsburgh. Could Peduto have been effective with the AC still trying to wield so much power? The AC and old-style Pittsburgh business is the issue these days, not the identity of the Mayor.

Much more important: the Westinghouse move to Cranberry. Monroeville's loss has to hurt, but the region keeps a major employer, and one of the few that has growth in its sights.

Does moving to Cranberry mean that the bar-circle-W can offer new hires more attractive non-Allegheny County residential options than it could in Monroeville?


7 Responses to "Fiddling While Rome Burns?"

Jonathan Potts said... 3/23/2007 10:24 PM

A lot of what is discussed on blogs about city politics definitely qualifies as inside baseball. But I have to say, with all due respect, that for those of us who live in the city, it does matter who's in charge.

Mike Madison said... 3/23/2007 10:26 PM

Fair enough, JP.


Jonathan Potts said... 3/24/2007 10:30 AM

From the perspective of much of you write about here, then you may very well be correct that it matters little. However, I think that the mayor can impact the delivery of public services and the care of public infrastructure, even given the budgetary constraints the city operates under. This impacts our quality of life but also plays a role, I think, in keeping the city and region economically competitive.

With Peduto out of the race, we are probably not going to have a meaningful debate over the candidates' competing residential tax abatement plans, which are significant given that residential construction in the city is moribund. Although I've always believed we place too much emphasis on Downtown redevelopment, Downtown is one of the region's major employment centers and thus the mayor's policies regarding Downtown are relevant as well.

And quite frankly, I think the entire region would benefit if we had a mayor strong enough and bold enough to tell the Allegheny Conference that it has outlived its usefulness.

Mike Madison said... 3/24/2007 2:37 PM


Is there a way to generate some of that public debate (tax abatement plans, Downtown redevelopment, role of the Allegheny Conference, infrastructure priorities etc.) without having to process it through political campaigns?

Anonymous said... 3/26/2007 12:55 PM

It's interesting seeing the parallels between New Orleans and Pittsburgh. Just as business has been slow to return to New Orleans because of uncertainties about land use, insurance, and political leadership, Pittsburgh too seems to be in some kind of holding pattern. Large self-contained companies like Westinghouse usually have fewer uncertainties, and locating in a second class township is pretty safe. But if you are a company that depends upon networks, and you prefer to locate in the city, than there are a lot of risks doing that right now. Ironically the uncontested elections, which are supposed to portray a sense of stability, instead seem to be signalling that new ideas are not welcome, even though the city's finances may be below the water line.

The Jackal said... 3/26/2007 5:23 PM

I'm surprised no one has chimed in about the dismal job growth gains the region has (not) experienced over the past few years. The State apparently went in and did their usual audit of 2005 and 2006 job growth around the state. What they discovered for Pittsburgh is stunning and depressing.

In 2005 the region actually lost 1k jobs. This was a downward adjustment of 11k based on the previous estimate of 10k new jobs.

For 2006 the gains were posted at about 3500 jobs. Prior estimates had shown a 10k increase.

This is a stunning indictment of the economic policies of both the region and the state. The high tax, bureaucratic, heavy handed, top down approach to economic development simply doesn't work. It never has. Yet we continue to elect officials to peddle the same garbage.

I was in Austin 2 weeks ago and they added 30k new jobs in 2006. This is off a regional population 1/2 the size of Pittsburgh. It's really depressing. I moved here from Texas four years ago...

How do things get changed around these parts?

Anonymous said... 3/27/2007 4:23 PM

Bill Peduto is just another cog(albeit well intentioned) in a corrupt system.

We need to draft a list of 10 things the city must do to impact significant change and pound council members and the mayor on those 10 things.

If Luke wants to go onto higher office. He will make the changes or try to address them.

The blogosphere is a great place to begin the debate on what the list should be.

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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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