Take Pittsburgh . . . Please

Over at Teacher.Wordsmith.Madman, Chad Hermann occasionally and patiently eviscerates an especially witless letter to the editor. I thought of Chad this morning when I read this missive to the Post-Gazette:

Pittsburgh has much to tout, so why the ridicule?

In reference to Rob Rogers' May 2 "Brewed on Grant": We understand that it is an editorial cartoonist's nature to be cynical, but why can't Mr. Rogers, for once, recognize the multitude of positive attributes that Pittsburgh has going for it? Together, these attributes have enabled Pittsburgh to earn well-deserved recognition, such as being named "America's Most Livable City." While outsiders recognize what a great city we have, we remain our own worst critics.

We should take pride in this honor, just as we should in being named the "Best Arts Destination" among mid-sized cities this year by American Style magazine. We're pleased that such an esteemed publication as Forbes magazine recognizes the city's transformation by ranking Pittsburgh among the Top 10 of the "World's Cleanest Cities." This kind of recognition helps to erase the negative stereotypes (perpetuated by cartoons such as this one) of the Pittsburgh of yesteryear.

We take pride in knowing that Pittsburgh was also named one of North America's top three "Cities of the Future" by an affiliate magazine of the Financial Times. The city also ranks among "America's 50 Hottest Cities" for business relocation and expansion, according to Expansion Management magazine. We've got one of the best ballparks in the nation, according to Major League Baseball, another well-deserved distinction of which we should be proud.

Thanks to our proximity to top-ranked engineering schools and other factors, Pittsburgh ranks seventh for "Top Cities for Geeks" by Wired magazine. Our marriage and divorce rates earn us the No. 1 place in the country for baby boomers to find love and keep it.

Perhaps Mr. Rogers would better serve Pittsburgh residents by embracing these well-deserved honors instead of ridiculing them.

Chairman, VisitPittsburgh

The cartoon that inspired the letter is reproduced below.

I don't have Chad's time or patience or rapier wit, so I won't go through this piece paragraph by paragraph. It is enough to point out that the letter epitomizes, probably unintentionally, the paralyzing parochial boosterism that characterizes much of the public side of Pittsburgh's leadership. I can't speak here to the private side; I only know what I read in the paper.

The point, and I have one, is this:

Rob Rogers is a treasure. He is a brilliant editorial cartoonist. "Brewed on Grant" is better-observed as Pittsburgh criticism than almost any and everything else distributed in western Pennsylvania media -- online, offline, on the air, in print, or over your back fence. If you haven't noticed -- and I have -- Rob loves this place. I know this because he's so good that if he didn't, he would have left long ago.

Pittsburgh wants to be a prosperous city, both locally and globally. I think that's terrific. It wants to attract new companies, new residents, and new visitors. That's great, too. There's no reason for VisitPittsburgh to apologize. But it could find a sense of humor -- and maybe throw some work Rob's way.


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

All opinions expressed at Pittsblog 2.0 are those of their respective authors and of no one (and no thing) else, least of all the University of Pittsburgh.

Pittsblog 2.0 has a motto: "It's steel good in Pittsburgh." Say it aloud, with a Pittsburgh accent.

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