After the Allegheny Conference is Gone

The Allegheny Conference has a new CEO, Dennis Yablonsky. (I've said it before: What is it with nonprofits in Pittsburgh having "CEOs" and "Presidents"? What's wrong with Executive Directors? But I digress.) He's a person of unquestioned distinction and ambition. According to his interview in yesterday's Post-Gazette, the ACCD now aims for "growth." It's hard to argue with that.

Fortunately, there is a more substantive agenda:

1. An energy strategy for the region.
2. More efficient mass transit between Downtown and Oakland.
3. Renovation of the region's water and sewer systems.
4. Brownfield cleanup and redevelopment.

This is a good list. But.

Imagine Pittsburgh ... without the Allegheny Conference. Imagine the resources that go into the ACCD today ($12 million per year, give or take) being distributed instead upward -- to planning activities at the County level and downward -- to grantees and new (and some existing) businesses in the energy and infrastructure fields.

Mass transit is a different and probably hopeless problem for the region. North Shore Connector, see.

It is not a bad thing at all for Southwest Pennsylvania to have a regional planning czar. It is a strange thing for Southwest Pennsylvania to continue to outsource its regional planning to a 501(c)(3), with minimal accountability and transparency to area residents, businesses, and governments.

Comments

8 Responses to "After the Allegheny Conference is Gone"

Anonymous said... 3/30/2009 9:19 AM

The private sector knows best. The region's oldest and most established corporate leaders have a better sense on how to encourage greater economic competition and how to best allocate public economic development dollars for the greatest public benefit. And these are all such selfless guys they'd never use public money of any sort for their own companies.

To create an entrepreneurial culture all must march in lock step to a central corporate strategy.

Mark Rauterkus said... 4/02/2009 11:26 AM

The post says:

It is a strange thing for Southwest Pennsylvania to continue to outsource its regional planning to a 501(c)(3), with minimal accountability and transparency to area residents, businesses, and governments.

Hold the phone: The regional planning is done by outsouce now with minimal minimal accountability and transparency from the URA, the SW PA Commission, the Allegheny County Dept of Econ Development, VisitPittsburgh, Authorities (Stadium, Water, Transit, Parking, etc.), Pgh Parks Conservancy, Parks Nonprofit from Onorato, and even the city's own Dept of Planning.

Mike Madison said... 4/02/2009 11:47 AM

Mark,

Just for clarity -- Are there words missing in your comment?

On the merits -- Sure, there's lot of opacity and obfuscation even with nominally public entities. Few of them make claims to the resources, history, cultural/economic/political position, and authority that characterize the ACCD. VisitPittsburgh? Seriously? I'm not going to get wound up about lack of transparency in a group that is working to bring convention business to Pittsburgh.

Mark Rauterkus said... 4/06/2009 10:47 PM

Mike, Pittsburgh is a smokey city, still.

Accountability is next to zero.

The ACCD is bad news -- but it is not more of an authority to the authorities. And, they all are groups that politicians depend upon to outsource regional econ development efforts. And, the results are poor, to say the least.

Mike Madison said... 4/06/2009 10:57 PM

Mark, I'm still puzzled. It sounds like you think that you're disagreeing with me. But we don't disagree.

Mark Rauterkus said... 4/07/2009 9:48 AM

We agree that the ACCD is bad.

But we don't agree that SW PA should have a planning czar.

The planning czar, if there is one, should be the Allegheny County Executive Director. An elected, accountable person.

People in those offices need to do the work -- not hide behind authorities nor nonprofits (Parks Commission, etc.).

We don't agree that URA, (and other authorities) is already OUTSOURCED planning as it is.

Mike Madison said... 4/07/2009 9:57 AM

Mark,

You are reading things that I never wrote. I wrote "It is not a bad thing at all for Southwest Pennsylvania to have a regional planning czar." You don't disagree with that. I criticized outsourcing regional planning to an organization (and by logical implication, to any organization) with minimal accountability and transparency. You don't disagree with that.

Your point, I guess, is that my post didn't make your argument. My post was about the ACCD, which I've made a particular target because of its cultural role, which is larger in historical terms and in its own promotional materials than any other regional planning organization, public or private. The SPC and the URA etc. etc. deserve their own, separate scrutiny on accountability grounds.

Anonymous said... 5/11/2009 10:19 PM

Hey, at least Mike Langley and his boosterism masquerading as gross incompetence -- not to mention the $400K annual comp -- have been banished from the Conference. Significant progress was made in the 2001 - 03 timeframe by the Conference -- back when Rick Stafford was still running the show -- in framing water/sewer updates required by federal law as being an economic time bomb for the region. Regrettably, the issue completely feel off the Conference agenda during Langley's reign, costing the region five years when federal funds should have been aggressively sought to help mitigate the impact on all of us local ratepayers.

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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.

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