For my money, the far more interesting recent news item was buried (as it so often is) at the bottom of an otherwise innocuous P-G feature. "Heinz Endowments boss sets new tone" profiled the new head of the Heinz Endowments, the very impressive sounding Robert Vagt. Here's the last graf:
It seems to me that this topic is part and parcel of City/Council consolidation, but the consolidation report bypasses it almost entirely. I noted only two places in the report where problems of race and urban poverty in Allegheny County are mentioned. At page four, the report notes that the African American community here is disproportionately poor: "Of course, the impact of regional economic decline is not felt equally by all groups, and its disproportionate impact has been felt throughout the region. For example, African American poverty rates are four times higher than White poverty rates in Allegheny County, three times higher in the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area, and 2.5 times higher in the City of Pittsburgh." And at page 17, the report notes, "A fundamental goal in effecting any change to the existing structure of local government must be ensuring that minority groups are not unfairly disadvantaged by that change."
When asked about the issues most in need of attention, Mr. Vagt mentioned three: local school reform, proper planning and development, and a third topic that he acknowledged was more sensitive. "If I were politically correct, I wouldn't bring this up; but not since I was a freshman from Connecticut in North Carolina in the fall of 1965 have I been as slapped by the black-white issue as I have been in Pittsburgh," he said. "It slaps you. It's there and visible and obvious, and it seems to be, in one way shape or form, embedded in many of the issues we talk about, whether it's the arena or public education or development .... I guess I am surprised that it is not talked about more." And, "as a newcomer, this is the one piece I was not prepared for."
Sure, fragmented government is an expensive, frustrating annoyance. But the goal here has to be more than more "efficient" administration of a shrinking pie; consolidation may streamline the infrastructure, but consolidation is not a goal in itself. Just because the least well-off won't be made worse off is no reason to pursue the plan (whatever the plan may be). If consolidation is worth pursuing, it's because all of Pittsburgh can be made better off.
[Updated 4/08: As Ed rightly points out, the City/Council reference above is a slip -- but I'll leave it uncorrected. I changed the link to Bram's blog, and otherwise fixed typos!]